Captain Thomas Henry Hines , 1838–1898 (aged 59 years)
- Captain Thomas Henry /Hines/
- Name prefix
- Given names
- Thomas Henry
The Confederacy's Special Agent Posted by Richard Solensky on 10 March 2008
Thomas H. HinesThomas H. HinesIn late 1863, the ongoing War Between the States was not going well for either the Union or the Confederacy. Two years of armed hostility had led to a stalemate, with mounting casualties on both sides. Protests were widespread, some of which even turned into riots. In order to quell opposition and further the war effort, President Lincoln had suspended certain civil liberties. Congress was bitterly divided along party lines, with a significant faction calling for a peaceful settlement. The partisanship had spread to the press and state governments, each side viciously attacking the other. The governor of Indiana went so far as to dissolve the state legislature and run the state as a military dictatorship. The upcoming Presidential election was looking to be a real corker, with the prospects for Lincoln’s re-election looking very dim.
Seeing an opportunity to turn the tide in their favor, Confederate leaders recruited sympathizers and infiltrators to engage upon a campaign of guerrilla warfare. Millions of dollars were set aside to finance the plan, with bonuses to be given to saboteurs in proportion to the damage they wrought. A good portion of those funds was specifically designated for cross-border operations from Canada, where a number of Confederate officers and prominent sympathizers had fled. At the very least, they hoped to cause an uprising of sufficient proportions that some Union troops would have to be redeployed away from the Confederate front. This was the start of what would become known as the Northwest Conspiracy.
These operations were placed under the command of Captain Thomas Henry Hines, a Kentuckian who had contacts within the pro-South underground networks along the Ohio River. Hines’s mission, which he chose to accept, was to go to Toronto, contact those officers and agents, and carry out “any hostile operation”, provided he did not violate Canadian neutrality. Hines and other Confederate leaders felt that by raising insurrections in those states, they could gain enough influence there to turn them against the Union and bring about a Confederate victory.
Although he was only in his twenties, Hines certainly had experience in dangerous undercover operations. Under the command of Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, Hines had participated in raids by leading a unit of Confederate soldiers disguised as Union troops who were looking for deserters. When discovered, he fled by swimming across the Ohio River under a hail of gunfire. He was reunited with General Morgan a week later, and though the pair were soon captured by Union soldiers, Hines somehow managed to break them both out of the Ohio Penitentiary. Running into Union troops in Tennessee, he also provided a distraction for Morgan that allowed the general to escape while he himself was captured. That didn’t stop the slippery Hines; he regaled his captors with amusing anecdotes until he had the chance to subdue his guard. He then made good his own getaway.
President Lincoln and General McClellan, 1862 President Lincoln and General McClellan, 1862Capt. Hines hoped to take advantage of a “fifth column” of sympathizers, already in place. Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan had been settled in large part by people from the southern states, many of whom were “Copperheads” with Confederate sympathies. While they may not have been too keen on slavery, they still felt that blacks were inferior to whites, and didn’t care for the arrogance of the New England abolitionists. When war began to seem inevitable, “peace societies” started to form. With names like Knights of the Columbian Star and Sons of Liberty, they grew in popularity. Members underwent rituals and swore oaths, often oblivious to the true nature of the leaders’ subversive and dangerous plans. The Knights of the Golden Circle was one of the largest and most active. In 1861, they were openly recruiting for the Confederate Army in Illinois, and they engaged in gun-running and guerrilla raids in Iowa. By 1862, they were estimated to have as many as 80,000 members.
In the summer of 1864, the conspirators had men and materiel in position and were ready to strike. The armies of the North and South were both stalled in the field, and the Democratic presidential candidate Gen. George McClellan was highly favored to win the election that fall on a peace platform. Hines and his cohorts concocted a grand scheme: They would build a skilled army by attacking Union prisoner-of-war camps and freeing the detained Confederate troops. These tens of thousands of experienced soldiers could then arm themselves by raiding nearby armories. With simultaneous strikes across the northwest, a general uprising was sure to follow.
