The Great North-Western Conspiracy In All Its Startling Details
By I. Windslow Ayer
Public Domain Books
TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO CONSPIRATORS–THE WITNESSES AND THE TESTIMONY.
When our troops entered Richmond, among other rebel documents found was a bill, offered in secret session of the rebel House of Representatives, January 30th, 1865, establishing a Secret Service Bureau, for the employment of secret agents, “either in the Confederate States, or within the enemy’s lines, or in any foreign country,” and authorizing the chief officer “to organize such a system for the application of new means of warfare approved, and of secret service agencies, as may tend best to secure the objects of the establishment of the bureau.”
The trial, conviction, sentence, and execution of Capt. Beall, for piracy on the lakes, and of Kennedy, for incendiarism in New York, are still fresh in the recollection of our readers. That these men were acting under instructions from the bureau of secret service of Jeff. Davis, no rational person can doubt. These acts were but incidents in the grand conspiracy at the North; the guilty parties, who suffered death, were but the instruments of others, and the members of the secret organizations, who were cognizant of these acts and purposes, though yet unwhipped of justice, are more guilty, in the sight of Heaven, than the wretches who undertook the execution of the hellish design, and for which they suffered ignominious death.
After the discovery of the purposes and acts of the leaders of the Sons of Liberty in Illinois, in co-operation with rebels, and the arrests detailed in a former chapter, a Military Commission was convened in Cincinnati for the trial of the prisoners, Morris, Walsh, Grenfell, Anderson, Daniels, Cantril, Marmaduke and Semmes, upon a charge of conspiring to sack and burn Chicago, and to liberate the prisoners in Camp Douglas.
The Commission consisted of the following named officers:
C.D. Murray, Colonel 89th Indiana Volunteers, President Commission. Ben. Spooner, Colonel 83d Indiana Volunteers. N.C. Macrae, Major United States Army. P. Vous Radowitz, Lieutenant-Colonel United States Army. S.P. Lee, Major 6th Regiment Veteran Reserve Corps. M.N. Wiswell, Colonel Veteran Reserve Corps. B.P. DeHart, Colonel 128th Indiana Volunteers. S.H. Lathrop, Lieutenant-Colonel, A.I.G. Albert Heath, Lieutenant-Colonel 100th Regiment Indiana Volunteers.
CONFESSION OF MRS. MORRIS, B.S., AND HER SENTENCE.
CINCINNATI, Feb. 13.
The following is Mrs. Morris’ confession:
McLEAN BARRACKS, CINCINNATI, Feb. 5, 1865.
To Maj.-Gen. J. Hooker, Commanding Northern Department, Cincinnati, O.:
General–I was arrested in Chicago, on the 11th day of December, by the United States authorities, charged with assisting rebel prisoners to escape, and relieving them with money and clothing; also, with holding correspondence with the enemy. I desire to state the facts of the case, to confess the truth, and to ask such clemency at your hands as may be consistent with your duty as an officer of the government. I was born and reared in Kentucky. My home was in the South till within the last ten years, my connections and friends all being there. I had sympathy with them, though I was as much opposed to the secession movement as any one could be. Having a large acquaintance in Kentucky, I was charged with the distribution of a great deal of clothing and money among the prisoners in Camp Douglas, Chicago, sent to them by their friends, and which was done under the supervision of the proper officers of the camp. This I continued to do up to the time of my arrest, and in this way I made the acquaintance, and was understood to be the friend of the prisoners in camp.
In the early part of last winter, an escaped prisoner named John Harrington, came to me and asked for assistance. He stated that he was going to Canada for the purpose of completing his education. I gave him money to the amount I believe of $20. Some time in the summer of the past year, a rebel prisoner named Charles Swager, a young man who had escaped from the cars while being conveyed to Rock Island, came to me for assistance. I gave him a coat, a pair of boots, and some money, to the amount I believe, of $15. There were two or three others that I had reason to believe were escaped prisoners, whose names I do not know. These I assisted with money, and to one of them I gave some clothing. There were some others to whom I gave money and clothing, that I did not at the time know were rebel prisoners, but who afterwards I had reason to believe were such.
