Letter #25 – MAY 1, 1865  

Clearly these pages were written to William Slater (Caleb's son) while the assassination of Lincoln was still at the front of TJ's mind. He writes with grief, anger and suspicions about who orchestrated Lincoln's death and the attacks on his cabinet members. He reveals that many northerners as well as southerners were strongly against Lincoln and predicted that it was widely predicted that he would be killed within 60 days of being inaugurated for the second time as President.

These notes also list the seemingly endless atrocities committed by the South in the civil war.


Front: Mr, Wm. Slater,
Rope Maker,
Langley Mill
Near Eastwood

Postmarks: (1) READING PA 2 (Rest illegible)

Rear: Post mark (faint but legible) MY 5 1865

Note Pages 1-4 of this letter not yet relocated]

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They also declared in their meetings that the best way to stopp the war and secure southern rights (slavery) was to put Lincoln out of the way. The detective police got in among them and found out the whole villianous plot then. Many were arrested and underwent severe examinations. Some of them I am well acquainted with had a sort of trial and the conspiricy fully proved.

But the constitution of the United States expressly declares that "Treason shall consist only in levying war against the United States and giving aid and comfort to their enemies. And as these villians had only conspired, and not committed any overt act, the copperhead lawyers who defended them claimed that they could not be convicted, but must be discharged.

And they were all discharged and came back more brazen faced than ever. They did not deny being members of "the Golden Circle" but in a measure glorified in it. This society was first formed in the slave states for the protection and extension of slavery and for no other purpose. That has been its develish intent from the start and to stop at nothing, however diabolical it might be, so that they could accomplish their object thereby.

Before the election last fall these known "Knights of the golden circle" here in Reading and all through the north and south threatened all kinds of terrible things if Lincoln was elected. They openly declared he would not live to be inaugurated on the 4th of March 1865. Then, when he was inaugurated they said openly that he would not be president sixty days. That something was going to happen that would astonish and shake the world. But we antislavery men only laughed at them. We little dreamed how really develish they were.

It is well-known that these "Knights of the Golden Circle" are divided into at last three circles. The inner circle was the grand Council at Richmond of which Jeff Davis was the head & all his cabinet and leading men were members. The next circle is the state and county officers of the society and the outer circle is the ignorant, degraded and brutal voters of the copperhead party.

Now it is certain that this hellish plott of these devel nursed assassins to murder President Lincoln and five or six more of our leading men was well-known to the inner circles of this infernal society And they told the outer circle the something great was going to happen, but did not tell them what it was exactly. But they told them that Lincoln would not be president 60 days, and the wretches were not afraid to boast of it. And sure enough the good man was murdered on the 41st day after his inauguration on the 4th of March.

They said openly here in the north, that the South would never submit to come into the union while Lincoln was president. That the rebels would never live under Lincoln's rule. That Lincoln would never conquer them. That Lincoln would never restore the union. That Lincoln never could make peace. In fact they laid the whole blame of our troubles upon poor Lincoln. Now, shall we say he is murdered to

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make their" prophecies" come true, please their pride and give them revenge, or did they think that the cowardly killing of our good president and five or six of our best men would arouse all the south to renewed desperation and strike such terror in the north, so confuse and confound us, that we should give up the contest at once just when we had crushed them down? Mad devels as they are, they now see how their diabolical ideas blinded them and deceived them as to the consequences of their crime & they want to disown it.

They say the plot was laid by union men and Booth was an English abolitionist. In the face of all the horrid facts that fasten their crime so surely upon them, how rediculously develish such an assertion really is. And yet the copperheads here coolly declare it with all the quiet impudence imaginable. But this develish murder is a crime that none but the minions of slavery could commit. None but demons could plot and do a deed like this. And where in the world will you find greater devels than the defenders of slavery have been ever since the war began.

At the first battle of Bull Run July 21. 1861,they murdered wounded men as they lay bleeding on the battlefield and helpless in the wagons. When they surprized our army at daylight and began the Battle of Shiloh, they bayoneted hundreds of our men as they lay asleep. When they won the second battle of Bull Run they guarded the battlefield, and forced our poor wounded men to lay five or six days & nights in hot weather, suffering intensely and without any attention at all, the guards mocking at their misery and refusing even a cup of water to quench their burning thirst.