Their first planned action was to attack Camp Douglas, a poorly-guarded prisoner-of-war camp in Chicago. For maximum psychological effect, the raid was scheduled to coincide with the Democratic National Convention in late August, 1864. Under normal circumstances, it would not have been difficult to add the thousands of soldiers to the Confederate cause, however the city’s defenses were reinforced for the convention. With a victory by McClellan in the presidential election seemingly guaranteed, most of Hines’ potential recruits didn’t want to risk life or limb, and he was unable to secure enough volunteers. Hines could talk his way out of trouble, but he couldn’t talk others into it.
All was not lost; the conspirators also planned a nearly identical and simultaneous assault in Indianapolis. The Union received word of the plot from Felix Stidger, a Union counterspy who had once held the office of Grand Secretary of the Sons of Liberty. Union Col. Henry Carrington arranged for a dramatic midnight sweep, arresting five leading conspirators. When Indiana judges handed down death sentences for two of the prisoners, there were riotous rumblings among the citizenry. Confederate supporters answered a call to arms, and began to conduct military drills. Col. Carrington, Governor Morton, and other Indiana officials wrote to Washington DC warning that the state was on the brink of chaos. At the eleventh hour, President Lincoln intervened and commuted their sentences to life imprisonment.
Henry B. CarringtonHenry B. CarringtonA few weeks later, the Conspiracy was dealt a severe blow when Union forces penetrated Confederate lines in Georgia and seized Atlanta. With a Union victory and Lincoln’s re-election now seemingly inevitable, time and money were both running short. The Conspirators were forced to turn to drastic actions.
On September 19, 1864, John Yates Beall led a group of plotters onto the Lake Erie steamer Philo Parsons in Detroit as ordinary passengers. Beall persuaded the captain to make an unscheduled stop at a town in Canada, where more of his conspirators boarded, smuggling aboard weapons and other equipment. The raiders’ target was the USS Michigan, the linchpin of the Union’s defense of Lake Erie, and the only serious military obstacle between the conspirators and the POW camp on Johnson’s Island. If the conspirators could take the Michigan, it would be a simple matter to liberate the prisoners, raid the armory, and use the resulting army to beleaguer Union forces in Ohio. As the Philo Parsons neared Johnson’s Island, Beall put a gun to the helmsman’s head, and ordered that everyone but his own men be put ashore. Beall then steamed his prize to a point off Johnson’s Island to await a signal from the Michigan, where a fellow plotter had befriended the captain. Unbeknownst to Beall, however, the agent aboard the Michigan had been discovered and arrested, and had spilt every bean. After a prolonged wait with no signal from the Michigan, Beall was forced to abandon the plan amidst murmurs of mutiny. He set course for Canada, landed everyone ashore, and then burned the Philo Parsons.
In October the conspirators tried again. About 20 of Hines’ agents sneaked over the Canadian border into St Albans, Vermont, intent upon plundering and burning the village in “retribution” for Union wrongdoings. On October 19, they staged a simultaneous robbery of the town’s three banks. They jayhawked over $200,000 before fleeing back to Canada, but a woodshed was the only casualty in their effort to torch the city . Canadian authorities were able to arrest most of the raiders, but the Canadian court ruled that they were “legitimate military belligerents” and ordered their release without extraditing them to the Union. The loot they had on them when they were captured was returned to St. Albans.
One opportunity remained to inspire an anti-Union uprising in the northern states. Even as the Confederacy was collapsing, Hines rallied his forces one last time to take Camp Douglas in Chicago. It was to be a surprise attack under the cover of darkness, with Conspiracy agents tasked to cut the telegraph wires and burn the railroad depots. The liberated prisoners of war would then take possession of the city, seize the banks, and “commence a campaign for the release of other prisoners of war in the States of Illinois and Indiana, thus organizing an army to effect and give success to the general uprising so long contemplated by the Sons of Liberty.” The assault was scheduled for Election Day, November 8, 1864.
