November 26, 2009: Barry Cauchon

LOOKING FOR CIVIL WAR DIARIES, LETTERS, PHOTOGRAPHS, ARTIFACTS AND KEEPSAKES for possible inclusion in our upcoming book and documentary about the Old Arsenal Penitentiary and the Lincoln Conspirators.

Example: Ed Isaacs family has been living in the northeastern United States for several hundred years. Last year Ed’s cousin Pam gave him the diary of his great-great grandfather George Dixon. George was a Civil War Union soldier who was stationed at the Old Arsenal Penitentiary in Washington DC during the incarceration, trial and eventual punishments of the Lincoln conspirators. Amongst other interesting notations found in the diary, George listed the cells used by the prisoners and the guards who watched over them on the last day or two leading up to the executions of four of the conspirators. Ed Isaacs contacted me awhile ago and shared George’s diary with me. We have become friends and are planning on including information about George Dixon and his diary in our upcoming book and documentary. Ed hopes that it will help celebrate his ancestor’s life and we are thrilled to do so. To read the story of George Dixon and his diary as presented by Ed Isaacs, please click on the following link  https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/an-awesometalk-with-ed-isaacs-owner-of-civil-war-diary-from-soldier-who-guarded-the-lincoln-conspirators/).

APPEAL FOR HIDDEN HISTORY: We are appealing to others out there who might have ancestors who were connected directly or indirectly to the Lincoln conspiracy, the Old Arsenal Penitentiary, Washington DC or other Civil War occurences that related to the events that took place between March and August of 1865 in Washington DC and other surrounding areas. Items such as personal diaries, letters, photographs, artifacts, keepsakes and other Civil War related items in your possession could contain valuable historical information of great significance presently unknown to the research community. We would love to include your finds, if historically relevent, in our book and documentary.

So check your attics, basements, the old shed out back, garages, farm houses, barns and even below the floor boards of your old home. Check with your family members about stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. Those conversations may give you a clue as to where your ancestors may have been during the time of the Civil War and the Lincoln assassination and conspiracy. Even if you do not know whether you have something that is important, you should inform us anyway. A name of a buddy or commander found in a diary could be very important. A location mentioned is a possibility. A comment about contemporary events from the time of the assassination may be the perfect thing we are looking for.  You never know what might be important to our projects and the historical community in general. And if you do find something that doesn’t necessarily fit within our research, we will do our best to help direct you where you can go to get more information about your find.

We are looking for genuine historical articles from the time of President Lincoln’s assassination, funeral, conspiracy trial and prisons located in Washington DC (Old Arsenal Penitentiary, District Penitentiary, Washington Penitentiary, Old Capitol Prison, Carrol Annex and Carrol Branch Prison). Items related to the Navy Yards and the ironclad monitors USS Saugus and USS Montauk could all be important clues to help tell the story better. And don’t forget the potential connection to the Confederate Secret Service primarily run out of Montreal, Canada or Lafayette Baker who was the head of the Secret Service for the Union. All great possibilities where hidden history may lie.


Regretably we are not offering to purchase your family relics or assign a price to them. That is not our specialty and we cannot offer expert advice on an artifact’s value short of its historical significance to the story. As mentioned before, we will do our best to help direct you towards those who might be able to assist you. But no guarantees of course.

If you have an item that you think might be of interest to us, please do not use the comment area below. Instead, write me directly at outreach@awesometalks.com and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Please describe the item (and include a picture if possible). If relevent, please explain why you think this may relate to our research.

As you can see from previous postings on this blog over the past 18 months, we have had a few really cool finds that I’ve been able to share with you. The George Dixon diary, Mr. P’s original fake ‘Lincoln in Death’ photo used in many Lincoln books published over the years and some genuinely great stories from family members from their ancestor’s past.

Give it a try. Everyone has treasures in their family. Share them.

I look forward to hearing from you.





SIGN UP NOW FOR OUR BOOK UPDATE MAILING LIST at outreach@awesometalks.com. Just put the word “BOOK” in the subject line and include your name and email address in the body. You’ll then be included in our next email update. Thank you. Barry.

