The Pinkerton Detective Agency

With the first sound of the guns, a civil war split the nation in two. The United States, less than a hundred years old, faced destruction. Lincoln refused to believe, however, that the house would divide against itself. Now, as it's Chief Executive, he felt it was his responsibility to keep the threads of the Union sewn. Even if it meant marching into the South with muskets, cannons and bayonets to kill the dissention. The Southern brethren, he said, needed to see the futility of the insurrection. "The Union must be preserved!" he exclaimed.

One of his first deeds as President was to call to Washington was a Scottish detective from Chicago who proved his loyalty, bravery and genius by saving him from an assassin's bullet before he even took office. That man was Allan Pinkerton, who had developed several investigative techniques that are still used today. Among them are "shadowing" (surveillance of a suspect) and "assuming a role" (undercover work). It was the President's wish for Pinkerton to organize a secret service in Washington City. Everyone knew, top down, that the town crawled with spies working for the Confederacy's central espionage unit, the Signal Bureau. When Lincoln brought the detective before his Cabinet for approval, however, the two men encountered dawdling; General Winfield Scott, who currently served as Commander in Chief of the Army was already considering another man to head up the secret police, an ex-lawyer from Ohio named Lafayette C. Baker. Still, Lincoln insisted that Pinkerton, to whom he felt he owed a favor as well whom he considered very capable, should be considered. While Pinkerton and Lincoln awaited a decision, McClellan, forming his strategy to combat the rebels in and around Washington, decided that, in the meantime, Pinkerton would prove valuable as his personal spy.

Accepting the General's offer, Pinkerton brought with him a number of operatives, whom he placed in and around the South to pick up information that the Northern armies could use. Through charade, these Pinkerton agents found that data was not hard to come by. Loitering in camp towns and ingratiating themselves with the local soldiery in the hotbed of the South, they were able to pick up such vital information as what army corps was stationed where; who commanded; who were the Confederate operatives and mail runners; where fortifications existed; and what was the strength of artillery emplacements.

After the War Department begin to see how well he was doing they offered the position as head of the intelligence command in late 1861, Pinkerton kept the position until 1862 when he was relieved by Colonel Lafayette C. Baker. After he was relieved he spent the remaining two-and-a-half war years serving the government in a number of other ways. Among these was tracking down crooked suppliers who were taking advantage of its client in turmoil by overcharging for equipment and deliveries. But the name Pinkerton stuck with the intelligence community until the Secret Service was formed after the war.

Allan Pinkerton, President Abraham Lincoln, and Major General John A. McClernand

The members of the Pinkerton Detective Agency with BBCWR are also members of the Nevada Gunfighters Association.