I received letters from Capt. J. B, Castleman of the rebel army, and sent him verbal messages in return. He called at my house, and remained for a little while. Capt. Hines, also of the Confederate army, called and ate at my house once during last summer.
I beg to be released from my present imprisonment, and promise that, if my prayer is granted, I will henceforth conduct myself as a truly loyal woman, without in any way interfering with the government or aiding its enemies.
Witness my hand and seal, this 5th day of February, 1805. MARY B. MORRIS.
The following is Gen. Hooker’s order relative to Mrs. Morris:
HEADQUARTERS NORTHERN DEPARTMENT, \ CINCINNATI, O., Feb. 10, 1865. /
Mrs. Mary B. Morris, now in confinement at McLean barracks, in the city of Cincinnati, O., charged with giving aid and comfort to the enemy, assisting rebel prisoners to escape, and other disloyal practices, will, on or before Monday the 13th inst., be sent south of our military lines, under guard, into the so-called Southern Confederacy. Her sympathy with those in rebellion can there find its natural expression, and a more appropriate theatre of action. It is but just to our government and laws, that the shield of its power should not be thrown over those who are inimical to it, and are giving active aid and sympathy to its enemies. The claim to protection by the government implies the reciprocity of fealty.
Mrs. Mary B. Morris, who was ordered sent out of our lines by paragraph 1 of this order, in consideration of her professions and promises, is permitted to remain on the premises of her father, Edward M. Blackburne, at Spring Station, Woodford county, Ky., on consideration that she complies with the promises accompanying her confession, filed at these headquarters, Feb. 5th, 1865. If such promises are not complied with, the first paragraph of the order to be in full force.
By command of Maj.-Gen. HOOKER.
(Signed) C.H. POTTER, Assistant Adjutant-General.
The trial of the prisoner Cantril was deferred, owing to serious illness. During the progress of the trial, Anderson committed suicide, and Daniels escaped. [It will be remembered that H.H. Dodd, convicted of treason in Indianapolis, some months ago, and sentenced to suffer the death penalty, also escaped. Neither Daniels or Dodd have been recaptured.] The evidence before the Military Commission elicited most of the important facts embraced in this narrative, and therefore need not be reviewed.
In regard to several of the witnesses before the Military Commission, a few remarks may not be uninteresting. It has been observed by the reader who has carefully perused the foregoing statement, that there were two distinct elements which made up the great conspiracy, viz: The Copperheads, or Sons of Liberty, and Knights of the Golden Circle, and the rebel emissaries both in the Northern States and in Canada. The discovery of the designs, purposes and intents of the former, was made by the writer of this work, who was aided by Robert Alexander. With such aid as we were able to control, we obtained and imparted the information which resulted in the total defeat of the devilish intent of our secret enemies–the Copperheads; the purposes, movements, ends and aims of the Rebels in Canada, were reported by Maurice Langhorn, aid by two others. The parties in charge of observing and defeating the two distinct elements, were utter strangers, and had never met or had any communication whatever.
