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The Reason Lincoln Had to Die
11-11-2016, 07:55 PM (This post was last modified: 11-11-2016 08:18 PM by Dave Taylor.)
Post: #43
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die
On Tuesday night, Kate and I attended the Southern Maryland Civil War Round Table which had Mr. Thomas, author of this book, as their guest speaker. Now I will admit that I have not read Mr. Thomas' book. When I was told about him coming to my area to speak I recalled the conversations here on the forum and so I took the liberty of briefly glancing at his website. His presentation lasted a little over an hour and covered essentially three topics.

His first topic was in regard to the Booth diary and his belief that the diary was significantly altered by either Judge Advocate Holt or the War Department. While this is a common enough point of belief by conspiracy theorists, I will admit that Mr. Thomas had a new slant on it. Rather than claiming that the missing pages of the diary were evidence of government alteration, he agreed that the pages missing were more than likely removed by Booth himself. To this point I readily agreed. From there, however, the talk became very convoluted. Mr. Thomas believes that someone in the government deconstructed the diary, took the pages which bear Booth's writings, duplicated look alike pages, traced Booth's handwriting onto these duplicate pages but placed the text in different places on the pages, and deliberately failed to transcribe all of Booth's writing since some of it would have exposed Booth's fellow conspirators in Lincoln's government. This explained Mr. Thomas is why Booth's first entry in his diary cuts off so abruptly and why Booth included a blank page between his two entries. In Mr. Thomas' mind, there was more written on this page that the government meticulously removed before reassembling the entire diary with dummied up pages in Booth's handwriting. He supported his theory by constantly citing the 1977 FBI report on the Booth diary, stating that the study the FBI conducted on the diary on behest of the Parks Service in 1977 supported the idea that the diary was taken apart and then reassembled. When I got home I of course consulted the FBI report and found nothing that supports his claims. In the end, I determined that Mr. Thomas' extremely convoluted beliefs about the diary were the product of a simple typo on the FBI report, which led him to mistakenly believe that the pages had been removed from the diary due to the impressions that existed on the blank pages, when, in fact, all the impressions on the blank pages are exactly where they should be.

Mr. Thomas' second point revolved around one of John Wilkes Booth's apparently biggest conspirators, James Donaldson, Secretary Seward's messenger. In my reading of Mr. Thomas' website I had already been aware of his unique view. Like the misprint in the FBI report, Mr. Thomas has seized upon a brief mention in George Atzerodt's confession about having seen Booth in conversation with a man named James Donaldson on April 12th and used this mention to create an elaborate scenario where Donaldson was a key member of Booth's conspiracy and helped him plot the death of his boss. Mr. Thomas grasps so hard to make a connection to Seward's James Donaldson that he completely dismisses the fact that Atzerodt describes his Donaldson as a young man of about "23 or 24" while the real James Donaldson was over 45 at the time. Mr. Thomas also erroneously stated that Donaldson was a part of the kidnapping plot and was one of the conspirators present at Booth's March 15 meeting with all of his conspirators. He claims that Arnold described him perfectly in his confession though admitted he did not recall the man's name. The person Arnold actually described was David Herold. Mr. Thomas also made a passing remark that the real James Donaldson arranged to be absent from the Seward house that night since he knew Powell was coming even though it was Secretary Seward himself who told Donaldson he need not stay. There was no mention about Donaldson's life after the assassination with Mr. Thomas only quickly stating that he was just another one from the grand conspiracy who got away. If you want to read more about James Donaldson, a kind man who helped care for the Secretary after his attack, I wrote a blog post about him before going to the talk on Tuesday.

Mr. Thomas' last point revolved around Louis Weichmann. Now I have no problem with people who believe that Weichmann was part of the conspiracy against Lincoln. There's certainly enough evidence to warrant some suspicions about Mary Surratt's boarder. But Mr. Thomas' ideas were brand new to me. According to Mr. Thomas, not only was Weichmann in the thick of it with Booth and the mysterious figures in the government that he never really explained, but Weichmann knew exactly where Lewis Powell was after his attack on Seward. According to Mr. Thomas, Weichmann and one of the government detectives (I think he said it was Det. James McDevitt) found Powell as he was hiding out from the authorities and gave him a pistol and some boots (and maybe a coat, I'm afraid it got a little convoluted here). To his credit, Mr. Thomas was able to come up with an interesting piece of evidence to back this up. On April 18th, Captain Daniel Gleason, Weichmann's superior in the War Department, gave a statement about how Weichmann had previously mentioned some of his concerns about the happenings around the Surratt boarding house around the time of the inauguration. Gleason had never reported any of these concerns to anyone higher up in the War Department because Weichmann did not portray them to be of real consequence. Now that Lincoln was dead and Booth's connection to the Surratts was established, Gleason was telling his story and likely feeling suspicious about Weichmann. At the end of his statement, almost as an addendum, the following is recorded:

"(The pair of boots, which were found on the assassin of Sec. Seward were shown the witness and he identified them as a pair he had loaned Mr. Wright had loaned to Wiechmann on Saturday morning.) He loaned his boots and a pistol to Mr. Wiechmann on Saturday morning before the other clerks. He had a horse and saddle there and I suppose all was right in regard to it."

