Timothy Webster, the most famous spy during the first year of the Civil War, first encountered the Lincoln League when he was taken to a secluded hideout in the woods. He was taken there by the African American spy, John Scobell–the hero of my new novel, The Lincoln League.
In his 1883 book, The Spy of the Rebellion, Allan Pinkerton says that as Scobell and Webster entered the house in the woods, a shrill whistle came from a trapdoor above; then a voice said, “Who comes?”
“Friends of Uncle Abe!” Scobell replied, giving the password.
“What do you desire?”
“Light and Liberty!”
According to Pinkerton, “Immediately a trap-door overhead was opened, revealing a dimly-lighted room, and a rope-ladder was let down before them.”
When Scobell and Webster, a white man, climbed into that attic, they found about 40 black men–all members of the Lincoln League, a loose network of African American spies operating throughout the South during the Civil War. The group’s actual name was the Lincoln Legal Loyal League, but that’s a mouthful, so IÂ shortened it to The Lincoln League for the title.
Not a lot is known about the actual Lincoln League, other than Pinkerton’s stories. Scobell and the Lincoln League are also recognized on the CIA website, but for the most part, they remain a mystery.
But that’s to be expected. They were spies after all.
By Doug Peterson