The nooses of the Lincoln conspirators.

An image of the Lincoln conspirators' nooses taken from our upcoming book (title tbd).

November 26, 2009: Barry Cauchon

On a Saturday morning in September, 2009 I left a phone message for my future writing partner John Elliott to call me at my home. Upon his returned call, I explained that I had a proposition. John and I had been speaking and exchanging research for about 3 months prior to this call but were not working together at that time. My proposal was to combine our research and join forces to write a book together rather than just complete the one I had initially started a few months earlier. Each of our own areas of research could stand on their own and make good books independently. However, when combined, I felt that the final product would be so much more than the original concept. I was quite excited about the opportunity to do this merger and hoped John would feel the same way.

When John called back he immediately accepted the proposal and we have been working ever since to make our book a classic. From the start, our attitude has been to produce a book that we would be proud to have on our own bookshelves, but which doesn’t exist right now.

So far, our joint venture has proven itself to be ten-fold more than we imagined. So much so, that we’ve now attracted the interest of a prominent documentary maker to work with us in developing a proposal for a documentary. Hopefully we will have some good news to share with you on that subject very soon. But for now, it is safe to say that we are enjoying the research and our multiple projects and cannot wait to share the final results with you when appropriate.

If you are interested in being kept up-to-date about the book and documentary proposal, then please add your name and email address to our mailing list. To do so, just write to me at outreach@awesometalks.com, write BOOK in the subject line and include your name & email in the body. Your information will then be added to the list and you will receive updates as they are released.

IMPORTANT: Please be assured that I do not share my mailing lists with anyone and the sole purpose of this list is to keep you informed about these projects as per your request!!!!!





November 22, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Hi all: On Friday, November 19, I had the honor to Mr. Harold Holzer at his office in NYC. We have corresponded and spoken on the phone for over a year and it was great to finally meet him face-to-face. Although the main reason for our meeting is not the subject of this posting, we resolved a puzzle that has been on my mind for over a year. As some of my dedicated readers may remember, in August of 2008, I posted a photograph on my blog from a person I referred to as Mr. P. 

Mr. P. owns a photograph in a Victorian frame which he believed was one of Lincoln in death. I posted it on the blog asking anyone who might want to comment on it. In less than a week, I received an email from Harold Holzer stating that the photograph was not one of Lincoln in death. Instead it was an existing image considered to be a fake or spurious one. It had been previously published in books in the early 1960’s. And that was that. I published Mr. Holzer’s findings on August 21, 2008 and informed Mr. P. about the results.  But we still wondered about the Victorian framed photograph and how Mr. P’s family came to have this piece. Who was this man? What type of photographic process was used? Was it a printed copy or an original? We just didn’t know and didn’t dare open it without help.

We zip ahead to last week. A lot has changed in one year. Mr. P. is now one of my closest friends. I’ve partnered with John Elliott to be my writing partner and are moving ahead with our book and other projects. So we all meet in NYC and descend upon the office of Harold Holzer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After our scheduled meeting with Mr. Holzer, Mr. P. brought out the photograph and we asked if Mr. Holzer would look at it. Since it was this photo that brought all of us together, we thought it was appropriate to have him be the one to look at it.

Yours truly, Abe, Harold Holzer and John Elliott

Yours truly, Abe, Harold Holzer and John Elliott

Upon inspection, Mr. Holzer opened the frame to expose the photograph. Once apart, we observed that the image was printed on a glass plate. Mr. Holzer indicated that it was an Ambrotype which was a photographic process used in the early 1800s. And as this was an Ambrotype it meant that the photograph was an original and not a reproduction. AMAZING! This photo, which has been published in numerous Lincoln books, is the original Ambrotype from which these reproduced photos were made.

We were all very excited about the confirmation. Thank you Mr. Holzer for a great meeting and the photographic identification. So even though the image is not that of Abraham Lincoln in death and is considered a fake, at least now we know that Mr. P. owns the original fake.

