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Jacob Thompson (American National Biography)

Scholarship

William L. Barney, "Thompson, Jacob," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00986.html.

Thompson began the most controversial part of his Confederate career in the spring of 1864. He and Clement Claiborne Clay, a former U.S. Senator from Alabama, were sent by Davis as special Confederate agents to Canada. The purpose of the mission, as explained by Confederate secretary of state Judah P. Benjamin, was to provoke a "disruption between the Eastern and Western States in the approaching election at the North." Supplied with a war chest of $300,000, Thompson was to do all in his power to demoralize the Union home front. The most grandiose of his efforts aimed at liberating Confederate soldiers from Union prison camps around the Great Lakes and instigating an uprising of disaffected Democrats in the Midwest that would culminate in the creation of a separate northwestern Confederacy. Little came of these…. Much of his money, as he detailed in a report of 3 December 1864, was used to hire arsonists to destroy property in northern cities. He explained that his goal was "to burn whenever it is practicable, and thus make the men of property feel their insecurity and tire them out with the war." The most spectacular example of this strategy occurred on 25 November 1864, when hired Confederate agents set fires at several hotels and buildings in New York City. The fires were extinguished with relatively little damage, but Thompson by now was a target of northern vengeance. He was blamed, wrongfully according to his account, for ordering the Confederate raid on St. Albans, Vermont…

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How to Cite This Page: "Jacob Thompson (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/19573.