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Samuel Bland Arnold letters to William B. Kines

 Collection — Box: 1, Folder: 2
Identifier: MS-0888

Scope and Contents

The collection contains four handwritten letters to William B. Kines, City Editor for the Baltimore American newspaper, from Samuel Bland Arnold, one of several co-conspirators in the plot to kidnap Abraham Lincoln. From December 8–20, 1902, Kines published sworn statements by Arnold and excerpts from his memoir under the title, Lincoln Conspiracy and the Conspirators. The letters reference the newspaper series and relate Arnold’s concern to publish his manuscript in full.

The first letter, dated December 13, 1902, requests a correction to the publication of December 11, where Arnold was misquoted as having denied any connection with Booth, when he had admitted his involvement in the conspiracy to kidnap the President, but not to kill him. The error is acknowledged and the letter quoted at the end of the series on December 20, 1902. In the second part of the letter, Arnold discusses the publication of his manuscript in full. The second letter, dated December 18, 1902, thanks Kines for the correction to be issued before describing the escape of Col. George St. Leger Grenfell and others from the Dry Tortugas, where they were imprisoned together, in 1868. He remains convinced of the death of Grenfell, as well as that of Booth, noting his burial at Green Mount Cemetery. The third letter, dated January 15, 1903, refers to a letter from Major L. O. Bridewell, Confederate States Army, to Kines concerning Arnold, who served under Bridewell in Augusta, Georgia, before discussing prospects for publishing his memoir. The fourth letter, dated May 9, 1903, rejects an account by “the Milionare Corby” claiming that John Wilkes Booth had disclosed to him his intention to kill the President. Arnold reiterates his conviction that Booth shared the assassination plot with his co-conspirators only hours before the crime. He proceeds to speculate on Booth’s mental state, calling him “demented.” Included in the collection is a typed transcript of the four letters and of another, shorter letter from Arnold to Kines, not present here.

A fifth letter, dated November 16, 1921, from William B. Kines to the collector, Phillip G. Strauss, who acquired the Arnold letters, explains how Kines located Arnold in Friendship, Anne Arundel County and came to publish his memoir. This information is also published in Kines’ introduction to the newspaper series, Arnold’s Story of Lincoln Conspiracy, on December 7, 1902.

Dates

  • Creation: 1902-1903 and 1921

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Contact Special Collections for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Bland Arnold (1834-1906) was one of several co-conspirators in the plot to kidnap Abraham Lincoln that preceded his assassination by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. Arnold was the son of George Arnold and Mary Jane Bland Arnold. He was born in Georgetown, Washington, DC, before moving to Baltimore, where he attended St. Timothy’s School with John Wilkes Booth. Arnold served in the Confederate Army from 1861-64. In 1864, Booth recruited Arnold to aid in his plot to kidnap the president and transport him to Richmond, Virginia for an exchange of Confederate prisoners. According to Arnold, he resolved to abandon the plot after an argument with Booth on March 15, 1865 in the company of the conspirators, where he confronted Booth on the feasibility and objective of the kidnapping since a prisoner exchange was already underway. When the president did not show up at the site of the planned abduction on Seventh Street in Washington, DC, Arnold sought employment as a clerk at Old Point Comfort, Virginia. He was arrested on April 17, 1865 after learning about the assassination two days earlier. The military trial resulted in the execution of four conspirators and the imprisonment of four more, including a life sentence for Arnold. Arnold was transferred to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. He was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and released from prison in 1869, when he returned to Baltimore. He lived in Anne Arundel County from 1885 until his death in 1906.

From December 8–20, 1902, sworn statements by Arnold and excerpts from his memoir, acquired and edited by William B. Kines, were published in the Baltimore American newspaper under the title, Lincoln Conspiracy and the Conspirators. The newspaper series describes his meetings with John Wilkes Booth, his role in the failed kidnapping plot, his innocence in the assassination of Lincoln, his arrest and trial by military commission, his imprisonment over four years, his presidential pardon, and his release from prison in 1869. It emphasizes the tortures he and others endured before, during, and after the conspiracy trial, especially at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas.

Extent

.167 Cubic Feet (1 legal-sized folder)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Samuel Bland Arnold (1834-1906) was one of several co-conspirators in the plot to kidnap Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) that preceded his assassination by John Wilkes Booth (1838-65) on April 14, 1865. The collection contains four letters to William B. Kines, City Editor for the Baltimore American newspaper, from Samuel Arnold, and one letter from Kines to a collector. From December 8–20, 1902, Kines published sworn statements by Arnold and excerpts from his memoir under the title, Lincoln Conspiracy and the Conspirators. The letters reference the newspaper series and relate Arnold’s concern to publish his manuscript in full.

Custodial History

The four letters from Arnold to Kines were acquired by Phillip G. Strauss in November 1921.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Max Rambod, Inc. in March 2021.

Processing Information

Processed by Brooke Shilling in September 2021.

Title
Guide to the Samuel Bland Arnold letters to William B. Kines
Author
Brooke Shilling
Date
2021 September
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Contact:
The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA