The Secret Treason of Abraham Lincoln's Brother-in-LawSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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Mary Todd Lincoln's relatives more than once caused President Lincoln considerable embarrassment and led to unfounded suspicions that the First Lady herself might be in treasonous communication with the enemy. The most famous of the troublesome Todd relations was her half-sister Emily Todd Helm, whose White House visit in December 1863, after the death of her husband, Confederate General Benjamin Hardin Helm, at the Battle of Chattanooga, outraged some Northerners. Another half-sister, Martha Todd White, of Selma, Alabama, obtained a pass from Lincoln to come through the lines and was accused of smuggling contraband of war on her return trip. 
Dr. W. A. Evans, whose pioneering research on the Todd family has still not been superseded, observed that the political loyalties of the many children of Robert Smith Todd, of Lexington, Kentucky, were sharply divided. (Because women of the nineteenth century were legally excluded from voting and holding elective office, the loyalties of the Todd women have generally been inferred from the actions of their husbands, barring other direct evidence in letters.) Of the children by his first wife (among them Mary) who survived to the Civil War all were loyal to the Union but one. Among Mary's full brothers and sisters, then, only George Rogers Clark Todd served the Confederacy, as a surgeon in a Confederate hospital in South Carolina. Of those who were the children of Robert's second wife, all but one gave their loyalties to the Confederacy. Page [End Page 39]
A newly discovered letter now requires revising the estimate of loyalties, for among Mary's full sisters, Margaret Todd Kellogg of Cincinnati, to judge at least from the actions and avowed loyalties of her husband Charles H. Kellogg, was another Southern sympathizer. And Mr. Kellogg, in fact, committed secret treason—unlike brother-in-law Benjamin Hardin Helm and half-brothers Samuel, David, and Alexander Todd, who went with the Confederate service and were killed or seriously wounded on campaign.
Not much is known about Charles H. Kellogg, except by virtue of his marriage to a relative of President Abraham Lincoln. After Lincoln was elected president, Charles Kellogg, like most of Mary's Todd relatives by blood and marriage, sought patronage jobs from their illustrious relative. Lincoln could not oblige Charles with a foreign appointment because of Kellogg's notorious pro-Southern political opinions. These led to rumors of disloyalty that undermined his campaign for appointive office. He insisted that the bombardment of Fort Sumter had "entirely dissipated" any previous sympathies for the Southern cause. And he told his contact in Lincoln's cabinet, Interior Secretary Caleb B. Smith, that he wanted at least to get himself "right personally" with Smith and the president. The avowal of post-Sumter loyalty must have worked, for eventually, on February 19, 1863, Lincoln made Kellogg a captain and commissary of subsistence. 
Kellogg had almost certainly lied and never lost his Southern sympathies. Little did Lincoln know that in the late winter of 1862 Kellogg had made a mysterious trip into the Confederacy on business, traveled with his brother-in-law General Helm, and aided his other Todd relatives from Louisiana at the Battle of Shiloh by helping out in the hospital for Louisiana regiments. Samuel B. Todd, serving in the 24th Louisiana (or "Crescent Regiment"), was among the twenty-three soldiers of that regiment killed in the battle.
Despite his service to the cause, Kellogg was still a Yankee traveling in the Confederacy and thus aroused suspicion. Sometime in April he was arrested by military authorities and placed in prison in Montgomery, Alabama. Kellogg's letter of April 18, 1862, to Judah P. Benjamin, formerly the Confederate secretary of war, asking for help provides most of what we know about the case so far. Page [End Page 40] Confederate authorities sent him on to prison in Richmond, where he was interrogated by S. S. Baxter, the commissioner charged with investigating civilian prisoners arrested by military authority in the Confederacy. Baxter reported that Kellogg said he had come to the Confederacy to look after his family, especially his mother-in-law, and that the trip had no political object. Baxter believed him and paroled him with liberty of the city of Richmond but to be watched by the police. 
The letter and notes of the subsequent investigation do not reveal precisely what Kellogg's mission in the South was nor how he finally managed to return to Cincinnati. But they do clearly reveal the secret treason of President Lincoln's brother-in-law.
