Allan Pinkerton’s Final Service to President Lincoln

Civil War

Allan Pinkerton’s Final Service to President Lincoln

Oddly enough, even after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Allan Pinkerton again played a part in being of service to the president.

Oddly enough, even after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Allan Pinkerton again played a part in being of service to the president.

by Clark Larsen

Oddly enough, even after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Allan Pinkerton again played a part in being of service to the president. On October 27, 1876, a confidential informant of Captain Patrick D. Tyrell, the operative in charge of the Chicago field office of the U.S. Secret Service, told him about a plot to steal President Lincoln’s body from its tomb in Springfield, Ill.

The informant, Lewis C. Swegles, said that John Hughes and Terence Mullen intended to demand $200,000 and the release of their friend Benjamin Boyd from prison. It was Tyrell who had originally arrested Boyd for counterfeiting. The crime of grave robbery, however, was not within the normal purview of the Secret Service, so Tyrell wired the facts in the case to Chief James J. Brooks in Washington. Brooks wired back that Tyrell was to inform Robert Todd Lincoln, the late president’s son, of the facts. Brooks further instructed Tyrell to provide whatever assistance he could in the matter.

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Captain Tyrell discussed the case with Robert Lincoln. Tyrell said he would need help, and Robert Lincoln suggested, “Since my father was friendly with Allan Pinkerton, I’m sure Mr. Pinkerton will be glad to give whatever assistance he can.” Robert was correct; upon being told of the plot, Pinkerton, then again running a private detective agency, assigned John C. McGinn and George Hay, two of his best detectives, to the case.

On the night of November 7, 1876, Secret Service operatives and Pinkerton detectives staked out President Lincoln’s monument at Oak Ridge Cemetery. At about 8:30 the thieves appeared. They sawed a heavy padlock off the entry, removed the marble top from President Lincoln’s sarcophagus, and began removing his coffin. On a preappointed signal, the detectives moved in. The thieves escaped but the detectives had prevented them from stealing Lincoln’s remains. A short time later, Tyrell arrested Hughes and Mullen in Chicago. They were convicted of attempted theft, and were each sentenced to one year in jail.

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