The prosecution presented a number of witnesses that testified concerning Confederate plots to destroy vessels and public buildings, burn steamboats, pay commissions to raiders of Northern towns, poison New York City's public water supply, and commit other acts of terrorism. The testimony below concerns a Confederate plot to infect trunks of clothing with smallpox and yellow fever and then put the trunks in channels of distribution near concentrations of Union troops.
GODFREY JOSEPH HYAMS
For the Prosecution.-May 29.
I am a native of London, England, but have lived South nine or ten years. During the past year, I have resided in Toronto, Canada. About the middle of December, 1863, I made the acquaintance of Dr. Blackburn. I was introduced to him by the Rev. Stewart Robinson at the Queen's Hotel in Toronto. I knew him by sight previously, I but before that had had no conversation with him. I knew that he was a Confederate, and was working for the rebellion. Dr. Blackburn was then about to take South some men who had escaped from the Federal service, and I asked to go with him.
He asked me if I wanted to go South and serve the Confederacy. I said I would. He then told me to come up stairs; he wanted to speak to me. He took me up stairs to a private room, and pledged his word, as a Freemason, and offered his hand in friendship, that he would never deceive me; he said he wanted to confide to me an expedition. I told him I would not care if I did. He said I would make an independent fortune by it, at least $100,000, and get more honor and glory to my name than General Lee, and be of more assistance to the Confederate Government, than if I was to take one hundred thousand soldiers to reinforce General Lee. I pledged my word that I would go, if I could do any good. He then told me he wanted me to take a certain quantity of clothing, consisting of shirts, coats, and underclothing into the States, and dispose of them by auction. I was to take them to Washington City, to Norfolk, and as far South as I could possibly go, where the Federal Government held possession and had the most troops, and to sell them on a hot day or of a night; that it did not matter what money I got for the clothes; I had just to dispose of them in the best market, where there were most troops, and where they would be most effective, and then come away.
He told me I should have $100,000 for my services; $60,000 of it directly after I returned to Toronto; but he said that would not be a circumstance to what I should get. He said I might make ten times $100,000.
I was to stay in Toronto, and go on with my legitimate business, until 1 heard from him. He told me to keep quiet, and if I moved anywhere, I was to inform Dr. Stuart Robinson where I went to, and he would telegraph for me, or write to me through him. Some time in the month of May, 1864, I went to my work, and worked on until the 8th day of June, 1864; it was on a Saturday night; I had been out to take a pair of boots home to a customer of mine; and when I returned home, my wife had a letter for me from Dr. Blackburn, which Dr. Stuart Robinson had left in passing there. I read the letter, and went out to see Dr. Robinson. I asked him what I was to do about it; he said he did not know any thing at all about it; that he did not want to furnish any means to commit an overt act against the. United States Government. He advised me to borrow from Mr. Preston, who keeps a tobacco manufactory in Toronto, enough money to take me to Montreal, which I did. I went down to Montreal, and there got money from Mr. Slaughter according. to the directions contained in the letter. The letter instructed me to proceed from Montreal to Halifax to meet Dr. Blackburn; it was dated "Havana, May 10, 1864." I went to Halifax, to a gentleman by the name of Alexander H. Keith, jr., and remained under his care until Dr. Blackburn arrived in the steamer Alphia, on the 12th of July, 1864. When Dr. Blackburn arrived, he sent to the Farmer's Hotel, where I was staying, for me. I went to see him, and he told me that the goods were on board the steamer Alphia, and that the second officer on the steamer would go with me and get the goods off, as they had been smuggled in from Bermuda. Mr. Hill, the second officer, told me to get an express wagon and take it down to Cunard's steamboat wharf; I did so, and there got eight trunks and a valise. I was directed to take them to my hotel, and put them in a private. room. I put them in Mr. Doran's private sitting-room.
I then went around to Dr. Blackburn and told him I had got the goods off the steamer. He told me that the five trunks tied up with ropes were the ones for me to take, and asked me if I would take the valise into the States, and send it by express, with an accompanying letter, as a donation to President Lincoln. I objected to taking it, and refused to do it. I then took three of the trunks and the valise around to his hotel. He was then staying at the Halifax Hotel. The trunks had Spanish marks upon them, and he told me to scrape them off; and that Mr. Hill would go with me the next morning, and make arrangements with some captain of a vessel to take them. There were two vessels there running to Boston, and I was to make an arrangement with either of them to smuggle the trunks into Boston. The next morning I went down with Mr. Hill to the vessels.