This I know to be true. I had it from the lips of several of the sufferers. They have murdered thousands of unarmed and defenseless slaves for attempting to fly to freedom in the union lines. They have murdered the Black men by hundreds when ever they could catch them employed, even as teamsters & servants in the Union armies. They slaughtered colored prisoners of war by hundreds or maimed them purposely. Whenever they exchanged black prisoners every man returned to us had lost a leg or arm or was crippled in some way. They starved white prisoners of war to death by thousands in a month.

This I know to be true for it has been sworn to by eyewitnesses, and I am personally acquainted with sufferers who survived & escaped or lived long enough to be exchanged. They put powder under the war prisons at Richmond and fully intended to blow hundreds of Union prisoners to pieces rather then they should be rescued by our raiding expeditions. They hired men to burn the city of New York & when making the attempt they set fire to a theatre when full of people and the performance going on, and to several large hotels after many of the inmates

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had gone to bed. They have themselves fired their own cities when obliged to evacuate them. In one instance they blew up a railroad station full of their own people & over 300 were killed and wounded. They set fire to the most business part of Richmond when they had to leave and burnt many millions of property. They blew up a magazine close to the Richmond poor house, without giving warning to the paupers and over a hundred of them were killed.

These and many more atrosities they are guilty of. Who will say that the Southern rebels had not by their own acts and deeds proved themselves develish enough to plot and pay for cowardly assassinations. Payne, the would be murderer of Mr.Seward is caught and safe in double irons. He confesses that he came from Canada purposely to murder Mr. Seward. That he has no interest in the war either way. That he was hired in Canada to do the bloody work for so much money and supposes that all the other assassins were hired in like manner.

Now, who hired these murderers and who paid or secured the payment of the large sums that must have tempted these villians to commit such a black hearted crime and run such a fearful risk. Certainly it was the rebel government and Jacob Thompson, Beverly Tucker, Saunders & Co. Who had been in Canada all last summer as Confederate peace commissioners were the agents. This will be all proved clear as noonday. Besides, the Southern rebel newspapers now endorse the deed and glory in it. What then is the use of attempting to deny its real authorship.

The rebels were a haughty, proud hectering domineering set of men as ever lived. They began the war with all the outrageous insolence, all the confident defience that men or devels could possibly show. For over 25 years the north had been meek, humble and cringing in this quarel about slavery extension. We had seemed so much afraid of them that they taunted us with being the meanest spaniels alive. They slapped us on the one cheek in Kansas, we turned to them the other and they smote it when they fired on the star of the west and still we were humbly patient. They regarded us with the most supreme contempt and kicked our behind when they fired on fort sumter. But then the mudsills jumped up out of the mire of subserviency. The northern gient was erect and at once stripped for the fight. Oh! it was a glorious sight that grand uprising of freemen in defense of right and to punish wrong.

But the gient was a novice in war. It took him two years to get sienced [scienced]. But he faught on while training and never dreamed of giving up the contest. The northern gient grew stronger and stronger, while the insolently proud southernr got weaker and weaker untill at last, with all his pride and arrogance in the dust he caves in conquered, beaten to the ground never to rise again,

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by the long-suffering, meak and patient power they so much dispised in the start. Oh! it is indeed a bitter pill for them to swallow.

I know them well. And I tell you they would have murdered scores of Abm. Lincolns if that would have made [them] conquerers over us. But the martyring of our chief magistrate has made us far more united and powerful than ever. It has aroused us up to be ready for anything that may happen. It has made every man feel unselfish and fiercely patriotic.

The murder of poor Mr. Lincoln, strange as it may seem, has immensely increased confidence in the national government, or the determination of the people to support it. When Mr. Lincoln died, the daily subscriptions to the United States government loan was two or 3 millions of dollars. Now it has run up to over 17 millions of dollars a day. Could any other people have passed through 4 years of such war as we have gone through, Then have had their great chief murdered and stood up as strong and firm as we are? I think not.

Your aristocracy dislike our republican government and liberal institutions. They are jealous of our prosperity and afraid of our strength. Therefore they regret our great triumph over the enemies of free labour because they do not wish the free labourer to have any political power.

I know they are born to vast advantages of education, position, and family influence. They inherit great wealth and high honors. They enjoy great privileges and look down haughtily upon the poor and needy. Therefore they wished the slaveholders rebellion against liberty and equality to succeed.

Still they are not the men to encourage cowardly assassins and endorse dark deeds like the murder of Abm Lincoln. I will do them the justice to say that I fully believe they will soon be most heartily ashamed of themselves for ever having had any sympathy for slaveholding, man stealing rebels.

