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“It came to my knowledge in the early part of 1861, first by rumors and then by evidence which I could not doubt, that there was a deep-laid conspiracy to capture Washington, destroy all the avenues leading to it from the North, East, and West, and thus prevent the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln in the Capitol of the country; and if this plot did not succeed, then to murder him while on his way to the capital, and thus inaugurate a revolution which should end in establishing a Southern Confederacy, uniting all the slave States, while it was imagined that the North would be divided into separate cliques, each striving for the destruction of the other. Early in the year 1861, Miss Dix, the philanthropist, came into my office on a Saturday afternoon. I had known her for some years as one engaged in alleviating the sufferings of the afflicted. Her occupation had brought her in contact with the prominent men South. In visiting hospitals she had become familiar with the structure of Southern society, and also with the working of its political machinery. She stated that she had an important communication to make to me personally; and, after closing my door, I listened attentively to what she had to say for more than an hour. She put in a tangible and reliable shape, by the facts she related, what before I had heard in numerous and detached parcels. The sum of it all was that there was then an extensive and organized conspiracy throughout the South to seize upon Washington, with its archives and records, and then declare the Southern conspirators de facto the Government of the United States. The whole was to be a coup d'état. At the same time they were to cut off all modes of communication between Washington and the North, East, or West, and thus prevent the transportation of troops to wrest the capital from the hands of the insurgents. Mr. Lincoln's inauguration was thus to be prevented, or his life was to fall a sacrifice to the attempt at inauguration. In fact, troops were then drilling on the line of our road, and the Washington and Annapolis line, and other lines; and they were
SAMUEL M. FELTON'S NARRATIVE.
sworn to obey the command of their leaders, and the leaders were banded together to capture Washington. As soon as the interview was ended, I called Mr. N.P. Trist into my office, and told him I wanted him to go to Washington that night and communicate these facts to General Scott. I also furnished him with some data as to the other routes to Washington that might be adopted in case the direct route was cut off. One was the Delaware Railroad to Seaford, and thence up the Chesapeake and Potomac to Washington, or to Annapolis, and thence to Washington; another to Perryville, and thence to Annapolis and Washington. Mr. Trist left that night, and arrived in Washington at six the next morning, which was on Sunday. He immediately had an interview with General Scott, who told him he had foreseen the trouble that was coming, and in October previcus had made a communication to the President, predicting trouble at the South, and urging strongly the garrisoning of all the Southern forts and arsenals with forces sufficient to hold them, but that his advice had been unheeded; nothing had been done, and he feared nothing would be done; that he was powerless, and that he feared Mr. Lincoln would be obliged to be inaugurated into office at Philadelphia. He should, however, do all he could to bring troops to Washington sufficient to make it secure; but he had no influence with the Administration, and feared the worst consequences. Thus matters stood on Mr. Trist's visit to Washington, and thus they stood for some time afterward. About this time—a few days subsequent, however
a gentleman from Baltimore came out to Back River bridge, about five miles this side of the city, and told the bridge-keeper that he had come to give information which had come to his knowledge of vital importance to the road, which he wished communicated to me. The nature of this communication was that a party was then organized in Baltimore to burn our bridges in case Mr. Lincoln came over the road, or in case we attempted to carry troops for the defense of Washington. The party at that time had combustible materials prepared to pour over the bridges, and were to disguise themselves as negroes, and be at the bridge just before the train in which Mr. Lincoln traveled had arrived. The bridge was then to be burned, the train attacked, and Mr. Lincoln to be put out of the way.
