Friday, April 29, 2011

The First Union Spy

Pinkerton agent Timothy Webster became the first spy to be executed during the Civil War on April 29th 1862.

Timothy Webster was born March 12th 1822, and moved with his parents to America in 1830. They settled in Princeton, New Jersey. Webster became a New York City policeman in 1853, and was brought to attention of Allan Pinkerton a year latter.

At the beginning of 1861 Pinkerton sent Webster and a female spy, Hattie Lawton to Baltimore, Maryland. They were supposed to pose as husband and wife pro-Southerns. It was Webster’s actives in Baltimore that gave Pinkerton the information about the Baltimore Plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln before his inauguration. Once the war started Webster was sent to Tennessee, Kentucky and Richmond, Virginia to gather information about the Confederacy for Pinkerton. While in Richmond in 1862 Webster had a bout of inflammatory rheumatism and was to sick to make reports. Pinkerton sent two other agents, Pryce Lewis and John Scully to find Webster. Lewis and Scully were recognized as Union spies, and they along with Webster were arrested. Lewis and Scully would be released, but Webster who had received and passed valuable documents from Confederate officers and higher-ups was tried and sentenced to death.

Upon learning of Webster’s death sentence, Pinkerton and President Lincoln warned the Confederacy that if they put Webster to death, the Union would reciprocate by hanging a Confederate spy. At Camp Lee in Richmond, Virginia on April 29th 1862 Webster was led to the gallows. Something went wrong with the first hanging, but he was executed in a second attempt. Webster was buried in Richmond, but Pinkerton had his body moved in 1871. Webster was finally laid to rest in Onarga, Illinois, where he was buried next to his father and a son who had been killed during the war.

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