The Largest Mass Execution in American History?

On August 17, 1862, four Sioux Indians attacked and killed five white settlers while on a hunting expedition in Minnesota. A series of attacks known as the Dakota War followed until the U.S. Army quelled the unrest. In the aftermath, President Abraham Lincoln approved the largest mass execution in U.S. history, a record that still stands today. But why did the Sioux launch the Dakota War in the first place?

The Dakota War?

The origins of the Dakota War can be traced back to 1851 when the U.S. government forced the Sioux Indians to sign the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux and the Treaty of Mendota. These agreements required the Sioux to give up large parcels of land and move onto an Indian reservation near the Minnesota River. In exchange, the Sioux were given $1.4 million of money and goods. This amounted to about $0.03 per acre and the U.S. government profited handsomely by selling the land to white settlers for $1.25 per acre. In fact, it profited even more than you might expect since most of the promised compensation was never paid, was stolen by the corrupt Bureau of Indian Affairs, or was otherwise “lost.”

As the 1850s rolled on, the U.S. government continuously violated the two treaties and failed to make payments to the Sioux. The Sioux fell into a state of permanent debt with local traders and thus, the few payments that were made often went directly to the traders. At the same time, crop failure made the Sioux increasingly dependent on the payments. Hungry and angry about the very real possibility that they were being cheated by the Bureau and the traders, the Sioux demanded that the payments be made directly to them. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs agent refused to provide food or supplies under that condition.

Two days later, a Sioux hunting party attacked and killed five white settlers while on a hunting expedition. That night, the Sioux council effectively declared the Dakota War on the settlers. A series of attacks followed. After a few setbacks to U.S. forces, President Lincoln sent General John Pope to lead the counterattack.

“It is my purpose utterly to exterminate the Sioux if I have the power to do so and even if it requires a campaign lasting the whole of next year. Destroy everything belonging to them and force them out to the plains, unless, as I suggest, you can capture them. They are to be treated as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom treaties or compromises can be made.” ~ General John Pope

The Dakota War Ends…& Trials Begin

By December, the short-lived Dakota War was over. At least 500 U.S. soldiers and white settlers perished in the Dakota War. Sioux casualties are estimated about 70 to 100. In the aftermath, General Pope subjected hundreds of men, women, and children to five-minute military trials. 303 Indians were found guilty of rape and/or murder and sentenced to death. However, they were not given the opportunity to defend themselves and in any case, were condemned for participation in the Dakota War rather than for specific crimes.

President Lincoln Approves the Largest Mass Execution in History

General Pope and Minnesota’s representatives urged President Lincoln to approve the execution. However, Lincoln was still in the midst of the Civil War and was concerned that an execution of that size, based on no evidence and a heavily biased military tribunal, might anger European nations who would then throw their support to the Confederate States of America. So, he pared down the list to 39 names. In order to appease disgruntled settlers and Minnesota operatives, he promised to eventually kill or remove all Indians from Minnesota and offered $2 million in federal funds compensation.

On December 26, 1862, 38 Sioux Indians were hanged, marking the largest one-day execution in American history (one Sioux was granted a reprieve). Within the course of a year, Lincoln made good on his promise, driving the remaining Sioux out of Minnesota and into Nebraska and South Dakota.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Thanks to the politically-motivated Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln might just be the biggest sacred cow in all of U.S. history. Even this mass execution is viewed favorably by many Lincoln scholars, as they point out that he spared the lives of over 260 Sioux Indians. But the fact remains that he ordered the execution of 38 individuals, despite knowing that their individual guilt in the Dakota War could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unfortunately, their deaths didn’t bring an end to the violence. After the Civil War ended, General Sherman waged war against the Plains Indians, designed to bring about “the final solution of the Indian problem.” By 1890, his dream had become a reality – all of the Plains Indians had either been killed or placed on a reservation.


Guerrilla Explorer’s Wild West Coverage

The Lost City of Cahokia?

When European settlers first ventured through Illinois, they encountered an astonishing sight – 120 colossal mounds of earth that marked the high points of an ancient city. What was the lost city of Cahokia?

The Lost City of Cahokia?

This lost city was constructed by the Mississippian culture around AD 600 – 1400. It is not particularly well-known today. However, recent salvage work might change that fact. It now appears that Cahokia was far more significant than early settlers could’ve ever imagined. Here’s more on the lost city from the Daily Mail:

A sprawling Native American metropolis which lay hidden beneath a modern city for a millennium has been uncovered.

