James Armstrong had expanded his business
in the 1840s by merging with the rival candle and soap firm known as
Charles Webb and Sons. The senior Webb had passed away, leaving sons
Charles, Jr. and James in charge. Later, during the 1850s, businessman
Armstrong would expand his empire by opening a downtown insurance firm
that specialized in insuring ships’ cargoes. The board of directors of
that insurance company included old man Armstrong himself, Charles Webb,
Jr., James Webb, and retired ship captain John J. Mattison. Armstrong
would soon leave the running of the soap and candle enterprise to his
trusted young executives Charles Webb, Jr., James Webb, Andrew Saulsbury,
and nephew Thomas Armstrong.
Charles Webb and his brother James were
high-ranking Freemasons, with Charles having been selected to be
Maryland’s youngest-ever Grand Master of Freemasonry in 1853. His
sponsor and “Companion” Mason was the powerful Albert Pike from
Arkansas, soon to be the supreme commander of all Southern Freemasons
... and the suspected national leader of the Knights of the Golden
Charles Webb was also something of a
political kingmaker in Baltimore for the Southern Democrats, the party
that would oppose Lincoln and promote the continuation of slavery. In
1859-60 he backed the like-minded George Brown for Mayor, and the fiery
slave-owning, Lincoln hating George P. Kane for the position of police
Andrew Saulsbury, who bought the Eden
Street treasure home from Captain Mattison, would one day have a
grandson named Charles Webb Saulsbury.
Fellow candle executive Thomas Armstrong,
the company founder’s nephew, lived at a local hotel known as the
Fountain Hotel. Known as something of a “rebel” hangout, the
establishment had also been the haunt of the young John Wilkes Booth.
Many plots, including the plot to infect the North with a yellow fever
epidemic, would be hatched at The Fountain. Years after the war, when
the hotel would be torn down to make way for a much larger hotel, a box
containing 2,000 gold coins would be discovered hidden on the premises.
Andrew Saulsbury would one day have yet
another grandson, this one named Thomas Armstrong Saulsbury. Armstrong,
Saulsbury, and the Webbs just weren’t fellow employees, they were blood
brothers in unison for a cause, the Confederate States of America.
To recap, Charles Webb, a Southern
Democrat sponsored as Grand Master of Maryland Freemasonry by K.G.C.
mastermind Albert Pike, had two employees and a fellow Armstrong board
member all living with thousands of gold coins buried under their
Could this somehow all be a
This country’s situation in 1861 grew
extremely volatile as the newly elected “Abolitionist” President
prepared to take office.
As Lincoln’s train and entourage left
Springfield, Illinois on its several-day winding journey across the
country towards its eventual final stop in Washington, D.C., alarm bells
started to go off. A New York railroad C.E.O. heard rumors that a plot
was afoot to murder Lincoln in Baltimore before he could ever reach the
White House. That C.E.O. decided to send undercover New York City
detectives to Baltimore to root out the conspiracy. The place they chose
to stay, disguising themselves as rebel hotheads, was The Fountain
Meanwhile, Lincoln’s own advisors were
being given the same terrifying information. Lincoln would be targeted
by K.G.C. assassins in Baltimore. They decided to hire Allan Pinkerton
and his Pinkerton Detective Agency to spy on the Baltimore conspirators.
Both investigative teams came to the same
startling conclusion . . . Lincoln would almost certainly be murdered if
he attempted to travel through Baltimore. Pinkerton’s report included
the astonishing detail that Marshal Kane himself was likely involved
with the plot . . . or at least would offer Lincoln little or no
protection because of his loyalty to the rebel cause.
Pinkerton persuaded Lincoln to allow him
to surreptitiously sneak the President-elect through Baltimore in the
dead of night, allowing Abe to quietly and safely arrive at the White
But war itself was not be averted. One by
one as the Southern states began to secede, a startled Lincoln ordered
Northern troops from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to hurry south to
protect Washington, D.C. Problem was, the troops were viciously attacked
in Baltimore as the passed over the Pratt Street Bridge. The scene of
the confrontation and following riot began at the foot of Concord
Street, in front of the offices of James Armstrong & Associates, where
Armstrong, Saulsbury, and Webb were all employed.
That evening, an incensed Marshal Kane,
close friend and political associate of Charles Webb, fired off this
incendiary telegraph to the Maryland militia:
"Streets red with Maryland blood;
send expresses over the mountains of Maryland and Virginia for the
riflemen to come without delay. Fresh hordes will be down on us
tomorrow. We will fight them and whip them, or die."
True to his word, Kane rounded up a party
of rebels that evening to burn bridges and tear up track leading from
the North. Eyewitness evidence says a young John Wilkes Booth was an
Lincoln rerouted his troops, but they
were delayed in reaching D.C., leaving that city open to attack.
However, once the seat of power was secured, a furious Lincoln
dispatched Union troops to seize Baltimore at night and occupy the Charm
City for the remainder of the war.
Mayor Brown and Marshal Kane were soon
arrested and thrown into jail without trial. Now it was John Wilkes
Booth’s turn to be upset. Booth’s fellow actors remember his chilling
words upon hearing of Kane’s arrest:
“I know George P. Kane well; he is
my friend, and the man who could drag him from the bosom of his family
for no crime whatever, but a mere suspicion that he may commit one
some time, deserves a dog’s death.”
Kane would serve over a year in prison.
Upon his release, Kane headed to Canada where he joined the Confederate
Secret Service office in Montreal as “Colonel” Kane. During the course
of the war, from neutral territory, Kane and his cohorts would
orchestrate multiple attacks against the Union such as fire bombings,
train derailments, and even bank robberies. Kane was suspected of being
the mastermind behind an aborted plot to free two thousand rebel
prisoners from a Union military prison on Lake Eerie.
In late 1864 as the South’s position grew
increasingly desperate, John Wilkes Booth traveled to Montreal with an
audacious plan. Seeking out his friend Kane and the colonel’s
Confederate Secret Service comrades, Booth proposed a scheme to kidnap
President Lincoln and to hold him for ransom in exchange for thousands
of CSA prisoners. The Montreal office seems to have approved the idea,
and to have advanced Booth some seed money to organize the plot.
After months of recruiting his team,
securing weapons, and preparing an escape route, Booth was ready to act.
By March, 1865 Booth and his conspirators were involved in at least two
attempts to seize Lincoln as he traveled down Washington, D.C. roads in
his carriage. These attempts appear to have been foiled by Lincoln
having a change of plans. Meanwhile, Colonel Kane was waiting patiently
in a remote, “out of the way” location in rebel held Shenandoah Valley,
Then, as Booth and his henchmen planned
for yet another attempt at seizing Lincoln and holding him hostage,
Union forces succeeded in surrounding Richmond. This forced President
Jeff Davis and his cabinet to flee via the rail line to Danville. The
Davis party took with them the Confederate treasury and the gold of
several Virginia banks for safekeeping.
Alerted to a sudden change in plans by a
CSA courier, Colonel Kane rode his horse south day and night in time to
rendezvous with the retreating Jeff Davis train in Danville. A few days
later, the Davis train departed Danville and headed south to Greensboro,
N.C. Kane stayed behind. So did 39 very heavy barrels (9,000 pounds
total) filled with Mexican silver coins, the profits from the sale of
Kane remained in Danville for nearly four
years. The whereabouts of the Danville silver to this day is unknown.