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  • General Order Signed by General Lorenzo Thomas

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    General Order Signed by General Lorenzo Thomas - Inventory Number: DOC 190

    General Order pertaining to Lafayette C. Baker, Union Spy whom hunted the Lincoln Conspirators.  Rescinding appointment to: "Special Agent" "To take possession of all abandoned rebel property around Washington" Dated March 20th 1862.  Signed "L Thomas" Adjutant General.

    Thomas, Lorenzo, brigadier-general, was born in the state of Delaware in 1805.  He was appointed from that state a cadet in the military academy at West Point Sept. 1, 1819, and on July 1, 1823, he was graduated and assigned to duty in the army as second lieutenant in the 4th infantry.  He served in garrison at Cantonment Clinch, Fla., in 1824; in constructing a military road to St. Augustine, 1824-25; in the Creek Nation, Ga., 1825-26; in garrison again at Cantonment Clinch, 1827-28, and as adjutant of the 4th infantry at regimental headquarters from March 1, 1828, to Feb. 15, 1831, being commissioned first lieutenant in the 4th infantry March 17, 1829.  He served on recruiting service, 1831-33, in the adjutant-general's office at Washington, D. C., from June 5, 1833, to Sept. 3, 1836, and did quartermaster duty in the Florida war, 1836-37, being commissioned captain in the 4th infantry Sept. 23, 1836.  He served in the quartermaster-general's office in Washington, D. C., from Oct. 16, 1837, to July 7, 1838, being commissioned major and assistant adjutant-general on the last-named date.  In the war with Mexico he was adjutant-general and chief of staff to Maj.-Gen. Butler, both while commander of a division of volunteers and commander of the army, and his experience and systematic administrative powers were conspicuous in the final movements and the withdrawal of the army in Mexico.  Early in the Civil war he became adjutant-general of the army by succession, and was afterward especially assigned to the duty of organizing volunteer troops, particularly the colored regiments.  He was commissioned brigadier-general on Aug. 3, 1861, brevetted major-general, U. S. A., on March 13, 1865, and having passed the age of sixty-two years he was placed on the retired list of the army in Feb., 1869.  Gen. Thomas died at his residence in the city of Washington on March 2, 1875. 

    Lafayette Curry Baker (October 13, 1826 – July 3, 1868) was a United States investigator and spy, serving the Union Army, during the American Civil War and under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.

    Baker was born in Stafford, New York on October 13, 1826. He became a mechanic, moved to Michigan in 1839, returned to New York in 1848, moved to California in 1853, and was a San Francisco vigilante in 1856. He moved to the District of Columbia in 1861

    Baker's exploits are mainly known through his book A History of the Secret Service which he published in 1867 after his fall from grace. During the early months of the Civil War, he spied for General Winfield Scott on Confederate forces in Virginia. Despite numerous scrapes, he returned to Washington, D.C., with information that Scott evidently thought valuable enough to raise him to the rank of captain. As Provost Marshal of Washington, D.C. from September 12, 1862 to November 7, 1863, Baker ran the National Detective Bureau also sometimes known as the "National Detective Police Department." He was appointed colonel of D.C. Cavalry, May 5, 1863. According to Glenn Hastedt "Although his accomplishments were many, Baker operated with little regard for warrants or the constitutional rights of those he pursued. He is also reported to have employed brutal interrogation techniques in order to obtain information." 

    Baker owed his appointment largely to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, but suspected the secretary of corruption and was eventually demoted for tapping his telegraph lines and packed off to New York.

    Baker was recalled to Washington after the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865. Within two days of his arrival in Washington, Baker's agents in Maryland had made four arrests and had the names of two more conspirators, including the actual presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth. Before the month was out, Booth along with David Herold were found holed up in a barn and Booth was himself shot and killed by Sgt. Boston Corbett. Baker received a generous share of the $100,000 reward offered to the person who apprehended the president's killer. President Andrew Johnson nominated Baker for appointment to the grade of brigadier general of volunteers, April 26, 1865, but the United States Senate never confirmed the appointment. Baker was mustered out of the volunteers on January 15, 1866.

    The following year, Baker was fired from his position as government spymaster. President Johnson accused him of spying on him, a charge Baker admitted in his book which he published in response. He also announced that he had had Booth's diary in his possession which was being suppressed by the Department of War and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. When the diary was eventually produced, Baker claimed that eighteen vital pages were missing. It was suggested by Otto Eisenschiml in his book, "Why Was Lincoln Murdered?," that these would implicate Stanton in the assassination. However, this notion has been proven as speculation by author Edward Steers Jr. and based on non-reputable sources.

    On July 3, 1868, Baker retired to home complaining of soreness from a gun wound during a hunting trip. He had been out drinking with Wally Pollack, his brother-in-law, and came home feeling sick, passing away later that night, reportedly from meningitis. 

    A widely criticized 1977 book, The Lincoln Conspiracy by conspiracy theorists David W. Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, alleges that Baker was poisoned by high-placed conspirators, including Stanton, who supported John Wilkes Booth's plan to kidnap Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and early 1865. The conspirators supposedly planned to have Lincoln impeached in his absence. The authors speculate that the conspirators were concerned that Baker could link them to the planned kidnapping, which might lead to accusations that they were conspirators in Lincoln's assassination. The authors believe the conspirators did not support Booth after March 1865. Academic historians have treated the book with hostility and derision, having many objections based on errors and misuse of sources in the book.


    Inventory Number: DOC 190