Confederate Agent

Title:                      Confederate Agent

Author:                 James D. Horan

Horan, James David (1954). Confederate Agent: A Discovery in History. New York: Crown Publishers

LCCN:    54006637

E608 .H6

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Date Posted:      October 28, 2016

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[1]

An account of the espionage activities of Captain Thomas Henry Hines.

Reviewed by Thomas Robson Hay[2]

Confederate Agent, largely an account of the Confederate career of Captain Thomas H. Hines of Kentucky, is a more original and thorough book, based on much unpublished and hitherto unused manuscript material. After several years of service with Morgan’s cavalry, Hines, with others, was taken prisoner, helped to engineer a spectacular escape from the Ohio penitentiary in Columbus, and early in February, 1864, appeared in Richmond. He proposed a plan to create a revolution in the “Northwest” with the aid of the Copperheads in that region to free Confederate soldiers in Northern prison camps and to gain control of several of the large cities in the area. Because of his prior contact and experience with the Copperheads, Hines was chosen as “the logical man to lead the military command of such a project,” and was thereafter the dynamic head and leader of the attempt to create a revolution in the states north of the Ohio River.

Confederate Agent is a detailed account of Hines’s efforts, which, in general, failed for lack of sufficient resources and because the Copperhead leaders drew back at the critical moments when wholehearted and effective co-operation might have achieved some measure of success. Instead, about all that Hines really achieved was to become a nuisance rather than a dangerous and effective weapon. Attempts at revolution in Indiana, in Illinois, and in Ohio, bank raids in Vermont, and attempts to burn New York, Chicago, and other Northern cities all failed—and then the war ended.

A short chapter (pp. 107-112) is given to the abortive meeting of the Confederate Commissioners with Horace Greeley at Niagara Falls late in 1864. In this account, James P. Holcombe (not Holcomb) is the principal character. For some reason, unnecessary mystery is attached to Holcombe’s activities and ultimate fate. Holcombe, at Halifax, boarded the blockade runner bearing Mrs. Greenhow[3] to Wilmington, North Carolina. The author insists that Holcombe left Niagara Falls en route to London and cannot understand why he should have boarded a vessel bound for a Southern port. In his report to Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, Holcombe makes no mention of any plan to go to London. This letter was included in the Pickett Papers sold to the United States Government in 1872 and, at the time, was widely published in the newspapers.

Confederate Agent is essentially a bringing-up-to-date of “The Northwest Conspiracy,” signed by Hines, but written by one of his associates, Captain John B. Castleman, and published in The Southern Bivouac in 1886-1887. At the time, many persons involved in the so-called “Conspiracy” were still living, and Castleman was reluctant to criticize. Consequently, he told only half the story, leaving out mention of names and acts that might have given offense.

The author has done extensive research both in published and unpublished materials, some of the latter never before used. He seems not to have consulted only the Pickett Papers. He has made an interesting and valuable contribution to the “hidden” history of the Civil War. Both[4] these books are well illustrated, both have useful bibliographies, and each has an index.

[1] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 163

[2] Hay, Thomas Robson in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (79, 3, July 1955). downloaded October 28, 2016

[3] See Blackman, Ann (2006). Wild Rose: The True Story of A Civil War Spy. New York: Random House Trade

[4] Thomas Robson Hay included a review of Ross, Ishbel (1954). Rebel Rose. Life of Rose O’Neal Greenhow Confederate Spy. New York: Harper & Brothers [54008986]

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One Response to Confederate Agent

  1. Pingback: Espionage and Counterespionage, Chapter 14 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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