This man appeared to be a gentleman, and in earnest, and honest in what he said ; but he would not give his name, nor allow any inqui
1 ries to be made as to his name or exact abode, as he said his life would be in peril were it known that he had given this information; but, if we would not attempt to find him out, he would continue to come and give information. He came subsequently several times, and gave items of information as to the movements of the conspirators; but I have never been able to ascertain who he was. Immediately after the development of these facts I went to Washington, and there met a prominent and reliable gentleman from Baltimore, who was well acquainted with Marshal Kane, then the Chief of Police. I was then anxious to ascertain whether he was loyal and reliable, and made particular inquiries upon both these points. I was assured that Kane was perfectly reliable; whereupon I made known some of the facts that had come to my knowledge in reference to the designs for the burning of the bridges, and requested that they should be laid before Marshal Kane, with a request that he should detail a police force to make the necessary investigation. Marshal Kane was seen, and it was suggested to him that there were reports of a conspiracy to burn the bridges and cut off Washington, and his advice was asked as to the best way of ferreting out the conspirators. He scouted the idea that there was any such thing on foot; said he had thoroughly investigated the whole matter, and there was not the slightest foundation for such rumors. I then determined to have nothing more to do with Marshal Kane, but to investigate the matter in my own way, and at once sent for a celebrated detective, who resided in the West, and whom I had before employed on an
SAMUEL M. FELTON'S NARRATIVE.
important matter. He was a man of great skill and resources. I furnished him with a few hints, and at once set him on the track with eight assistants. There were then drilling upon the line of the railroad some three military organizations, professedly for home defense, pretending to be Union men, and, in one or two instances, tendering their services to the railroad in case of trouble. Their propositions were duly considered; but the defense of the road was never intrusted to their tender mercies. The first thing done was to enlist a volunteer in each of these military companies. They pretended to come from New Orleans and Mobile, and did not appear to be wanting in sympathy for the South. They were furnished with uniforms at the expense of the road, and drilled as often as their associates in arms; became initiated into all the secrets of the organization, and reported every day or two to their chief, who immediately reported to me the designs and plans of these military companies. One of these organizations was loyal, but the other two were disloyal, and fully in the plot to destroy the bridges and march to Washington to wrest it from the hands of the legally constituted authorities. Every nook and corner of the road and its vicinity was explored by the chief and his detectives, and the secret working of secession and treason laid bare ard brought to light.
“Societies were joined in Baltimore, and various modes known to and practiced only by detectives were resorted to to win the confidence of the conspirators and get into their secrets. This plan worked well, and the midnight plottings and daily consultations of the conspirators were treasured up as a guide to our future plans for thwarting them. It turned out that all that had been communicated by Miss Dix and the gentleman from Baltimore rested upon a foundation of fact, and that the half had not been told. It was made as certain as strong circumstantial and positive evidence could make it, that there was a plot to burn the bridges and destroy the road, and murder Mr. Lincoln on his way to Washington, if it turned out that he went there before troops were called. If troops were first called, then the bridges were to be destroyed and Washington cut off and taken possession of by the South. I at once organized and armed a force of about two hundred men, whom I distributed along the line between the Susquehanna and Baltimore, principally at the bridges.
“These men were drilled secretly and regularly by drill-masters, and were apparently employed in whitewashing the bridges, putting on some six or seven coats of whitewash saturated with salt and alum, to make the outside of the bridges as nearly fire-proof as possible. This whitewashing, so extensive in its application, became the nine-days' wonder of the neighborhood. Thus the bridges were strongly guarded, and a train was arranged so as to concentrate all the forces at one point in case of trouble. The programme of Mr. Lincoln was changed, and it was decided by him that he would go to Harrisburg from Philadelphia, and thence over the Northern Central road by day to Baltimore, and thence to Washington. We were then informed by our detective that the attention of the conspirators was turned from our road to the Northern Central, and that they would there await the coming of Mr. Lincoln. This statement was confirmed by our Baltimore gentleman, who came out again and said their designs upon our road were postponed for the present, and, unless we carried troops, would not be renewed again. Mr. Lincoln was to be waylaid on the line of the Northern Central road, and prevented from reaching Washington, and his life was to fall a sacrifice to the attempt. Thus matters stood on his arrival in Philadelphia. I felt it my duty to communicate to him the facts that had come to my knowledge, and urge his going to Washington privately that night in our sleeping-car, instead of publicly two days after, as was proposed. I went to a hotel in Philadelphia, where I met the detective, who was registered under an assumed name, and arranged with him