I must now close this long letter. If your editors think it sufficiently interesting they are welcome to it for all it is worth. I write only to give expression to my thoughts and to my feelings for they have been mournful and much excited of late.

Remember me kindly to all friends and especially to your parents.

Yours affectionately
Thomas Jackson

American Affairs
by an Ilkestonian, in America


Once more, we have clear evidence of Thomas Jackson's hope that his letters might be published in English newspapers.

Here, almost as an afterthought after re-reading his writing, he actually suggests what a good title for an article might be. "American Affairs By an Ilkestonian in America."

We thought about heading this collection of letters "American Affairs" to honor of TJ's suggestion but quickly realized that this was so vague it would be almost meaningless to modern search engines evaluating web sites. It would not make clear that the author wanted to share his passionate views on the abolition of slavery and the American Civil war. Hence we came up with the title we have in the banner heading of this website.

We estimate the date of this letter as May 1st 1865 extrapolating from the clear postmarks on the letter

Opportunities for Further Research

We still have to establish, Thomas Jackson's place was in Reading Society. Through his long series of letters, he sounds to be so well placed, that we might imagine him to be part of the local council.

Unfamiliar names
Copperhead is referred to many times in TJ's letters. (Here are some notes from Wikipedia but there is much more that is relevant to the importance of this group)

A Copperhead was a member of a vocal group of Democrats located in the Northern United States of the Union who opposed the American Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates. Republicans started calling antiwar Democrats "Copperheads", likening them to the venomous snake. The Peace Democrats accepted the label, but for them the copper "head" was the likeness of Liberty, which they cut from copper pennies and proudly wore as badges.[1]

They comprised the more extreme wing of the "Peace Democrats" and were often informally called "Butternuts" (for the color of the Confederate uniforms). The most famous Copperhead was Ohio's Clement L. Vallandigham, a Congressman and leader of the Democratic Party. Republican prosecutors accused some leaders of treason in a series of trials in 1864.[2]

Copperheadism was a highly contentious, grassroots movement, strongest in the area just north of the Ohio River, as well as some urban ethnic wards. Some historians have argued it represented a traditionalistic element alarmed at the rapid modernization of society sponsored by the Republican Party, and looked back to Jacksonian Democracy for inspiration. Weber (2006) argues that the Copperheads damaged the Union war effort by fighting the draft, encouraging desertion, and forming conspiracies, but other historians say the draft was in disrepute and that the Republicans greatly exaggerated the conspiracies for partisan reasons. Some historians argue the Copperheads' goal of negotiating a peace and restoring the Union with slavery was naive and impractical, for the Confederates refused to consider giving up their independence.Copperheadism was a major issue in the 1864 presidential election; its strength increased when Union armies were doing poorly, and decreased when they won great victories. After the fall of Atlanta in September 1864, military success seemed assured, and Copperheadism collapsed.

Two central questions have run through the historiography of the Copperheads: How serious a threat did they pose to the Union war effort and hence to the nation's survival? And to what extent and with what justification did the Lincoln administration and other Republican officials violate civil liberties to contain the perceived menace?

Knights of the Golden Circle. (Notes from Wikipedia) (KGC) was a secret society. During the American Civil War, some Southern sympathizers in the Northern states such as Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa, were accused of belonging to the Knights of the Golden Circle, and in some cases were imprisoned for their activities.

In early 1862, Radical Republicans in the Senate, aided by Secretary of State William H. Seward, suggested that former president Franklin Pierce, who was greatly critical of the Lincoln administration's war policies, was an active member of the Knights of the Golden Circle. In an angry letter to Seward, Pierce denied that he knew anything about the KGC, and demanded that his letter be made public.

Appealing to the Confederacy's friends in the North and border states, the Order spread to Kentucky as well as the southern parts of such Union states as Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri. It became strongest among Copperheads, some of whom felt that the Civil War was a mistake. Some supported slavery and others were worried about the power of the federal government. In the summer of 1863, Congress authorized a military draft, which the administration soon put into operation. Loyalist Leaders of the Democratic Party opposed to Abraham Lincoln's administration denounced the draft and other wartime measures, such as the arrest of seditious persons and the president's temporary suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. During the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign, scam artists in south-central Pennsylvania sold Pennsylvania Dutch farmers $1 paper tickets purported to be from the Knights of the Golden Circle. Along with a series of secret hand gestures, these tickets were supposed to protect the horses and other possessions of ticket holders from seizure by invading Confederate soldiers.[3] When Jubal Early's infantry division passed through York County, Pennsylvania, they took what they needed anyway.

