This major addition to the history of the Civil War is a “fast-paced, fact-rich account” (The Wall Street Journal) offering a detailed look at President Abraham Lincoln’s use of clandestine services and the secret battles waged by Union spies and agents to save the nation—filled with espionage, sabotage, and intrigue.
Veteran CIA correspondent Douglas Waller delivers a riveting account of the heroes and misfits who carried out a shadow war of espionage and covert operations behind the Confederate battlefields. Lincoln’s Spies follows four agents from the North—three men and one woman—who informed Lincoln’s generals on the enemy positions for crucial battles and busted up clandestine Rebel networks.
Famed detective Allan Pinkerton mounted a successful covert operation to slip Lincoln through Baltimore before his inauguration after he learns of an assassination attempt from his agents working undercover as Confederate soldiers. But he proved less than competent as General George McClellan’s spymaster, delivering faulty intelligence reports that overestimated Confederate strength.
George Sharpe, an erudite New York lawyer, succeeded Pinkerton as spymaster for the Union’s Army of the Potomac. Sharpe deployed secret agents throughout the South, planted misinformation with Robert E. Lee’s army, and outpaced anything the enemy could field.
Elizabeth Van Lew, a Virginia heiress who hated slavery and disapproved of secession, was one of Sharpe’s most successful agents. She ran a Union spy ring in Richmond out of her mansion with dozens of agents feeding her military and political secrets that she funneled to General Ulysses S. Grant as his army closed in on the Confederate capital. Van Lew became one of the unsung heroes of history.
Lafayette Baker was a handsome Union officer with a controversial past, whose agents clashed with Pinkerton’s operatives. He assembled a retinue of disreputable spies, thieves, and prostitutes to root out traitors in Washington, DC. But he failed at his most important mission: uncovering the threat to Lincoln from John Wilkes Booth and his gang.
Behind these operatives was Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents, who was an avid consumer of intelligence and a ruthless aficionado of clandestine warfare, willing to take whatever chances necessary to win the war. Lincoln’s Spies is a “meticulous chronicle of all facets of Lincoln’s war effort” (Kirkus Reviews) and an excellent choice for those wanting “a cracking good tale” (Publishers Weekly) of espionage in the Civil War.
Espionage in the Civil War gets a thorough, sometimes fascinating examination in this hefty volume from Waller (Wild Bill Donovan). Detective Allan Pinkerton, Richmond society dame Elizabeth Van Lew, military intelligence pioneer George Sharpe, and rogue lawman Lafayette Baker produced mixed results in four years of operations for the Union, and their exploits are presented in impressive detail. Van Lew, a Union sympathizer, remained in Richmond when war broke out and ran a highly effective network of agents who reported on troop movements, political tensions, and the Confederates' ability to fight. Sharpe, a prosperous New Yorker, started out as a captain in the New York State Militia and then inadvertently became the Union's finest military spymaster with reports that presaged today's sophisticated intelligence analysis. He was much more successful than Pinkerton, whose information collection was vast but rarely timely enough to help. Baker's Brigands which Waller describes as a network of informers, "plug ugly" detectives, and other opportunists were free with the law and not above lining their own pockets, but did identify corruption that hampered the Union fight. Waller's narrative moves chronologically, alternating between each of the four subjects and recounting their exploits in detail. This is a long but cracking good tale.