Camp DouglasCamp DouglasIn the days leading up to the attack, the plotters assembled men and munitions, compiling a sizable cache of resources. Hines’ well-armed militia of over 100 “bushwhackers, guerrillas, and rebel soldiers” stood a very good chance of overwhelming the defenses of Camp Douglas, and the release of the 10,000 or so Confederate prisoners would be a force to be reckoned with. On the night before the raid, however, Hines and his co-conspirators were paid an unexpected visit by the commander of Camp Douglas: Col. Benjamin J. Sweet. He was accompanied by a posse of Union Army agents. Having been tipped off by suspicious activities and rumors, Sweet foiled the plot just before it could spring into action. He seized the cache of weapons and used it to reinforce the Chicago’s military guard, thereby ensuring the city’s safety. The raid’s leaders and several Sons of Liberty officers were arrested, though Hines– the mastermind of the conspiracy– was nowhere to be found. He turned up outside of Chicago sometime later, allegedly having evaded capture by hiding inside a mattress.
A few more desultory attempts were made. An attempt to put New York City to the torch started some twenty fires, but they were quickly controlled and there was no resulting panic or uprising. John Beall tried derailing Union trains near Buffalo, NY. All three of his attempts failed. The Conspiracy’s last gasp was thwarted by an alert U.S. Consul in Bermuda, where doctors were treating an outbreak of yellow fever. The official discovered that a certain doctor from Kentucky had been secretly shipping the victims’ blankets and clothing to conspirators in Canada. The scheme was to ship the contaminated goods back into the northern U.S. in the hopes of starting an epidemic. Even if that plan had been carried out, the intended victims had nothing to fear: yellow fever is spread through mosquito bites, not contaminated clothing.
By April 1865, the War Between the States was over. President Johnson continued Lincoln’s policies of reconciliation, and in the following month, offered a wide-ranging amnesty to all but high-ranking officers of the Confederate forces. By simply swearing an oath of allegiance to the United States, they would be forgiven of their rebellious activities. Hines, who was biding his time in Canada by studying law, accepted the offer. He returned to his native Kentucky, where he soon opened a law practice in Bowling Green. He ended his career by serving two terms as the Chief Justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. He died in January of 1898.
General Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. GrantGeneral Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. GrantBecause it was technically unsuccessful, the story of Captain Hines and the Northwest Conspiracy is often overlooked in discussions of the American Civil War. Most modern historians blame the organization’s failure on Hines’ overestimation of the Sons of Liberty and their comrades-in-arms; it turned out that these rabble-rousers were all talk, with very little inclination for significant action. Hines also consistently underestimated his enemy’s intelligence-gathering abilities, which allowed the Union Army to hamper many of his schemes before he could carry them out. Nevertheless, Hines and his co-conspirators came very close to influencing the course of the war on several occasions, and might have done so were it not for the sharp eyes and good fortune of a few men of the Union Army.
Thomas Hines From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thomas Henry Hines (October 8, 1838 – January 23, 1898) was a Confederate spy during the American Civil War. A native of Butler County, Kentucky, he initially worked as a grammar instructor, mainly at the Masonic University of La Grange, Kentucky. During the first year of the war, he served as a field officer, initiating several raids. He was an important assistant to John Hunt Morgan, doing a preparatory raid (Hines' Raid) in advance of Morgan's Raid through the states of Indiana and Ohio, and after being captured with Morgan, organized their escape from the Ohio Penitentiary. He was later involved in espionage and tried to stir up insurrections against the Federal government in select Northern locales.
On several occasions during the war, Hines was forced to make narrow (seemingly impossible) escapes. At one point, he concealed himself in a mattress that was being used at the time; on another occasion, he was confused for actor and assassin John Wilkes Booth, a dangerous case of mistaken identity that forced him to flee Detroit in April 1865 by holding a ferry captain at gunpoint. Union agents viewed Hines as the man they most needed to apprehend, but apart from the time he served at the Ohio Penitentiary in late 1863, he was never captured.
After the war, once it was safe for him to return to his native Kentucky, he settled down with much of his family in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He started practicing law, which led him to serve on the Kentucky Court of Appeals, eventually becoming its Chief Justice. Afterward, he practiced law in Frankfort, Kentucky until his death in 1898, keeping many of the secrets of Confederate espionage from public knowledge.