In regard to the writer, it need only be said, that when it was announced to Hon. I.N. Arnold, M.C., Governor Yates, and Brig.-Gen. Paine, that there was a formidable conspiracy against the General Government, embracing many thousand persons in its league, and that its purpose was the subversion of our Government in aid of the rebellion, that their plots were rapidly maturing, and the most alarming consequences might be apprehended, if timely precautions were not observed, all of these gentlemen gave to the matter their earnest and careful attention. It was not the purpose of the writer to proceed with further investigations, except by advice and direction, as it was a work for which he felt wholly unqualified, from his tastes, disposition, professional, and social position, but the arguments of Gen. Paine, which, at this time and place, it is unnecessary to state, but which it is believed neither party will soon forget, decided the matter, and the task was undertaken, and with what success it was attended, let the history of the proceedings in Cincinnati determine. For more than six months, the work was prosecuted with unceasing vigilance, regardless of all other considerations, and although, when he was called to the witness stand, he could not shield himself from the malignant abuse of counsel, by stating that he had been acting under a commission received from his Government, yet he then felt morally certain, and that confidence yet remains unshaken, that when his true relations to the Government and country, are finally known, his motives, his acts, and his services, will be duly appreciated. He has not been mistaken. The contemptible falsehood of the party who stated that the writer’s services had been compensated, or that a claim for compensation had been made, is hereby hurled back into his teeth. Not a dollar, not a dime, has been received, not even for actual expenses incurred, and no claim whatever has been made–no consideration whatever has been proffered. The service was the result of a deep conviction of duty, a feeling that no citizen should withhold personal sacrifice, even of life and reputation, if the interest of his country demands it. We knew the condition upon which we stepped aside from the agreeable and peaceful avocations of life, and entered upon the task so distasteful, so repulsive, and for a time so thankless. We had reason to know that the shafts of fiendish calumny would assail, that friendship would be broken, that envy and jealousy would ply their innuendoes, that the Copperhead elements of a fraternity, claiming one of the offenders in its ranks, would assail with bitterness and awaken poignant grief, but no regret, that we should have the hatred of Copperheads, as long as that genus (thank Heaven, short-lived), existed in our land, and be regarded with distrust by those negative persons, who would be for the Union, had they any independence of character; we knew all this would follow, if the assassin’s bullet or dagger did not execute the sworn purpose of the Order, but with an abiding faith in the justice of Heaven, with an approving conscience, and our earnest heartfelt prayer for our loved country in her dark hours, we took our course, and our only regret is, that we had not sooner entered upon the work, and thereby frustrated plans which have contributed to our national suffering; for who shall say how many have been its victims, how many homes has it made desolate, how many hearts has it broken, and how many graves now enclose misguided men, and misguided youths, who, educated in its fallacies, lured by its snake-like influence, arrayed themselves against their country, and fell victims to their fanaticism!
We have heard the cry of our Union soldiers at the front, to protect the helpless in the rear, and we have tried to comply. We have given our own near and dear kindred to the bullet and the sword, a sacrifice to freedom, and staunched the life-blood of a dearly loved brother, upon the field of Antietam, and as we wiped away the dew of death, gathering upon his brow, we pledged our life–our all–to the cause of the Union; and if better service might be rendered in vanquishing the secret foe at home, than meeting the more honorable enemy upon the field of battle, we were ready for the work. Had it not been for the potent influence of Copperheads at the North, the counsel, the sympathy, the comfort extended to the rebels, the rebellion would have been put down long ago. Entertaining such views, we shall, under any and all circumstances, and at all times, be a bitter opponent of Copperheadism wherever found, and regard it as legitimate warfare to arrest the assassin of our country, wherever and whenever we can. If the disaffected find comfort in this, let them make the most of it.
ROBERT ALEXANDER.–This gentleman, who is well known to the citizens of Chicago, has held several positions of responsibility and trust, and has ever been a consistent, earnest, devoted advocate of the Union. So intensely Republican in sentiment is he, that the attempt to introduce him into the Sons of Liberty, called forth such opposition that it was thought we should fail in the attempt, and he finally, was only admitted, after he and his sponsor (the writer) had been told, in plain words, accompanied with an oath, that if he proved false to them, both should die. For months he bore the opprobrium of a Copperhead, and suffered extreme annoyances in sustaining the role it was his duty to assume. Conscientious, earnest, persevering, patient, with keen perception, and a remarkable power of reading human character, with the experience of an excellent police officer, Mr. Alexander brought to his post of duty high qualifications, and was a valuable, ready and willing assistant. It should be remarked that Mr. Alexander had been informed in May, 1864, that he had been appointed First-Lieutenant in the 53d U.S. Infantry, and supposed he was in the service of the U.S. Government at the time of joining this great undertaking, but the information, though coming from a high source, proved incorrect, and this is one additional reason why the writer made choice of Mr. Alexander. While we know that loyal men will appreciate Mr. Alexander’s valuable services, we have yet to learn that he has, thus far, experienced any other satisfaction than the approval of his own heart, and the sincere gratitude of the writer, for his hazardous undertaking, and the able manner in which he performed his duty.
