Friday, November 20, 2009

Conger, Everton Judson

Everton Judson Conger

OCCUPATION: Dentist; soldier; lawyer; Judge

MILITARY: Served during the Civil War
2nd Lieutenant, Co. F, 8th Ohio Infantry (3 months service); 2nd Lieutenant, 7th Co. Ohio Cavalry; Capt. Co. A and Major 3rd West Virginia Cavalry; Lieutenant Colonel, 1st D.C. Cavalry.
(Furnished by Charles G.B. Conger)

MARRIAGE: 16 Oct 1861 at Troy Twp., Richland Co., OH by Rev. Enoch Conger. Probably at the farm of Seymour Beach Conger, according to Robert Guilinger. (Source: The Conger Family of America, Vol. I, p. 173 - Maxine Crowell Leonard)

RESIDENCES: Fremont, Sandusky Co., OH at the beginning of the Civil War.

Everton Judson Conger was a practicing dentist in Fremont, Sandusky County, Ohio at the beginning of the Civil War. He enlisted, raised a company and was commissioned as a Captain and attached to the West Virginia Cavalry. He saw extensive fighting around Petersburg, VA in the Richmond Campaign and was wounded several times, almost losing an arm from a sword blow.

He was honorably mustered out of the First Regt., of the District of Columbia Cavalry on 8 Feb 1865, due mainly to complications from a gunshot wound in his hip, received on 28 Jun 1864.

He was residing at the farm of his deceased brother, Seymour Beach Conger, near Lexington, in Troy Twp., Richland Co., OH when President Abraham Lincoln was shot and died on 15 Apr 1865. Col. Lafayette C. Baker, his old commanding officer, called him back to Washington, DC, via telegraph, to assist in the apprehension of John Wilkes Booth. Col. Baker offered Everton Conger a Colonel's rank in the Secret Service and a share in the posted reward.

Conger accepted Baker's offer and was tasked to track down Booth and his associates. He was successful in tracking and finding Booth and a companion near Port Royal, VA, but Booth was killed in the attempted capture on 26 April 1865. Conger later received a reward of $15,000 for his role in the assassin's capture.

He moved to Carmi, White County, IL in 1869, at age 34, with his wife Emma Kate Boren and son, Charles West Conger (b. 1862).

Everton studied law at the law office of his brother, Chauncy Stewart Conger, and was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1871.

He also built a home in Carmi with part of his reward money and practiced law there until 1880 when he was appointed a federal judge in the Montana Territory by President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Judge Conger became a legal adviser to Queen Liliokalani in the 1890s. She had ascended the throne in the Hawaiian Islands to become the last independent ruler. He remained in the islands until his death on 12 Jul 1918 at age 84, in Honolulu. After World War I, his body was returned for burial in Dillon, Beaverhead County, Montana in 1919.

[Note: The material in this article was obtained from sources that include "Conger Family of America, Vol II," 1992 and "Conger Confab" newsletters, 1975-1994, both written and compiled by Helen Maxine Crowell Leonard (b. 1919). Robert R. Guilinger, the author of this piece about Enoch Conger, is a grandson of Margaret E. (Conger) Guilinger (1863 - 1927).]

RELATIONSHIP: A descendant of Job Conger, Col. Everton J. Conger, was a Detective and Aide to Lafayette C. Baker. Lafayette C. Baker was the Chief of the National Detective Police (NDP, i.e., Secret Service) at the time of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, in April 1865.

Everton Judson Conger (1834-1918) and the Capture of John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth (1838 - 1865)

When the fall of Richmond aborted his plan to kidnap Abraham Lincoln and take him to the Confederate capital for a prisoner exchange, noted actor John Wilkes Booth changed his plot to murder.

Born into a Maryland stage family that included his father, Junius Brutus Booth, and his brother, Edwin Booth, he did not achieve the acting success that he thought he deserved.

Although his family tended to support the Union, his sympathies were entirely with the South and, while he didn't enter the military service, he wanted to strike a blow for his "country." He apparently planned to kidnap the president-elect before the 1861 inauguration but failed when the travel plans were altered secretly. Late in the war he plotted with several others to capture Lincoln and spirit him off to Richmond. Several times the band went into action but for one reason or another never succeeded. With the collapse of the Confederacy, Booth realized that the kidnapping would serve no purpose. His new scheme called for simultaneous attacks on Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, cabinet members, and General Grant.

