Another of Stanton's little helpers

One of the many interesting features of Margaret Leech's 1942 Pulitzer-winning Reveille in Washington, 1860-1865 was her speculation about the possible blackmailing of War Secretary Edwin Stanton by P.H. Watson, Stanton's wartime jailkeeper who used the SecWar's protection to run rackets and terrorize the city.

Leech thought that Watson's (alleged?) manufacturing of evidence in the McCormick/Manny lawsuit might have been the leverage used against trial partner Stanton; or perhaps it pointed to additional joint misconduct that could severely embarass the secretary of war, were it to be revealed. Watson's bullying of Stanton certainly stands out in Reveille.

Stanton's use of spies and stooges like correspondent Charles Dana, General James Garfield, and General E.A. Hitchcock, is well known and in some cases could have opened him to extortion. His failure to recruit Rosecrans as a tool against McClellan marks the rupture between Rosie and Stanton in Lamers' Rosecrans biography Edge of Glory.

Now, a new (2004) book, The Devil's Game: The Civil War Intrigues of Charles A. Dunham focuses on the career of one very special helper.

This review notes more Leech like speculation that Dunham "perhaps undertook secret endeavors on behalf of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, with whom he had been associated in a prewar court case."

There's that case again. In jail in one point, Dunham prevails upon Watson and Stanton to free him. As Leech noted, if Watson to freed you, a quid pro quo was involved.

What was Dunham's stock in trade? "[E]mbroidering testimony for Secretary of War Stanton and Judge Advocate Gen. Joseph Holt that helped convict some of the Lincoln assassination conspirators," and "Knowing that Stanton and Holt desperately wanted to link Confederate President Jefferson Davis to Lincoln's murder, Dunham claimed to have been privy to relevant conversations among the Confederates in Canada, and offered to procure other witnesses who would corroborate his story." But that's not all:
Amazingly, the man then attempted to sell the Radical Republicans fake letters linking President Andrew Johnson to assassin John Wilkes Booth.
A good entrepreneur knows his market.

Our reviewer says this is
a fascinating look at the depths to which those who ran the federal government in the immediate post-Civil War era were willing to descend to preserve their domination of the political scene.

Yes, but why just post-war?