Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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BAKER, Lafayette C. chief of the United States secret service, born in Stafford, Genesee County, New York, 13 October 1826; died in Philadelphia, 2 July 1868. His grandfather, Remember Baker, was one of Ethan Allen's captains. Baker's father inherited the curious baptismal name of the Green Mountain Boy, as well as his adventurous spirit, and in 1839 removed to Michigan and settled where Lansing, the capital, now stands. Young Baker took part in the work of making a home ill the wilderness, but in 1848 went to New York and Philadelphia, and in 1853 to San Francisco, in each of these cities working as a mechanic. When the lawless element became dominant in San Francisco in 1856, Mr. Baker joined the vigilance committee and took an active part in the summary proceedings that restored order in the city. He went to New York on business in 1861, expecting to return at once, but the civil war intervened, and he went to Washington and offered his services. At the suggestion of General Hiram Walbridge, of New York, he was introduced to General Scott, and, as a result of the interview, he started on foot for Richmond, where, in spite of arrest, imprisonment and several interviews with Jefferson Davis, while under suspension as a spy, he succeeded in collecting much information and returning to Washington after an absence of three weeks. This was but the first of a series of adventures involving high executive ability and a wonderful talent for tracing conspiracy and frustrating the designs of confederate spies and agents. As soon as his abilities were demonstrated to the satisfaction of the government, he was placed at the head of the bureau of secret service, with almost unlimited resources at his command, and in February 1862, the bureau was transferred to the war department. Mr. Baker was commissioned colonel, and subsequently Brigadier-General. His duties naturally made him enemies in influential quarters, and charges of a serious nature were several times preferred against him, but were never substantiated. When President Lincoln was assassinated, Colonel Baker organized the pursuit of the murderer, and was present at his capture and death. His agents effected the capture of the other participants in the plot. General Baker published a "History of the United States Secret Service" (Philadelphia, 1868), which is necessarily semi-biographical, and touches authoritatively many disputed passages in the secret history of the civil war.
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