Mr. Thomas then used a single statement from Detective Rosch, one of the men who arrested Lewis Powell at the Surratt boarding house, in which Rosch claimed that they recovered, "one small new revolver loaded" from Lewis Powell. Putting it all together means, in Mr. Thomas' mind, that Weichmann borrowed a pair of boots and pistol from a fellow clerk at the War Department and then provided them to Powell as he was hiding out in Washington. I will say that this was the most intriguing of all of Mr. Thomas' theories because at least he had the different statements that led him to this conclusion.

After looking into it, however, I do not believe this theory to be plausible. First off, Detective Rosch was the only detective who mentioned finding a pistol on Powell and even then he only did it in one undated statement. When called to testify at the conspiracy trial, he mentioned nothing about a gun being found on Powell. Mr. Thomas said he had been threatened and/or coached to forget about it by the War Department who had sanctioned Weichmann to get the gun to Powell. I find this a difficult leap of faith. The more logical view in my mind is that Rosch erred in this undated statement as to the items he found on Powell. The detectives all stated they found pistol cartridges on Powell and this may be where Rosch's confusion stems from.

When it comes to Captain Gleason identifying Powell's boots, I will admit that is a strange thing, but I cannot concede that it is evidence of a large overreaching conspiracy on the part of the War Department. In fact I would counter that statement with two possibilities that seem far more likely. First we know from inventory lists that, in addition to having the boots taken off of Lewis Powell upon his arrest, the War Department also seized a pair of boots from Louis Weichmann during their investigation into the Surratt house. Could Gleason have been accidentally shown not the boots removed from Powell, but rather the boots taken from the Surratt house which may have very well been the ones Weichmann borrowed from a friend on the morning of April 15th? Even if that was not the case then I would counter that the most likely scenario is not of a huge governmental conspiracy to provide Powell with some footwear, but the simple fact that a suspicious Captain Gleason likely lied, either accidentally or deliberately, about Powell's boots having come from Weichmann. The fact that Booth's name was later found to be stamped in the boots Powell was wearing seems evidence enough that they could not have come from Weichmann's friend. It also should be noted that a few months after the conspiracy trial ended, Captain Gleason wrote a letter to Weichmann which stated, "When I last saw you my feelings were anything but true, friendly ones, as you must know, but the course you pursued, the testimony you gave, which I assure you was critically read by me, has a long time since completely changed my opinion, and I beg your pardon for all unjust suspicions which I have ever entertained toward you." I think it is very clear that Gleason was mistaken when he said Powell's boots came from Louis Weichmann, and he knew it.

That was the long and short of it. Mr. Thomas occasionally provided other throwaway lines about "the others" involved and cited the massive cover up by the War Department, but, ironically, never actually presented his view on the reason why Lincoln had to die. He discussed the backlash he has faced by entrenched historians who don't want to truth to be known and continually stated that everything he said could be backed up with evidence. The presentation ended and even though we knew most of his claims were incorrect, Kate and I respectfully refrained from participating in the brief question and answer portion which followed.

It was an interesting speech and I'm glad that Mr. Thomas took the time to come to Southern Maryland all the way from Richmond in order to give it. From what I witnessed and heard however, I am not motivated to buy his book and would worry that the research contained in it is incorrect and largely misleading. None of the three things he presented on and insisted were true prove to be true. The FBI report on Booth's diary does not confirm the diary was taken apart. William Seward's messenger James Donaldson was certainly not a heavily involved member of Booth's conspiracy. And the evidence that proves Louis Weichmann followed the orders of the War Department to provide boots and a gun to assassin in hiding, Lewis Powell, is practically worthless when confronted by the mountain of reasonable evidence to the contrary. Not only does Mr. Thomas want us to believe in a humorously large conspiracy involving the highest heads of Lincoln's own government plotting his death, but he also wants us to believe in a plethora of unbelievable smaller conspiracies that flow into one another. When confronted by the light of credible evidence, however, the multitudes of specters disappear back into the nothingness from which they were formed.
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The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 07-17-2013, 11:51 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 07-18-2013, 12:24 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - HerbS - 07-18-2013, 01:16 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 07-18-2013, 01:32 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - HerbS - 07-18-2013, 03:58 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - BettyO - 07-18-2013, 06:27 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gencor - 04-23-2017, 05:15 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - BettyO - 07-18-2013, 08:35 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 07-24-2013, 03:22 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - HerbS - 07-24-2013, 08:15 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 07-25-2013, 08:48 AM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 07-25-2013, 09:36 AM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - BettyO - 07-25-2013, 10:40 AM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 08-07-2013, 06:45 AM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 07-27-2013, 08:58 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 08-05-2013, 04:46 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - BettyO - 08-05-2013, 08:48 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - HerbS - 08-07-2013, 07:44 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 09-13-2013, 04:32 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Dave Taylor - 11-11-2016 07:55 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 11-11-2016, 10:45 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 03-29-2018, 09:44 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 11-06-2018, 07:21 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 12-09-2018, 04:39 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Warren - 11-30-2018, 03:51 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 12-12-2018, 11:31 AM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 12-12-2018, 06:47 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 12-16-2018, 11:23 AM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 12-17-2018, 05:17 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 12-17-2018, 06:23 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 12-29-2018, 05:03 PM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Gene C - 12-31-2018, 10:04 AM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Steve - 01-01-2019, 02:20 AM
RE: The Reason Lincoln Had to Die - Steve - 01-19-2019, 06:44 PM

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