Sabotage of the Sultana...

Provost Marshal J. H. Baker's report on the boat-burners:

Official Records, Series I, Volume XLVIII, pages 194-198

 

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,
 OFFICE OF PROVOST-MARSHAL-GENERAL,
 
Saint Louis, Mo., April 25, 1865.

 Hon. C. A. DANA,
Assistant Secretary of War, Washington, D.C.:

SIR: I have the honor to state that in the month of January last I obtained information from various sources of the presence, in Saint Louis and other river cities, of a number of men employed by the rebel authorities to destroy Government property and steam-boats. I gave immediate attention to the matter, using all the means at my command to find and secure the parties, with so much success that early in February 1 was enabled to make the arrest of ten of them, among whom was one Edward Frazor, the leader. One of the parties implicated at once made a full confession, upon the understanding that he should not be prosecuted. I then preferred charges against Frazor, intending to make his the test case, and turned him over with the evidence to a military commission. Circumstances over which I had no control have delayed the trial, and Frazor, probably becoming weary of his imprisonment, and hoping that he might be reprieved by giving evidence against his accomplices, a few days since made a confession of his connection with the boat burners, which not only corroborates the information I had already procured, but throws additional light on the matter.

From this statement it appears that Frazor went, in company with others, to Richmond in the summer of 1864, and was introduced to Mr. Seddon, the Secretary of War. His account of what occurred at that interview is as follows:

At Richmond, Clark introduced me to the Secretary of War, Secretary Seddon. Clark told his business, when he sent us to the Secretary of State, J.P. Benjamin. I believe he looked our statement over and took time to consider. * * * The next day I went there, and Mr. Benjamin asked me if I knew all these claims for destroying U. S. property were right and correct. I told him they were, as far as I knew. He then offered $30,000 in greenbacks to settle. I told him I could not take that. Then he said he would take time to study again.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Benjamin next offered $35,000 in gold. Then Clark went to see him, and before he went I told him to get all he could, but not take less than the $35,000 down and get all the more he could. When he came back he said he had taken the $35,000 down and $15,000 on deposit, payable in four months from date, provided those claims of the Louisville matter (burning of Government medical stores last year) were all right. I think that is the way the receipt read. I went over to Benjamin's to sign the receipt, and while I was there the President, Jefferson Davis, sent for me. I went in to see him with Mr. Benjamin. Mr. Davis was talking about sending men up here to destroy the long bridge, near Nashville. He asked me if I knew anything about it--knew where it was. I told him I did. He asked me which would be the best route to send men up here to do it. I told him I thought it was rather dangerous to send men up here who had never been here. He wanted to know if I would not take charge of it. I told [him] yes, provided he would stop all men from coming up here, as they would only hinder the work. He said he would do it, and wanted to know if I wanted any men from there to help me. I said I didn't. Benjamin said the pay would be $400,000 for burning the bridge. After we got all ready to leave Mr. Benjamin gave us a draft for $34,800 in gold on Columbia, S.C. * * * Clark got passes from the Secretary of War, twelve or thirteen in all.

The party, some six in all, left Richmond, drew the money, and started for Memphis. At Mobile they were arrested, but upon telegraphing the fact to Jeff. Davis, he ordered General Taylor, commanding the department, to release them, which was done, and they proceeded on their way, entering our lines near Memphis. At this place they separated, going in various directions. The names and residences of the principal men engaged in this infamous pursuit, which has resulted in the destruction of so much valuable property and life, are as follows:

 

No.  

Name

Residence

Remarks.

1  

Tucker, Judge a

Mobile, Ala  

Chief of this service under the Secretary of War.

2

Majors, Minor   

 

Next in rank to Tucker, and chief of this service in our lines.

3  

Barrett, Hon. John R. b

Saint Louis, Mo  

In charge of "land operations;" can get him any time.

4  

Harwood, S. B  

do

Can arrest him any time.

5  

Frazor, Edward

do

In Gratiot Prison..

6  

Clark, Thomas L  

Grenada, Miss  

Supposed to be in rebel lines.

7  

Irwin, William  

Louisville, Ky.   

 

8  

Dillingham, Henry  

  

Inside our lines.

9  

Fox, Harrison  

Saint Louis, Mo  

 

10  

Stinson, --  

Mobile, Ala  

  

11  

Roberts, Kirk  

do  

12  

Louden, Robert  

Saint Louis, Mo  

Under sentence of death. Escaped from Lieutenant Post while being transferred from Gratiot to Alton Military Prison. Last heard from in New Orleans; supposed to be in rebel lines east of Mississippi.

13  

Elshire, Isaac c

....  

In Gratiot Prison last year, but released for want of evidence; supposed to be inside rebel lines east of Mississippi River.

14  

Raison, John  

....

 

15  

Mitchell, Peter  

Saint Louis, Mo.  

 Inside our lines.

16  

Murphy, William  

New Orleans, La  

Came voluntarily and exposed the others; afterward left suddenly; am looking for him.

17  

O'Keife,--  

Natchez, Miss  

  

18  

Triplett, --  

  

  

19  

Parks, John G  

Near Memphis,Tenn.  

