Nearly a score of years have passed since the occurrence of the events related in the following pages. The “Rebellion,” with its bloody scenes, has ended, and the country is at peace. The grass is waving green and beautiful over many Southern fields that once ran with human blood, as the contending forces met in the deadly encounter. The birds are carolling sweetly in the air, which then was laden with the clarion notes of the trumpet; the fierce, wild yell of assaulting soldiery; the booming of cannon, and the groans of the wounded and dying. The merchant, the mechanic, and the husbandman have returned to the pursuits which they followed before the dark clouds of war had overshadowed this fair land, and they shouldered their muskets in defense of the Union. From the desolation and the ravages of war, the country has emerged into the [24] sunshine of abiding peace, and now, in the evening twilight, the gray-haired veterans gather around their family hearth-stones to repeat the stories of bravery and devotion associated with those trying hours of their country's history.

In the twilight of my days I have been tempted to the recitals which follow, and in relating my experiences as the Chief of the Secret Service of the Government during the Rebellion, I have been governed by a desire to acquaint the public with the movements of those brave men who rendered invaluable service to their country, although they never wore a uniform or carried a musket. Working quietly, and frequently under disguises, their assistance to the Union commanders was of incalculable advantage, and many acts of courage and daring were performed by these men which, until now, have never been revealed. Indeed, as to my own nom-de-plume, “E. J. Allen,” many of the officers of the army and officials of the Government, with whom I was in constant communication, never knew me by any other name, and the majority of them are to this day in ignorance of the fact that E. J. Allen, late Chief of the Secret Service, and Allan Pinkerton are one and the same person.

During the progress of the struggle, and the years [25] which have since elapsed, many of my old acquaintances, who held important positions in the army and in governmental departments, have passed away from earth. Some of them falling in the heat of battle, in the courageous discharge of duty, while others, passing through the fiery ordeal, have died amid the comforts and the charms of home.

President Lincoln, Edwin M. Stanton, William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase, all giants in their day, have departed from the sphere of their usefulness, and have gone to their long home. Soldiers and civilians, generals and privates, with whom I was connected, and their name is legion, have taken up their journey to “that bourne from whence no traveler e'er returns.”

In detailing the various events which follow, I have been careful to offer nothing but that which actually transpired. I have avoided giving expression to any thoughts or feelings of antagonism to the South, because the time for such utterances has passed. Indeed, except for the existence of slavery, I always cherished a warm affection for the Southern people. But this institution of human bondage always received my most earnest opposition. Believing it to be a curse to the American nation, and an evidence of barbarism, no efforts of mine were ever [26] spared in behalf of the slave, and to-day I have not a single regret for the course I then pursued.

Many times before the war, when I was associated with those philanthrophic spirits who controlled the so-called “Underground Railroad,” I have assisted in securing safety and freedom for the fugitive slave, no matter at what hour, under what circumstances, or at what cost, the act was to be performed. John Brown, the white-haired abolitionist of Kansas fame, was my bosom friend; and more than one dark night has found us working earnestly together in behalf of the fleeing bondman, who was striving for his liberty. After his gallant effort at Harper's Ferry, and while he was confined in a Virginia prison, my efforts in his behalf were unceasing; and had it not been for the excessive watchfulness of those having him in charge, the pages of American history would never have been stained with a record of his execution. As it is, though his fate may have been in accordance with the decrees of the laws then existing, I can recall with all the old enthusiasm that I then experienced, the thundering effect of thousands of our brave “boys in blue,” joining in that electric war cry, the refrain of which was:

John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave,
But his soul goes marching along,

[27] while they hurried in solid phalanx to meet the enemy upon the field of battle.

In the preliminary chapters, I have detailed with accuracy the facts connected with the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, when he was first elected to the Presidency. The part I took in discovering the existence of that plot and the efforts of my men in ferreting out the prime movers of that murderous compact, are told for the first time in these pages, and the correctness of their relation is undoubted; though in the dark days that followed, the bullet of the assassin removed the martyred President, while engaged in the fulfillment of his mission. I cannot repress a sense of pride in the fact, that at the commencement of his glorious career I had averted the blow that was aimed at his honest, manly heart.

In the events which transpired during the years 1861 and 1862, I took an active part. From the early days of April until after the battle of Antietam had been fought and won, I was connected with the military operations of the government. In Washington I acted under the directions of the Secretaries of War, and Colonel Andrew Porter, the provost-marshal; and in the field, I was under the immediate direction of General George B. McClellan.

