- Lafayette C. Baker
Lafayette C. Baker (
October 13, 1826– July 3, 1868) was a United Statesinvestigator and spy, serving particularly in the Union Army, during the American Civil Warand under presidents Abraham Lincolnand Andrew Johnson.
Baker's exploits are mainly known through his book "A History of the Secret Service" which he published in 1867 after his fall from grace. During the Civil War, he spied for General
Winfield Scotton Confederate forces in Virginia. Despite numerous scrapes, he returned to Washington, D.C., with information that Scott evidently thought valuable enough to raise him to the rank of captainand he swiftly took over charge of the Union Intelligence Service from the Scottish detective Allan Pinkerton.
Lafayette largely owed his appointment to Secretary of War
Edwin M. Stanton, but suspected the secretary of corruption and was eventually demoted for tapping his telegraphlines and packed off to New York. He was quickly recalled, however, after the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865. Within two days of his arrival in Washington, Baker's agents in Marylandhad made four arrests and had the names of two more conspirators, including the actual presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth. Before the month was out, Booth along with David Heroldwere found holed up in a barn and Booth was himself shot and killed by Sgt. Boston Corbett. Baker was promoted to the rank of brigadier generaland received a generous share of the $100,000 reward offered to the apprehender of the president's killer.
The following year, however, Baker was sacked from his position as government spymaster. President Johnson accused him of spying on him, a charge Baker admitted in his book which he published in response. He also announced that he had had Booth's diary in his possession which was being suppressed by the Department of War and Secretary Stanton. When the diary was eventually produced, Baker claimed that eighteen vital pages were missing. It was suggested that these would implicate Stanton in the assassination.
Baker died in 1868, supposedly from
meningitis. As it was scarcely eighteen months after his explosive allegations, some suggested he was killed by the War Department to silence him. Using an atomic absorption spectrophotometer to analyze several hairs from Baker's head, Ray A. Neff, a professor at Indiana State University, determined the man was killed by arsenicpoisoning rather than meningitis. Baker had been unwittingly consuming the poisonfor months, mixed into imported beer provided by his wife's brother Wally Pollack. "The Lincoln Conspiracy" by Balsiger and Sellier cites a diaryBaker's wife kept which chronicled several dates Pollack brought Baker beer; they correspond to the gradually elevated levels of toxin in the Baker hair samples Neff studied. Wally worked for the War Department, though whether he acted on orders or alone has yet to be determined. Nevertheless, Neff's studies, along with the information chronicled in Baker's diary, serve to bolster a cogent and provocative alternate history of the Lincoln assassination, one distinct from the chronology most commonly promulgated by mainstream U.S. historians.
* List of American Civil War generals
*Linedecker, Clifford L., ed. "Civil War, A-Z: The Complete Handbook of America's Bloodiest Conflict". New York: Ballentine Books, 2002. ISBN 0-89141-878-4
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