Archaeologists digging in preparation for the Mississippi River spanning bridge – which will connect Missouri and Illinois – discovered the lost city of Cahokia beneath modern St Louis.

Their findings pointed to a ‘sophisticated, sprawling metropolis stretching across both sides of the Mississippi’, Andrew Lawler told the journal Science.

Cahokia, which is near Collinsville in Illinois, was initially believed to be just a ‘seasonal encampment’. But experts now think it was a location of much more significance…

(For the rest, see The lost city of Cahokia: Archaeologists uncover Native Americans’ sprawling metropolis under St Louis at the Daily Mail)

A Lost Mayan City…in Georgia?

Between AD 800 and 900, the Classic Maya civilization suddenly collapsed. The abrupt decline of this fascinating and highly sophisticated population has baffled archaeologists for decades. Nearly 100 theories purport to account for the collapse, including drought, revolution, and diseases. Now, Creek Indian architect and city planner Richard Thornton has added a new theory to the mix. Thornton believes that Maya commoners left the southern lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula…traveled thousands of miles…and ended up in Georgia.

Did the Classic Maya Resettle in Georgia?

His evidence is limited yet intriguing. The site in question – Brasstown Bald mountain – contains 300 to 500 rock terraces and mounds that date back ~1,100 years, roughly the time of the Classic Maya Collapse. The natives of that area apparently created pottery similar to Maya common folk. Their stone structures were “identical in form to numerous agricultural terrace sites in Chiapas, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.” And then there’s the linguistic evidence:

“A Cherokee village near the mountain was named Itsa-ye, when Protestant missionaries arrived in the 1820s. The missionaries mistranslated ‘Itsaye’ to mean ‘brass.’ They added ‘town’ and soon the village was known as Brasstown. Itsa-ye, when translated into English, means ‘Place of the Itza (Maya).'” ~ Richard Thornton

Thornton’s theory is that commoners, rather than the elite, escaped Mexico when the Classic Maya collapsed. Some of them made their way to Georgia and became elites themselves. These people soon blended in with the existing indigenous peoples, wiping out any traces of their original heritage.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Professional archaeologists have rained scorn upon the theory, including several referenced by Thornton in his article. I can’t vouch for Thornton’s work and his evidence is far from conclusive. Still, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that some disgruntled Mayas left Mexico and ventured into what is now the United States. As to whether they made it all the way to Georgia, well, the jury is still out.

Thomas Edison…Kills an Elephant?

One of our favorite topics here at Guerrilla Explorer is what we like to call “Dark History,” or the ugly bits of the past that get papered over by modern scholars eager to tell hero’s tales. Case in point…the man who killed Topsy the elephant via electrocution…none other than Thomas Edison himself.

Thomas Edison: Inventer or Patent Abuser?

According to the history books, Edison, aka The Wizard of Menlo Park, was a prolific inventor responsible for creating many wonderful things, including the light bulb. Except Edison didn’t create the light bulb. He just took Sir Joseph Swan’s working design and made a few small modifications. Then he patented it in America and proceeded to publicize himself as the true inventor. Indeed, Edison’s abuse of the patent system is reason he’s credited as the 4th most prolific inventor in history.

The Electrocution of Topsy the Elephant?

But today we’re focusing on something else, namely the War of Currents. The War of Currents was a long-pitched ferocious battle to determine the future of electric power distribution in the United States. It pitted Edison’s direct current (DC) against the alternating current (AC) promoted by George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. By January 4, 1903, Edison had essentially lost the war. But he refused to give up. Instead, he resorted to fear-mongering and attempted to show the dangers of AC. How? By electrocuting an elephant named Topsy.

Of course, standards were different back then. Still, the death of Topsy showed the lengths the desperate Edison was willing to go to win the War of Currents. It was a brutal demonstration.

Here’s more on Edison’s electrocution of Topsy from Wired:

Edison’s aggressive campaign to discredit the new current took the macabre form of a series of animal electrocutions using AC (a killing process he referred to snidely as getting “Westinghoused”). Stray dogs and cats were the most easily obtained, but he also zapped a few cattle and horses.

