The Federal Reluctance to bother John Surratt

The Lincoln Assassination saga continues…

Body of Abraham Lincoln lying in state

There are several anomalies regarding the Lincoln assassination and its aftermath that have not been resolved even to this day. For those folks who like to see all situations all neatly tied up with a nice big red bow, the Lincoln assassination and its environs is not your cup of tea. Too many unresolved situations and unanswered questions, which leads one to believe that not all is as it seems or as it should be…

For instance, there is the situation with John Harrison Surratt, Jr., one of the Lincoln conspirators and the apparent federal apathy toward doing anything about him after the assassination.

The feds were gung-ho to pursue the other alleged conspirators, even to the point of hanging four of them, one of those four being John’s mother, whom I have long maintained was innocent of any wrongdoing in the assassination. I have not doubted that she knew of the plot to kidnap Lincoln but I have doouted, based on what I have read over the years, that she was a guilty party in the assassination attempt. The feds made sure she hung anyway–in what I feel was a travesty of justice. But, then, what else is new at the federal level?

In researching for these articles I came across a treasure-trove site, which contains a series of articles by Dave McGowan, written in 2014. There are twelve articles in Mr. McGowan’s series. He has really gone into the Lincoln assassination and its aftermath. His series is entitled Why Everything You Think You Know About The Lincoln Assassination Is Wrong. I hope to cover some of this in the next few articles. I have been told Mr. McGowan is now deceased, but in these articles he left a body of work that needs to be checked out. I hope my readers will get into some of it and go beyond what I write about it.

Mr. McGowan quotes Theodore Roscoe in The Web of Conspiracy where Mr. Roscoe says: “Official records on John Harrison Surratt Jr., are similarly devoid of depth…He passes through Washington like a shadow. His appearances in the house of H Street are shadowy. Now he is glimpsed in Richmond. Next he is glimpsed in Canada. The authorities can never quite lay their hands on him, and neither can the historians. Of the immediate members of Booth’s coterie, least is known about John Harrison Surratt Jr.”

McGowan notes that Surratt had become an operative in the Secret Service of the Confederate States. And McGowan comments on this: “Maybe so. It seems far more likely though, given various facts of the case, that he was actually a Union operative posing as a Confederate operative. Or that the two ‘sides’ were actually one and the same, as seems likely.” McGowan is treading in new territory here and at a new depth that maybe needs to be checked out.

John Surratt in his Papal Zouave uniform

It is observed by McGowan that Surratt “…was the only one not to be captured or killed in the massive manhunt that followed the assassination. He quickly made his way to Canada, where he found sanctuary with a Catholic priest during the time his mother was being tried, sentenced and hanged. He left Canada in early September, some two months after the executions had been carried out. From that point on, the US government appears to have been well aware of his movements and whereabouts.” In March of 1867 the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle noted an investigation by the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives into Surratt’s wanderings. It stated: “It appears that Surratt sailed from Canada in September 1865, and landed in Liverpool on the 27th of the same month; that the fact of his landing was communicated to Secretary Seward by the American vice consul, Mr. Wilding. No steps were taken by the President or Secretary of State to secure his arrest. No demand was made upon England for his return to this country, nor is there any evidence of the procurement or attempted procurement of any indictment against him. Surratt himself would later say that, ‘While I was in London, Liverpool and Birmingham, our consuls at those ports knew who I was and advised our State Department of my whereabouts, but nothing was done.’ Curious behavior indeed for a government that had, just months earlier, aggressively prosecuted and executed lesser conspirators.” Curious behavior indeed.

Even more curious was the fact that, in November, 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton withdrew the standing reward on Surratt’s head. This sent a signal, in Europe and elsewhere that the US government just wasn’t all that concerned about capturing Surratt. Stanton never offered any explanation for this action. But then, there are lots of things Stanton never offered any explanation for. Surratt left England in 1866 and sailed to Italy, where he managed to land a spot in the Papal Zouave military guard. Did the Americans know where he had gone? Of course they did. A Cardinal Antonelli explained at one point that: “if the American government desired the surrender of the criminal there would be no difficulty in the way.” McGowan noted that “The US government, nevertheless, chose to look the other way.”

So you have to wonder what the deal was. The US government obviously had no interest whatever in grabbing John Surratt–after hanging his mother. Such inaction on the part of US officials might well lend credence to McGowan’s claim that Surratt might have been a Union operative posing as a Confederate operative. The feds didn’t bother him because they didn’t need to. They already knew where he was coming from and he couldn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know, so why bother?

McGowan makes observations in this series of articles that probably have never really been dealt with, so maybe we do need to go back into some of what he said and study it some more. The whole War of Northern Aggression and all events related to it changed our country into something entirely different than what the Founders had in mind. There is much talk about in our day, how the attempted coup against Donald Trump has failed. Let us hope that ends up being the case. But in 1860 with Lincoln there was a coup designed to change our government, culture and way of life. That coup did not fail and we live with the results of its success today, unfortunately!

May 2, 2019

~ Read MORE ~

Chapter 1 So Who IS Buried In John Wilkes Booth’s Grave?

Chapter 2 The Federal Reluctance to bother John Surratt

Chapter 3 A Few Questions About The Lincoln Assassination That Should Be Asked

Chapter 4 So Who Was The Corpse In Garrett’s Tobacco Barn?

Chapter 5 More About The Corpse In Garrett’s Tobacco Barn

~ The Author ~
Al Benson Jr. is the editor and publisher of “The Copperhead Chronicle“, a quarterly newsletter that presents history from a pro-Southern and Christian perspective. He has written for several publications over the years. His articles have appeared in “The National Educator,” “The Free Magnolia,” and the “Southern Patriot.” I addition to that he was the editor of, and wrote for, “The Christian Educator” for several years. In addition to The Copperhead Chronicles, Al also maintains Revised History.

He is currently a member of the Confederate Society of America and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and has, in the past, been a member of the John Birch Society. He is the co-author, along with Walter D. Kennedy, of the book “Lincoln’s Marxists” and he has written for several Internet sites as well as authoring a series of booklets, with tests, dealing with the War of Northern Aggression, for home school students.

He and his wife now live in northern Louisiana.

Mr. Benson is a highly respected scholar and writer and has graciously allowed Kettle Moraine Publications to publish his works. We are proud to have his involvement with this project.

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