Lincoln's Secret Spy: The Civil War Case That Changed the Future of Espionage
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A month after Lincoln’s assassination, William Alvin Lloyd arrived in Washington, DC, to press a claim against the federal government for money due him for serving as the president’s spy in the Confederacy. Lloyd claimed that Lincoln personally had issued papers of transit for him to cross into the South, a salary of $200 a month, and a secret commission as Lincoln’s own top-secret spy. The claim convinced Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt—but was it true?
For many years Lloyd had been hawking his Southern Steamboat and Railroad Guide throughout Dixie, and it was this thorough familiarity with the South and its people—and their familiarity with him—that would have given him a good cover when the time came. In July, 1861, and now desperate for cash, Lloyd crossed enemy lines to collect debts owed by advertising clients in the South.
After just a few days in the Confederacy, officials jailed Lloyd for bigamy, not for being a Yankee spy as he later claimed. After bribing his way out, he crisscrossed the Southern states, trying to collect enough money to stay alive.
Between riding the rails he found time to marry plenty of unsuspecting young women only to ditch them a few days later. His behavior drew the attention of Confederate authorities, who nabbed him in Savannah and charged him as a suspected spy. But after nine months, they couldn’t find any incriminating evidence or anyone to testify against him, so they let him go. A free but broken man, Lloyd continued roaming the South, making money however he could. In May 1865, he went to Washington with an extraordinary claim and little else: a few coached witnesses, and a pass to cross the lines signed “A. Lincoln” (the most forged signature in American history), and his own testimony.
So was he really Lincoln’s secret agent or nothing more than a con man? And was Totten vs. United States—inspired by Lloyd's claim and which set precedent for espionage law based on a monumental fraud? Find out in this completely irresistible and wholly original work.
from C. Brian Kelly’s book].” January 12, 2005. Alan Freeman mentioned the Lloyd case in the Globe and Mail (Toronto). March 3, 2005. David Stout (of the New York Times News Service) had an article in the Deseret News (Salt Lake City) that mentioned the Lloyd case. 2005. Loch K. Johnson. Handbook of Intelligence Studies (e-book). By the following year Routledge Press (Abingdon, Oxford, UK, 2006), published a trade edition. This book mentions the Lloyd case while talking about the 2005 John
things had changed here in that short time. The Confederate flag flew from rooftops, unfurled and defiant. He was in another country now. Unfamiliar, but very welcome. Lloyd’s arrival in Memphis did not go unnoticed. For once, there was a real Dixie welcome: “Among the arrivals at the Gayoso House . . . was our friend, Mr. Alvin Lloyd, publisher of the Southern Railroad Guide,” the Memphis Daily Appeal reported. “Mr. Lloyd comes directly from New York, from which city he was compelled to leave
alarm], I must not longer waste time. You, Sir, know well that if my case goes before Congress or Court of Claims, it will become public, and although there have been four traitors hanged [he means the Lincoln assassination conspirators—Lewis Payne, Davey Herold, George Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt—on July 7] there are many more lurking about our country who would not hesitate to stab me in the dark if they knew my business for the past four years. Mr. Stanton, I look to you to have my case
have been able to find relating to W. Alvin Lloyd.” The documents listed were: 1. The Lloyd letter to Secretary Judah Benjamin, dated Savannah, February 21, 1862. 2. Lloyd letter, same date, to Confederate Adjutant General Samuel Cooper. 3. Second Lloyd letter to Cooper, dated Savannah, February 25, 1862. 4. Second Lloyd Letter to Benjamin, dated Savannah, March 17, 1862. 5. Letter of General Lawton to President Davis, dated March 21, 1862, making a report in the case. 6. Letter of A. R. Lawton,
Lloyd alleged that Lincoln hired him on July 13, 1861. While Lloyd was being vetted postmortem, Virginia was determined to press on, determined to extract more money from the bogus claim she’d abetted. She’d descended on a new official, General John Aaron Rawlins, Grant’s old right-hand man who had taken over as secretary of war on March 13, 1869, just four days before Alvin died. In this letter to Rawlins, Virginia wrote from her brother Eugene’s house in Providence, Rhode Island, on April