Hines was raised in Warren County, Kentucky, although he was born in Butler County, Kentucky, on October 8, 1838, to Judge Warren W. and Sarah Carson Hines. While his education was largely informal, he spent some time in common schools. He was 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall, and weighed a mere 140 pounds (64 kg). With his slender build, Hines was described as rather benign in appearance, and a friend observed that he had a voice resembling that of a "refined woman". He was said to have a fondness not only for women, but also music and horses.
He became an adjunct professor at the Masonic University, a school established by the Grand Lodge of Kentucky Freemasons for teaching the orphans of Kentucky Masons in La Grange, Kentucky, in 1859. He served as the principal of its grammar school, but with the advent of the war, he joined the Confederate Army in September 1861.
Civil War Early war experiences
Hines joined the Confederate army, as did at least eleven of his cousins. Hines initially led "Buckner's Guides," which were attached to Albert Sidney Johnston's command, as his fellow guides recognized his "coolness and leadership". In November 1861 he was given a lieutenant's commission. On December 31, 1861, he led a successful mission to Borah's Ferry, Kentucky, to attack a Union outpost there.
The Guides were disbanded in January 1862 after the Confederate government of Kentucky fled Bowling Green, as Hines did not want to fight anywhere except in Kentucky. He traveled to Richmond, Virginia, and missed the Battle of Shiloh as a result. In April he decided to join Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, and he re-enlisted in the army as a private in the 9th Kentucky Cavalry in May 1862. Morgan recognized Hines' talents and commissioned him as a captain on June 10, 1862. Afterward, Hines would spend most of his time engaged in secret missions in his beloved Kentucky. Dressed in civilian clothes, he usually operated alone to avoid drawing attention to himself, not wanting to be executed as a spy.
On many of his forays in Kentucky, Hines made special trips to see loved ones. Often it was to visit Nancy Sproule, his childhood sweetheart and future bride, in Brown's Lock, near Bowling Green. On other occasions he would visit his parents in Lexington, Kentucky. In both places, Union spies attempted to capture Hines, but he always escaped, even after his father had been captured and his mother was sick in bed.
1863 See also: Hines' Raid and Morgan's Raid Map of Hines' Raid into Indiana
In June 1863, Hines led an invasion into Indiana with 25 Confederates posing as a Union unit in pursuit of deserters. Their goal was to see if the local Copperheads would support the invasion of John Hunt Morgan planned for July 1863. Traveling through Kentucky for eight days to obtain supplies for their mission, they crossed the Ohio River to enter Indiana, near the village of Derby, on June 18, 1863. Hines visited the local Copperhead leader, Dr. William A. Bowles, in French Lick, and learned that there would be no formal support for Morgan's Raid. On his way back to Kentucky, Hines and his men were discovered in Valeene, Indiana, leading to a small skirmish near Leavenworth, Indiana, on Little Blue Island. Hines had to abandon his men as he swam across the Ohio River under gunfire.
After wandering around Kentucky for a week, Hines rejoined General Morgan at Brandenburg, Kentucky. Colonel Basil W. Duke made a disparaging comment in his memoirs about how Hines appeared on the Brandenburg riverfront, saying Hines was "apparently the most listless inoffensive youth that was ever imposed upon"; despite being Morgan's second-in-command, Colonel Duke was usually not told of all the espionage Hines was carrying out, causing some to believe that Hines and Duke did not like each other, which was not the case.
It was due to Hines that the riverboats Alice Dean and the John T. McCombs were captured for the purpose of transporting Morgan's 2000+ men force across the Ohio River. It was Hines' reports that encouraged Morgan to be rough with anyone posing as a Confederate sympathizer in Indiana, as Morgan had been relying on support from sympathizers in Indiana to be successful on his raid. Hines stayed with Morgan until the end of the Raid, and was with John Hunt Morgan during their imprisonment, first at Johnson's Island, and later at the Ohio Penitentiary just outside downtown Columbus, Ohio, where, despite the rules of war dictating that prisoners of war should go to military prison, they were put in with common criminals.