Edison got his big chance, though, when the Luna Park Zoo at Coney Island decided that Topsy, a cranky female elephant who had squashed three handlers in three years (including one idiot who tried feeding her a lighted cigarette), had to go.

Park officials originally considered hanging Topsy but the SPCA objected on humanitarian grounds, so someone suggesting having the pachyderm “ride the lightning,” a practice that had been used in the American penal system since 1890 to dispatch the condemned. Edison was happy to oblige…

(See for more on Edison’s electrocution of Topsy)

Egyptian Heritage Under Attack?

On Sunday, a fiery inferno claimed Egyptian maps and historical manuscripts, some of which were over 200 years old. Is Egypt’s heritage under attack? How can ancient books be protected?

Ancient Books: How can Scholars Protect Egyptian Heritage?

The Cairo-based fire was seemingly part of the anti-government protests which currently engulf the nation. And now, there is some talk of “foreign entities” (most likely UNESCO) taking sovereignty over historic Egyptian sites for preservation purposes. Fortunately, much of these ancient books and other works had been digitized. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I support the digitization of ancient books and rare historical documents such as Sir Isaac Newton’s papers. Eventually, all ancient books, maps, and other documents will succumb to the ravages of time and violence. A digital copy might not be as good as the real item…but it’s the next best thing and it can be stored in many places. Anyway, here’s more on the story from the Guardian:

Volunteers in white lab coats, surgical gloves and masks stood on the back of a pickup truck along the banks of the Nile in Cairo, rummaging through stacks of rare 200-year-old manuscripts that were little more than charcoal debris.

The volunteers, ranging from academic experts to appalled citizens, have spent the past two days trying to salvage what’s left of some 192,000 books, journals and writings, casualties of Egypt’s latest bout of violence.

The Institute of Egypt, a research centre set up by Napoleon Bonaparte during France’s invasion in the late 18th century, caught fire during clashes between protesters and Egypt’s military over the weekend. It was home to a treasure trove of writings, most notably the handwritten 24-volume Description de l’Egypte, which began during the 1798-1801 French occupation. It includes 20 years of observations by more than 150 French scholars and scientists, was one of the most comprehensive descriptions of Egypt’s monuments, its ancient civilisation and contemporary life at the time.

It is probably now burned beyond repair…

(See Cairo Institute Burned During Clashes for the rest)

Ancient Offering Discovered in Mexican Ruin

Archaeologists have finally penetrated to the center of the Pyramid of the Sun’s maze of ancient tunnels. Amazingly, they’ve uncovered a cache of items that are almost 2,000 years old.

What’s inside the Pyramid of the Sun?

Here’s the latest on this archaeological excavation into the Pyramid of the Sun from

One of Mexico’s largest and most famous pre-Columbian structures, the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan has yet to reveal its many secrets. Archaeologists have unearthed offerings inside a tunnel under the pyramid that likely predate its construction—and may even shed light on its significance.

The trove of offerings uncovered at the core of Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Sun includes a mask so lifelike it might have been a portrait. A trove of ceremonial offerings has been discovered at the base of Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Sun, archaeologists from Mexico’s National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) announced yesterday. The items, which include a green stone mask, pieces of pottery and animal bones, might have been part of a consecration ceremony held when workers broke ground on the massive structure more than 1,900 years ago, they said.

Founded by an as-yet-unidentified group around 100 B.C., the ruined city of Teotihuacan features some of the largest pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas, along with temples, palaces, apartment-style complexes and remarkably preserved murals. At its height the settlement may have been home to some 200,000 people. By the time the Aztecs discovered the once-thriving hub around 1300, however, it had been abandoned for centuries, perhaps as a result of famine, drought or warfare…

For the rest on this story, please see

The Finest Goldsmiths of the Ancient Americas?

Around 300 AD, a mysterious civilization in Colombia began to sculpt an incredible array of items out of gold. Eventually, these people would become known as the finest goldsmiths of the ancient Americas. Who were the Tairona?

The Chaos Book Club

So, today we have a Chaos book club bonus for you. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

Who were the Tairona?

The Tairona were a group of chiefdoms who resided in parts of Colombia from 200 AD until 1600-1650 AD. During this period, they “established over 250 masonry settlements across an area of 2,000 square miles.” This includes the famous Ciudad Perdida, or “Lost City.” Ciudad Perdida was unknown to the outside world until it was discovered by treasure hunters in 1972. When artifacts from this site began to appear on the black market, local authorities investigated and found the city in 1975.