By the way, Mr. P. indicates that bidding can begin at $2,000,000.    : )

Below is part of the original article that was written over a year ago that started this whole train moving down the track.


August 21, 2008 – Barry Cauchon:

Hi all: My blog has had a flurry of activity recently concerning several articles that I had posted on questionable Lincoln Photos in Death. I was honored to be contacted by Mr. Harold Holzer, the Senior Vice President, External Affairs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Mr. Holzer is an historian and author, considered to be one of the leading Lincoln scholars in the world and he graciously offered to comment on the photos I have been debating here.


This is the first time we are publishing this photograph here. We were going to wait until September 3, 2008 however the review by Mr. Holzer allows us to post it now.

Metal plate photo in hinged frame

Mr. P's photo in hinged frame

Close up of the picture 

 Close up of face.

Close up of beard Close up of beard
Close up of hands Close up of hands
RESOLVE: Mr. Holzer reviewed these images on Tuesday, August 19 and expressed the following observations:
  • The beard is too full (as previously mentioned above)
  • “Why would Secretary of War Stanton have allowed a photographer to make this intrusive shot when he confiscated the picture of Lincoln all dressed up and lying in state in NY City hall?”
  • The arms and chest are too narrow. When the doctors removed Lincoln’s shirt after he was shot, they notice his chest and arms were very muscular. He was ‘ripped’. The body in these photos is not.
  • Is this a Daguerreotype? “Unlikely, as it would be just way out of fashion by 1865 and too hard to take in a room with no lighting.”

All of these were valid points, but the best was still to come!

  • The photo is not a new image. Mr. Holzer pointed out that he had seen it before in Charles Hamilton and Lloyd Ostendorf’s 1963 book, “Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose”, 1st edition, on page 294. Mr. Holzer stated, “It seems to me they are one and the same shot with the alleged deathbed photo Lloyd Ostendorf and Charles Hamilton published as a spurious image in their 1963 “Lincoln in Photographs,” p 294.  I don’t disagree with their conclusions—the beard is simply wrong.  Lincoln may have had a sort of full beard for his February 1865 life mask, but as the March inaugural photos and the Henry Warren photos show the next day (not to mention the known photo of Lincoln in his coffin), his beard had been considerably trimmed down by the spring of that year”.  
  • END

After conversing with Mr. Holzer on several points for clarification, I was able to find the same photo (although reversed) in another book call “Twenty Days” by Dorthy Meserve Kunhardt & Philip Kunhardt, Jr., Harper & Rowe Publishers, NY, 1965 (see photo and link below). It looks like the exact same photo!

Identical photo (in reverse) from book "Twenty Days" by Dorthy Meserve Kunhardt and Philip Kunhardt, Jr. 

 Identical photo (in reverse) from book “Twenty Days” by Dorthy Meserve Kunhardt.

CONCLUSION: The image is unlikely that of Mr. Lincoln based on the information presented here. But it does raise several questions about who it really is and the origin of the image itself.

QUESTIONS: Some of the questions raised are as follows:

  • Assuming that Mr. P. has an original Daguerreotype or tintype of this image, how did it end up in several books in the 1960s? Mr. P. found the photograph in a desk that his grandmother left to him when she died. This was about 25 years ago. The printed images have been in the public eye for at least 45 years!
  • Does Mr. P. have the original or is it a copy?
  • Was there more than one image made of the body at the time the photograph was shot?
  • Who is the man? Could it be one of Mr. P’s relatives? Mr. Holzer believes that the photo could be from the 1840s or 50s.
  • Where did Charles Hamilton and Lloyd Ostendorf get the original photo for their book?
  • What is the history of the picture?

FOLLOW UP: Mr. P is not disappointed that his photo was not Mr. Lincoln. He is actually thrilled that he owns a genuine ‘fake’ now. And it has given him a new area of research to investigate. History can be exciting, even if it isn’t on the ‘main stage’. Keep hunting Mr. P!

