A Report That Led To A Historic Raid By Colonel Baker On The Bounty Jumpers And Bounty Brokers Of New York
Here follows a rather interesting case. One Deegan, an expert penman,
who had formerly been a clerk in one of the regular cavalry regiments,
had been forging discharges and final statements of fictitious soldiers,
employing an accomplice to present them at the various paymasters'
offices and draw the money. Being familiar with the officers'
signatures, he was very successful in forging their names. To make the
tement cover a large amount of money--many hundreds and
sometimes thousands of dollars--the statements represented the parties
to have been prisoners of war, one or two years, which, with all the
allowances, would carry the amounts up into large figures.
United States Army, Pay District
Baltimore, Md., Nov. 9, 1864
I have had a full explanatory conversation with your Chief of
Detectives in reference to forgeries lately perpetrated upon
the Government and have given him every clue in my possession,
to the perpetrators.
The name and recent address of the party who escaped from your
office has also been obtained by me. I have therefore to
request that you give him every facility he may desire in
visiting both Philadelphia and New York, and that you will
instruct the calling to his assistance experienced detectives.
I have ordered my orderly to report to him as he is acquainted
with this Deegan. The case is one of importance and no delay
should occur in ferreting it out.
Very respy. Colonel, your obdt. servant.,
FRANK M. ETTING,
Lt. Col. Woolley,
8th Army Corps.
Headquarters, Middle Department,
8th Army Corps.
Baltimore, Nov. 9, 1864.
Special Order No. 164.
Lt. H. B. Smith, 5th N. Y. H. Arty. and two men will proceed
without delay to the cities of Philadelphia and New York, for
the purpose of arresting certain persons engaged in
manufacturing forged Discharge papers. Having accomplished
this duty, Lieut. Smith and his guard will return and report
at this office.
The Quartermaster's Department will furnish the necessary
By command of Major General Lew Wallace.
WM. H. WIEGEL,
Capt. & Asst. Provost Marshal.
We had in custody one of Deegan's pals, John Battell. To save his scalp,
I forced him to write a letter (copy below), that I might use with
Deegan's Philadelphia address was a saloon, kept by Dick Callery, at 126
Callowhill Street. The letter reads:
Havre de Grace, Nov. 8th.
I am under arrest on my way to Baltimore under arrest I have
just time through the goodness of a guard to send you this as
we delayed here one 1/2 hour waiting for another train to pass
it will go hard with me I suppose.
The above is a literal copy of Battell's letter, it is in his hand
writing and is addressed to:
11th Ward Hotel,
We were attired suitably for the occasion, velveteen caps, paper
collars, colored shirts, etc., a good "jumper's" toggery.
Jumpers, or bounty jumpers, were a very distinct class of patriots (?)
in war days. They were so patriotic they would enlist many, many times,
and draw a large bounty each time. When they enlisted they doffed their
clothes and put on the uniform. As soon as they could evade or "jump"
the guards conducting them, they would shed the uniform and buy a cheap
suit, such a one as I have described, and reappear at their old haunts,
ready to "jump" another bounty, under the skillful management of a
bounty broker. An observing person could pick out a "jumper" on sight.
We put in twenty-four lively hours with the "jumpers" and thieves at
Callery's. One may wonder how a decent man could associate with such
characters and not betray himself. It is a wonder, but somehow I managed
to fit the niche under any circumstances.
Learning that Deegan had gone to New York and would probably be at his
brother John's saloon in East 38th Street, I proceeded there.
I used the names "George Comings" or "I. K. Shaffer" usually, and they
became familiar to me. In this case I was "George Comings."
To have something to recommend me to John Deegan, I wired to myself from
Philadelphia to New York, using "R. Callery's" name (without
permission), I have the telegram, which was done by the House Printing
Telegraph (in type on long strips, or tape, much like the present ticker
tape). It reads:
Phil Nov XIth
Geo Comings. Wm Deegan is at John Deegans Thirty Eighth Street
Second and Third Avenues. Please take that note to him
Hund wenty six Callowhill St.
We associated with the "jumpers" who hung out at John Deegan's to
accomplish our purposes. Wm. Deegan had gone to Boston.
Bounty jumpers in New York were on every corner. The city was infested
with them. Our appearance and conduct secured us recognition by them, so
much so that my men became anxious on account of our popularity.
