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Research Notes and References:

JAMES BUCHANAN JAMESON
Bodyguard of President Abraham Lincoln and Commander of the Union Light Guard

 

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Editor's note: This recently discovered interview of Commander James B. Jameson should cause historians to review the traditional narrative regarding the death of President Lincoln. The blog comment on this article (below) may well shed some additional light on the whole matter.

 

EVENTS SURROUNDING THE DEATH OF PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN - Errors in the historical record?
- Philadelphia Times interview of James B. Jamison (Jameson), Commander of the Union Light Guard
August 29, 1893

https://www.myheritage.com/research/collection-90100/compilation-of-published-sources?itemId=38846005&action=showRecord

LED LINCOLNS ESCORT.

Lieut Jamison’s Reminiscences of the
Assassination.

A Florida Man Who Commanded the
Picked Company of Men Selected to
Guard the President

-How
Secretary Stanton Overruled
the Order of
HIs Chief.

[From the Philadelphia Times. August 29, 1893)

Lieut. James B. Jamison, of Lake Coma,
Putnam County, Fla. , la in the city as the
guest of City Treasurer George D. McCreary.
Mr. Jamison was lieutenant and really sole
commander and Captain of the Union Light
Guard which acted toward the close of the
civil war as body-guard to Abraham Lincoln.
He was seen yesterday at Mr. Mccrearys
office in the City Hall, and told an Interesting
story of the origin of bis command and the
duties performed by it. He also related a
number of hitherto unpublished facts In regard
to President Lincolns assassination.
The Union Light Guard, he said, was
composed of men selected by Gov. Tod,
of Ohio, to act as body-guard to President
Lincoln after the Confederate cause was considered
hopeless, and there were rumors afloat
that there would be an attempt upon the
Presidents life, it was composed of picked
men, one from each county of the State of
Ohio. At the time of Its organization I was
aid to the Governor of Ohio, to which post I
had been appointed in recognition of my
services at Shlloh. The body was a mounted
one. We had hardly reached Washington
when the Captain and First Lieutenant were
court-martialed and dismissed from the service,
and I succeeded to the command and continued
there until the body was disbanded,
but never received my proper rank.

ORDERED TO ESCORT LINCOLN.
My first orders upon reaching Washington
came from Secretary of war Stanton
and were to escort President Lincoln from
the White House to the Presidents country
home on the Potomac. With my command I
proceeded to the White House and announced
my errand to the President. He objected
j moat emphatically to having an armed escort,
1 asserting that there was no danger; that he
| didnt need or want a body-guard. In fact he
I positively declined to leave the White House
under escort. As he was the President and I
but a Lieutenant I did not feel justified In
1 carrying him off bodily, so I said to him that
to neglect to carry out orders was a serious
matter to an army officer, and asked him for
some piece of writing to show that my orders
had been countermanded by the President
himself. The President picked up a slip of
paper not over 2 inches square and wrote
upon It:
• I decline to accept the escort of a bodyguard.
Abraham Lincoln.

STANTON OVERRULED THE PRESIDENT.
I then ordered my command back to barracks
and awaited developments. They were
not long In coming. Inside of an hour a messenger
came post haste with orders that I appear
before the Secretary of War. When I
reached his office Stanton swung around in
his chair and demanded, in his fiercest manner,
why I had failed to obey orders by not
escorting the President to his home on the
Potomac. I responded that the President htm-
seit had countermanded the order, at the
same time presenting the slip of paper. Stanton
glanced at it. tore it Into bits, wadded
them up and threw them in my face. Then
he exclaimed:
Sir, take your command and do as you
were ordered. Escort the President whether
he likes it or not, and neglect to do so at your
peril.
Again I took my command to the White
House and explained my instructions to the
President. With evident reluctance the President
accepted my escort, and the trip to the
country was made. Prom that time to within
two weeks of his assassination the Light
Ciuard continued as the Presidents bodyguard

About two weeks prior to his assassination
the Light Guard, at the urgent request
of Presldeut Lincoln, was relieved from escort
duty and used as mounted orderlies. On
the night of Lincolns assassination, with ten
of my men, I was stationed but a lew blocks
away when the rumor came up the street that
Seward had been assassinated.

