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Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
07-29-2012, 06:24 PM
Post: #1
Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
I need some help with further investigating something that Gen Tidwell mentioned in Come Retribution and April '65. On April 15, 1865, the day after the assassination, there was a minor skirmish in St. Mary's County, Maryland, between a troop of Mosby's men and a small Union force. The skirmish occurred near a plantation known as The Plains, which had been turned into a "government farm" during the war after being confiscated from the family of John H. Sothoron.

Col. Sothoron made Northern newspapers in October of 1863, when Union recruiters sailed up the Patuxent River to his plantation and began herding his slaves out of the fields towards the ship. Col. Sothoron and his son, Webster, confronted the recruiters (two of them were black soldiers), and a Lt. Eben White fired at Webster. Fortunately, the gunpowder did not ignite. However, Lt. White then charged at Webster with his bayonet. Col. Sothoron fired and killed the lieutenant.

As a result, both the Colonel and his son had to flee to Virginia and later Canada. Mrs. Sothoron and her children were placed under house arrest and allowed to starve. They were finally sent to live with relatives, and the house and farm were confiscated to serve as a government farm - meaning that contraband from Virginia were brought there to be housed and to work the farm for food and tobacco to serve the Union. During that period, much of the house was ransacked and farm implements broken.

Sothoron returned in 1866 to face trial for the murder of Lt. White, and was immediately declared "not guilty." He then set about trying to recover his losses - a fight that would last into the 1870s and 1880s without success.

This has always fascinated me because the Sothoron family is part of my maternal grandfather's clan -- yes, friends, more of my family stories.

Back to the original reason for posting, however. I would like to know more about how and why some of Mosby's men were in St. Mary's County, Maryland, at the time of the assassination - several hundred miles from their normal base of operations. It certainly seems to be one more factor to suggest that the Confederate command knew of the assassination before it happened. BUT, it also makes me believe that Mosby's forces were sent to another route of escape for Booth -- one that might lead him out into the Patuxent or the Wicomico Rivers and then into the Potomac. About 15-20 miles from The Plains was the small village of Chaptico that had been a blockade runners' port during the war. The Wicomico also flows into the Potomac at Allen's Fresh - an area that Rick Smith believes Booth and Herold frequented during their stay in the pine thicket.

Was it possible that both Charles and St. Mary's Counties in Maryland were prepared to assist the assassin? When Thomas Jones got the opportunity to get the fugitives across the Potomac, it was because word was out that two men (Harbin and Baden likely) had been seen on the river in St. Mary's County. This sent the troops out of town long enough to get the real fugitives on the river.

What I'm getting at is: Was Booth's base of support in the lower counties of Southern Maryland more widespread than we thought? Was Davey Herold in that area for a few days before the assassination getting the word spread to be on the ready? Were Mosby's men stationed near a point of exit via St. Mary's County to assist while civilian personnel in the Secret Line from Prince George's to Charles Counties were assigned to assist at that exit route?

Sorry for turning this into a lengthy "chapter" in the never-ending quest for more knowledge, but I would really like to know what brought Mosby's men to my section of Maryland at a very critical moment.
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07-29-2012, 07:19 PM (This post was last modified: 07-29-2012 07:21 PM by BettyO.)
Post: #2
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
(07-29-2012 06:24 PM)L Verge Wrote:  I need some help with further investigating something that Gen Tidwell mentioned in Come Retribution and April '65. On April 15, 1865, the day after the assassination, there was a minor skirmish in St. Mary's County, Maryland, between a troop of Mosby's men and a small Union force. The skirmish occurred near a plantation known as The Plains, which had been turned into a "government farm" during the war after being confiscated from the family of John H. Sothoron.

Col. Sothoron made Northern newspapers in October of 1863, when Union recruiters sailed up the Patuxent River to his plantation and began herding his slaves out of the fields towards the ship. Col. Sothoron and his son, Webster, confronted the recruiters (two of them were black soldiers), and a Lt. Eben White fired at Webster. Fortunately, the gunpowder did not ignite. However, Lt. White then charged at Webster with his bayonet. Col. Sothoron fired and killed the lieutenant.

As a result, both the Colonel and his son had to flee to Virginia and later Canada. Mrs. Sothoron and her children were placed under house arrest and allowed to starve. They were finally sent to live with relatives, and the house and farm were confiscated to serve as a government farm - meaning that contraband from Virginia were brought there to be housed and to work the farm for food and tobacco to serve the Union. During that period, much of the house was ransacked and farm implements broken.

