Uncovering a Nefarious Scheme

J[ohn] G. J[ackson].  “Remarkable Test in the Civil War,” Religio-Philosophical Journal, May 21, 1881.

What to do with this?  The historical literature about the Philadelphia Navy Yard does not yield any evidence that it was under imminent threat of a Copperhead plot during the Civil War.  The main spirit messenger here is the shade of Colonel Edward Dickinson Baker, ex-senator from Oregon, devoted Abolitionist, and staunch Lincoln ally and friend, who foolishly led his command into a devastating defeat at the Battle of Balls Bluff, where he was killed in action on October 21, 1861.  Despite his dubious military judgment, he was widely regarded in the North as a martyred hero—JB

The party relating it is the medium spoken of and, as far as can be judged on short acquaintance, is a frank truthful man, now acting as a physician and exhibiting much skill in some special cases we have learned of.  Having noticed my name in the Journal, he was free to relate his mediumistic experiences to me, though he does not wish his name published in that connection.  The enclosed printed slip was exhibited:

Message to Navy Yard Commander.

“To the Commander of U. S. Navy Yard, Philadelphia.

Dear Sir:  The undersigned takes this means and this method of informing you of a deep laid plot by strategy and force of arms, to seize you and all under your command, and then turn your guns on the city.  You have some of the traitors now in your employ, and they are seducing many more to their infamous plot, and it is in conjunction with another and a more vast rebellion in other places, at, or about the same time.  Gun boats will be seized and make New York, Boston, and Philadelphia tremble with their nefarious schemes.  You have it in your midst those that will furnish powder and ball to kill you, and money and means to carry it on.

“Beware of this warning, and oblige your humble servant in spirit-life,

Upon request, the following memorandum in writing, of its history, was received by to-day’s mail, nearly verbatim, as here copied:

“Of the many thousand tests that were given through me during the war, the above was, in some respects, the most remarkable.  The communication to the Commander of the Navy Yard was given in a public hall, before a large audience and read aloud to them.  The question being asked, ‘What’s to be done with it?’ The President replied, ‘Send it by all means to the Commander.’  This was done and he received it the next morning at eight o’clock.  At nine o’clock the Commander had the Navy Yard doubly guarded and cannon planted at the gates.  On the Saturday following a dispatch came from Washington to have the precautions taken at the Yard which had thus already been taken the Tuesday previous.

“The Commodore employed a detective to ferret out the source of the above communication, who visited the medium and questioned him carefully on many points relative to business and other matters.  The detective then produced the communication to the Commander and asked the medium if he recognized it?  Who, of course, replied, yes! And showed him other copies.  The consequence was the medium was asked to visit the chief of detectives, and immediately complied.  He was again questioned as to the manner of receiving the communication, and related hat the spirit of Col. Baker stood by the side of the table and dictated it, word by word, and that when finished, Washington and the others stepped up beside the table and asked to have their names put down as witnesses.

“The Chief asked if he could obtain the names of men that were traitors in the Navy Yard; but the medium, being himself unable to get these, recommended a lady medium* as possibly able to furnish them.  Shortly after the Commander sent his private secretary, in disguise, to visit the lady medium who became entranced and called out sixty names of employees of the Yard, not one of them being personally known to her in her normal condition.

“These men were discharged and other evidences were simultaneously discovered of a wide-spread and deeply laid plot, the success of which, was, it is highly probable, defeated by patriotic and timely intimations from the spiritual sphere.”

—J. G. J.

* This medium was Mrs. Gray.  Mrs. J. and myself both remember visiting her some years ago and esteeming her an honest and good medium.  Possibly this account may not be new to you as it is to us.


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