Unfortunately, information about the Tairona people is scarce, limited to some archaeological sites and a few references written by their Spanish conquerors. However, we do know that “they aggressively repelled the Spanish when they attempted to take women and children as slaves in the first contacts.” This led to great losses among the Spanish and ultimately, “a more diplomatic strategy” for disarming and taking control of the locals.

The Tairona people were, in my estimation, the finest gold workers of the pre-Columbian Americas. Their caciques (an example is pictured above) are particularly impressive. These gold cast pendants depict people in richly detailed attire and headdresses. While the subjects are unknown today, they are thought to be chiefs or warriors due to their tough facial expressions and aggressive postures.

Chaos by David Meyer

Chaos, Gold, & the Tairona?

One of the opening scenes in Chaos takes place at a recently discovered Tairona archaeological site on an isolated plateau in the middle of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. My hero Cy Reed is there to retrieve a cacique. Unfortunately for him, others in the area will do anything to stop him.

At the bottom of the hill, I glanced over my shoulder. Every single worker, male and female alike, raced after me. It was a strange, disconcerting sight, like being chased by an army of angry lemmings.

I sprinted uphill and grabbed my climbing equipment. As I slipped into the harness and secured my weapons, I snuck another look behind me. The workers were right on my tail. I didn’t have much time.

I didn’t have any time.

I stuffed the cacique into my satchel and ran forward to where my climbing rope was still anchored to the boulders below. With a savage cry, I leapt off the cliff. As my feet left the ground, a single thought raced through my mind.

What the hell am I doing?

The hunt for the cacique plays only a minor role in Chaos. But it’s important nevertheless. First, it connects Cy Reed to the mysterious Beverly Ginger, who has her own plans for the cacique. And second, it marks the first domino in a series of incidents that drives treasure hunter Cy Reed back to the one place on earth he truly fears…New York City.


Chaos Book Club


Guest Post: Did Jesse James fake his own Death?

This morning, we have a special treat for you…a guest post on the mysterious death of Jesse James written by esteemed author and friend Sean McLachlan. Sean is a travel blogger for as well as the author of several works on Civil War history. His newest book, A Fine Likeness, is a Civil War horror novel.

When the news broke on April 3, 1882 that Jesse James had been shot from behind by fellow gang member Robert Ford, many people didn’t believe it. There had been false reports that Jesse had been killed before and it took some time for the public to accept that America’s greatest outlaw was really dead.

Did Jesse James Fake his Death?

Or was he? Decades after his supposed death, several men came forward claiming to be Jesse James.

One was an odd fellow named John James, who in 1931 appeared in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, telling everyone he was Jesse James. He had been away a long time, he said, and now wanted to return to his home state to visit family and friends. In fact he did his best to avoid Jesse’s family and friends. Instead he talked with everyone else, especially reporters, and showed a good knowledge of the outlaw’s exploits. He claimed the body at the James farm was actually that of Charlie Bigelow, who looked like Jesse and had been killed to fake Jesse’s death.

It wasn’t long before the real James family got wind of the news and Stella James, wife of Jesse James Jr., the outlaw’s only son, publically grilled “Jesse”. She asked for details about the Pinkerton bombing of the James farm in 1875, which left Jesse’s half-brother Archie dead and his mother’s arm mutilated. John James couldn’t remember Archie’s middle name or which arm his mother had lost. To put the final nail in the coffin, Stella produced one of Jesse’s boots. Jesse James had unusually small feet and wore a size 6 1/2 boot. John James couldn’t get it on and was laughed out of town. He didn’t give up, though. Instead he went to that land of showbiz and opportunity, California, to give speeches and radio interviews.

It wasn’t to last. John James was old and declining. He was eventually consigned to a mental hospital, where he died in 1947.

J. Frank Dalton: Jesse James…or Not?

The other main imposter was J. Frank Dalton, first promoted by Ray Palmer, editor of Amazing Stories and famous for the Deros Hoax. Dalton repeated the Charlie Bigelow story and told an epic tale of how he had all sorts of adventures after his supposed death, including being an air force pilot in WWI at the age of 69. Dalton went on the road in 1948 with a cast of other bogus Wild West survivals including Billy the Kid and Cole Younger. His tales were disproved time and again, but that didn’t stop him. He eventually found a home in Meramec Caverns, Missouri, where as Jesse James he celebrated his 103rd birthday on September 5, 1950. The Meramec Cavern gift shop still sells Dalton’s fake biography.