Mr. Hill had a private conversation with Captain McGregor, the captain of the first vessel to whom we applied, and he refused to take the goods. We then went to see Captain John O'Brien of the bark Halifax. Hill told him that I had some presents in my trunks, consisting of silks, satin dresses, etc., that I wanted to take to my friends. The Captain and Mr. Hill had a private conversation, and when the Captain came out, he consented to take them. I was to give him a twenty-do1lar gold piece for smuggling them in. I put them on board the vessel that day, and he stowed them away. The vessel laid five days at Boston before he could get a chance to get them off but he finally succeeded in getting them off, and expressed them to Philadelphia, where I received them, and brought them to Baltimore. I then took out the goods, which were very much rumpled, smoothed them out, and arranged them, bought some new trunks, and repacked them, and brought them to this city.
Dr. Blackburn, by way of caution, asked me before leaving if I had had the yellow fever; and on my saying "No," he said, "You must have a preventive against catching it. You must get some camphor and chew it, and get some strong cigars, the strongest you can get, and be sure to keep gloves on when handling the things." He gave me some cigars that he said he had brought from Havana, which he said were strong enough for any thing.
When I arrived in this City, I turned over five of the trunks to Messrs. W. L. Wall & Co., commission merchants in this city, and four to a man by the name of Myers from Boston, a sutler in Sigel's or Weitzel's division. He said he had some goods which he was going to take to Newbern, North Carolina, and I told him that I had. a lot of goods that I wanted to sell, and to make the best market I could for them, I would turn them over to him on commission. I also told him I would shortly have more, and mentioned that I had disposed of some to Wall & Co., of this city. Dr. Blackburn told me, when I was making arrangements, that I should let the parties to whom I disposed my goods know that I would have a big lot to sell, as it was in contemplation to get together about a million dollars' worth of goods and dispose of them in this way.
Dr. Blackburn stated that his object in having these goods disposed of in different cities, was to destroy the armies or anybody that they came in contact with. All these goods, he told me, had been carefully infected in Bermuda with yellow fever, small-pox, and other contagious diseases. The goods in the valise, which were intended for President Lincoln I understood him to say, had been infected both with yellow fever and smallpox. This valise I declined taking charge of, and turned it over to him at the Halifax Hotel, and I afterward heard that it had been sent to the President.
On the five trunks that I turned over to W. L. Wall & Co., I got an advance of $100. . Among these five trunks there was one that was always spoken of by Blackburn to me as "Big No.2," which he said I must be sure to have sold in Washington.
On disposing of the trunks, I immediately left Washington, and went straight through until I got to Hamilton, Canada. In the waiting-room there I met Mr. Holcombe and Mr. Clement C. Clay. They both rose, shook hands with me, and congratulated me upon my safe return, and upon my making a fortune. They told me I should be a gentleman for the future, instead of a working-man and a mechanic. They seemed perfectly to understand the business in which I had been engaged. :Mr. Holcombe told me that Dr. Blackburn was at the Donegana Hotel in Montreal, and that I had better telegraph to him, stating that I had returned.
As Dr. Blackburn had requested me to telegraph to him, as soon as I got into Canada, I did so; and the next night, between 11 and 12 o'clock, Dr. Blackburn came up and knocked at the door of my house. I was In bed at the time. I looked out of the window and saw Dr. Blackburn there. Said he, "Come down, Hyams, and open the door; you're like all damned rascals who have been doing something wrong-you're afraid the devil is after you." He was in company with Bennett H. Young. I came down and let him in. He asked me how I had disposed of the goods, and I told him. "Well," said he, "that is all right, as long as big No.2 went into Washington; it will kill them at sixty yards' distance." I then told the Doctor that every thing had gone wrong at my home in my absence; that I needed some funds; that my family needed money. He said he would go to Colonel Jacob Thompson and make arrangements for me to draw upon him for any amount of money I required. He then said that the British authorities had solicited his services in attending to the yellow fever that was then raging in Bermuda; that he was going on there; and that as soon as he came back be would see me. I went up to Jacob Thompson the next morning, and told him what Dr. Blackburn had said. He said, "Yes; Dr. Blackburn had been there, and had made arrangements for me to draw $100 whenever it was shown that I had made disposition of the goods according to his direction." I told him I needed money; that I had been so long away from home that everything I had was gone, and I wanted money to pay my rent, etc. He said, "I will give you $50 now, but it is against Dr. Blackburn's request; when you show me that you have sold the goods, I will give you the balance." He asked me to give him a receipt, which I did: "Received of Jacob Thompson he sum of $50, on account of Dr. Blackburn." That was about the 11th or 12th of August last. The next day I wrote to Messrs. Wall & Co., of Washington, desiring them to send me an account of the sales, and the balance due me. When I received their answer, I took it up to show to Colonel Thompson. He then said he was perfectly satisfied I had done my part, and gave me a check for $50 on the Ontario Bank. I gave him a receipt: "Received from Jacob Thompson $100, in full, on account of Dr. Luke P. Blackburn."
