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Last Lincoln Conspirator by Andrew Jampoler
05-09-2015, 04:48 PM
Post: #19
RE: Last Lincoln Conspirator by Andrew Jampoler
OK. I wrote what I am going to give you back in 2010. It is not Stelnick's final copy but all I have. To make it "easier" (never a word to use with Rick Stelnick) I am going to enclose my introduction to his Dixie Reckoning manuscript. If you do not understand it--well, I do not either!

There was also a TV show on the Confederate Gold, with a belief that it was buried in North Carolina, I believe. No one has ever found it. I side with a friend go mine who said that a lot of it went with the cavalry escort, a Tennessee regiment, if I recall correctly, to live on happily after the Civil War. Stelnick thinks it all or most of it went with Judah P. Benjamin.

Please excuse the primitive computer skills I have.


“Philip Henson?” comes the query from historians and publishers alike. “Never heard of him,” is the firm retort. This is an historical perdue that author Rick Stelnick solves for first time in an exciting volume of non-fiction that reads like a novel. Dixie Reckoning is about facts, faith, fate, and the truth of the America’s War for Southern Independence--formerly concealed, finally revealed through he adventures of the Union’s most colorful and capable spy, Philip Henson, whom Confederate Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest regretted never hanging. Put it down only if you dare!
Dixie Reckoning had its conception during an extended stay abroad, during which Stenlick spend the majority of his time between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey. So in order to maintain his ties to the American mainland and sustain his Western sensibilities, he read and reread every book on the Lincoln assassination available to him. Illness forced Stelnick to end his business abroad and return to New York City. Upon his recovery, his friend, mentor, and entrepreneur extraordinaire, Bernard Stein, gave him two books as gifts: Philip Henson, The Southern Union Spy (1887) by George Sibley Johns and Lorna Moon: My Secret Mother (1998) by Richard de Mille (from the well-known family of Cecil B. de Mille, an old New York Dutch name, Demill, now spelled in the French manner) along with a handwritten card that read; “In case you still think you know all there is to know about what happened in April of 1865. Read these. . . .” The result was Dixie Reckoning, a new look at the war through the eyes of a Southern-born Union scout and spy, Philip Henson, based for the first time on Henson’s own personal papers in the possession of his heirs.
A Civil War scout and spy for Union Major General Grenville M. Dodge (later the chief civil engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad when it was the only intercontinental ribbon of rails across the reunified United States) and Lieutenant General U.S. Grant, Henson also served as a special secret service agent for President Grant after the war, investigating the assassination of Abraham Lincoln from which he created a manuscript report on that bloody affair that has sadly never seen the light of day.
Henson’s wartime and peacetime careers logically divide his story into two parts. The first two-thirds emphasizes his youth and wartime career. Born and raised in Alabama, Henson went with his father into Indian Territory, where the elder Henson served as Indian Agent to the Cherokee, friends of adopted tribal member, Sam Houston, and pro-Union John Ross and pro-Confederate Stand Watie, chiefs still harboring grudges from the Indian Removal of the 1830s. Henson’s return to Texas after leading a wagon train to Mesilla, New Mexico Territory, brought him into contact with pro-Union Houston again, as well as John H. Regan, future postmaster of the Confederacy, and secession firebrand Louis T. Wigfall. Henson even found time to meet Ossawatomie John Brown in Bleeding Kansas, whocame to admire the young man so much as to invite him to assist in making the first blow against slavery in a planned attack on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. For the future of our story, Henson wisely declined.
Henson returned to Alabama on the eve of Civil War where he married, became a store clerk, and met in Montgomery a young, rising star of the American stage, John Wilkes Booth. Henson saved Booth from assault by a gun-wielding, cuckolded husband. When he and Booth parted company, Henson then gave Booth one of his pair of Deringers—the same gun that later blew Abraham Lincoln from earth to perdition.
As the clouds of war approached after the election of Lincoln, Henson became one of thousands of Southern whites who stood loyal to the Union. But before his allegiance to the North became known, Henson was hired as an inspector of the Confederate Postal System. His old acquaintance, John Reagan gave him papers that gave Henson open travel through all areas of the South. Reagan also introduced Henson to Confederate Attorney General Judah P. Benjamin, who employed him as a Confederate spy and gave Henson a second set of papers passing him through all Southern military areas as well. These later became papers that provided Henson access into the Confederate secret service when Benjamin was Confederate Secretary of State. He also carried passes from Union Generals Grant and Dodge that permitted him to pass through Union lines, obtained as he picked up a $22, 000 payment in an Illinois bank owed his dead father for services as Indian agent so many years before.
