Intelligence in Public Media

Surveillance and Spies in the Civil War: Exposing Confederate Conspiracies in America’s Heartland

Stephen E. Towne (Ohio University Press, 2015), 430 pp.

Reviewed by Clayton Laurie

One of the factors that makes history a living and changing discipline is that new evidence often revises older interpretations. Facts of history remain the same, of course, but fresh information often changes how we view events or the actions or motivations of historical figures. Stephen E. Towne’s Surveillance and Spies in the Civil War: Exposing Confederate Conspiracies in America’s Heartland convincingly revises one long held view of anti-war dissent in the North and contains much of interest to today’s intelligence officer. As an associate archivist at Indiana and Purdue Universities, Towne has “uncovered and recovered Civil War-era records that had been lost for generations or perhaps had never been examined by either archivist or researcher.”

Historians have often noted the darker side of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency: the suspension of habeas corpus and many other civil liberties, especially freedoms of speech and press, and the wholesale detention without charge of dissenting citizens. The traditional narrative of the last 50 years has supported this view of a later much-beloved and martyred president acting during a time of crisis in an arbitrary and capricious manner against those questioning him, the Union war effort, and government policies regarding conscription and emancipation.

 Download PDF for complete review. [PDF 230.7KB*]

*Adobe® Reader® is needed to view Adobe PDF files. If you don't already have Adobe Reader installed, you may download the current version at (opens in a new window). [external link disclaimer]


All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this journal are those of the authors. Nothing in any of the articles should be construed as asserting or implying US government endorsement of their factual statements and interpretations. Articles by non-US government employees are copyrighted.

Posted: Feb 08, 2016 12:09 PM
Last Updated: Feb 08, 2016 12:09 PM