My relations with the various departments were [28] always of the most cordial and confidential character To particularize in this matter is almost impossible; but I cannot refrain from mentioning, in the highest terms of respect and friendship, Colonel Thomas A. Scott of Pennsylvania. In the early days of the nation's peril, he occupied the position of Assistant Secretary of War. In him I always found a warm friend and advocate, and in many emergencies his prompt and intelligent action was most potent in accomplishing good results in that era of confusion, of doubt and hesitation.

Of my service with the military department while in active duty, little needs to be said here. From the time of his commission by Governor Dennison of Ohio, to the day when he was relieved, after his splendid victory at Antietam, I followed the fortunes of General McClellan. Never doubting his ability or his loyalty-always possessing his confidence and esteem, I am at this time proud and honored in ranking him foremost among my invaluable friends. When secret enemies were endeavoring to prejudice the mind of the President against his chosen commander; when wily politicians were seeking to belittle him in the estimation of the people, and when jealous minded officers were ignorantly criticising his plans of campaign, General McClellan pursued [29] his course with unflinching courage and with a devotion to his country unsurpassed by any who have succeeded him, and upon whose brows are entwined the laurels of the conqueror.

His marvelous reorganization of the army, the enthusiasm with which his presence invariably inspired the soldiers under his command, and the grand battles which he fought against enemies in front and in rear, have all passed into history-and to-day the intelligent and unprejudiced reader finds in a calm and dispassionate review of his career, an ample and overwhelming justification of his course as a loyal and capable commander-in-chief.

Self-constituted critics, whose avenues of information were limited and unreliable, have attempted to prove that the force opposed to General McClellan was much less than was really the case; and upon this hypothesis have been led into unjust and undeserved censure of the commanding general. From my own experience, I know to the contrary. My system of obtaining knowledge upon this point was so thorough and complete, my sources of information were so varied, that there could be no serious mistake in the estimates which I then made and reported to General McClellan. From every available field the facts were gleaned. From prisoners of war, contrabands, loyal [30] Southerners, deserters, blockade-runners and from actual observations by trustworthy scouts, my estimates were made, and to-day I affirm as strongly as I then did, that the force opposed to General McClellan before Richmond approximated nearer to 200,000 men, than they did to the numerous estimates of irresponsible historians who have placed the strength of the rebel forces at that time below 100,000 men. In this connection I must refer also to the valuable assistance rendered both General McClellan and myself by that indefatigable Aid-de-camp Colonel Key. Though he no longer mingles with the things of earth, the memory of his devotion and his intelligent services to the cause of the Union is imperishable. No truer, braver man ever drew a sword than did this noble and efficient staff officer, now deceased.

Of Timothy Webster, who so ably assisted me in my various and delicate duties, and whose life was sacrificed for the cause he held so dear, I have only words of warmest commendation. Brave, honest and intelligent, he entered into the contest to perform his whole duty, and right nobly did he fulfill his pledge, No danger was too great, no trust too responsible, no mission too delicate for him to attempt, and though executed as a spy in a Richmond prison, his [31] name shall ever be cherished with honor and friend, ship by those who knew his worth, and who appreciated the unswerving devotion of a loyal heart. No dishonor can ever attach to the memory of a patriot who died in the service of his country.

The events narrated have all occurred. The record is a truthful one. Although not so complete as I could wish, they must serve the purpose for which they are intended. In the disastrous fire which swept over Chicago in 1871, my records were mainly destroyed, and to this fact must be attributed the failure to more elaborately detail the multitudinous operations of my men. With the able assistance of Mr. George H. Bangs, my efficient General Superintendent, “we did what we could,” and the approbation of our commanding officers attest the efficiency of our efforts.

After leaving the service, the conduct of the war passed into other hands. Other men were chosen to the command of the armies, and other sources of information were resorted to. Succeeding battles have been fought, defeats have been sustained, victories have been achieved, and the war is happily ended. The slave is free, and in the enjoyment of the rights of citizenship. The country is at peace, her prosperity is assured, and now that passion and prejudice have [32] died away, and honest judgments are given of the events that have transpired, I leave to the impartial reader, and historian, the question whether the course I pursued, and the General whom I loved and faithfully served, are deserving of censure, or are entitled to the praises of a free and enlightened people.

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