In Gratiot Prison.

 a Tucker formerly resided in Missouri, and was an editor; published the State Journal, and was subsequently connected with the Missouri Republican

b Formerly Member of Congress from Missouri. Went to Europe in 1863, it is supposed on business for the rebels, where he was in conference with Mason and Slidell. Arrested by this office in 1864 on charge of being a member of the Order of American Knights, but afterward released. Has a brother in rebel artillery service.

c Burned the Robert Campbell, during which the lives of a number of soldiers were lost. 

The foregoing list contains the names of the principal men only, as far as I have been able to ascertain them, and does not embrace any merely supposititious cases. A number of those most needed, it will be observed, are in territory which until recently has been occupied by the rebel army, where it will require your authority to operate. I therefore respectfully suggest that you order the commanding generals of the several departments to ascertain whether any of the parties above named are within the limits of their jurisdiction; and if so, to arrest and forward them to Saint Louis without delay.

It would be impossible to obtain a correct account of the property destroyed by these parties during the war, but the following list has been traced to one or the other of the men whose names are given above:

Name  

Where Burned

Date

City of Madison

Vicksburg, Miss

August 1863

Champion

Memphis, Tenn do

Robert Campbell, jr

Milliken's Bend

September 28, 1863

Imperial

Saint Louis, Mo do

Hiawatha

do do

Post Boy

do do

Jesse K Bell

do do

Chancellor

   

Forest Queen

   

Catahoula

Saint Louis, Mo

September, 1863

Wharf-boats

Mound City, Ill do

Do

Cairo, Ill do

Small tow-boat

Memphis, Tenn do

 

Since the outbreak of the rebellion to the present time over seventy steam-boats owned in Saint Louis have been destroyed by fire alone. Of this number only nine have been fired by rebels in arms, and there can be little doubt but the greater portion of the balance were fired by the above or similar emissaries of the rebel government.

By direction of Major-General Dodge:

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

 J. H. BAKER,

 Colonel and Provost-Marshal-General, Dept. of the Missouri.

[First indorsement.]

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,
Saint Louis, April 26, 1865.

Respectfully forwarded to the Assistant Secretary of War, Washington, D.C.

I consider it important that these parties be brought to justice, and would suggest that good detectives be sent to Richmond and Mobile to arrest the parties named as in the rebel service and obtain further evidence. There is no doubt of the guilt of the parties. They were in the habit of burning boats, store-houses, &c., taking to Richmond papers with full account of burning, there filing affidavits, and on that receiving their pay. They then came into our lines and squandered the money, which brought them to our notice, and on making arrests the entire modus operandi was divulged. We have a large amount of testimony in the case, but desire to obtain more proof before we go to trial, and, if possible, get all the parties.

 G. M. DODGE,

Major-General.

[Second indorsement.]

WAR DEPARTMENT,
 BUREAU OF MILITARY JUSTICE,
May 16, 1865.

Respectfully returned to the Secretary of War.

It appears from the within report of Col. J. H. Baker, provost-marshal-general, Department of the Missouri, that two members of the conspiracy engaged in destroying Government boats and property on the Mississippi River, principally in 1863, have confessed that they were employed by the rebel authorities and that they were paid at Richmond by the rebel Secretary of State, and that in one instance one of them was personally engaged and contracted with by Davis himself to destroy valuable property in the use of our Government. The confession of Frazor to this effect is fully detailed by Colonel Baker, and would appear to be most conclusive.

Colonel Baker presents a list of names of the parties connected with this conspiracy (by which, as he estimates, some sixty boats were consumed and in some cases lives of soldiers, &c., were destroyed), and urges that the commanding officers of the various departments be ordered to ascertain which, if any, of the individuals named are within their jurisdiction and to arrest such as are found and send them to Saint Louis for trial. Major-General Dodge further advises, in his indorsement, that detectives be sent to Richmond and Mobile to arrest parties supposed to be commorant there, and to obtain further evidence. These recommendations are concurred in.

The subject is regarded as one of great importance, especially as illustrating the fact that Davis and other leaders of the rebellion have been the principals in this and other similar detestable and treasonable enterprises executed by men who were merely their hirelings. It is esteemed to be of the greatest consequence that such men, especially as Judge Tucker, John R. Barrett, Isaac Elshire, Louden, and other conspicuous members of the conspiracy, should be apprehended as promptly as possible, and that all of the gang who can be found should be tried together by military commission for a treasonable conspiracy in the interest of the rebellion. It is further recommended that certified copies of all the affidavits and other written evidence in the case be required to be forwarded to the War Department for the use or reference of the executive officers of the Government.

 A. A. HOSMER,

Major and Judge-Advocate. (In the absence of the Judge-Advocate. General.)

[Third indorsement.]

WAR DEPARTMENT,
 May 26, 1865
.

Respectfully referred to the Adjutant-General. The recommendations of the Judge-Advocate-General, Colonel Baker, and General Dodge are approved, and will be carried into effect without delay. By order:

 JAS. A. HARDIE,

 Inspector-General U.S. Army

 

Biographical information on Provost Marshal J. H. Baker

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