Plots and Counter Plots - Lincoln's Perils

Plots and Counter Plots – Lincoln’s Perils

All our readers are familiar with the tremendous conspiracies to take the life of the President elect, and to put out of the way at the same time all his suite, including a lachrymose colonel of dragoons, and a major of artillery who had already suffered in the cause of Old Abe to the extent of a disagreeable dislocation. Mr. Lincoln’s night ride to Washington will make hereafter a splendid incident for the theatre, while his Scotch cap will be as famous as the green turban of the Prophet, and his long military cloak be placed with the uniform of Washington in the Patent Office.

When the news of the plots arrived the country shivered in its shoes; when the country was informed that the second Washington had been safely enfolded in the protecting arms of Mr. Seward, the country took a long breath, and felt relieved. Subsequently, the country desired to know all the particulars of these terrible conspiracies, and wished to be informed why the triumphal tour of the President elect had been so suddenly interrupted.

Among other things, the country has been a good deal exercised about Wood, not Fernando, but W. S. Wood, who officiated as the Grand Chamberlain for Uncle Abe. Nobody seemed to know who Wood was or by whose authority he acted.

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.
We are happy to be able to throw some light upon this subject. Wood is related to Erastus Corning, the well-known railway manager and King of the Albany Regency. Wood first beamed upon the people of New York as a jeweller, and opened a shop in Broadway, near Beck’s famous drygoodery. Wood jewelry was laid out upon black velvet and made a dazzling display. Of course he made his fortune in Broadway, then disappeared for a time, and afterward turned up in Maiden lane, still a jeweler, and, as usual, making a great sensation and large amounts of money.

Next, we find the ubiquitous and ever restless Wood at Syracuse, fascinating the maids and matrons of the saline city with his bijouterie. Syracuse is a city where everybody is more or less interested in railway business, and Wood followed the popular tide. He appeared at Springfield with credentials from Thurlow Weed to Lincoln. Although a jeweler, Wood was not the sort of person to permit any gem to remain in the dark, unfathomed caves of the ocean, and was fully persuaded that it was useless to be born to blush unseen, and waste his sweetness on the desert air. So, in the name of Weed, he took possession of Abraham Lincoln, and piloted him as far as Harrisburg.

The railway companies provided special trains; unlimited amounts of eatables and drinkables cheered the illustrious travelers, and everything was provided free of charge. As they neared the end of the journey, dark hints of plots and counter-plots began to be circulated. Already the second Washington had been warned by a Brown Forester that his food might be poisoned, and his friends began to feel alarmed.

Again, a villainous scheme to throw the train off the track had been discovered, and it was known that large numbers of individuals, with carpet bags filled with hand grenades, had made attempts to smuggle themselves into the Presidential suite. One conspirator left his bag, grenade and all, and we presume that Barnum has secured it before this time. He was persuaded to go to the Opera here, and, it is said, narrowly escaped with his life.

It is a suspicious circumstance that several bankers and statesmen’ who never miss an Opera night absented themselves on this occasion. It is stated that Lincoln was to be assassinated at the same moment that the tenor falls by the hand of the baritone, but some leaky vessel informed the police, and the presidential party left the Academy precipitately.

Between New York and Philadelphia a large number of mysterious strangers waited on the President and divulged divers plots, more or less disagreeable, and at Harrisburg Wood resolved on a coup d, with the result of which the country is already familiar. Some people declare that these alleged conspiracies are all bosh, and that they have been manufactured by the Weed party to take Lincoln out of the hands of the radical Republicans and hand him over to Seward at the earliest possible moment.

We are assured that Mr. Weed was actuated by the purest motives, the highest and most unselfish patriotism, and that in this connection the subject of free wool statistics never entered his comprehensive mind.

The other and more sanguinary hypothesis is, that the plot to kill off the President elect is still alive, and will be kicking on inauguration day; that ten thousand hand grenades, similar to the Orsini bombs, and of the same pattern as that used by the Man with the Carpet Bag, have been sent hence to Washington in, spite of Kennedy and his blue coats, and that the President, Vice President, Cabinet and all hands are to be blown into ten thousand fragments, more or less.

If the President elect should escape, he will have the pleasure enjoyed by the French Emperor, after hearing from Prefect Pietri a long story about the Orsini affair, and can say to Kennedy, ‘All that you have said to me, sir, quite confirms me in an opinion which I have held for a long time, that the police of New York is the most extensive humbug in the world.

It will be better, however, for Old Abe to cut Washington altogether, and return to New York, where he can be inaugurated magnificently under the auspices of Barnum, either at his down town establishment or at the Academy of Music — admittance twenty-five cents; children in arms, applicants for foreign missions and conspirators with carpet bags not admitted at any price.

Source: Plots and Counter Plots – The President Perils – The New York Herald – February 27, 1861

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