There are two ominous realities about April 1865: (1) The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was “one phase of a power grab within the federal government” (i.e., a coup d’etat); (2) The U.S. Congress was not in session at the time of Lincoln’s murder. The sudden removal “of Abraham Lincoln’s restraining influence at a time when Congress was not in session had cleared the way for a military dictatorship headed by Secretary of War [Edwin] Stanton – and that plans were afoot to make it permanent.” (Shelton, Vaughan. Mask For Treason: The Lincoln Murder Trial. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1965)
It was to be the Edwin Stanton Occupational Government, or ESOG for short.
On Sunday, April 16, 1865, in Washington, DC, plainclothes detectives under the command of Colonel H.S. Olcott arrived from New York City. Olcott later became the co-founder and first President of the the Theosophical Society. But in April 1865 Col. Olcott was quickly installed as “Special Commissioner” for the “Bureau of Military Justice.” On Monday, April 17 the New York City detectives commanded by Col. Olcott swarmed into the boardinghouse operated by Mary Surratt “and arrested all the occupants – as well as an odd fish named Louis Paine…” (Shelton, op. cit.)
His real name was Louis Paine (image above, wearing an Edwin Stanton “security hood”). But an “Oath of Allegiance” not signed by Paine had spelled his name “Lewis Paine.” Then, he became confused by the ESOG (Edwin Stanton Occupational Government) with a family of Paynes from Kentucky, and was called “Lewis Payne.” Later still, Louis Paine had his identity further confused by claims he was really Lewis Powell and had belonged to the Confederate “Mosby’s Rangers.” (Shelton, op. cit.)
Had Edwin Stanton been reading the Alexandre Dumas story about the Man in the Iron Mask? Was Stanton inspired to create his own version, The Men in the Canvas Hoods? The male prisoners suspected of “conspiracy” against the Union were isolated aboard two ironclad monitors anchored in the Navy Yard. This was an early version of Guantanamo Bay, long before there even was a “Gitmo.” In the Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of March 2, 2013 it was detailed how a “peculiar order” was issued by Edwin Stanton: For “better security” the male prisoners were to have a canvas bag put over the head of each and tied around the neck, with a hole for proper breathing and eating, but not seeing. (Incidentally, that blog entry, entitled “Flaws In Redford’s ‘Conspirator’”, was meant in the sense of how even a diamond can have flaws. The Conspirator (2011), directed by Robert Redford, is generally speaking a fine movie.)
Among these “Men in the Canvas Mask” was Louis Paine. Paine is, even today, a mystery man. Who was he? Was he Alek J. Hidell or was he Lee Harvey Oswald? And what about Colonel H.S. Olcott whose New York City detectives had swarmed into the Surratt boardinghouse? Who was giving Col. Olcott his orders? Olcott’s unknown overseer “remained carefully unidentified in the official memoranda except for an occasional hint.” (Shelton, op. cit.)