In late 1863, the KGC reorganized as the Order of American Knights. In 1864, it became the Order of the Sons of Liberty, with the Ohio politician Clement L. Vallandigham, most prominent of the Copperheads, as its supreme commander. In most areas only a minority of its membership was radical enough to discourage enlistments, resist the draft, and shield deserters. The KGC held numerous peace meetings. A few agitators, some of them encouraged by Southern money, talked of a revolt in the Old Northwest, which could have ended the war.

Jacob Thompson. (notes form Wikipedia) (May 15, 1810 - March 24, 1885) was a lawyer and politician who served as United States Secretary of the Interior from 1857 to 1861 under President Buchanan. In the later years of the Buchanan administration, the cabinet members argued with one another on issues of slavery and secession. Thompson sided with the Confederacy and resigned as Interior Secretary in January 1861. When he resigned, Horace Greeley's New-York Daily Tribune denounced him as "a traitor," remarking: "Undertaking to overthrow the Government of which you are a sworn minister may be in accordance with the ideas of cotton-growing chivalry, but to common men cannot be made to appear creditable."[1] Thompson then became Inspector General of the Confederate States Army. Though not a military man, Thompson later joined the army as an officer and served as an aide to Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard at the Battle of Shiloh. He attained the rank of Lt. Colonel and was present at several other battles in the Western Theater of the war including Vicksburg, Corinth and Tupelo.

In March, 1864, Jefferson Davis asked Thompson to lead a secret delegation in Canada. He accepted and arrived in Montreal in May of that year. From where he directed a failed plot to free Confederate prisoners of war on Johnson's Island, off Sandusky, Ohio, in September. He also arranged purchase of a steamer with the intention of arming it to harass shipping in the Great Lakes. Regarded in the North as a schemer and conspirator, many devious plots were associated with his name, though much of this may have been public hysteria. On June 13, 1864, Thompson met with former New York governor Washington Hunt at Niagara Falls.[2] According to the testimony of Peace Democrat Clement Vallandigham, he met Thompson and talked to him about creating a Northwestern Confederacy and obtained money for arms, which was routed to a subordinate. Thompson gave Ben Woods, the owner of the New York Daily News, money to purchase arms.[3] One plot was a planned burning of New York on November 25, 1864 in retaliation for Union Generals Philip Sheridan and William Tecumseh Sherman's scorched earth tactics in the south.[4] As head of Confederate secret agents some speculate that John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, met with Thompson but this has not been proven (Thompson worked hard to clear his name of involvement in the assassination in the years after the war). His manor called "Home Place" in Oxford, Mississippi, was burned down by Union troops in 1864.

Beverly Tucker (Notes from Wikipedia) Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, generally known by his middle name, (September 6, 1784 - August 26, 1851) was an American author, judge, legal scholar, and political essayist.

He was born into a socially elite and politically influential Virginia family: He graduated from William and Mary College in 1801, studied law, and practised in Virginia.[1] After moving with his family to the Missouri territory in 1816, Tucker served as a circuit court judge . Tucker opposed the nullification movement in South Carolina, but maintained that individual states had the right to secede from the Union. From the 1830s onward he was a Fire-Eater and a leading academic spokesman for states' rights and Southern unity. He wrote frequently for the Southern Literary Messenger and other periodicals, and carried on an extensive correspondence with influential Southern political leaders, including President John Tyler, Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, and South Carolina Governor James Henry Hammond.

Tucker is probably best remembered for his 1836 ***novel*** The Partisan Leader. Set in the United States of 1849, the story depicts a war between secessionist guerrillas in Virginia and a despotic federal government led by President-turned-dictator Martin Van Buren. In Tucker's future, the slaveholding states south of Virginia have already seceded, driven out of the Union by Van Buren's centralizing government and exploitative tariff policy. While the Old Dominion itself remains under federal control, the plot of The Partisan Leader concerns the efforts of patriotic Virginian irregulars to defeat government forces and join the independent Southern Confederacy. At the onset of the American Civil War, the novel was regarded by many in the North and South as a prophetic vision of the collapse of the Union..

Saunders & Co The ambassadors of TJ would welcome suggestions about this person and his associates. There was a battle of Saunders Field but this reference by TJ does not appear to relate to that. Help please?

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