MAURICE LANGHORN, one of the principal government witnesses, was born in Pittsburgh, Penn., and reared in Marysville, Ky. He is a lawyer, and a man of ability. Like many other Kentuckians who were in the South at the time the rebellion broke out, Mr. Langhorn committed himself to the doctrine of secession. In 1861 he enlisted as a private in a Louisiana regiment of heavy artillery. He was subsequently recommended for Colonelcy in the rebel army, but failed to get the appointment. In 1861 he went to Bowling Green, Ky., where he enlisted as a private in the 9th Kentucky Infantry, Col. Thomas H. Hunt, of Louisville, and was transferred to the artillery. He mounted the guns on the fortifications around Bowling Green, and seems to have given great satisfaction. He ran as candidate for representative to the rebel congress from Kentucky, but before the result of the canvass was known, was captured and held eight months as a prisoner of war. Mr. Langhorn subsequently took the oath of allegiance to the United States, and was of great service in reporting the movements and designs of the rebel emissaries in Canada to Col. Sweet. The information Mr. Langhorn gave of those men was reliable, and upon it certain arrests were made. Mr. Langhorn is now a loyal citizen, in its broadest and best sense. Mr. Langhorn is a young man not over twenty-five years of age, of quick, nervous temperament, kind and generous impulses, a man of strong feelings, warm friendship, bitter animosities, and whatever he undertakes, he executes with a will. Of Mr. Langhorn it may be truly said, that while he was a rebel, he was an earnest, active foe, but a true soldier, having a high regard for honor and integrity, loving the State in which he was reared, and ever jealous of her honor and fair name. Mr. Langhorn was a rebel from principle–because he felt that the South was right–but when convinced of his error, he made haste to repair it, and when he had once taken the oath of allegiance, he went to work with all his might to aid the cause of the Union. To Mr. Langhorn is due all the honor of frustrating the designs of the rebels from Canada; and Col. Sweet being advised by Mr. Langhorn of this portion of the plot, and by the writer of the Copperheads’ movements and intents, the Colonel had the best possible opportunity of acquiring important knowledge, and regulating his conduct in accordance therewith. Mr. Langhorn is a true friend of the Union, an admirer of our lamented President, and has rendered the citizens of Chicago a service which should ever be held in grateful remembrance.
MR. SHANKS–Once a Rebel officer of distinction, but now a loyal man, consistent in conduct, and of very great assistance to the Government, in ferreting out Rebel officers and Rebel sympathisers, has the confidence and respect of those who know him. He is a young man of signal ability, and if he continues to serve the country as faithfully as he has in the present case, will yet attain distinction.
CHRISTOPHER C. STRAWN–Was a valuable witness. He is a young man who has taken an active part with the Democrats, and is well informed of the incomings and outgoings, and the eccentricities and peccadilloes of the managers in Chicago, although the Post says, that “before his arrest he was not worthy of notice, and after his arrest still less so.” We think the Post man a little severe on Strawn, who has done all he could to have the guilty Copperhead readers of that paper brought to justice. Mr. Strawn, has bade his brethren, the Copperheads, an affectionate and, we trust, final adieu.
JOHN MAUGHAN, an Englishman, born in Berkshire county, and about 22 years of age. His family moved to Toronto, Canada West. He was always in Canada regarded as a young man, with fine business qualities and promise. For three years just before his connection with the rebels, and their Northern conspirators, he occupied a very responsible position as a clerk and teller, in one of the branches of the bank of Upper Canada, and was in every way worthy the confidence reposed in him. During the spring and summer of 1864, he however became acquainted with rebel soldiers in Canada, earnestly espoused their cause, and left his position to go with them to the Southern army. They, however, instead of going South, went to Chicago, where he became acquainted with the conspirators, and also gained their confidence, and on account of being an Englishman, and having his papers with him, and being able to travel without fear of detection, he was used by them to carry their correspondence and other communications, which were of too dangerous a character to trust to the mails. This man was truly a dangerous character. No one, except those who employed him, knew him, or the character in which he was acting, and he was able, frequently, to render the conspirators immense service in their desperate schemes. He was captured in Chicago in November, and finally agreed to turn State’s evidence, when he saw that unless he did, his own life was forfeited. After this agreement, he was treated with great leniency by the Government, but upon being placed upon the witness stand, his old sympathies and prejudices returned, and it is believed he distinctly perjured himself, acting through the whole trial with bad faith toward the Government which had treated him so generously.
