War of the Rebellion: Serial 121 Page 0932 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

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general conspiracy charged to have been formed for the commission of these crimes and to which it was averred Jefferson Davis, Clement C. Clay, Jacob Thompson, and others were parties. This man, it seems, had been a correspondent of the New York Tribune from Canada, and it was through Mr. Gay, of the Tribune, a citizen of well-known character for loyalty and integrity, that he was brought to the notice of the Government as an important witness. After having heard the testimony on the trial of the assassins I was well persuaded, from his intelligence and apparently intimate association with rebel refugees and conspirators in Canada, that he had possessed unusual advantages for acquiring information in regard to their plots and movements. Hence, when he subsequently wrote me, voluntarily and without solicitation or suggestion on my part, giving assurance as to the existence of evidence implicating Jefferson Davis and Clement C. Clay, and of his ability to find the witnesses, and proffering his services to do so, I did not hesitate to accept his statements and proposals as made in good faith and entitled to credit and consideration. The first letter received by me from him on the subject bore date "New York, July 26, 1865," and is as follows:

Brigadier-General HOLT:

DEAR SIR: Believing that I can procure witnesses and documentary evidence sufficient to convict Jeff. Davis and C. C. Clay of complicity in the assassination of the President, and that I can also find and secure John H. Surratt, I beg leave to tender the Government through you my services for these purposes. Since my appearance as a witness before the commission I have been engaged, to some extent on my own account, in seeking further evidence to implicate Davis, Clay, and others, and I feel warranted in saying that my efforts have not been without some success. I can promise to find at least three witnesses--men of unimpeachable character--who will testify that they submitted to Davis propositions, which he approved, to destroy the President, Vice-President, and Cabinet, and that they received indirectly from the rebel Government may to enable them to execute the proposed scheme. Letters, I am assured by one of the parties referred to, can be adduced to corroborate a part of their statements. Two of these persons can testify that they were present with Surratt at an interview with Davis and Benjamin last spring, in which the plot under which Mr. Lincoln was assassinated was discussed and approved by both functionaries. These men may be relied on; as I have already said, their character is unimpeachable. They despise and hate Davis now as intensely as they once admired and loved him. Besides, they feel the necessity for doing some meritorious action to insure the forgiveness and pardon of the Government they have outraged.

The interest I have manifested in this case has been prompted solely by a desire to serve the Government, though I must admit that it has been intensified by my hatred of the rebel leaders. The rebellion has ruined me financially and I have suffered much at the hands of Davis & Co. It will be no fault of mine if they escape without their just deserters. You may depend that I can and will, if desirable to you and the Government, accomplish all I promise and more. If it is not intended to try Davis and others for complicity in the assassination I shall be glad to be sent after Surratt. I have ever believed that I could find him and I am confident that I can now devise a scheme for his capture. I do not enter into particulars because I know the value of your time too well to trouble you with a long letter. If the propositions I submit are entertained I will call on you and be more explicit. Please favor me with a reply at once, and in the meantime believe me to be,

Your most obedient servant,

SANFORD CONOVER.

Direct in care of S. H. Gay, Tribune.

On the 2nd of August--written "1862," though evidently intended for 1865--he again addressed me from New York as follows:

NEW YORK, August 2, 1862.

Brigadier-General HOLT, Judge-Advocate-General, Washington, D. C.:

GENERAL: I proposed by letter a few days ago to find for the good of the Government and people John H. Surratt, one of the conspirators, and to produce unimpeachable evidence sufficient to convict Davis, Clay, and others of complicity in the assassination of Mr. Lincoln. I solicited, indeed expected, and early reply but was disappointed. Surratt has since been captured (so the papers say) so that of