THANK YOU: Finally, I want to personally thank Mr. Harold Holzer for his time and efforts in helping me assist Mr. P  in this project. As well, I’d like to also thank Kevin O. Johnson, Ph.D in Dallas, Christy and Tins (pardijoe) for offering their comments, direction and assistance in solving the puzzle as well. Many many many thanks to all of you.




The King Tutorial Live Presentation

November 21, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Canopic stopper from King Tut's tomb

I want to tell folks in the Toronto, Southern Ontario and Western Tier of Upper State New York that the King Tut exhibit has opened at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. It will run from now until April 18, 2010 and is called Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs. This is the 2nd of two exhibits currently on tour in North America. The other one is currently on display in San Francisco.

The exhibit features over 130 artifacts from ancient Egyptian history of which fifty come from the tomb of King Tut. The exhibit is excellent in content but heavy in written presentation. Attendees could be overwhelmed by the amount of information presented to them in the dimly lit and potentially crowded conditions of the exhibit. That is why I started giving live presentations to schools and groups. The presentation is called The King Tutorial and it is a primer for anyone planning to attend the show.

To learn more about this program, please visit my website at www.thekingtutorial.com.

I would love to come and present to your school or group and help you get the most out of your visit to the King Tut exhibit.




“An Awesometalk With” CHARLENE HENDERSON: The 17th Regiment CVI Gravesite Location Project

UPDATE: March 02, 2010: Barry Cauchon

The format of this An Awesometalk With is more of a traditional article rather than interview. However I feel that Charlene’s story contains the same wonderful content that my live interviews offer. Therefore, I’ve designated this as “An Awesometalk With” feature article. Enjoy.

November 02, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Paynton, W. Wallace grave

The gravestone of W. Wallace Paynton of the 17th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.

My good friend Ed Isaacs recently told me about a woman who has made it her personal project to find the Civil War gravesites of the men of the 17th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. I remember saying “Wow, what a great project. I’d like to talk to this person”. And so I did. I wrote to Mrs. Charlene Henderson and she graciously responded.

Charlene’s project certainly interested me from the start. But the story about how it all started, along with some of the eerie things that occurred during her search for these men’s final resting places, is to say the least…COOL! She describes these unexplainable occurrences as coming “directly from the twilight zone”. After you read her story you may agree with this assessment. As I have been witness to similarly strange ‘occurrences’ over the years, I believe that she may have been assisted in her search for the graves by, perhaps, the spirits of some of the very men whom she has been seeking out. One never knows.

If you are a believer in paranormal phenomena, this story will certainly add to your reading enjoyment. If not, it will at least serve to expose you to some of the things that Charlene has experience while searching for the graves of the 17th regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.

Charlene’s project has been quite the undertaking. To date it has resulted in her locating, or getting leads to, over 71% of the graves of the 17th. An incredible feat!

Enjoy her story.




Charlene Henderson

Charlene Henderson

Charlene Henderson currently lives in New Milford, Connecticut. In 1988, Charlene found a letter written by a Civil War soldier from the 17th regiment CVI. Now, almost twenty-two years later, she has tracked down more 71% of the gravesites of the men of the 17th, and will be writing a book containing their bios and gravesite information. 

In Charlene’s own words, this is how the story began.

“My ex-husband and a friend had a part-time business in 1988 preparing homes for resale or rent. This would include painting, carpet cleaning, windows, etc. They took a contract from a local realtor: a condo that was trashed by a tenant who had been evicted…and I do mean trashed! Visualize a car driving through a single story building  then put back the entrance and exit walls. That is what the interior of the place looked like. 

After a few days of removing debris, I made headway to a bedroom closet. A small handmade wooden blue box was on the floor. I don’t know why but I opened it, instead of throwing it out with all the other junk. A small green piece of felt lined the bottom of the box and a letter was the only object inside. I removed the letter from the envelope. It was dated Feb. ’65 and the author, James Hurlbutt, wrote about being with three other men, Hoyt, Paynton and Hagar. They were stationed in Florida. I was pretty tired and the date seemed odd. I couldn’t understand what was going on in FL. in 1965. Then the light bulb went on. They made “a chimney”, a fire. It wasn’t 1965. It was 1865 and this letter is from a civil war soldier!

