LINCOLN, Abraham. Autograph note signed ("A. Lincoln") as President, to an unidentified recipient, Washington, 23 December 1864. 1 page, (1 7/8 x 3 3/16 in.), some browning, neatly stitched to a larger sheet (stitches slightly affect date).
PRESIDENTIAL PRECAUTIONS AGAINST CONFEDERATE SPIES ON THE BORDER, IN THE WAKE OF THE ST. ALBANS RAID
The President, aware that a community of Confederate spies and agents in Canada was responsible for a recent daring raid on St. Albans Vermont, cautiously authorizes a border crossing: "Allow the bearer, Mathew H. Read Jr. to pass from Montreal, in Canada, to Albany New York & then remain undisturbed until further orders from me."
In February 1864, a secret session of the Confederate Congress had appropriated $5 million to establish a network of operatives in Canada to strike at the northern homefront and sabotage the Union war effort. Captain Thomas Hines was dispatched to direct this clandestine operation and a number of Confederate agents, including former Secretary of the Interior Clement Clay, were sent to join him. Hines made contact with copperheads throughout the North and conceived various means to harry the Union's war efforts: subsidizing northern copperhead newspapers, an armed raid on the prison at Johnson's Island to free Confederate prisoners and other destructive forays. The most successful of these initiatives, though, was certainly the notorious raid on the small Vermont border town of St. Albans. On October 19, 22 operatives rode into the village, terrorized its citzens, robbed the banks, and avoided capture by fleeing across the Canadian border.
The success of the St. Albans raid and rumors that the Canada-based conspiracy was quite large forced the Lincoln Government to maintain tighter security along the border. Passage to and from Canada was strictly regulated, necessitating such Presidential passes like the present. Although its impact upon the Union war effort was minimal, the Canadian community of Confederates again became the focus of the nation in April, 1865 when several of its leading members were implicated as conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.