Feb 3, 2014
In April 1861, both the Union and the Confederacy thought that the War Between The States would be an open-and-shut case. The Confederates thought that the Union wouldn’t really want to put up a fight over the matter, and the Union believed that they were just going to war against some ignorant planters. Little did either suspect that the war would last for five years and be the bloodiest in American history.
By 1863, the Union was suffering from a lot of internal strife. Protests and riots objecting to President Lincoln’s institution of the draft in cities such as Baltimore, Boston, and New York City led Lincoln to declare martial law and suspend habeas corpus. Some Northern states took it even further. In Indiana, the governor dissolved the legislature and the state essentially became a military dictatorship. Many Northerners began to support the Confederacy, or at least peace with them.
The Confederacy thought that they might be able to use these sympathizers to their advantage. They sent 25-year old Kentuckian Captain Thomas H. Hines on a mission into Indiana to recruit Indianan copperheads to fight against the Union and keep them off-balance.
Hines and his troops trekked North from Kentucky posing as Union soldiers searching for deserters, to see what kind of support the locals would give the Confederates if they launched a raid. After finding out that they would receive none, Hines and his men tried to high-tail it back to Kentucky. The raid was carried out anyways, and Hines was captured.
Hines was put in the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. After tunneling for six weeks, he and six other Confederate Prisoners-of-War escaped. Hines and his commander went into Columbus and took a train to Cincinnati. Once the made it to Tennessee, Hines was recaptured by Union troops and sentenced to death. He escaped by spending the night telling stories to his guard, and then overpowering him when the opportunity presented itself.
When Hines finally made it back to Richmond, Virginia, he met with President Jefferson Davis to tell him of a plan that he had concocted to spread terror through the North. The idea was to attack Prisoner-of-War camps, liberate the Confederate troops inside, and establish a new Confederate army in the North to attack Union cities.
Entering the US from Toronto, Ontario, the conspirators’ first target was Camp Douglas in Chicago. The attack was planned for the end of August, 1864. . . right when the Democratic National Convention was being held. Unfortunately, what Hines had planned for a spectacular propaganda raid turned into a ginormous bungle. With the convention in town, scores of Union troops had poured into Chicago to provide security. Hines’s men refused to risk their lives – especially when it looked like the anti-war Democrats were going to win.
Hines’s subordinates carried out many similar missions. In the middle of September, one group tried to capture the USS Michigan one of the most powerful US Navy ships on the Great Lakes, and use it to liberate the POW camp at Johnson’s Island. After it was discovered that the plot wasn’t going according to plan, the leader of the conspirators steered the ferry that they had hijacked to Canada to wait out the war.
In another attack, the guerillas crossed the border from Canada into Vermont. They robbed three banks in the town of St. Albans and tried to set fire to the town before retreating back to Canada with $200,000 that they had stolen from the town banks. The Canadians arrested them, but later released them after deciding that they were soldiers fighting a war and not just random, run-of-the-mill thieves. The $200,000, however, was returned to the good people of St. Albans.
Hines wasn’t idle during this time. He had had another opportunity to sew terror in the Union. Hines was going to take another swing at Camp Douglas. . . this time on Election Day. The guerillas would cut off Chicago by cutting through telegraph wires and railroad tracks. When the POWs were liberated, they would occupy Chicago and then begin liberating other POWs in Illinois & Indiana, and form a new army in the North for the Union to contend with.
The conspirators collected men, arms, and supplies – collecting over 100 well-armed men. The conspirators were ready to take the camp. Unfortunately for them, however, the guerillas were visited by the commander of the camp and a band of Union soldiers. The plot was foiled, and the conspirators arrested. Hines, however, escaped.
In order to escape the Union troops in Chicago, Hines hid at a friend’s house. Actually, he hid /in/ the mattress where his friend’s wife was laying sick. The soldiers searched the house, even the bed, but couldn’t find Hines. They posted a guard outside the house . . . just in case. The next day it was pouring rain, and the wife happened to have many visitors. The soldier never looked at the faces under the umbrellas of the people leaving, and Hines escaped.
Himes made his way back to Cincinnati, where he evaded Union troops by hiding in a closet behind a brick wall. It was from there that he learned that his fiancée was staying in a nearby convent. Although her father had wanted them to wait until the war was over to get married, Hines snuck her out of the convent, and eloped to Kentucky where they were married.
After the wedding, Hines returned to his plotting in Canada.
Following President’s Lincoln’s assassination, Hines was in Detroit. People there mistook him for John Wilkes Booth. Hines barely made it out with his hide intact – having been caught in a number of fights, scurrying over fences & walls, and hijacking a ferryboat to take him to Canada.
Hines spent the next few months in Toronto studying law. He eventually moved back to Kentucky, became a lawyer, and ultimately became Chief Justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
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