Hines discovered the way to escape from the Ohio Penitentiary. He had been reading the novel Les Misérables and was said to be inspired by Jean Valjean and Valjean's escapes through the passages underneath Paris, France. Hines noticed how dry the lower prison cells felt and how they were lacking in mold, even through sunlight never shined there. This caused him to believe that escape by tunneling down was possible. After discovering an air chamber underneath them, which he had deduced, Hines begun the tunneling effort. The tunnel was only eighteen inches wide, which was just large enough for him to enter the four foot by four foot air chamber that was surrounded by heavy masonry. As Hines and the six others that would accompany Hines and John Hunt Morgan worked on the tunnel, a thin crust of dirt was used to cover the tunneling from the prison officials. They tunneled for six weeks, with the tunnel's exit coming between the inner and the 25-foot (7.6 m) outer prison walls, near a coal pile. On the day of escape, November 26, 1863, Morgan switched cells with his brother, Colonel Richard Morgan. The day was chosen as a new Union military commander was coming to Columbus, Ohio, and Morgan knew that the prison cells would be inspected at that time. Together, after the daily midnight inspection, Hines, John Hunt Morgan, and five captains under Morgan's command used the tunnel to escape. Aided by the fact that the prison sentries sought shelter from the raging storm occurring at the time, the Confederate officers climbed the 25-foot-tall (7.6 m) wall effortlessly, using metal hooks to effect their escape.
Hines had even left a note for the warden. It read: "Warden N. Merion, the Faithful, the Vigilant," as follows: "Castle Merion, Cell No. 20. November 27, 1863. Commencement, November 4, 1863. Conclusion, November 20, 1863. Hours for labor per day, three. Tools, two small knives. 'La patience est amere, mais son fruit est doux.' By order of my six honorable confederates." Those left behind were stripped searched and moved to different cells in the Ohio State Penitentiary. Two of the officers who escaped with Hines and Morgan, Captain Ralph Sheldon and Captain Samuel Taylor, were captured four days later in Louisville, Kentucky, but the other three (Captain Jacob Bennett, Captain L. D. Hockersmith, and Captain Augustus Magee) made good their escape to Canada and the South.
Hines led John Hunt Morgan back to Confederate lines. First, they arrived at the train station in downtown Columbus, where they bought tickets to Cincinnati, Ohio. The duo jumped off the train before it entered the Cincinnati train station. They continued to evade capture in Cincinnati, staying for one night at the Ben Johnson House in Bardstown, Kentucky. In Tennessee, Hines diverted the Union troops' attention away from John Hunt Morgan, and was himself recaptured and sentenced to death by hanging. He escaped that night by telling stories to the soldier in charge of him and subdued him when given the chance. A few days later he would again escape Union soldiers who intended to hang him.
Hines went to the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, upon his escape in January 1864. He convinced Confederate President Jefferson Davis of a plan to instill mass panic in the Northern states, by means of freeing prisoners and causing arson in larger Northern cities. Impressed by Hines' plan, Davis agreed to back him. Davis urged Hines to tell Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin and Secretary of War James Seddon his plan. Both men agreed to the plan, and encouraged Hines to proceed, with the only hesitation by Davis, Benjamin, and Sheldon being the effect on public opinion on such a plan, including what Great Britain and France would think of Hines' actions.
Hines thought it would be easier to enter the North from Canada and traveled there during the winter. Hines led the Northwest Conspiracy from Canada in the fall of 1864. Colonel Benjamin Anderson was involved in the plot, along with other Confederate soldiers. It was hoped that Hines and his men would be able to free the Confederate prisoners held at Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois.
Hines led sixty men from Toronto, Ontario, on August 25, 1864. They arrived during the Democratic Party National Convention held in Chicago that year. The Copperheads had told Hines to wait until that time, as they said that 50,000 Copperheads would be there for the event. However, encountering Copperhead hesitation to assist Hines and his force, and with Federal authorities apparently knowledgeable of the plot, Hines and his men were forced to flee Chicago on August 30, 1864. Many of the men thought Anderson may have been a double agent, forcing him to leave the group. A second attempt to free the Camp Douglas Confederate prisoners occurred during the United States Presidential Election of 1864, but that plan was also foiled.