Sothoron returned in 1866 to face trial for the murder of Lt. White, and was immediately declared "not guilty." He then set about trying to recover his losses - a fight that would last into the 1870s and 1880s without success.

This has always fascinated me because the Sothoron family is part of my maternal grandfather's clan -- yes, friends, more of my family stories.

Back to the original reason for posting, however. I would like to know more about how and why some of Mosby's men were in St. Mary's County, Maryland, at the time of the assassination - several hundred miles from their normal base of operations. It certainly seems to be one more factor to suggest that the Confederate command knew of the assassination before it happened. BUT, it also makes me believe that Mosby's forces were sent to another route of escape for Booth -- one that might lead him out into the Patuxent or the Wicomico Rivers and then into the Potomac. About 15-20 miles from The Plains was the small village of Chaptico that had been a blockade runners' port during the war. The Wicomico also flows into the Potomac at Allen's Fresh - an area that Rick Smith believes Booth and Herold frequented during their stay in the pine thicket.

Was it possible that both Charles and St. Mary's Counties in Maryland were prepared to assist the assassin? When Thomas Jones got the opportunity to get the fugitives across the Potomac, it was because word was out that two men (Harbin and Baden likely) had been seen on the river in St. Mary's County. This sent the troops out of town long enough to get the real fugitives on the river.

What I'm getting at is: Was Booth's base of support in the lower counties of Southern Maryland more widespread than we thought? Was Davey Herold in that area for a few days before the assassination getting the word spread to be on the ready? Were Mosby's men stationed near a point of exit via St. Mary's County to assist while civilian personnel in the Secret Line from Prince George's to Charles Counties were assigned to assist at that exit route?

Sorry for turning this into a lengthy "chapter" in the never-ending quest for more knowledge, but I would really like to know what brought Mosby's men to my section of Maryland at a very critical moment.


Fascinating, story - and you've brought up some very valid points, Laurie. Powell was one of five men recruited from Mosby to work, as Powell told General Payne before he left, on a "Maryland expedition." One wonders if this was a part of this venue. The other five men supposedly backed down. But I would think that Mosby knew of exactly what was going on with his men. Makes perfect sense to me.

"The Past is a foreign country...they do things differently there" - L. P. Hartley
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07-30-2012, 04:34 AM
Post: #3
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
I cannot really enter this because I know so little about it. I am just going by my own logic. There was a close association between Mosby and explosives expert Harney, correct? Then, if so, I would think the possibility of Mosby having at least peripheral involvement in the assassination (and previous kidnap) plans would seem a very real possibility.
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07-30-2012, 05:16 AM (This post was last modified: 07-30-2012 06:04 AM by BettyO.)
Post: #4
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
(07-30-2012 04:34 AM)RJNorton Wrote:  I cannot really enter this because I know so little about it. I am just going by my own logic. There was a close association between Mosby and explosives expert Harney, correct? Then, if so, I would think the possibility of Mosby having at least peripheral involvement in the assassination (and previous kidnap) plans would seem a very real possibility.


According to Messrs. Hall, Tidwell and Gaddy, in Come Retribution, Mosby was connected with Harney. I for one, believe that Col. Mosby knew a lot more than was ever let on. His men had, after the war, been either led to believe or TOLD never to repeat what they did know involving these affairs. They were not dumb and had to know what was up. I also believe that Judah Benjamin and others in the Confederate cabinet were behind most of this and sanctioned it. Mosby was probably working under orders from Benjamin; Surratt was working under Benjamin and I believe that Powell was more than likely as well after being permitted under orders to take a "leave of absence" from Mosby's command.

With the resurgence of "Confederate Pride" in the south in the 1880's and 90's which also continued on into the 1900's and with the continued sanctioning of the so-called "Confederate Myth", the south certainly did not want the Federal Government to know that their beloved leaders were guilty of some nefarious dealings as far as the war was concerned. So quite possibly any underhanded reference to Mosby or any other highly thought of Confederate commander or official was unsanctioned. No matter that the same sort of affairs went on within the Union government as well - i.e. the purported Dahlgren raid to wipe out the Confederate cabinet.

"The Past is a foreign country...they do things differently there" - L. P. Hartley
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07-30-2012, 08:40 AM
Post: #5
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
I have also run across a reference to Col. Sothoron's son, Webster, being commissioned a lieutenant in the C.S.A. early in the war and then being in Baltimore a great deal in civilian clothes and walking freely among the Yanks. That leads me to suspect that he was a Confederate operative who used his links to St. Mary's County to get cover for Mosby's men in the final days.

