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(1889) United States Secret Service in the Late War

(1889) United States Secret Service in the Late War

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1889 - Brigadier General LaFayette Charles Baker, 1826-1868
1889 - Brigadier General LaFayette Charles Baker, 1826-1868

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Published by: Herbert Hillary Booker 2nd on Jun 16, 2010
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THE BOUNTY JUMPERS.

Fraudulent Practices of

Bounty Brokers and

Jumpers Contrast between

English

and American Deserters Plans to check

Desertion, and

bring Criminals to

Justice.

THE great demand for recruits

during the

war, the

large

bounties offered for

them, and the manifold facilities for
fraudulent transactions, presented temptations of

great

power, even to

reputable citizens, to evade the

plain letter

of the

law, and traffic in

substitutes, or, by bribery and

deception, personally to

keep out of the hands of the recruit-

ing officer.

The

majority of the officers

assigned to

recruiting service

were

guilty of

great dereliction of

duty, inasmuch as, instead

of

endeavoring to check the

growing evil, they rather

pre-

tended

ignorance, or allowed it to

pass unnoticed.

On one occasion, being in the

presence of the President

and a member of the

Cabinet, I heard the latter

congratulate

the President

upon the success

attending a certain call for

troops, which he had issued, remarking :

' '

Mr.

Lincoln, if

recruiting goes forward in this

way,

your new call for

troops will soon be answered."

^

The President made this

reply :

"Oh, yes; we have a

pretty big army already on

paper ; but what we want is, men in boots and breeches.
This

great array of

figures, in

respect to soldiers, is not

going to

suppress the rebellion. I want men, who can

carry muskets, and eat hard-tack.'

It was indeed

surprising to observe the

apparent sin-

cerity of

persons, who, in various ways, were guilty of
unlawful and dishonorable acts, finding a sufficient

apology

in the necessities or

peculiarities of the case ; while others,
and not a few, went into the remunerative dishonesty with

250

UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE.

tne

simple purpose, in common with the

professional gam-

bler, to make money out of the Government, or individuals

serving it, according to the

promised reward. And yet it is

difficult to see how any man, of

ordinary moral

perceptions,

could fail to

appreciate the

criminality of the

business,

whether viewed from the

stand-point of the

army depletion

and

peril, or the

robbery of the

public treasury. Were

the loose

principles governing bounty brokers and

jumpers

once allowed, the ranks of no

army could be

kept full, and

the

loyalty of the

people could not be maintained.

The lenity of our

military authorities, in

regard to the

punishment of offenders

against law and

loyalty, was a

fruitful cause of the boldness with which they acted, and

the air of

respectability worn by the crime itself.

At this

point, I must refer to the

suggestive contrast

between

foreign armies and our own. Deserters from the

English troops are

rare, on account of the

penalty which is

inflicted on such offenders. This

penalty, which is

death,

is never set

aside, no matter what extenuating circumstances

may attach to the desertion, rendering it a lesser crime in
the

opinion of mankind. The

English military law is arbi-

trary, carrying out its

requirements to the utmost ; and,

as the

punishment for desertion is

death, no soldier

guilty

of the crime receives

any lighter doom.

During the late

war, the execution of deserters was so

rare, that no moral effect was

produced on the minds of the

people. Who can recollect

any shadow of

guilt and

pun-

ishment

falling upon his

thought, during the whole of the

war, on account of the deserter' s fate ?
The desertions were as common as

recruiting, but

escapes

were so

frequent, and

pardon was so often

granted, that no

importance seemed to be attached to the shameful

disloyalty.

Indeed, it was rather considered in the

light of a

legitimate

business than otherwise ; the idea of its

criminality hardly

seemed to be entertained

by any, so

lightly was it treated

by the law.

The

Department at

Washington was

constantly urging

upon me the

necessity for

forming some

plan, which, in a

summary and successful

manner, would frustrate the

designs

of these dishonest

parties, and

bring them to

justice. Sfv

DESERTERS AND DESERTION.

251

eral

attempts had been made for this

purpose, "bat had all

proved unsuccessful.
A number of

plans were submitted to

me, each of which

I considered

objectionable, on certain accounts. The short-

est

way to catch these

deserters, which was

tracking them

to their haunts, it would have been

folly to

pursue, as such

a course would result in a

general alarm and

stampede of the

guilty.

After some time, I chanced to think of a

method, which

seemed so suited to the

purpose, that I became

immediately

inspired with the

hope of success. I

reported it to the

Provost-Marshal General, and, after

examination, it was

accepted, with some slight modifications.

In

January, 1865, the War Department determined to

check, if

possible, the

increasing frauds. On

investigation,

it was found that

only one in four of the enlisted men
readied the front a fact which will doubtless astonish

my

reader, and

probably be denied

by him, unless

accompanied

by the most

positive proof.

I received

my instructions, and

immediately repaired to

New York, the

great rendezvous of

gamblers in

recruiting,

and the centre of their

complicated and

increasing business.

Two or three

days devoted to

inquiries concerning them, so

astounded, discouraged, and disheartened me, that I resolved

to abandon the

investigation, and return to

Washington.

When I

reported my purpose to the War Department, I
was directed to resume and

prosecute my work. This

investigation, including my action and that of the Provost-
Marshal-General, has been the occasion of

Congressional

and civil

examinations, and therefore demands a

pretty full

and clear narrative.
The means which I

employed, and the manner of

pro-

ceeding, may seem, to

superficial observers, to have been

extraordinary, and

wholly unwarranted.

All the usual methods of

procedure in detective service

were

quite unavailing in this

large undertaking. Nearly the

entire circle of

military and civil officers were found to be,

either

directly or

indirectly, implicated in

bounty swindling

from the staff officer to the

orderly, and from the

judge

to the lowest criminal in the haunts of

dissipation and vice.

252

UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE.

I considered the matter well, in order to reach some

plan by which I could become familiar with the fraudulent

enterprise and learn its secrets. The result of

my medita-

tions was the belief that, in order to

gain my ends, I must

select for

my service some bounty broker who had been
connected with the business a considerable

length of

time,

and who was, consequently, familiar with all its details.

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