Allan Pinkerton, General George Smith Patton, Pryce Lewis

Pryce Lewis – A British Union Spy That Crossed Paths With General George Smith Patton’s Grandfather Captain George Patton, Senior

Photograph of detective Pryce Lewis.

“There are many spy stories that can out of the Civil War. One of the earlier occurred in the Kanawha Valley.

Because the Union Army had no intelligence service at that time, General George McClellan hired a civilian to gather information regarding enemy’s troop movements and disposition. The man he hired was Allan Pinkerton, a famous private detective.

Pinkerton sent a 29-year old British subject, Pryce Lewis, one of his employees, who was to pose as the son of Lord Tray of England.

Lewis left Cincinnati with a servant on June 27, 1861 on the streamer Cricket. They landed at Guyandotte the next day, and Lewis decided to drop his disguise and get by as an ordinary English citizen.

The next morning, Lewis and his servant started towards the east, asking the way to White Sulphuric Springs. Near the mouth of the Coal River they were picked up by Confederate pickets, taken to Camp Tompkins and brought before Captain George S. Patton, second-in-command.

Lewis acted indignant about his detention, stating that he wanted to travel though the area to view the natural beautify before returning to England.

The next morning, Lewis and his servant started towards the east, asking the way to White Sulphur Springs. Near the mouth of the Coal River that were picked up by the Confederate pickets, taken to Camp Tompkins and brought before Captain George Smith Patton second-in command.

Patton was impressed by his guest and wrote him a pass to Charleston. The. The captain and the spy say down to support in the antebellum mansion at the camp. Patton boasted about his fortifications in the area and invited Lewis to inspect them, but Lewis declined in order not to appear to eager to se them. 

At Charleston, the Union spy was introduced to General Wise, who proved to be a very inhospitable host. He refused to issue a pass for a trip to Richmond, and Lewis and his servant were stranded in town for many days. Lewis tried pretending to write to the British Consul in Richmond, but that didn’t work.

So the two agents put the delay to good use and picked up whatever information. They could on Confederate forces in the area. When General Wise left for a raid on Ripley on July 4th, Lewis went to his friend Colonel C.Q. Tompkins, who informed him that a pass was not even needed to get to Richmond! Tompkins said that the road east was open for travel.

The two doors left Charleston immediately, but they did not head back to Richmond. They wanted to report back to McClellan’s headquarters as soon as possible and traveled south through Boone and Logan Counties in Kentucky and then south to Cincinnati.

They had been away 19 days and traveled many miles through hundreds of enemy troops. When they returned. Lewis was sent back to Red House, Putnam County, to give his report on Confederate activity.”

Author’s Note:

This passage about Union spy activity, shortly after the U.S. Civil War began, is an excerpt from page 34 of Stan Cohen’s book, “The Civil War in West Virginia”.

Painting of Confederate Captain George Patton, Senior.

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