In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

THE NORTH AFFAIR: A LINCOLN ADMINISTRATION MILITARY TRIAL, 1864 Joseph George, Jr. In 1869, John A. Marshall, identified as the "Selected Historian of the Illegal Arrests" made during the Civil War, published a book on this topic, The American Bastille: A History of Illegal Arrests and Imprisonments during the Civil War.1 This work was a compilation of experiences ofcivilians thrown into prison by theLincoln administration without benefit of trial. James G. Randall, in his important volume on the constitutional history of the Lincoln administration, described Marshall as the "historian of the Association of Prisoners of State," and found that Marshall's book added "little to the Official Records, except abuse."2 Yet, in at least one instance, Marshall's work, although abusive, was not inaccurate. An examination of the court martial file, as well as the papers of the Office of theJudge Advocate General, documents not available to Marshall, reveals that the author could have been even more severe in his condemnation of the Lincoln administration—at least in the case of Samuel North and others. According to Marshall's book, Col. Samuel North, a prominentcitizen of Otsego County, New York, had been appointed by Gov. Horatio Seymour to serve as New York State agent in Washington, D.C. Levi Cohn of Albany, who had had experience as a bookkeeper in a bank, had been named a state paymaster, stationed in North's Washington office, to pay back bounties and whatever might be due from the state to New York soldiers stationed in the Washington area. Morven M. Jones of Utica, the other Seymour appointee in North's office, was assigned to assist New York soldiers convalescing in Washington hospitals. Jones had previously served in the war of 1862. He had been taken prisoner 1 Philadelphia, 1869. The volumewent through several editions, one of which was published as late as 1883. Citations in this paper refer to the "Fifth Edition," published in 1870. The New York Public Library possesses a 16-page pamphlet, John A. Marshall, Facts for Freemen (n.p., n.d.), which is a copy of that section of Marshall's book dealing with the North affair. The pamphlet was identified on its title page as "Advance Sheets" of Marshall 's "Great Work." 2 J. G. Randall, Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln, rev. ed. (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois , 1951), 541. Civil War History, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3, © 1987 by The Kent State University Press 200CIVIL WAR HISTORY and then exchanged. In poor health and advanced years, he had resigned his commission but then was prevailed upon by Seymour to come to Washington to assume his hospital duties for the state of New York. On October 27, 1864, two weeks before the presidential election, the three New York agents in Washington were arrested by the military and "by order of the President." They were confined in Old Capitol Prison, and despite Seymour's vigorous protests, treated with unnecessary cruelty and severity in jail, before being placed on trial before a military commission. They were charged with "conduct prejudicial to the military service of the United States and in fraud of the election rights of the soldiers and officers of said service." The specification under this charge accused the trio of fraudulently signingblank ballots, or causing them to be signed improperly, and forwarding them to New York as legitimate absentee ballots. After a long trial that began before the presidential election and ended with a not guilty verdict in January 1865, Colonel North was released but not told that he had been adjudged innocent. His two associates were forced to remain in jail for two additional weeks before gaining their freedom. They too had not been told that they had been found innocent.3 The documents concerned with this case do not basically contradict Marshall. They also provide an interesting illustration of the workings of the Bureau of Military Justice, judicial arm of the War Department, as well as procedures involved in a trial by military commission. They also shed light on the roles played in the North affair by Joseph Holt, judge advocate general of the United States and head of the Bureau of Military Justice; his superior, Secretary...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 199-218
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.