Like John James, Dalton’s was a sad tale. Little is known for certain about his real life, although several people claim to have known him as a carnival barker and oil worker in Texas in the early twentieth century. Dalton was a longtime student of the James legend and even wrote two pamphlets on the subject, which tellingly state that Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford. This was before the Information Age, however, and the embarrassing inconsistency wasn’t discovered until much later. Dalton claimed to be a veteran of Quantrill’s Confederate guerrilla band and applied for a pension. Since he had no proof of this claim, his application was rejected. After a few years in the limelight, he was ditched by his promoter and died in poverty in Texas in 1951. His gravestone reads, “Jesse Woodson James, Sept. 5, 1847-Aug. 15 1951, supposedly killed in 1882.”

Civil War Horror’s Analysis

Besides these two, several others claimed to be Jesse, and at least three who claimed to be Frank James, one of whom peddled his tale in 1914 while the real Frank James was still very much alive. The Washington Post got duped by that story and had to print a shamefaced retraction.

Jesse James was a legend, and like all legends they cannot die. Many other famous people—Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Hitler—have all spawned tales of their survival. It seems we can’t let go of these larger-than-life figures.

(Sean McLachlan’s Civil War novel A Fine Likeness includes Jesse James as a minor character. Sean is also the author of The Last Ride of the James-Younger Gang, Jesse James and the Northfield Raid 1876, to be released by Osprey Publishing in 2012.)


Guerrilla Explorer’s Wild West Coverage

The Last of the Magicians?

Sir Isaac Newton was one of the most influential scientists of all time. At the same time, he was obsessed with alchemy and the occult. But was he “the first of the age of reason?” Or was he “the last of the magicians?” Now, for the first time in history, you can decide for yourself.

Isaac Newton: The Last Magician?

Earlier this month, Cambridge University announced that it had published more than 4,000 pages of Sir Isaac Newton’s work in an on-line format. The first works to be released are from the 1660s and include his college notebooks as well as his Waste Book, which he used for studying calculus while traveling abroad due to the plague.

“Anyone, wherever they are, can now see at the click of a mouse how Newton worked and how he went about developing his theories and experiments.” ~ Grant Young, Digitization Manager

Interestingly enough, several papers in the on-line collection are marked “not fit to be printed.” These handwritten instructions were added by Thomas Pellet, who was tasked with the job of going through Newton’s work after his death and determining which papers were appropriate for distribution.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

In the 1930s, the economist John Maynard Keynes acquired and studied many of Isaac Newton’s papers. Later, he wrote a speech in which he opined that, “Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians.” Thanks to Cambridge University, the secrets of history’s greatest magician have finally come to light.

The Plot to Assassinate Jefferson Davis?

On March 2, 1864, William Littlepage was searching the pockets of a dead Union officer just outside of Richmond, VA. But instead of a pocketwatch or other baubles, Littlepage discovered two mysterious documents. These papers, now known as the Dahlgren Papers, cast light on a plot designed to bring an end to the Confederate States of America. Were Union leaders planning to assassinate President Jefferson Davis?

The Dahlgren Affair?

By March 2, 1864, the Union had taken control of the Civil War and Confederate hopes of victory seemed increasingly dim. Ulysses S. Grant was just a week away from taking over the responsibilities of Commanding General of the United States Army. And President Lincoln, along with his top generals, had reached the conclusion that the only way to break the South was to wage total war.

It was with this backdrop that 13-year old Littlepage found himself searching the dead body of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, who’d been killed earlier that day in a failed raid on Richmond, VA. After discovering the documents, Littlepage took them to his teacher, Edward Halbach. Halbach quickly examined the papers and realized he had a veritable bomb in front of him.

The papers described a plan to raid and torch Richmond, VA. The idea for the attack had originated from Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick was known as “Kill-Cavalry” due to his willingness to sacrifice his own troops as well as Confederate troops in order to achieve his goals. The plan was for Dahlgren’s cavalry to enter the city from the south. After stopping to free Union prisoners and meet up with Kilpatrick, the enlarged force would descend upon Richmond in order to “destroy and burn the hateful city.”