I told Jacob Thompson of the large sum which Dr. Blackburn had promised me for my services, and that he and Mr. Holcombe had both told me that the Confederate Government had appropriated $200,000 (or the purpose of carrying it out; but he would not pay me any thing more.
When Dr. Blackburn returned from Bermuda, I wrote to him at Montreal and told him I wanted some money, and that he ought to send me some; but he made no reply to my letter. I was then sent down to Montreal with a commission for Bennett H. Young, to be used in his defense in the St. Albans raid case. I there met Dr. Blackburn. He said I had written some hard letters to him, abusing him, and that he had no money to give me. He then got into his carriage at the door, and rode off to some races, I think, and never gave me any more satisfaction. As I wanted money before leaving for the States, I went to the Clifton House, Niagara. Dr. Blackburn told me he had no money with him then, but that he would go to Mr. Holcombe and get some, as he had Confederate funds with him. Blackburn said that when I returned he would get the money for the expedition, from either Holcombe or Thompson, it did not matter which. From this, and from Holcombe and Clay both shaking hands with me, and congratulating me at Hamilton upon my safe return, I thought, of course, they knew all about it.
I do not know that Dr. Stuart Robinson knew of the business in which I was engaged, but he took good care of me while I was at Toronto, in the fall, and until Dr. Blackburn wrote for me in the spring; and when he gave me Dr. Blackburn's letter, he told me to borrow the money from Mr. Preston to take me to Montreal, as he said he did not want to commit an overt act against the United States Government himself. Mr. Preston lent me $10 to go to Montreal. On arriving at that place, according to the directions in Dr. Blackburn's letter, I went to Mr. Slaughter to get the means to take me to Halifax. Mr. Slaughter was short of funds, and had only $25 that he could give me. He said that I had better go to Mr. Holcombe, who was staying at the Donegana Hotel, and he would give me the balance. I went to the hotel and lent up my name. Mr. Holcombe had heard of my name, and he Bent for me to come up. I told him that I wanted some money to take me to Halifax; he asked me how much I wanted; I told him as much as would make up $40; he said, "You had better take $50;" but as I did not want that much, I only took enough to make up $40. When I came to Washington to dispose of the goods, which was on the 5th of August, 1864, I put up at the National Hotel; registered my name as J. W. Harris, under which name I did business with Wall & Co.
W. L. WALL.
For the Prosecution.-May 29.
I am an auction and commission merchant in this city. In August last, while I was out of town, a person named Harris called at my store, and told my book-keeper that he had some shirts that he wanted to sell at auction, and asked him if he would sell them the next morning. The clerk told him he would. Harris then asked for an advance of $100. The money was given him, and the shirts were sold the next morning..
For the Prosecution.-May 29.
During last summer I was a clerk in the service of Mr. Wall, of this city. In the month of August a man named J. W. Harris came to the store late one evening. I supposed him to be a sutler returning home. He said he had some twelve dozen shirts and some coats, which he asked me to sell. I advanced him $100 on them, and sold them the next morning. They were packed in five trunks.
On the 1st of September he wrote from Toronto, for an account of sales and the balance of the money, as follows:
Messrs. Wall & Co., .Auction and Commission Merchants :
GENTLEMEN: On Friday, the 5th of August, last month, I left in your care five trunks, containing one hundred and fifty fancy woolen shirts and twenty-five coats, to be sold at auction on the next morning, and business calling me to Toronto, I have not been able to go to the States since. I beg most respectfully that you will send me an account of sales, and a check on New York for the proceeds. I have written before, but I have received no answer. I shall come over in October, about the 10th, with some five or six thousand pairs of boots and shoes.
Yours most respectfully,
J. W. HARRIS,
Care of Post-office Box No. 126, Toronto, C. W.
I sent him the following account of the sales, and the balance of the money.
The shirts I bought were tossed into the trunks promiscuously, and I supposed the packing had been done in a hurry. When I first opened the trunks I was in doubt about the money I had advanced being a safe investment, but a close inspection of the clothing showed it to be new, and that it had not been worn.