SHOULDNT DIE IN A SALOON.
I hurried my command to Fords Theater.
Just as l reached there the President was car-
ried across the street. The men who carried
him first started to take him into a saloon,
but were stopped by the proprietor of the
place, who said:
Dont bring him in here. Take him up
stairs. It shouldnt be said that the President
of the United States died in a saloon.
The building was a two-story brick one,
just across the street from the theater, and
the President was carried to the second story.
I formed my little body of men at the doorway
to keep out all intruders and sent for re-
enforcements. That night I turned back Congressmen,
Senators and Generals. At about
2 oclock Gen. Meigs, Chief quartermaster
General, came to the door and asked me if I
would like to see the President before he
breathed his last. I answered that as I had
been close to his side, and his protector for
nearly two years and was greatly attached to
him, I certainly should. When I entered the
room Surgeon General Rarnes was standing
at his bedside, and a moment later he called
Mrs. Lincoln, and, as we stood there, the
President died.

I have seen in print many stories of the
plot against Lincoln's life, many of them
blaming the South, but never the true one.
The facts are that Booth had a very dear
actor friend named Anderson, who was condemned
to be shot as a spy. Prior to that
time Booth and Lincoln had been friends. A
strong efiort was made In Andersons behalf,
so strong that a Cabinet meeting was held,
and in some way Booth managed to appear at
the meeting and plead with tears in his eyes
for his friend's life.

SHOT BOOTHS FRIEND.
He left the meeting with the understanding
that the sentence would be commuted to
Imprisonment. Anderson was shot the following
morning at sunrise. Booth was
frenzied with rage, and it was as a result of
this that the plot to kill not only Lincoln but
the entire Cabinet was formed. There was
more than the one man prepared to shoot
that night, and if the courage of the man to
whom was intrusted the duty of turning out
the theater lights had not failed him there
would have been a general slaughter.
The South had nothing to do with President
Lincolns assassination, and, moreover,
Mrs. Surratt, who was hanged for complicity
in the crime, was an innocent woman. I
know it to be a fact that Chief of Secret Service
Baker on his deathbed confessed to Secretary
Stanton that Mrs. Surratt was hanged
on perjured evidence.

While acting as the Presidents bodyguard
I was instrumental In saving the lives
of three men who were to be shot as spies. I
had orders from the Secretary of War never
to permit any one to see President Lincoln
after nightfall without an order from the Secretary
of War, and not to permit any letter
to go to the President until it had passed
through Secretary Stantons hands. Three
men- two brothers named Lampertlne and
a man named Ross- had been ordered shot by
Gen. Lew Wallace at Baltimore. A brothei
of the Lampertines, Attorney General Quinn.
John W. Forney and Dr. Du Hammel. on the
night before the execution was to take place,
drove over to Washington to plead with President
Lincoln. The three men were,to be shot
at sunrise.

A VIOLATED ORDER.
The intercessors arrived at 2 oclock in
the morning, and with tears in their eyes
begged me to violate orders and let them
see the President. I finally consented, and
Informed the President of their request. He
came from his bed room in his night shirt
and after searching the men for weapons I
admitted them. They were successful in
their mission, and the sentence was sus-
pended until further notice. Had It not been,
for this one evasion of orders on my part
three men whom I believe are still alive
would have been dead that morning.

Lieut. Jamison related many other interesting
Incidents of his war career. He has
many valuable relics of the Lincoln family,
and on his present trip has with him the
dress coat worn by Lincoln at his first Inauguration.
It was purchased at Chicago for
him by Illinois friends. Mr. Jamison was
offered $1500 for the coat by the Llbby Prison
Museum at Chicago. He also has autographed
letters addressed to himself from the martyr
President, Mrs. Lincoln and Robert T. Lincoln;
also a carved cane symbolizing the
proclamation of emancipation, bearing this
Inscription:
Presented by Mrs. Lincoln to J. B. Jamison,
commanding Presidents escort, April
25, 1865.
Mr. Jamison now owns a large orange farm
In Florida. After a few days stay here ha
wjll visit friends in York, Adams and Northampton
Counties. He says that he is an out-
and-out Democrat, and has a Greeley hat
which he has worn to every election for years
back.