I'm sorry, but I just don't see how historians can completely ignore the Confederate hierarchy in this final scheme against Lincoln. They were sure in on other related plots, some sanctioned and some not.
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07-30-2012, 09:04 AM
Post: #6
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
As an aside, I found a letter from Mosby to S.S. McClure in Tarbell's papers last night. In it he said he would be pleased to write a reminisce for the magazine and that he did so not for the glory but for the money.

Best
Rob

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell
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07-30-2012, 10:44 AM (This post was last modified: 07-30-2012 10:47 AM by Gene C.)
Post: #7
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
(07-30-2012 08:40 AM)Laurie Verge Wrote:  I'm sorry, but I just don't see how historians can completely ignore the Confederate hierarchy in this final scheme against Lincoln. They were sure in on other related plots, some sanctioned and some not.

You can't expect these leaders to know everything that was going on by their underlings.

Look at our current group of politicians. If something goes wrong, let's blame in on the previous administration or the opposing political party. At the very worst, someone in their department was making a decision and approved an activity beyond their level of authority that the leader in question knew nothing about and would not have authorized (Pass the buck, it's not my fault, or deny, deny and deny again - and hope it goes away)

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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07-30-2012, 11:36 AM
Post: #8
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
I agree to a point, but I am still very suspicious of Judah Benjamin - the one who got away.
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07-30-2012, 11:41 AM (This post was last modified: 07-30-2012 11:41 AM by BettyO.)
Post: #9
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
(07-30-2012 11:36 AM)Laurie Verge Wrote:  I agree to a point, but I am still very suspicious of Judah Benjamin - the one who got away.

Agreed, Laurie. I think that Benjamin knew a lot -- and Mosby as well. And I'm a BIG fan of the Gray Ghost. I think a lot went on at that particular time that those in authority simply did not want the public to ever know....

"The Past is a foreign country...they do things differently there" - L. P. Hartley
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07-30-2012, 11:47 AM (This post was last modified: 07-30-2012 11:47 AM by RJNorton.)
Post: #10
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
There is a Florida tie to Benjamin which Vicki and I visited a few years ago.

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07-30-2012, 12:24 PM
Post: #11
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
Did Benjamin ever comment about the Civil War after he escaped to England?
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07-30-2012, 12:29 PM
Post: #12
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
Let me add, I fully believe someone high up in the Confederate Govenment approved and authorized unconventional activities of war, and many of these on non-military targets. I believe there were several attacks on civilians with the sole purpose of terrorizing and demoralizing the civilian population, with the intent of changing public support for the war.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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07-30-2012, 12:47 PM (This post was last modified: 07-30-2012 12:48 PM by Thomas Thorne.)
Post: #13
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
[quote='Rob Wick' pid='1567' dateline='1343657087']
As an aside, I found a letter from Mosby to S.S. McClure in Tarbell's papers last night. In it he said he would be pleased to write a reminisce for the magazine and that he did so not for the glory but for the money.

I have yet to be convinced of the "Come Retribution" thesis but am eager to be shown persuasive evidence of its validity. Mosby's willingness to share his knowledge for financial reasons must have reflected the situation of many an elderly ex confederate of let's say the early 1900's.
I find it hard to believe that financial motives would not have persuaded at least one of them to have gone public with the sensastional revelation of Confederate complicity in Lincoln's assassination. Nobody was going to prosecute anyone. It is surprising that a Finis Bates did not come forward and seek his fortune by faking a Confederate conspiracy.
Tom
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07-30-2012, 02:04 PM
Post: #14
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
Has anyone read this book?
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07-30-2012, 02:45 PM
Post: #15
RE: Mosby's Men in Southern Maryland
Not familiar with that book, Roger, but am familiar with the name. We need Art Candenquist to chime in here because he retired to Warrenton, Virginia, years ago and is very deep in Mosby history as well as an expert on railroads during the Civil War. I will encourage him to join our ranks.

As for ever being fully convinced about the thesis of Messrs Tidwell, Hall, and Gaddy, Tom, they flat out stated up front in the book (as well as at every talk I heard them give) that the thesis would likely never be 100% proven because the Confederates ran a very effective espionage system and were wise enough to leave little if any paper trails.

All I can say is that all three men were trained in military intelligence and tops in the field of investigation as well. Their thesis just plain makes sense to me, especially given the other plots that preceded the assassination -- much more sense than JWB, Lone Wolf, IMO.
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