I did a little research in 1988 and found that they were soldiers from the 17th CVI. Years went by, I divorced, remarried, changed jobs. I became interested in genealogy. My maiden name is Hager fro Dutchess Co., N.Y. One day, I came across a document held by the Latter Day Saints. The document listed all of my great-grandfathers’ brothers and sisters. One name kept going through my mind. Abijah. Why do I know this name?

Again, the light bulb…Abijah HAGER. Could this be the same Abijah HAGAR, the civil war soldier that was named in the letter? I sent for Abijah Hagar’s pension information and they were one in the same. He was my great-grandfather’s brother.

Again years go by, it’s 2004 and I’ve become bored with family genealogy. My husband suggests doing some research on the other soldiers in Hurlbutt’s letter. W. Wallace Paynton lived at Fitch’s Soldiers Home in Darien, CT. for twenty years and wrote his memoirs which are in Bridgeport Library in Bridgeport, CT. One story is about returning to New Haven, CT after being mustered out in Hilton Head, S.C. The paymaster wasn’t there and the soldiers would have to return to New Haven next week to receive their pay. For those who didn’t return to New Haven, those men filed an application for back pay. Not long after reading this story I was on eBay. I found Abijah Hagar’s application for back pay.

Warren, William H. military (2)

The gravestone of Wm. H. Warren.

Finally, they got my undivided attention (Note: Charlene uses the word ‘they’ referring to her soldier friends whom she is searching for). Bridgeport Library has a collection known as the Warren Collection. William H. Warren was a private from Co. C. He spent most of his post-war life corresponding with his comrades relating to the war stories. I transcribed the stories relating to Chancellorsville. I had nothing more than a high school education about the Civil War. I didn’t even know what state Chancellorsville was in. I educated myself about the battle. The 17th, being only one regiment, was out of context, with relationship to the rest of the 11 Corps and Stonewall Jackson’s flack attack. I learned of a book written by Hamlin, the 11th Corps historian. Again, eBay, I found the book and bought it. The first blank page, in pencil, which someone had tried to erase, “Wm. H. Warren -43 Beers St – no town – 1896. This book was once owned by the private from Co. C., who lived at 43 Beers St., New Haven, CT.

This is why I say, THEY FOUND ME. They sparked an interest with Abijah, twice. Finally, after eighteen years from the onset, I felt that Warren was saying to me, ‘These are not coincidences. Wake up! Do the math! The odds of winning the lottery are better!’. 

That’s how I started looking for the final resting places of ‘my soldier friends’.”


To find the gravesites of the 1153 or 1158 men (final numbers vary) who were members of the 17th regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry during the American Civil War.


The regiment assembled and was accepted into Federal service on August 28, 1862. 1006 or 1008 men mustered into service that day with an additional 150 or so joining later during recruiting drives throughout the war.


The first thing that Charlene did was to get the roster from the 17th regiment. She picks up the story about her process from here:

“The roster is listed by company, the town where the person enlisted from and military history. I took the roster and arranged the soldiers by town where they enlisted; so I could use the Hale Cemetery Inscription Collection.

The Hale Collection was compiled by the WPA in 1934. Every gravestone in every cemetery was recorded by town and published with an index. Also, notations were made if the person had a flag, G.A.R. flag holder, and the company and regiment they served. The entire collection is at Connecticut State Library. One page at a time, for each town in Fairfield Co., I wrote the names of everyone who had a flag or G.A.R. marker and compared those names against the roster. Then, using the index, looked up anyone buried in a town whose name matched the soldier name (verifying the I.D. later). Any gravestone with the 17th CVI was self-evident. A typical example of a listing (without military notation) might read as follows: John Doe 1840 – 1906 flag Civil War.