In the same year he tried to free Confederate prisoners of war by recruiting former members of Morgan's Raiders who had escaped to Canada, including John Hunt Morgan's telegrapher George "Lightning" Ellsworth, who was a native of Canada. In his last day in Chicago, Hines had to avoid discovery by Union soldiers inspecting the home he was hiding in by crawling into in a mattress upon which the homeowner's wife lay ill with delirium. The Union soldiers inspected the house he was in, and even checked to see if Hines was the one lying on the bed, but did not discover Hines in the mattress. The soldiers established a guard by the door of the house. As it rained the next day, visitors were encouraged to visit the sick woman. The soldiers never looked at the faces under the umbrellas, and as a result, Hines sneaked out of the house and left Chicago.
In October 1864, Hines again went to Cincinnati, after crossing covertly through Indiana, where Union troops had again sought him. This time, with the help of friends whose home he hid in, Hines concealed himself in an old closet obscured by mortar and red bricks, where he avoided detection by the Union troops who inspected the house. Hines learned there that his beloved Nancy Sproule was in an Ohio convent. He decided to "spirit" her from it, and on November 10, 1864, at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Covington, Kentucky, they were wed, despite her father's wishes that they wait until the war was over, due to Hines' wartime activities. They spent a week's honeymoon in Kentucky, after which Hines returned to his clandestine activities in Canada.
Two days after Lincoln's assassination, on April 16, 1865, Hines was in Detroit, Michigan, when he was mistaken for John Wilkes Booth, who was then the subject of a massive manhunt. After finding himself in a fight, Hines jumped several fences and made his way to Detroit's wharf. He waited for a ferryboat to empty its passengers and then forced the captain at gunpoint to take him across the Detroit River to Canada. Upon arrival, Hines apologized to the captain and gave him five dollars. Hines' exploit led to the mistaken rumor that Booth had escaped into Canada.
After his escape from Detroit, Hines went to Toronto where several other former Confederates lived. Not expecting to return to the United States, he sent for his wife Nancy. While in Toronto he studied law with General John C. Breckinridge, a former Vice President of the United States. Once U.S. President Andrew Johnson declared a pardon for most former Confederates, Hines went back to Detroit on July 20, 1865, to sign a loyalty oath to the United States. However, knowing that Union officials in Kentucky would consider him an exception to the pardon, he would remain in Canada until May 1866.
After sending his wife to Kentucky, where their first child was born, Hines began living in Memphis, Tennessee, passing the bar exam on June 12, 1866, with high honors. During his stay in Memphis he also edited the Daily Appeal. Hines moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 1867, where many of his family lived, and practiced law there. Basil W. Duke appointed Hines a colonel in the Soldiers of the Red Cross. Hines later became the County Judge for Warren County, Kentucky.
He was elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1878 and served there until 1886. From 1884 to 1886, he served as Chief Justice. He was said to be "exceptionally free from all judicial bias". Hines was a witness to the assassination of fellow judge John Milton Elliott on March 26, 1879, while the two were leaving the Kentucky State House, by Colonel Thomas Buford, a judge from Henry County, Kentucky. Buford, enraged by Elliott's failure to rule in favor of his late sister in a property dispute, shot Elliott with a double-barreled shotgun filled with twelve gauge buckshot after Hines had turned and walked away from Elliott. Hines inspected the body as Buford surrendered to a deputy sheriff who had come to investigate the turmoil.