On the night of April 14, 1865, Booth, having made arrangements earlier, entered the President's box at Ford's Theater and shot Lincoln in the back of the head. Major Henry Rathbone, who was a guest of the president, was wounded with a knife by the actor/assassin. Booth then jumped from the box but caught his leg in the decorative flags draped around the ledge and broke his leg landing on the stage. Despite attempts to stop him, notably that of Joseph B. Stewart, he managed to escape the theater.

He crossed the Navy yard Bridge after informing Sergeant Silas Cobb, the guard, who he was and that he had been unavoidably detained in the city. He met up with fellow conspirator, David E. Herold, who escorted him through his flight. He stopped at the farm of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd to have his leg set and then with the help of numerous people along the way, he made it to Virginia and across the Rappahannock River. But here his luck ran out and he was cornered at the farm of Richard H. Garrett near Port Royal. Trapped in a tobacco shed by a cavalry detachment under the direction of detectives Everton J. Conger and Luther B. Baker, he refused to surrender. The troopers were under the direct command of Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty. Herold surrendered but Booth remained stubborn. After the shed had been torched, a shot rang out and Booth fell mortally wounded. Whether it was suicide or a shot from Sergeant Boston Corbett has never been determined. The only other part of the conspiracy that was carried out was the attack on Secretary of State William H. Seward by Lewis T. Powell.

Lafayette Curry Baker (1826 - 1868)

A thoroughly unsavory character before the Civil War, Lafayette C. Baker remained that way for the duration and after.

Born in New York, he appears to have lived in Michigan, New York, Philadephia and San Francisco during his prewar years. Some of his occupations included claim jumping and vigilantism.

During the first months of the Civil War he served as a special agent for Commander-in-Chief Winfield Scott. Through connections with the secretaries of state and war, William H. Seward and Edwin M. Stanton, Baker became special agent of the Provost's branch in the War Department. Charged with rooting out corruption in the war effort, he was not of strong enough character to refrain from engaging in it himself.

In order to give him the appropriate authority, he was granted military rank and his assignments included: Colonel, 1st District of Columbia Cavalry (May 5, 1863); and Brigadier General, USV (April 26, 1865).

He rarely, if ever, actually commanded the regiment that had been raised for special service in and around Washington, although it did see some action under others against Mosby and near Richmond and Petersburg.

Following the assassination of Lincoln his detectives fanned out across the countryside after the culprits. Two agents, his cousin Luther B. Baker and Everton J. Conger, brought back David Herold and the body of John Wilkes Booth with a cavalry detachment. For this Colonel Baker received $3,750 of the reward money. He was promoted to Brigadier General from the date of capture, and was mustered out on January 15, 1866.

His working methods had been questionable to say the least. Arbitrary arrests were commonplace and charges were made without evidence, as happened when he was a witness in the impeachment proceedings against Andrew Johnson. His "History of the United States Secret Service" is of interest mainly for insights into his personality; otherwise it is highly unreliable.

Over the years, alleged coded messages from Baker have surfaced indicating that the assassination was masterminded by Stanton and others. Even if they actually are Baker's work, one must still question the message's veracity.

Baker died (some say he was murdered to keep him quiet) in Philadelphia in 1868. (Mogelever, Jacob, "Death to Traitors: The Story of General Lafayette C. Baker, Lincoln's Forgotten Secret Service Chief")

Luther B. Baker

Luther B. Baker was the junior detective supervising the cavalry detachment under Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty in the search for John Wilkes Booth and David Herold. He was a Lieutenant in the War Department's Secret Service, headed by his cousin, Lafayette C. Baker.

Under the direction of Colonel Everton J. Conger, he helped follow the trail of the assassins across the Rappahannock River at Port Conway. They finally caught up with their quarry at Richard H. Garrett's farm and captured Herold, but Booth either committed suicide or was killed by a soldier named Boston Corbett.