Henson put these papers to use on behalf of the Union cause. His spying helped Grant capture Ft. Henry, Ft. Donelson (and a small Confederate army), and Vicksburg (and a second Rebel army). He also gained critical information on HMS Trent that led to the capture of Confederate emissaries James M. Mason and John Slidell. He revealed the critical keys to the Confederate cipher codes, “Come Retribution” and “Complete Victory”, to Northern spy masters. Henson, in addition, supported the enlistment of 2400 Union men from Alabama, many of whom enlisted in the First Alabama (Union) cavalry, a unit that was Major General William T. Sherman’s bodyguard on the March to the Sea. Finally, Henson provided drawings of Libby Prison that allowed over 100 Union prisoners of war to make an escape attempt in 1864.
But as the Yankee officers escaped Libby Prison, Rebel provost marshals in Alabama arrested Henson while he was visiting his family in 1864. Henson spent the rest of the war in Alabama in military jails before he escaped while being transferred to Castle Thunder in Richmond. Fortunately for his life, he was imprisoned as a military scout rather than a spy, which kept him from a quick hanging.
The second one-third of book is on the Lincoln Assassination and reads more like a chapter out of Taylor Caldwell’s The Captains and the King, rather than the run-of-the-mill Civil War spy story. It is here that Stelnick’s well-researched study, enhanced by his own foreign business background and Henson’s diary, becomes not only intriguing, but controversial, as he concentrates on two mysteries investigated by Henson for President Grant: the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the disappearance of the Confederacy’s treasury’s gold. This led him to the scions of the old Dutch Americans of New York.
For decades historians have known of a ghostly New York City connection to the Lincoln assassination. There were several sources that brought Demill & Co. of 178½ Water Street, R. D. Watson, and J. J. Reford to light, from as early as 1865 to most recently in 2009. Now, for the first time, Stelnick reveals that the Water Street connection was not a myth (as many historians have accused), what it was all about, and who was in it.
At 178½ Water Street, in the office/warehouse of Demill & Co., a noted rogue, and rascal, J. J. Reford had entered a partnership with the Demills just prior to the 1849 California Gold Rush. The operators of Demill & Co. were commission merchant Thomas Arnold Demill and his sons; the soon-to-be Confederate Major William Edward Demill, and attorney to the rich and famous Richard Mead Demill, Esq. By 1860, the Demills had made J.J. Reford a virtual member of the family, which specialized in foreign trade between the South (through William and a Maryland whiskey salesman and later Confederate secret agent, Roderick D. Watson), the East Coast, the Pacific Coast, and Europe. Whenever asked his job description, supposedly J. J. Reford’s stock answer was he was a professional minder–-a sort of enforcer in the Demill family businesses.
Like Philip Henson, Stelnick would soon ascertain John Wilkes Booth’s association with New York City was much more than met the eye, courtesy of five men: George A. Atzerodt, Louis J. Weichmann, Samuel K. Chester, Roderick D. Watson, the Dutch American man-about-town, Richard Mead Demill, and an unbroken bond of business between the Netherlands Dutch of Amsterdam and the Dutch Americans of New York existing from the city’s founding.
Like so many proficient investigators before him, in tracing the mysteries of Lincoln’s assassination, Stelnick’s mantra is the same as was Henson’s, “Follow the money!” In this case, where did the money to finance the Confederacy come from in the beginning and where did it go in the end? How was Lincoln involved? Stelnick’s study rests on two assumptions. First, Stelnick assumes that the probability of debt reimbursement for the Confederacy is equal to the probability of victory. Second, he assumes that bond market investors here and abroad would receive nothing in the event of Confederate defeat.
In the spring of 1865, the Civil War threatened to end too soon for the Demills. Heavy investors in both sides, the Demill fortune could double or triple if the war went on a few months—preferably a few years. In contact with the Confederate government through the ever affable and pliable Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of State and a monetary realist, Benjamin sent his agent, John H. Surratt, Jr., to persuade the head of a Confederate plot to abduct Lincoln, none other than Henson’s old friend, John Wilkes Booth, to coordinate with the Demill’s right-hand man, Reford, in the project. Surratt received his orders through a telegram sent him by R.D. Watson, an old Maryland hand.
If Benjamin could convince the rest of the Cabinet members to do theirs by hanging on for a few weeks, the Confederate States of America would be back in business again. In this case, a few things had. In rapid order, the Confederate Cabinet had abandoned Richmond, Lee had surrendered to Grant, and sightings of Booth were in short supply. Unfortunately, Reford’s conspiring with Booth had proved a dangerous notion. If one pushed him too lightly, he was full of himself. If one shoved him too hard, he sulked like a child. Booth’s various addictions didn’t make it any easier either; sex made him distracted, alcohol made him depressed, and Blue Mass and opium made him deranged.
Then, what was supposed to be a day of renewed dreams for the land of Dixie had become a nightmare of mayhem and murder. Booth went off on a plan of his own, an improvisation of one hatched in the Confederate Torpedo Bureau independently of Judah P. Benjamin, to blow up the White House and Lincoln’s whole cabinet with it. When the Rebel powder-man failed to show up, Booth sought to carry out the plot, by having his gang assassinate all of the higher ups in the Lincoln government as individuals.