The Plot to Kill Jefferson Davis?

A second set of orders, which were probably intended for Captain John Mitchell (Dahlgren’s second-in-command), provided more detail on the plot.

“We will try and secure the bridge to the city, (one mile below Belle Isle,) and release the prisoners at the same time. If we do not succeed they must then dash down, and we will try and carry the bridge from each side. When necessary, the men must be filed through the woods and along the river bank. The bridges once secured, and the prisoners loose and over the river, the bridges will be secured and the city destroyed. The men must keep together and well in hand, and once in the city it must be destroyed and Jeff. Davis and Cabinet killed.” ~ Dahlgren Papers, as published in the Richmond Sentinel (3/5/1864)

Although the Civil War was horrendous and bloody, it had been fought as a sort of “Gentleman’s Affair” up until that point. However, the Dahlgren Papers appeared to change that by targeting Jefferson Davis for assassination.

The papers were swiftly transported up the Confederacy’s chain of command. And by March 4, they’d reached President Jefferson Davis. Jefferson Davis agreed to release them to the press and by March 5, the Richmond Daily Dispatch was blaring the headline, “The Last Raid of the Infernals.”

Northerners were skeptical of the papers and declared them to be fraudulent. But the Confederacy was not swayed. Angered by the assassination plot, President Jefferson Davis decided to release Confederate prisoners into Northern cities. He hoped that this would create fear and chaos, thus buying valuable time for his fledgling nation.

Were the Dahlgren Papers Authentic?

On March 30, General Robert E. Lee sent a copy of the Dahlgren Papers to Northern General George Meade and expressed his desire to know if the orders had been authorized by the U.S. government. Meade asked Kilpatrick to investigate. Kilpatrick responded that he’d endorsed the Papers…or at least part of them. He claimed that the sections about burning Richmond and killing President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet had been added after the fact. With that, the official investigation pretty much came to an end.

But privately, General Meade was suspicious. He thought that the Dahlgren Papers were authentic. And since Kilpatrick was Dahlgren’s superior officer, it stood to reason that Kilpatrick might’ve been the one to issue the order. Thus, as Stephen Sears said in his book Controversies and Commanders: Dispatches from the Army of the Potomac, relying on Kilpatrick to handle the investigation was “equivalent to ordering the fox to investigate losses in the henhouse.”

What happened to the Dahlgren Papers?

In July 1864, Dahlgren’s father went public to declare the Dahlgren Papers “a bare-faced atrocious forgery.” He based this upon a photographic copy of the original orders, in which his son’s signature was misspelled as “Dalhgren.” Others pointed out that the orders had been written on both sides of thin paper. Thus, the misspelling might’ve been nothing more than ink leaking through the paper. Unfortunately, it was impossible to say for certain…

…because the Dahlgren Papers had vanished.

At the end of 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton requested the Dahlgren Papers from Francis Lieber, who headed up the Confederate archives. In 1879, Lieber requested the papers back. But they had gone missing. In his article, “The Dahlgren Papers,” James Hall sums up current opinion on the fate of the papers.

“Perhaps it is an uncharitable thought, but the suspicion lingers that Stanton consigned them to the fireplace in his office.” ~ James Hall, “The Dahlgren Papers,” Civil War Times Illustrated (November 1983)

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

While the origin of the orders remains in question, there is a growing consensus, led by historians such as Sears, that they were probably authentic. And if this is the case, there is a decent chance that President Lincoln himself was aware of the assassination attempt on Jefferson Davis. Interestingly enough, this may have indadvertedly led to his own death.

The targeting of President Jefferson Davis was, in effect, a declaration of total war upon the South. The South, led by the mysterious Confederate Secret Service, responded in kind. As reported in Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln, this shadowy organization set out to kidnap President Lincoln in order to sue for peace. But when that effort fell short and General Lee was forced to surrender in April 1865, the Confederate Secret Service enacted one final operation…the assassination of President Lincoln.

“Judson Kilpatrick, Ulric Dahlgren, and their probable patron Edwin Stanton set out to engineer the death of the Confederacy’s president; the legacy spawned out of the utter failure of their effort may have included the death of their own president.” ~ Stephen Sears, The Dahlgren Papers Revisited