In 1977, Vaughan Shelton of the Idaho State Journal newspaper (Pocatello, Idaho) critiqued a new movie of the time, “The Lincoln Conspiracy” (based on a book of the same name). Shelton was somewhat of an expert on secret circumstances behind the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. One of the most astonishing claims made by Shelton in the newspaper article is that Colonel Lafayette Baker (image above), head of the Union secret service, had faked his death and did not in fact die on July 3, 1868! (“The Lincoln Conspiracy Movie Based on Forgeries, Says Historian”, Idaho State Journal, Nov. 4, 1977)
Colonel Baker had been dismissed as head of the secret service on February 8, 1866. Baker claimed that President Andrew Johnson had demanded his removal after he discovered that his agents were spying on him. Baker admitted the charge but argued he was acting under instructions from the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton. (“Lafayette Baker”, http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAbaker.Laf.htm)
Baker subsequently had a grudge against Edwin Stanton and began to exact revenge, believed Shelton. (Idaho State Journal, op. cit.)
In January, 1867, Baker published his book, History of the Secret Service. In the book Baker described his role in the capture of the “conspirators” (Mrs. Surratt, Louis Paine, etc.). He also revealed that a diary had been taken from John Wilkes Booth when he had been shot. (But was it really Booth who had been shot?) This revelation caused much trouble for Edwin Stanton, as described in the December 1, 2012 Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry.
Edwin Stanton had become “the top name on [Baker’s] long get-even list.” (Idaho State Journal, op. cit.)
So Baker’s book and its revelation may have been a revenge against Edwin Stanton. But Stanton himself was still powerful. Years ago, in “Ray Neff Discovers Coded Messages”, I reported in part on fears expressed by Colonel Lafayette Baker not long before his supposed death:
“I am constantly being followed. They are professionals. I cannot fool them. In new Rome there walked three men, a Judas, a Brutus and a spy. Each planned that he should be the king when Abraham should die. One trusted not the other but they went on for that day, waiting for that final moment when, with pistol in his hand, one of the sons of Brutus could sneak behind that cursed man and put a bullet in his brain and lay his clumsey [sic] corpse away. As the fallen man lay dying, Judas [Stanton] came and paid respects to one he hated, and when at last he saw him die, he said, ‘Now the ages have him and the nation now have I.’ But, alas, fate would have it Judas slowly fell from grace, and with him went Brutus down to their proper place. But lest one is left to wonder what happened to the spy, I can safely tell you this, it was I. – Lafayette C. Baker”
When Vaughan Shelton’s book, Mask For Treason, had been published in 1965, he believed Colonel Baker had been murdered by arsenic poisoning. However by 1977, when Shelton wrote his report for the Idaho State Journal (op. cit.), he had altered that opinion. Colonel Lafayette Baker had outwitted his enemy Edwin Stanton by faking his death!
“Baker’s connections with [John Wilkes] Booth’s group is established by a letter, dated March 19, 1865, to John Surratt, signed with Baker’s main alias, ‘R.D. Watson.'” (Idaho State Journal, op. cit.)
“R.D. Watson” was a frequent alias used by Colonel Lafayette Baker. By 1977, Vaughan Shelton had come to believe that Col. Baker’s supposed death on July 3, 1868 “was a well-planned and executed fraud – that he lived on in Fulton County, Ky., until 1900 under his wartime alias, ‘R.D. Watson.'” (Ibid.)
“In early 1868 there were several attempts on Baker’s life by shooting and stabbing. By June, Baker got the message. If he wanted to go on living he’d have to disappear. He did so on July 3 with the help of his longtime friend and physician, Dr. William Rickards, who gave ‘virulent meningitis’ (requiring sealed burial) as the cause of death and signed the death certificate.” (Ibid.)