OTD: Lewis “Paine” Takes the Oath

On this date, January 13th, in 1865, Lewis Thornton Powell took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States government under the alias “Lewis Paine”. This was the first documented time that Powell used this alias, having previously been under the command of John Singelton Mosby in the service of the Confederacy.  While this first Oath of Allegiance no longer exists, Powell would sign another oath in March of 1865, after being arrested as a spy at the home of the Branson sisters in Baltimore.  In this oath he signs his name “L. Paine”.

Lewis Powell's Oath of Allegiance

Paine Signature

Powell would use the name Paine (misspelled Payne) throughout the trial of the conspirators until his execution in July for his attempt on Secretary Seward’s life. His devoted use of this alias over his real name made him a very elusive figure in the assassination for decades.  The modern research of his biographer, Betty Ownsbey, has uncovered many previously unknown aspects of his life.  Ms. Ownsbey will be speaking about Lewis Powell at the Surratt Society’s 14th Annual Lincoln Assassination Conference on March 16th, 2013.  Call the Surratt House Museum at (301) 868–1121 for more information and to sign up to attend the conference.

Powell by Lew Wallace

References:
Alias “Paine”: Lewis Thornton Powell, the Mystery Man of the Lincoln Conspiracy by Betty Ownsbey (1993)

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4 thoughts on “OTD: Lewis “Paine” Takes the Oath

  1. Thanks ever so much, Dave! You are too kind….

    Yes, yesterday was the first day of Powell’s usage of the name “Paine (Payne)”…..crossing through the lines after selling his horse and signing the first Oath of Allegiance – then straight on to the Branson Boarding House…..

    • If only the poor boy would have just stayed at the Branson’s for good. I’m sure he could have had a nice life with them. But then again, you wouldn’t have anyone to study in that case.

  2. Agreed, Dave! And…although today we’d think of Gawler’s removal of Powell’s skull as a desecration of human remains, if he had not done so, we wouldn’t have ever known where Powell was buried – or have been able to give him the chance of a Christian burial beside his mom at home in Florida! So runs the world! Thanks….

  3. cassandra41

    On December 11th, 1902, former Mosby Ranger and a favorite of the Colonel, Ben Palmer gave an interview to the Richmond Dispatch newspaper in which he admitted meeting with Powell who was on his way to join Booth. Palmer said that he was sure that Mosby knew nothing about it, but that is nonsense. If the Confederate Secret Service allowed Powell to meet with one of Mosby’s men, they could hardly have intended to keep Powell’s situation a secret from Powell’s former commander. Indeed, well after the war, Mosby mentioned Powell as one of his best Rangers!

    So the idea that Mosby knew nothing of Powell’s situation or that Powell “deserted” is simply not sustainable as a scenario. According to Palmer, Powell was to join with Booth and some others in an attempt to kidnap Lincoln. That, of course, makes sense. Lincoln was a fairly large man and someone of Powell’s size and strength would have been necessary to carry out any attempt at removing Lincoln bodily to the South. Assassins, on the other hand, don’t need strong men; all they need is a weapon.

    Young Powell was the son of a minister and his actions after coming under Booth’s sway (Powell, by the way was NOT stupid. Mosby did not HAVE stupid Rangers!) suggest that Booth introduced him to drugs and/or alcohol. His very odd actions on the night of the assassination (when he tells the people in Sewards home, “…I am MAD!” certain suggests that he was no longer the cool young soldier he had been under Mosby.

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