The Globe-Democrat of August 31. containing
John Shermans great speech on the
silver question. In full, can be purchased at
the counting room of this paper, wrapped and
ready for mailing, at 6c per copy*.

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Comment in blog:

1/ Philadelphia Times of 29 August 1893 pg 4 cols. 4 & 5

RE: Lincoln's non pardon
How would a strong Union man from Ohio rendering this story play into the interpretation of Booth's motive?

How would it be if that person was a member of the Union Light Guard?

How about if he was the de facto commander of the Union Light Guard?

Well, his name is James Jamison. In an article written about a trip he made up to Pennsylvania to see Philadelphia City Treasurer George D. McCreary, he related tales of his Lincoln days and the assassination which are reported in the Philadelphia Times of 29 August 1893 pg 4 cols. 4 & 5.

Some things of note regarding what he said:

Jamison was assigned to Ohio governor, David Todd, prior to being assigned by him to the unit which became the Union Light Guard. The captain and 1st lieutenant of the Union Light Guard were court-martialed and dismissed from service shortly after arriving in Washington. Jamison succeeded to command of the unit and maintained such without promotion until unit was disbanded.

He was ordered by Stanton to have the unit act as bodyguard to Lincoln. After back and forths between Stanton and Lincoln, Lincoln eventually excepted the unit as bodyguards.

He also discusses the night of the assassination, guarding the door of Petersen House and escorting the body back to the White House.

Then he tells an interesting tale about Booth and his reason for killing Lincoln:

"I have seen in print many stories of the plot against Lincoln's life, many of them blaming the South, but never the true one. The facts are that Booth had a very dear actor friend named Anderson, who wa condemned to be shot as a spy. Prior to that time Booth and Lincoln had been friends. A strong effort was made in Anderson's behalf, so strong that a Cabinet meeting was held, and in some way Booth managed to appear at the meeting and plead with tears in his eye for his friend's life.

"He left the meeting with the understanding that the sentence would be commuted to imprisonment. Anderson was shot the following morning at sunrise. Booth was frenzied with rage and it was as a result of this that the plot to kill not only Lincoln but the entire Cabinet was formed. There was more than one man prepared to shoot that night, and if the courage of the man to whom was intrusted the duty of turning out the theatre lights had not failed him there would have been a general slaughter.

"The South had nothing to do with President Lincoln's assassination, and, moreover, Mrs. Surratt, who was hanged for complicity in the crime, was an innocent woman. I know it to be a fact that Chief of Secret Service Baker on his deathbed confessed to Secretary Stanton that Mrs. Surratt was hanged on perjured evidence."

He goes on to discuss another occasion dealing with spies who were to be shot where he ignored standing orders. The standing orders were to "never permit anyone to see President Lincoln after nightfall without an order from the Secretary of War, and not to permit any letter to go to the President until it had passed through Secretary Stanton's hands." On this occasion regarding two brothers named Lampertines and a man named Ross, he let them see the President. As far as Jamison knew, they were successful and the sentences were "suspended until further notice."

It is to be noted that he says the issue was with Anderson and not John Yates Beall. Personally, I think he was mistaken. Beall was caught with a fellow rebel by the name of George Smith Anderson who turned evidence against Beall. Is it that perhaps he overheard some of the conversation that took place between Booth and Lincoln and heard the reference to Anderson and mistook him as the spy being talked about? Although, he does say that Anderson was an actor friend of Booth which John Yates Beall does not appear to be.

Of further notes, the article goes on to indicate that he collected Lincoln memorabilia including the following:

- dress coat worn by Lincoln at his first inauguration
- autographic letters addressed to himself from the Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln, and Robert T. Lincoln
- a carved cane symbolizing the proclamation of emancipation, bearing the inscription: "Presented by Mrs. Lincoln to J. B. Jamison, commanding President's escort, April 25, 1865."

Unfortunately for Jamison, his life would take a turn for the worse a couple weeks after the publishing of this article. While still in Pennsylvania, his Florida house was robbed, his wife murdered, and the house burned down to cover the crime. The individual that did this was a neighbor who was originally from Kentucky. This is discussed in another article in the Philadelphia Times of 13 December 1893 pg. 3, cols. 1 & 2.

