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This Day (And the Band Played Dixie Edition)


On this day 150 years ago, Thomas Nelson Conrad, head of the Georgetown Institute, a school for boys, was, for lack of a better word, totally busted. Born in Fairfax Court House, Conrad became a lay Methodist preacher and established his school in the District of Columbia before the war. Government authorities began to take notice when, in June 1862, his students delivered fiery pro-Confederate speeches during commencement exercises and Conrad ordered the band to play “Dixie,” to uproarious applause. Then, on August 2, he was arrested for allegedly providing Confederates with information on Union general George B. McClellan‘s Army of the Potomac in 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign. He was locked up at Old Capitol Prison, and it was there—he later claimed—that he plotted to assassinate Winfield Scott, the Virginia-born Union general-in-chief. Confederate authorities refused to green-light the mission.
Anyway, speaking of Confederate spycraft, it was two years later, also on August 2, that the Confederate Secret Service agent Captain John Maxwell arrived in Isle of Wight County, where he met R. K. Dillard, who would act as his local guide. Exactly a week later, Captain Maxwell entered City Point, a crucial Union port and supply hub during the Petersburg Campaign. You can read the good captain’s report for yourself to see what happened next.
IMAGES: Thomas Nelson Conrad (Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa.); wharves at City Point after an explosion of ordinance, August 1864 (Library of Congress)

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