William A. Lloyd, Lincolns Own
One of the most secret of the Civil War secret agents was in fact generally unknown until his case for non-payment of salary arrived at the United States Supreme Court. The defendant in the case was none other than the United States Government, in the person of Abraham Lincoln. It seems that even presidents in the time of the Civil War had their own secret service--and William Alvin Lloyd served that purpose for President Lincoln from July 1861 until the end of the war. His services in the Union cause were apparently unknown even to President Lincolns closest advisers!
In the early summer of 1861 William A. Lloyd, a publisher of railroad and steamer guides for the Southern states, came personally to President Lincoln with a request for a passport. He wanted to enter the Southern states in order to conduct research for his guide book publications. Without current information regarding trains and steamers in the South Mr. Lloyd could not remain in business--a fact that did not go unnoticed by the President. Lincoln saw the potential of this man, a known personality in the South able to move freely throughout the Confederacy. His response was that he would issue the passport only if Mr. Lloyd would serve as his personal secret agent while in the Confederacy. Mr. Lloyd, who was accompanied in his visits to the President by a fellow employee, Thomas Boyd, and a friend F. J. Bonfanti, initially did not like the idea--he knew nothing of spying. However, being a shrewd businessman, and realizing that the $200 a month offered as his salary (plus expenses) was an excellent arrangement, he agreed to the terms. A passport was issued in July 1861, personally signed by President Lincoln. Passports were also issued for Mr. Boyd, Mr. Bonfanti, and Mrs. Lloyd, as well as her maid.
At the time Mr. Lloyd received his passport he signed a contract with the President stating that he would in fact serve as Mr. Lincolns personal spy in the Confederacy for the duration of the war. The terms of his contract were:
He would report on the number of troops at specific points.
He would procure the plans of the Confederacy forts and other battle structures.
He would receive no codes or ciphers to use for his messages back to Washington--he should find Union couriers to report back.
Most importantly he was to report only to President Lincoln, and no one else.
He would be paid for his expenses and in addition would receive a monthly stipend of $200.
With the signed contract in hand, Mr. Lloyd departed for the Confederacy on 13 July 1861. He remained in the Confederacy for four years, both on his own business and that of the President. During this entire time he was assisted in his spying endeavors by his employee, Mr. Boyd. The efforts of the two men to collect intelligence are impressive but their problem was getting the data to President Lincoln in a timely manner. By their contract the information had to go directly to President Lincoln and no one else. They even resorted to sending letters to Boyd's family and then his brother would take them personally to the White House for delivery to President Lincoln.
The information that Lloyd and his associate sent to Lincoln was not shared by the President with his military commanders.
It appears he used it in a quality check on his commanders. Some examples of the information forwarded by Lloyd are:
Oct. 1861--Information on the forts and strengths of General Benjamin Hugers troop
Oct. 1861--A map of the harbor of Norfolk and Portsmouth in Tidewater Virginia
Jul. 1862--Information on the artillery and forts of Richmond
Dec. 1863--Maps of forts and encampments throughout the Confederacy
Mar. 1865--General Robert E. Lees force strength and map of the port at Wilmington, North Carolina
After one of the deliveries made personally to the President by Boyd, Lincoln was so impressed with the information and his efforts to deliver it that he provided him with $100 a month salary.
Lloyds time in the Confederacy included four separate prison incarcerations. Once when taken in for questioning by the Confederacy, Mr. Lloyd destroyed the signed contract that he had with Lincoln. He had been carrying it in his hat and felt, rightly so, that it would be incriminating evidence. He saved his life but the destroying of the contract lead to a Supreme Court decision denying his case years after his death in 1868.
After the assassination of President Lincoln and the cessation of hostilities, Mr. Lloyd returned to Washington and presented his bill to the United States government. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton did in fact pay his expenses--a total of $2,380 (which could indicate that he was aware of Lloyds activities)--but he refused to pay any salary (a total of $9,753.32) as he had no evidence of the contract between President Lincoln and Mr. Lloyd. The assassination had taken away the only other person who knew of the contract. Hence a major dilemma existed for Mr. Lloyd. He had conscientiously performed his duties in good faith and felt that President Lincolns side of the contract should also be executed in good faith. The problem was the lack of evidence to prove his point.
After his death, the administrator of his estate, Enoch Totten, sued the United States government for non-payment of salary of $200 per month ($9,753.32) as promised by Mr. Lincoln in the signed contract that had been destroyed. The case was accepted for review by the Supreme Court, and the final decision was handed down in 1876. The courts decision was:
Claim denied since the six-year statute of limitation had run out on 14 May 1871 (six years after the return of Lloyd from the Confederacy). There was no reason to prevent his being paid by President Lincoln at any time during the war if his accounts had been presented.
"The Court, being equally divided in opinion as to the authority of the President to bind the United States by the contract in question, decided, for the purposes of an appeal, against the claim, and dismissed the petition."
"Both employer and agent must have understood that the lips of the other were to be forever sealed respecting the relation of either to the matter." The case was denied.
The court said "The President is undoubtedly authorized during the war, as commander-in-chief of the armies of the United States, to employ secret agents to enter the rebel lines and obtain information respecting the strength, resources, and movements of the enemy; and contracts to compensate such agents are so far binding upon the government as to render it lawful for the President to direct payment of the amount stipulated out of the contingent fund under his control. If he does not have sufficient 'contingency funds Congress must come up with the money--not the President."
This case established the precedent that an intelligence agent cannot recover by court action against the government for SECRET service. Said the court, "Agents ... must look for their compensation to the contingent fund of the department employing them, and to such allowance from it as those who dispense the fund may award. The secrecy which such contracts impose precludes any action for this enforcement."
The case also set the precedent that secret agencies do not have to reveal all they know if it impinges on security.
No one to this day has any real idea of the value of Mr. Lloyds secret agent work in the Confederacy. His reports went directly to President Lincoln and it is apparent that he shared them with no one. Lloyds reports served as an independent source of intelligence by which President Lincoln could evaluate what he was hearing from other sources. That is a very logical procedure and it is still used today and known as "independent sources."
Mr. Tottens actions in behalf of the Lloyd estate and the subsequent Supreme Court actions set precedents that still guide the United States Intelligence Community today. Therefore one has to say that Mr. Lincolns association with Mr. Lloyd has had a very long lasting impact on the secret service of the United States, even thought most Americans do not even know of the existence of Wiliam A. Lloyd, secret agent for the President Abraham Lincoln.
Source: "Spies & Spymasters of the Civil War" by Donald E. Markle
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