Montgomery Ala April 18th 1862
Hon. J. P. Benjamin
Secy of War
Please allow me to draw your attention to my case which I suppose is not entirely unknown to you. I will be as brief as circumstances will allow. I came into the Confederacy from Cincinnati about the 12th of Feby last for purposes which when explained I think can be made entirely satisfactory. When the southern troops retired from Bowling Green I traveled with the army to Huntsville where I joined Col B. Hardin Helm of first Ky Cav (he being a Brother in Law) and remained in his quarters for 8 or 10 days. When we arrived at Courtland the inclemency of the weather had been such as to seriously impair my health, I took rail and went to Memphis to [illeg.]. In about one week I felt able to rejoin Col Helm who I supposed by that time would be at Corinth. On my arrival there I reported myself to Genl Johnston  & produced evidence to him satisfactory that Page [End Page 41] I was true to the interests of the Confederacy. I remained in Corinth twenty days, during which time the Battle of Shiloh  was fought, I was on the field during the whole time assisting Drs Fenner & Compton at the La hospital. I lost a brother in Law (Sam B. Todd of N.O.) in the Crescent Regiment. I continued to assist in the La hospital till the 12th inst on the morning of which day I applied to Genl Beauregard  to carry out the promise of Genl Johnston to give me a pass to go north after the Battle the Battle was over. I received a note from him in reply—saying, the power to grant such papers rested with you & suggested that I should retire from the Army. Whilst I was preparing to comply I was sent for by Col Smith commandant of the post & informed that he was ordered by Genl Bragg to furnish me with transportation to this place. I was placed on the cars by Col Smith without papers of any kind; on my own reconoiscence [sic] to report to maj Calhoun at Montgomery. On my arrival at Mobile I voluntarily reported myself to Genl Jones who placed me under guard & sent me here to the Provost Marshal who in turn handed me over to the jailer where I remain incarcerated with felons & murderers & on rations purchaseable at forty cents per day! There is evidently some great mistake in this matter, at least if this has been done under the impression that en enemy of the south has been arrested. Messrs Pugh , Vallandigham & many others of my state can testify to the persecutions I have borne at the north for my sympathies with the South in her present struggle. But I will not speculate as to the cause of my arrest. It may have seemed sufficient to those who ordered it. to me it is not entirely clear. Judge Alex Walker, T. O., Sully & Maj W H McCardle who met me at Corinth will probably endorse my statements. I presume you can hardly call me to mind altho twenty five years ago you prosecuted some claims for me in N. Orleans. I have had the pleasure of meeting you but once or twice since that time, but your public career has been Page [End Page 42] watched by me with a great deal of interest since your announcement in Congress that you would hereafter be found acting with the Democratic Party. My admiration for your great speech on the right of secession caused me to write to you for a few copies which you may recollect having promptly complied with my request.
I now appeal to you to have all papers & evidence to sustain any charges against me if there are any sent to Richmond and myself ordered there for defence. I have letters to the Hon R M T Hunter, Knox Walker, Rev E W Shore, & others from Dr. A S. Dandridge of Cincinnati, who has known me for many years & up to the hour I left home. But it is useless to make out a case now. I appeal to you for a speedy hearing & release from this style of confinement Let me beg of you to reply by Telegraph & not be subjected to the delay & uncertainty of mails.
I fear the length of this communication will be objectionable & will therefore close by repeating the request that you will order me to Richmond for examination.
With high regard I remain
Charles H. Kellogg Page [End Page 43]
- Katherine Helm, The True Story of Mary, Wife of Lincoln (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1928), 181–83, 220–33. Mrs. Helm implies that Charles H. Kellogg was in Europe during the time he was in fact in Cincinnati and in the Confederate States of America. See also Justin G. and Linda Levitt Turner, Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972), 155–56; Ruth Painter Randall, Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage (Boston: Little, Brown, 1953), 330–36, 343; Jean H. Baker, Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987), 222–26.
- W. A. Evans, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln: A Study of Her Personality and Her Influence on Lincoln (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1932), 51.
- Evans, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, 48n; Helm, The True Story of Mary, 200–201, 212–13.
- Mark E. Neely, Jr., and Harold Holzer, The Lincoln Family Album (New York: Doubleday, 1990), 8; Charles H. Kellogg to Caleb B. Smith, October 2, 1861, Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress.
- Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr., Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units, 1861–1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989), 130–32.
- Charles H. Kellogg to Judah P. Benjamin, April 18, 1862, Letters Received by the Confederate Secretary of War, 1861–65, National Archives microfilm, reel 56; S. S. Baxter report, May 13, 1862, Letters Received by the Confederate Secretary of War, 1861–65, reel 32.
- Judah P. Benjamin (1811–84), New Orleans lawyer and politician, had moved from heading the Confederate war department to heading the state department by the time Kellogg wrote his letter. Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, 21 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928–37), 2:181–84; Eli N. Evans, Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate (New York: Free Press, 1988), 156.
- General Albert Sidney Johnston (1803–62) commanded all Confederate troops west of the Allegheny Mountains at the time of Kellogg's entry into the Confederacy. Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959), 160.
- The battle was fought on April 6 and 7, 1862.
- Johnston was killed at Shiloh, and General P. G. T. Beauregard (1818–93) assumed command of the Confederate army. Warner, Generals in Gray, 23.
- General Braxton Bragg (1817–76) was one of Johnston's, and subsequently one of Beauregard's, corps commanders at the time. Ibid., 30.
- General Samuel Jones (1819–87); ibid., 166.
- George E. Pugh (1822–76) was a Democratic politician from Cincinnati and a U.S. senator on the eve of the Civil War. Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, 15:258–59.
- Clement L. Vallandigham (1826–71) was a Democratic politician from Dayton and member of the House of Representatives during Kellogg's sojourn in the Confederacy. Ibid., 19:143–44.
- Benjamin left the Whig party and became a Democrat in 1856. Pierce Butler, Judah P. Benjamin (Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs, 1906), 158–59; Robert D. Meade, Judah P. Benjamin: Confederate Statesman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1943), 100.
- Benjamin's famous speech on secession was delivered on December 31, 1860; see Butler, Judah P. Benjamin, 205–6.
- R. M. T. Hunter (1809–87) had served as Confederate secretary of state and then moved to the Confederate senate. See Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, 9:403–4.