Conspiracy – Civil War Style?

James A. Scrymser, post war years.

In a year with an exceptional plethora of “tell-all” books and a variety of conspiracy theories from multiple sides and perspectives, old historical sources never fail to add a little perspective and humor. While seeking an escape from the election news-cycle, I found this delightful little tale in James Scrymser’s Civil War stories. (He’s the same author who penned about the day that the plumbers saved the White House dinner!)

In hopes that it will lighten your weekend and provide a little chuckle, here is the tale of:


The “Great Conspiracy”

A number of years after the close of the war, I happened to meet General Fitz-John Porter at the Catskill Mountain House, where we were both staying. It proved to be a most interesting renewal of our former Army acquaintance.

After many delightful reminiscences, General Porter informed me, in a most confidential manner, that he had something to tell me, and I judged that the information was of a decidedly secret nature as the General insisted that I climb with him to a certain isolated spot on the side of the mountain before he would divulge the story.

Upon reaching the spot, General Porter told me his secret in the following startling words: “Captain Scrymser, on Monday next, the great conspiracy is to be exposed!” I endeavored to appear grateful for the information but, being ignorant of the “Great Conspiracy” and its alarming exposure, was forced to ask what conspiracy he had reference to?

General Porter replied, “Why, the conspiracy of Lincoln and Stanton, by which they seized the Government of the United States. All of the facts are to be made public.”

I, apparently impressed, asked General Porter in what form this great exposure was to be made?

“In ‘McClellan’s Own Story,’ which is to be published next Monday, containing the life and letters of General George B. McClellan and many historical facts by Dr. W. C. Prime, by whom the book is edited.”

“And this,” I said, “will expose the ‘great conspiracy’ – against McClellan and the Government?”

“Yes,” he replied.

I fear the General thought me lacking in appreciation of his confidence. I merely said, “General, the public have handed in their verdict long ago and you may rest assured that the ‘great conspiracy,’ to which you refer, will receive no attention whatsoever.”

Such proved to be the case.

P.S. If anyone has read Prime’s volume of McClellan’s Own Story, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I’m not familiar with it and have not had a chance to see if I can track down an archived or digitized version for additional entertainment.


Personal Reminiscences of James A. Scrymser, In Times of Peace and War – James Alexander Scrymser. Accessed at Google Books:

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