The spring of 1864 was an active time for Confederate planners wanting to exploit Northern weariness of the war and its death toll, and influence the November presidential election. A primary figure in the secret operations was Captain Thomas Henry Hines, a former officer under General John Hunt Morgan. A favorite route of Southern agents travelling to Canada was a Wilmington blockade-runner to Bermuda, then a British mail packet to Halifax, rail car to Montreal, Toronto and finally Niagara Falls – then slip quietly across the Suspension Bridge into New York.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
Putting Maine to the Torch
“[When Hines] was planning the Chicago uprising….Confederate prospects for a [Northern] revolution looked good. The Copperheads were promising a great deal. [Confederate Commissioner in Canada, Jacob] Thompson, believing them, was spending huge sums, and gun-runners were crossing into Indiana with large shipments of rifles and revolvers.
Someone in Toronto….decided that a major diversionary move was needed to keep the attention of the Federals away from Hines in Chicago at the time he was to set off the revolt in the Northwest. It was decided to organize another expedition, sent against Maine and the Northeast coast.
Couriers slipped south with messages for President Davis. He gave his approval of an eastern facet of the Northwest Conspiracy. An army of 5,000 men, with a large number of field artillery, commanded by officers of [General John Hunt] Morgan’s, Mosby’s and Stuart’s commands, who had been summoned to Richmond from the field by Secretary of the War [J.A.] Seddon, were to be brought to Canada by eight fast blockade-runners. The troops were to be disembarked on the coast of Maine at night. Detachments were to be sent out first to gather up [railroad] rolling stock, pack horses, cattle and food.
The stock and food were to be brought to a rendezvous in northern Maine…[and] from that point the army was to be split into five columns to fan out, “but within supporting distance of each other” to put Maine to the torch. As [partisan veteran Francis] Jones said, “The troops were to sack and destroy public and corporative property of the United States government.” Local Sons of Liberty were to be used as guides.
The expedition was to be a combined operation. In April, 1864, Secretary of the Navy [Stephen] Mallory, in Richmond, sent 1,500 seamen and privateersmen “on special duty” to report to Thompson at Toronto. They were to man the armed steamers Tallahassee and Florida, which were to sail out of New Brunswick to shell and burn Maine’s coastal cities.
In the Northwest, the date of the uprising…[was to be] August 29, 1864, the day the Democratic Convention opened in Chicago. There would be large crowds; half the delegates would be Peace Democrats, members of the Sons of Liberty and Knights of the Golden Circle. Chicago would be a powder keg; one spark was all that was needed to touch it off.”
(Confederate Agent, A Discovery in History, James D. Horan, Crown Publishers, pp. 113-115)