Lafayette Charles Baker

Birth: 1826


Lafayette Charles Baker (1826-1868) was a member of the U.S. secret service. He was born in Stafford, Genesee Co., N.Y. on 13 Oct., 1826. His grandfather, Remember Baker, was one of Ethan Allen's captains. Baker's father inherited the curious baptismal name of the Green Mountain Boy, as well as his adventurous spirit, and in 1839 removed to Michigan and settled where Lansing, the capital, now stands. Young Baker took part in the work of making a home in the wilderness, but in 1848 went to New York and Philadelphia, and in 1853 to San Francisco, in each of these cities working as a mechanic.

When the lawless element became dominant in San Francisco in 1856, Mr. Baker joined the vigilance committee and took an active part in the summary proceedings that restored order in the city. He went to New York on business in 1861, expecting to return at once, but the civil war intervened, and he went to Washington and offered his services. At the suggestion of Gen. Hiram Walbridge, of New York, he was introduced to Gen. Scott, and, as a result of the interview, he started on foot for Richmond, where, in spite of arrest, imprisonment, and several interviews with Jefferson Davis, while under suspicion as a spy, he succeeded in collecting much information and returning to Washington after an absence of three weeks.

This was but the first of a series of adventures involving high executive ability and a wonderful talent for tracing conspiracy and frustrating the designs of confederate spies and agents. As soon as his abilities were demonstrated to the satisfaction of the government, he was placed at the head of the bureau of secret service, with almost unlimited resources at his command, and in February, 1862, the bureau was transferred to the war department.

Mr. Baker was commissioned colonel, and subsequently brigadier-general. His duties naturally made him enemies in influential quarters, and charges of a serious nature were several times preferred against him, but were never substantiated. When President Lincoln was assassinated. Col. Baker organized the pursuit of the murderer, and was present at his capture and death. His agents effected the capture of the other participants in the plot.

Gen. Baker published a "History of the United States Secret Service" (Philadelphia, 1868), which is necessarily semi-biographical, and touches authoritatively many disputed passages in the secret history of the civil war. He died in Philadelphia on 2 July, 1868.


Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biography (1900) Volume 1. pg. 169

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