Baker recrossed the river and headed off for Washington without waiting for the rest. He took Booth's body and two prisoners but managed to lose one, Willie Jett.

All sorts of stories entwine the younger Baker with the activities of his cousin in some kind of coverup, but nothing has ever been conclusively proven. .

Everton Judson Conger (1834 - 1918)

Having served through much of the Civil War in the area of northern Virginia through which John Wilkes Booth and David Herold fled from their crimes, Everton J. Conger was a good choice to lead one of the most promising pursuit efforts.

His earlier assignments had included: [2nd Lt., 8th Regt., Ohio Vol. Inf, Apr 1861]; Captain, 3rd (West) Virginia Cavalry (ca. December 1861); Major, 1st District of Columbia Cavalry (1863); and Lieutenant Colonel, 1st District of Columbia Cavalry (1864).

Under John C. Fremont, he had commanded a cavalry squadron at Cross Keys and elsewhere in the Shenandoah Valley. Made a field officer in a regiment raised for special service in and around Washington, he frequently operated against John S. Mosby. He commmanded the regiment in Butler's operations along the James River and the subsequent seige operations against Richmond and Petersburg.

Called back to Washington, [after his discharge in Feb. 1865,] he became a Colonel in the Secret Service of the War Department, in which position he was given this assignment. Along with a detective Lieutenant, Luther B. Baker, he supervised one of the many detachments of cavalry scouring the countryside for the Lincoln assassin. The actual cavalry detachment comprised 26 men from the 16th New York Cavalry and was under the immediate command of Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty. Picking up the trail, the 29-member detachment crossed the Rappahannock at Port Conway and caught up with a Confederate Captain, Wilie Jett, who had briefly accompanied Booth and Herold, in Bowling Green. Jett revealed to Conger that Booth was at the Richard H. Garrett farm. Returning the way they had come, the party caught Herold, but Booth was either shot by Boston Corbett or committed suicide, [on 26 Apr 1865]. Conger's share of the reward money came to $15,000.
(Source: Who Was Who in the Union, Vol. I, by Stewart Sifakis, copyright 1988 by Facts on File, New York, NY. - furnished by Robert Guilinger)

Claim of Officer or Soldier for Invalid Pension.
The State of Ohio, County of Richland, SS.
On this 9th day of May A.D. 1867 personally appeared before me ... ...
[Joul Myers ?] Judge of a Court of Record within and for said county, Everton J. Conger, aged 33 years, a resident of Lexington, in the county of Richland, and State of Ohio, who, being first duly sworn according to law, declares that he is the identical Everton J. Conger who was mustered into the service of the United States at Washington City, D.C.
in the county of --, and State of -- on the 24 day of February, in the year of 1864 as Lieut Colonel, in the First Regiment of District of Columbia Cavalry, commanded by Colonel L.C. Baker, in the war of 1861, and was honorably mustered out on the Eight day of February A.D. 1865, as will appear by his certificate of discharge herewith presented.

That while in the service aforesaid, and in the line of his duty, and engaged in the Battle of Roanoke Station on the Danville Rail Road Va and during Wilson Raid he was wounded by gun-shot in the right hip & back by reason of which said wound he disabled so much that he was conveyed by ambulance to City Point opposite Petersburg Va at which place he received a leave of absence for 30 days and returned to his home in Ohio.
And further that being so completely disabled by said wound his leave of absence was extended thirty days more at the expiration of which said extended leave he reported at Washington DC in person and being unfit by reason of said wound for duty in the field was placed on special duty with Genl L.C. Baker Prov Mar. War Dept. and never did any duty with his said Regt thereafter. He received said wound on or about the 28th day of June 1864.

That since leaving the service he has resided at Washington DC and since Lexington in the State of Ohio, and has been unable to perform labor of any kind. He makes this declaration for the purpose of being placed on the Invalid Pension Roll of the United States, on account of the disability above stated.
/s E.J.Conger Also, on the same day, personally appeared T.E. Tracey [?] and H.O. March [?], residents of said County of Richland, Ohio persons whom I certify to be respectable and entitled to credit, and who, being by me duly...
(Furnished by Robert Guilinger)

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