I made arrangements with Major Leslie, the Chief Paymaster in New York,
for the capture of Deegan, which was accomplished shortly afterwards.
When I called on Major Leslie at his residence in 9th Street, I was
somewhat shocked at first at his incivility. I had overlooked the fact
that my personal appearance (my clothes, etc.) did not merit confidence.
However, as soon as I made him know me everything went on all right. I
must certainly have looked tough.
Headquarters, Middle Department,
8th Army Corps.
Baltimore, Nov. 15, 1864.
Lt. Col. Woolley,
Colonel.--I have the honor to submit the following report of
my trip to Philadelphia and New York, in search of William
Deegan and others charged with forgeries.
Among other steps that Major Elting took, previous to giving
the matter into my hands, was to telegraph the Provost Marshal
at Philadelphia to visit certain places and arrest, if found,
I arrived in Philadelphia on Thursday morning and immediately
called on the Provost Marshal to ascertain what steps he had
taken, and I requested him to withdraw his men from the job.
I ascertained to a certainty that Deegan had gone to New York,
and also that the officers from the Provost Marshal's office
went there (to the haunt of Deegan), dressed in uniform,
stating they were connected with the Quartermasters' Office,
and wanted to see Deegan. This was sufficient to scare any
guilty man out of the country; accordingly I left for New
York, where I visited Deegan's haunts. On Friday evening
there, I ascertained that Deegan and his pigeons were gone,
either to New Jersey or Boston.
On Saturday I visited Major Leslie, Chief Paymaster at New
York, and posted him as to the actions of Deegan and his
associates, and recommended that if discharges purporting to
come from the 6th United States Cavalry were presented it
would be well to detain the parties presenting such discharges
and final statements until he could ascertain if they were
genuine; and would then probably be able to catch some of the
pigeons, and perhaps Deegan. I also requested him to telegraph
to Chief Paymaster at Boston, which he promised to do.
Deegan's forgeries seem to be confined to the 6th U. S.
Cavalry; he was formerly a member of that Regiment. He
operates with "jumpers."
I think this job was spoiled by the actions of the Officers in
Philadelphia. I am quite positive we were not suspected, as we
were at all times current with these "jumpers," that infested
I visited these places until yesterday, when I became
satisfied that Deegan is too badly scared to remain about.
In addition to my report I wish to give you a brief outline of
the state of affairs in the Provost Department in New York and
Philadelphia. Wherever I went in search of my man I met
"Bounty Jumpers," who openly avowed themselves such, and
seemed to defy the authorities. Dick Callery, who keeps a
groggery at No. 126 Callowhill street, Philadelphia, stated he
was aware of Deegan's transactions. Most of Callery's
customers were "jumpers."
In New York we could go but a short distance without meeting
these characters. From what I could see I should think one
thousand a low estimate of their numbers; they are very bold.
They pay this Department quite a compliment, i. e., they say
if they can only get clear from Baltimore they are all right.
If about fifteen or twenty pigeons could be thrown into New
York and Philadelphia to co-operate with a strong force of
Detectives and Military, hundreds of these "jumpers" would be
brought to justice.
These jumpers without an exception are the firm support and
backbone of the Copperhead Clique, and the same parties that
caused the riots in New York last year. The arrest and
punishment of these parties would cause rejoicing among
respectable people. From my observation I can see that this
class of men before the war were pickpockets, burglars, &c.,
but now resort to this last and easier means of stealing, i. e.,
"bounty jumping," at the same time they please the "Copperheads"
by filling successively, the quotas of different districts, and
not furnishing the Army one soldier; thus defeating the object
of the Draft.
I am, Colonel,
Very respy. your obdt. servt.,
H. B. SMITH,
Lt. & Chief.
My report and recommendations were so highly esteemed by General Wallace
that he had a copy sent to General N. L. Jeffries, the Provost Marshal
General of the United States, and by him were my suggestions acted upon.
Colonel Lafayette C. Baker was sent to New York with a force of men and
very ample money; a very vigorous and extended raid was made, partially
successful, but I think my plan of putting fifteen or twenty men in with
the jumpers, to actually "jump" with them, thus obtaining evidence to
convict, would have been more successful. The current newspapers treated
this matter as of great importance, using the findings of my report,
saying: "Our quotas are being fraudulently filled, and furnishing no men
for the army, etc."