Civil War Wiki

Hattie Lawton, also known as Hattie H. Lawton,[1] Hattie Lewis Lawton[2] was an American detective. She may have been born around 1837,[3] although most details of her life before and after the Civil War are unknown. “[Hattie] Lawton was part of Pinkerton's Female Detective Bureau, formed in 1860 to ‘worm out secrets’ by means unavailable to male detectives."[4]

Civil War[]

Lawton continued to work for the Pinkerton Detective Agency during the Civil War. She was part of the team that participated in the detection of the alleged 1861 Baltimore assassination plot against President-elect Abraham Lincoln and, according to Pinkerton's account, in the early part of 1861 Hattie was stationed in Perrymansville, Maryland with Timothy Webster, another Pinkerton agent.[1]

After Pinkerton began his “Secret Service” for Gen. George B. McClellan, Lawton and Webster were added to the payroll of the Pinkerton’s service in Washington on August 8, 1861.[2] Lawton again posing as Timothy Webster’s wife appeared in Richmond, Virginia in the early part of 1862.[5] The two were sent by Pinkerton to Richmond to gather intelligence about Confederate army movements.

Arrest and Imprisonment[]

Lawton tended to Webster when he fell ill at the Monument Hotel in Richmond, Virginia and this prevented reports back to Pinkerton.[5] John Scobell, an African-American Union spy, worked with the "twenty-five-year-old beauty" Hattie Lawton during this time posing as her servant.[3]

Pinkerton sent two agents, Pryce Lewis and John Scully, to Richmond to find out what happened to Webster and Lawton. They found Webster and Lawton, but Lewis and Scully were recognized as Pinkerton agents, arrested and later released as part of a prisoner exchange on March 18, 1863.[6] Various sources indicate that one or both of the men, either to save their own lives or after being tricked, revealed the identity of Webster. Webster and Lawton were arrested and after a quick trial both were found guilty.


Castle Thunder prison. Richmond, Virginia. 1865.

Webster was sentenced to death and executed on April 29, 1862.[7] Lawton was sentenced to one year in Castle Thunder prison in Richmond, Virginia. Hattie, carried on records as "Mrs. Timothy Webster", was one of a party of four Federals exchanged for Belle Boyd on December 13, 1862.[6]

During her imprisonment, Richmond's most accomplished Union spy, Elizabeth Van Lew, visited Lawton but it is not clear whether Van Lew was aware of the real identity of Mrs Timothy Webster.[4] After her release from prison, nothing is known about Lawton.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cuthbert (1949) Lincoln and the Baltimore Plot. p. 4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Fishel (1996) The Secret War for The Union. p.131.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Quarles (1953) The Negro in the Civil War. p.89.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Rhoades (August 2002)"The Women of Castle Thunder"
  5. 5.0 5.1 Fishel(1996) The Secret War for The Union. p.148.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Fishel (1996) The Secret War for The Union. p.597.
  7. United States. (2005). Intelligence in the Civil War.


  • Cuthbert, N. B., & Pinkerton, A. (1949). Lincoln and the Baltimore plot,1861 from Pinkerton records and related papers. Huntington Library publications. San Marino, Calif, Huntington Library.
  • Fishel, E. C. (1996). The Secret War for The Union: The Untold Story of Military Intelligence in the Civil War. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co.
  • Pinkerton, A. (1883). The Spy of the Rebellion; being a true history of the spy system of the United States Army during the late rebellion. Revealing many secrets of the war hitherto not made public. Comp. from official reports prepared for President Lincoln, General McClellan and the provost-marshal-general. New York, G.W. Carleton & Co. (Note:Pinkerton's accounts in this book are to be used with caution. It contains a high proportion of fiction.)
  • Quarles, B. (1953). The Negro in the Civil War. Boston, Little, Brown.
  • Rhoades, P. (August 2002). "The Women of Castle Thunder." The kudzu Monthly
  • Rose, P. K. (1999). Black Dispatches: Black American Contributions to Union Intelligence During the Civil War. Washington, D.C., Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency.
  • United States. (2005). Intelligence in the Civil War. Washington, D.C., Central Intelligence Agency.

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