Now the fun begins. The Hale Collection has a map for each town with a dot for each cemetery, the name of the street or its location referenced from another cemetery. The map doesn’t have all street names, only long streets and watercourses. Trying to find some of these cemeteries is an adventure in itself. The vast majority of these cemeteries have no office or section markers. It’s park and let the walking begin. Doing this town by town, I got smarter and wrote down the page number from the Hale Collection. If someone was listed on page 20 and someone on page 22, they would be about 80 graves from each other.  A clue was military gravestones. If the information read: John Doe, Co. A, 17th Conn. Vols., died Jan. 1, 1900, age 68, it’s a good chance the stone was military. Find him and it’s a starting point for finding the rest. So many times I would drive into a cemetery and someone’s gravesite would be right in front of me.

Story: A twisty country road, perched on a hillside, accessible to mountain goats only by traversing several unstable stone stairs, open the iron gate, one little cemetery where very few stones remain. In the back corner, the gravestone I was searching is there, completely legible.

I’ve found 575 gravesites in CT. and N.Y. 36 are buried in National Cemeteries. 38 are missing headstones or I haven’t found them yet. 21 I still have to go find. 36 are buried out-of-state. For a total of 706.

Out of state leads 77. Most likely buried in CT. 40 (burial info may be found at CT Health Dept). New info 2. For a total of 119.

Combined total 825 out of 1153 or 1158.”

stratton, charles before

BEFORE: This is how the gravestone of Charles Stratton was found.

Stratton, Charles S. military

AFTER: The completely exposed gravestone of Charles S. Stratton.


As mentioned earlier, Charlene has had some interesting occurrences take place while doing her project. Unexplainable by scientific methods, but real nonetheless. Here is one such event that I’d like to share with you.

“I was in a cemetery looking for ‘the guys’, having spent about three hours. One was left on my list and I just couldn’t find him.  I apologized to him, called his name, asked collectively of the 17th buried in the cemetery, to help me. A rabbit came out of a bush. I walked over, pushed the branches back, and there was his gravestone”.


Currently, Charlene is continuing to work on her project to locate the remaining graves of the men of the 17th. Recently, she enlisted the assistance of Ed Isaacs (of Dixon diary fame). Ed says this is a perfect project for him to keep busy while in his retirement.

Charlene, thank you for sharing your story with us (and keeping Ed busy). With the help of Ed and ‘your friends’, I’m sure the discovery of the remaining grave stones are not too far in the distant future.

Continued success with your project.

If anyone would like to contact Charlene, please email me and I’ll be happy to pass along your comments to her.






Here are some November birthdays for Lincoln’s friends and foes. And perhaps a few contemporaries who lived during his time but whom he may not have been personally acquainted with.

  James K. Polk – 11th President of the United States from 1845-1849. Born November 2, 1795. Age 217.

  Edwin Thomas Booth – Actor and brother of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. Ironically in 1863 or 1864, Edwin Booth saved the life of Robert Lincoln when he fell from a New Jersey railroad station platform while a moving train passed. Born November 13, 1833. Age 179.


John Andrew B. Dahlgren – Admiral and inventor of Civil War Dahlgren-cannons. Two 11″ Dahlgren smoothbore cannons were mounted in the turret of the USS Monitor. Born November 13, 1809. Age 203.

  Louis-Jacques Daguerre – Photographer and inventor of the Daguerrotype photographic process. Born November 18, 1787. Age 225.

  James A. Garfield – 20th President of the United States from March 4-Sept 19, 1881. Born November 19, 1831. Age 181.

  Franklin Pierce – 14th President of the United States from 1853-1857. Born November 23, 1804. Age 208. 

  Zachary Taylor – 12th President of the United States from March 5, 1849-July 9, 1850. Born November 24, 1784. Age 228.

  Oliver Fisher Winchester – Rifle manufacturer (Winchester). Born November 30, 1810. Age 202.

  Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) – Author / writer. Born November 30, 1835. Age 177.

Happy birthday gentlemen!





If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln, you should read these interviews by two Lincoln experts:

“An Awesometalk With” Harold Holzer, Lincoln Scholar

(posted on November 10, 2008) 

  “An Awesometalk With” Dr. Thomas Schwartz, Illinois State Historian 

(posted on December 08, 2008)