Gravestone of Thomas Hines
After his time on the Kentucky Court of Appeals, Hines returned to practicing law in Frankfort, Kentucky. In 1886 Hines began writing a series of four articles discussing the Northwest Conspiracy for Basil W. Duke's Southern Bivouac magazine. The magazine was dedicated to the memory of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but was less adversarial than similar Southern magazines, gaining a larger Northern readership than similar journals. The first of the articles was printed in the December 1886 issue. However, after consulting with former Confederate president Jefferson Davis at Davis' home in Mississippi, Hines did not name anybody on the Northern side who assisted in the conspiracy. After writing the first article, Hines was attacked for not being more forthcoming regarding all the participants from both newspapers reviewers (particularly from the Louisville Times) and Southern readers, which discouraged Hines from publishing any more accounts of the Northwest Conspiracy.
Hines died in 1898 in Frankfort, and was buried in Fairview Cemetery of Bowling Green, Kentucky, in the Hines series of plots. Also among the Hines family plots is the grave site of Duncan Hines, a second cousin twice removed.
Historical markers concerning Hines' exploits have occasionally included mistaken information. The historical marker placed by the Indiana Historical Society in the vicinity of Derby, Indiana, to memorialize Hines' entry into Indiana states that Hines invaded Indiana in 1862, although he actually did so in 1863. In addition, a marker by the Confederate Monument of Bowling Green in Bowling Green's Fairview Cemetery says that Hines died before he could go to the dedication ceremony in 1876, when in reality he died in 1898 and is buried a few hundred feet away.
Thomas Hines was a scout turned spy in the War Between the States. Raised in Warren County, Kentucky, he joined the Confederate Army in 1861 and switched to John Hunt Morgan‘s command in April 1862 after his original group left Kentucky. Morgan quickly saw the potential of the unimposing appearance and quick wit of this man and used him as a scout. Working mostly in Kentucky, Hines was usually dressed in civilian clothes and visited relatives and friends, especially his childhood sweetheart, Nancy Sproule.
In mid 1863, Hines was chosen by Morgan to lead a scouting mission into Indiana and discover if the local Southern sympathizers would be helpful in Morgan’s planned invasion. After riding through Kentucky to gather supplies, Hines told his men they would pose as a Union patrol searching for deserters. They robbed a Union sutler, or store owner, to get Union uniforms and a Union train to get money. After that the group met with a local leader of the Indiana sympathizers but they were forced to flee when Union forces came for them. As a result no support came from the Southern sympathizers in Indiana and many of Hines men were captured covering while he swam to safety with some of his men.
The Great Raid Morgan planned, which Hines had set up on his trip through Indiana, was a failure and Morgan’s men were captured along with all the leaders. However, Hines had been reading the book Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and was inspired by the escape through the tunnels of Paris that was described in the book. Hines’ plan allowed seven of Morgan’s leaders, including Morgan and Hines, to escape through tunnels and climb the prison walls during a storm to escape. In all, five of the seven men got to freedom while two were recaptured. Hines and Morgan got back to Confederate lines safely.
Thinking about how the war was going and all the Confederate soldiers in prison or those that had escaped into neutral Canada, Thomas Hines had an idea and took it to Confederate President Davis. Although worried how European governments would view the rather sneaky plan, the Confederate government agreed to back him and the Northwest Conspiracy was created. Hines sailed into Canada and established a small group of Confederate escapees into a guerrilla fighting force aimed at releasing Confederate prisoners and creating a panic in the northern states virtually untouched by the civil war happening below them. The plan had little success due largely to the fact that Hines depended on the aid of locals that were Confederate sympathizers in theory but not soldiers. Through counter intelligence and alertness, the Union in the area stopped all plans and the Northwest Conspiracy has been mostly ignored in history classes below college.
While in hiding at a friend’s house during the time of the Northwest Conspiracy, Thomas Hines learned his beloved Nancy Sproule was being kept in a convent and decided to rescue and marry her. After a week long honeymoon, he returned to his work and left her with their family in Kentucky. When the war was over he sent for his wife to join him in Canada as Hines assumed he would not be welcome in the now Union state of Kentucky.
While in Canada, Hines studied law and moved to Tennessee to pass the bar after being pardoned by President Johnson along with most of the other low level officers in the Confederate Army. In 1867, Hines finally returned to Kentucky and set up a law office. He was elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1878 and served as Chief Justice or two years before returning to his own private practice. He died a month after his wife in 1898.