Looking at a site that traced the Jamison genealogy, a relative (perhaps an uncle or granduncle - the site is confusing) Horatio Gates Jameson Jr., was married to Sarah McCulloh Porter, a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln. Jamesonfamily.org

So, what are your thoughts on James Buchanan Jamison's stories? Furthermore, are the artifacts that he talks about accounted for?

2/
Horatio G., Jr. (son of Horatio Gates Jameson), was born in 1815, and
in 1836 graduated at the Ohio Medical College. In 1841 he married Sarah
McCulloch, daughter of Mary (Pannell) and William Porter of Baltimore, Md.,
whose brothers, David R. and George B. Porter, were governors of Pennsylvania
and Michigan, respectively, and James M. was secretary of war under President
Tyler. The Doctor and wife left no heirs, and died, within a few weeks of each
other, at their home at Mount Washington.
Sarah Mcculloch Porter was first cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln.

 

3/ https://www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org/cgi-bin/colorado?a=d&d=THD19020907-01.2.155#
Herald Democrat, September 7, 1902

HAS LINCOLNS CANE
VALUABLE RELIC OWNED BY PENNSYLVANIA SOCIETY. Was Presented to the Great President by Grateful Friends of Boy He Had Saved From Military Execution—Of Curious Make.. The* Historical Society at York, Pa., has Just received an interesting addition to its museum. It is a cane presented to President Lincoln during the civil war. In the early days nf August. 1861, soon after the first battle of Bull Hun. a Vermont regiment was lying in camp with other troops on the Virginia side of the Potomac, near Washington. Benjamin Allen, a boy of 17. and a private in this regiment, fell asleep while on duty as a sentinel at a lime when the camp was In danger of an attack from the enemy. He was placed under arrest, tried and sentenced to be shot. Allen s case was brought to the attention of President Lincoln, who pardoned him and restored him to the ranks. He was welcomed back to the regiment by bis comrades, with whom he was popular, and the tiding., •ent to his parents. This incident was the subject of a pathetic story, widely published during the war. It represented the little sister of Private Allen going to Washington alone and pleading with tho great President to save the life of her brother. Lincoln's heart was touched and the boy was pardoned, and afterward became a brave soldier. Tho story appeared in muro than a dozen “school readers." Soon after the news of tho soldier’s reprieve reached Vermont a number of his friends procured thirty-one pieces of wood and made them Into a cane. Each piece of wood was to I represent a state, as there were hut thirty-one stcd.es then la the Union, including those which had seceded. . The cano wus then taken to Washing- ? ton by a relative of the soldier and | presented to President Lincoln at tho While House. During 1864 and 1865 tho secretary of war ordered a troop of cavalry to report at tho White House as a body guard to the President. This company were in camp for several months on tho lawn to the south of the execui live mansion. The President at first was unwilling to have a squad of these troopers accompany him when he rodo or drove out for recreation or on any occasion. He finally acceded to the wishes of his friends and often had some of them with him as a body guard. The cavalry company was In command of Capt. Jameson, who became well acquainted with the President and Mrs. Lincoln. Soon after the assassination of Mr. Lincoln Capt. Jameson, for kindness shown Mrs. Lincoln, was presented by her with two canes. Tho one now In possession of the York County society was given by Capt. Jameson shortly before his death to his old friend and comrade. Davis Garber of Hanover, Pa. Mr. Garber gave it to the York County Historical society.

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Publication: Harrisburg Daily Independent iLocation: Harrisburg, PennsylvaniaIssue Date: Wednesday, December 30, 1908, Page: Page 1

Harrisburg Daily Independent from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania · Page 1
https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/89171422/
T TELLS TREASURES RARE LINCOLN RELICS Mrs. Jamison Owns Coat and Cane of Martyred President HE GIVES TWICE 10 GIVES QUICKLY That Is the ...


Harrisburg Daily Independent from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania · Page 17
https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/83743896/
Chairman of the General Lincoln Day Committee. , SAMUEL J. M. McOARltELL. .... A third relic of Lincoln possessed by Mrs. Jamison is a cane presented to …

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Reading Eagle news article - Lincoln pardons and cane

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1955&dat=19210318&id=pLshAAAAIBAJ&sjid=dZwFAAAAIBAJ&pg=4181,2905068&hl=en