J.J. Reford swore to Demill that the accursed actor, Booth, had changed the whole darn thing, from capturing to killing. Demill didn’t care about any reward Washington put on Booth’s head for his apprehension alive to be held over for trial, he wanted him dead. As regards the fables about Booth not dying at the Garrett’s farm Locust Hill, Henson Demill and Reford all agreed--Booth’s ego and mouth were too big for him to keep in hiding for long. He was truly dead before Demill could have his revenge through Reford.
But there were many others who needed to be silenced before the New York connection faced some future gallows, courtesy of an emotive writer of memoirs. According to Henson via Stelnick, Reford became a virtual serial killer, dispatching nearly a dozen persons who knew too much through a series of providential “accidents.” The unsolvable problem, however, was with R. D. Watson’s letter to John Surratt. Watson had used the Demill name and the Water Street address. But no one figured this out until late in the next century. The Demills and Booth had each made life-changing errors in judgment. The Demills for giving Reford tacit approval to recruit the actor in the first place. Booth for changing the plot from abduction to assassination.
In the end, it wasn’t so much a “lost cause” as it was “lost coin.” And while it can be said that there were many heroes and villains of the Civil War, Stelnick finds only one rogue Rebel of any note, as in bank note, left standing in one piece. After all was said and done, Henson’s friend and mentor, Judah Benjamin, lived in luxury in European exile. He wasn’t called “the brains of the Confederacy” for nothing. The Demills and their New York Dutch American friends did not do badly either. Nor did the Dutch in Amsterdam’s investment houses. They bet on both sides to win.
Henson had served the North discretely until Grant’s death in 1885. During his two careers, he’d been paid out of a dozen or more different government accounts, but his compensation ceased upon Grant’s passing. Still, he had continued working on his “discrete and unofficial inquiry” as to what had really happened in April of 1865 leading up to that notorious night at Ford’s 10th Street Theatre.
Henson would go to his own grave January of 1911 with three regrets; first and foremost, because of his association with Booth and his Deringer, his having been unable to avert the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The second was his not being able to bring Benjamin, Demill and others to justice for their roles in the above referenced wartime transgressions. The third, of course was when he had learned too late in 1886, the truth behind U.S. Grant’s reluctance and refusal prior to his death on July 23, 1885 to permit Henson to publish his findings.
As Henson had discovered, after the fact, a desperate Grant, in May of 1884, on the verge of losing his entire life’s savings, because of an ill-advised investment in a Wall Street private banking and brokerage firm partnership with his son Ulysses “Buck” Grant and Ferdinand Ward, had turned to none other than the “lender of the last resort”, William Henry “Billy” Vanderbilt, and borrowed $150,000.00. Utterly unbeknownst to Grant, then at that point in time, May of 1884, Vanderbilt was “a person of interest” in the aforementioned crimes due to his own dark Dutch-American affiliations. As a result and as such, Philip Henson had no choice but to go along with Grant’s decisions of confidentiality and non-disclosure until the day he himself died. By then, the report had disappeared.
The American Civil War is known for the brotherly manner the soldiers treated each other between the battles, causing some chroniclers to label them “Civil Warriors.” But among historians there is little such camaraderie, if an author’s story-line does not fit the long-established parameters of what is acceptable in Lincolnology. As dissenting voices point out there is a grand Lincoln Machine of historians who approve of each other’s books, write favorable reviews of each other’s writings, edit professional and popular journals, give papers and speeches at historical and civic forums and various associations meetings, and condemn all who do not conform to the established and “true” story of the Lincoln assassination, the execution of a president martyred so that America could have a New Birth of Freedom, as if the one in 1776 were bereft of purpose. One of these Neo-Abolitionists have recently reiterated their concept of the War of the Rebellion in and article in North & South Magazine, “A Moral View of the Civil War.”
The necessity of molding the Lincoln story for historical and political ends was noted by Alonzo Taft who noted in the 1870s that the “proper” dead Lincoln can be much more appreciated than the living one ever was. Stelnick’s work flies in the face of all that. But readers might well heed the wise words of the original Dutch settlers of modern New York City: Als u houden vragen de verkeerde vraag, u zult nooit achter het juiste antwoord. “If you keep asking the wrong question, you’ll never find the correct answer.” Stelnick’s book of Philip Henson’s story asks the correct questions, albeit one hundred and sixty years after the fact.

William L. Richter Tucson, Arizona, 2010
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RE: Last Lincoln Conspirator by Andrew Jampoler - Wild Bill - 05-09-2015 04:48 PM

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