August 15, 2012

Train Robbery Conspirator Accidently Sends Plan Details to Postmaster, 1861

From the Cleveland, OH Plain Dealer on April 9, 1861:

A Diabolical Conspiracy. 
Plot to throw a Train from the Track and Rob the Express and Mails--A Society of Burglars, Counterfeiters and Murderers Discovered--Letter of one of the Conspirators. 
The Pittsburg Post of Wednesday contained an account of a most diabolical plot to throw an Express from the track of the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad, for the purpose of robbing the Express and mails. Information having been received by the officers the company which led them to believe that such a plot existed, the matter was put in the hands of Allan Pinkerton, an accomplished detective officer of Chicago. His investigations led to the discovery of a regular organized gang of thieves, burglars, counterfeiters and murderers--criminals of the darkest dye. 
One of his detectives gained the confidence of some of the members of this organization, and was admitted to their meetings. It was discovered that divisions of the gang existed at Loudonville, Lakeville, Massillon, Mansfield, Bucyrus, Upper Sandusky, Crestline, Galion, Columbus, Cleveland, etc., and that they were bold and reckless men, fit for any crime. Also, that the parties suspected of the murder of Mr. Whit[??], a respectable citizen of Loudonville, Ohio, who was brutally killed and robbed about four years ago, and of assaulting a breakman of the railroad, were connected with the association. One of the principal conspirators and directors lives at Loudonville, and has manufactured large quantities of counterfeit money, by which means he has supplied his associates with funds. 
While the detectives were engaged in this investigation, and were waiting to get the conspirators fairly in the clutches of the law, the officers of the road were notified by the postmaster of Pittsburg of the contents of a letter intended for a member of the gang, but by accident addressed to the Postmaster. We give the extraordinary document entire: 
"Galion, March 21, 1861. 
"Dear Bob: I am just in receipt of yours, and have glanced hurriedly over contents; find every much to my liking. 
"Can't imagine why Potevine acted so d----d foolish. I think Banty will answer the place much better." 
"You should have burned the body--think you had better do it soon, and be certain. You must send Berry necessary instructions. But how will we do in regard to that letter you know Buck wrote to him some time since, and, I think since he left?

"It won't do to have it go the dead office--cant you send and get it out soon?" 
"I am in great haste, so you must excuse me for touching everything lightly. We have had a special meeting to take into consideration our railroad scheme. We have agreed upon a plan at last--the originated by Thompson. He has just returned from New York, and has brought us some small batteries--some rockets, disguises, &c. We are to sink powder under the track and ignite it by means of the batteries. Between Lakeville and Loudonville is the place we selected for the mail train, and between Crestline and Upper Sandusky for the freight train. Then we are to destroy the nearest bridges and telegraph, to prevent any possibility of assistance reaching them, and then we are to illuminate some of the nearest towns, so as to cause a general confusion. We can then operate with perfect safety. We have another meeting on the 20th, at headquarters, to select suitable men; you must come up without fail, and send word to all your boys.-- You must excuse me for being so brief as I have about twenty letters to write, and want to call in boys that are out. 
"I am going down to Mansfield this evening to mail some of my letters, and I will just drop a line to the postmaster at Pittsburg, and have him forward Potevine's letter, and that will be better than to send for it. I went to Mansfield last Friday, and made some inquiries about that fellow you wrote about. I saw him, and from your description and his knowledge of you and some of our men, I think I can say positively he is the same man. He told me himself that it was currently reported that he was dead. He told me he had been in prison several years, and that he had sworn off. Said he felt no ill will towards you or any one else--thought he would remain home this summer. I think you had better go and see him yourself, and you will have more influence than any one else--believe him to be a flint, steel pointed. Davy and Jess made a little effort here a few nights ago, but only got a few empty letters. Jess has gone to Newark and Davy is in Mansfield waiting a chance. I shall be in Crestline until the 30th; don't leave Massillon unless you first inform me. Thompson and Fred and Jerry will stay at Cleveland. I will see Jess and get you some money by Saturday; you can see your own men, and go with them to Lakeville, but do not inform them of our business; you can stop with Bill Wolf--he is one of our Bride men--but don't be seen in daylight; and before you do anything else select some appropriate names for our men, so we can distinguish them. I had not time to use cypher, as it is so tedious and I am so busy now. I will see Jimmy again, and see if he can be come at, and let you know. 
"We have enough boys on trains now, and shall not trust any more--plenty of girls now in every place. George Cline visits Mansfield pretty often. Mrs. Shaw is his darling, but don't tell him I said so, or he may hustle that Bag business out. 
"Yours, in fidelity,

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