THOS.E. COURTNEY–A Son of Liberty, and a leading Democrat of Chicago, called a witness for defence, testified, among other things, as follows:
“I was on a Committee of the Democratic party to receive, at the Alton Depot, some bogus voters that were to be imported into Chicago to vote at the Presidential election; they were part and parcel of the tribe that came from Egypt, and I was one of the Committee appointed to escort them to their boarding houses.”
OBADIAH JACKSON, JR., ESQ., Grand Seignior of the Temple, who had been arrested and sent to Camp Douglas, and while there had written and signed a “statement,” was called for the defence, but it neither helped him or the defendants.
COL.B. M. ANDERSON–Was born, reared, and educated in Kentucky. He was a young man of education, ability, and fine personal appearance, and had he not been a rebel would have been an accomplished gentleman. He possessed many fine points of character, and was, in our opinion, a much better man than any of the Northern Copperheads who have been arrested. He had been in the Nicaraugua expedition, under the fillibuster, Walker. Col. Anderson was the dupe of others. He committed suicide at the barracks in Cincinnati, during the progress of the trial. He leaves a wife and many friends to mourn his death. His history is a sad one. In any other position than a rebel, he would have been a most useful member of society. He was not of the material of which the Sons of Liberty was made up, but aside from that deadly fanaticism which ruined him, he won warm friends wherever he went. Nature did everything for him, but the accursed doctrine of Calhoun, consigned him to a suicide’s grave, “after life’s fitful fever” of war upon the land of his birth.
CHARLES TRAVIS DANIELS–One of the prisoners, is a native of Harrison County, Ky. A lawyer by profession, about 26 years of age and very prepossessing in appearance. He is somewhat remarkable for a rather strange and singular expression of his eyes. Belonged to John H. Morgan’s command, but never served in any other capacity than as an enlisted man. He was captured with Morgan during his raid in Ohio, and confined in Camp Douglas, from which he escaped; was captured at Charles Walsh’s house, on the 7th of November, and escaped again from the military authorities in Cincinnati, Ohio, while being tried by the Commission. He has not been recaptured, but has been found guilty by the Commission.
CAPT. GEORGE CANTRILL–Is a native of Scott County, Ky. Is about the same age as Daniels. There is nothing remarkable in connection with him, and of no more than ordinary intelligence. He also belonged to Morgan’s command, in which he served as Company commander; was in Morgan’s last raid in Kentucky, and at his defeat at Cynthiana escaped to Canada. He was with the other rebels at Chicago during the Convention, and went with them to Southern Illinois for the purpose of drilling Copperheads. He was captured in the house of Charles Walsh, on the morning of the 7th of November last. On account of severe sickness he was not tried with the other conspirators.
RICHARD T. SEMMES–One of the prisoners, tried, convicted, and sentenced, for being one of the Chicago Conspirators, is a young man–not over 23 or 24 years of age, a Marylander by birth, and a lawyer by profession. He is a relation of the pirate Semmes (unfortunate in name,) said to be a nephew. He graduated at Yale College with distinction, and his prospects in Chicago were flattering till he connected himself with the Sons of Liberty, and listened to the teachings of older and “wiser” men.
Of the witnesses for the defence we have nothing to say, further than most of them were Sons of Liberty. Some of them so far perjured themselves, that now a common lie to them is considered as good as the truth, if not a little better. It is said of Judge H.L. Burnet, that he remarked, had he known what witnesses the defence would have introduced, he would not have called any witnesses for the Government–they would have been superfluous. Rather severe, and we will hope he did not say it.
Space will not admit of a review of the evidence, and this will be unnecessary for all who will read the sketch of the Judge Advocate’s argument.