Freedom's Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Man Who Masterminded America's First War on Terror

Freedom's Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Man Who Masterminded America's First War on Terror

Freedom’s Detective reveals the untold story of the Reconstruction-era United States Secret Service and their battle against the Ku Klux Klan, through the career of its controversial chief, Hiram C. WhitleIn the years following the Civil War, a new battle began. Newly freed African American men had gained their voting rights and would soon have a chance to transform Southe...

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Title:Freedom's Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Man Who Masterminded America's First War on Terror
Author:Charles Lane
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Freedom's Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Man Who Masterminded America's First War on Terror Reviews

  • Witchy

    Ramblings:

    grants us passage on a sobering journey through American history as we witness the advent of the Ku Klux Klan, George W. Ashburn’s murder, and the daring struggle of a detective willing to uncover and expose those responsible. Lane’s easy narrative places this nonfiction on top of the must-have list for history majors, espionage lovers, and anyone w

    Ramblings:

    grants us passage on a sobering journey through American history as we witness the advent of the Ku Klux Klan, George W. Ashburn’s murder, and the daring struggle of a detective willing to uncover and expose those responsible. Lane’s easy narrative places this nonfiction on top of the must-have list for history majors, espionage lovers, and anyone who ponders whether man is truly all good or all bad-all the time.

    Reviewer Summary:

    As head of the Secret Service under Grant’s administration, Hiram Coombs Whitley suppressed the operations of illegal distillers, exposed KKK klansmen, and reduced counterfeiting-all during a tense political and racial climate.

    However, Whitley could flip on a dime. He could ambush an abolitionist with escaped slaves, but later-assemble a case for prosecutors in Ashburn’s death. He blurred the line between right and wrong. Ultimately, a shady mission and bad judgment would abruptly end his federal career.

    Additional Info:

    This nonfiction contains a biography and notes in the back section of the book. It does not contain footnotes throughout.

    Review:

    Lane’s newest release titled

    is a well-researched, captivating read of the ins and outs of the Secret Service and the man at its helm during Reconstruction. The author’s narrative writing style made for an easy-to-follow read, and the photos of key characters were a nice touch.

    You’ll like this novel if you:

    #1 Generally read nonfiction

    #2 Enjoy American history (with emphasis on the Reconstruction era)

    #3 Are fond of espionage

    #4 Like biographies

    #5 Wish to learn the origins of the Secret Service and/or the KKK

    Disclosure:

    I received a complimentary ARC of

    from Harlequin Books via goodreads. I’m thankful to the publisher, author, and goodreads for the opportunity to review this soon-to-be

    . My review is an honest reflection of my thoughts and ramblings.

  • Nichole Winsor

    I won an ARC through Goodreads giveaways. Let me start by saying that this isn't the genre of books that I typically read, I entered to win a copy thinking that it would be more focused on crime than a historical type of read. That being said, this book was very well written and easily held my interest throughout.

  • Morris J.

    This is a must read for anyone trying to understand race relations in our nation today. Mr. Lane provides a riveting account of an early law man (ironically, often on the wrong side of the law), who was one of the few who could break the Klan’s code of silence. His and other efforts were not enough to turn the political tide, but this story helped me understand the dynamics of reconstruction in a way I never had before. Brilliant read!

  • Dawn Michelle

    takes us on a sobering journey through American history to witness the advent of the world of counterfeiting, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, George W. Ashburn’s murder [and the politicians that helped both try and cover it up and then bribed and bought off people to help the murderer’s go free], and the daring struggle of a detective [and the forming of the secret service] willin

    takes us on a sobering journey through American history to witness the advent of the world of counterfeiting, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, George W. Ashburn’s murder [and the politicians that helped both try and cover it up and then bribed and bought off people to help the murderer’s go free], and the daring struggle of a detective [and the forming of the secret service] willing to uncover and expose those responsible, at whatever cost.

    This is a well-researched, captivating read of the ins and outs of the Secret Service and of Hiram C. Whitley at its helm during Reconstruction. The author’s writing style made for an easy read, easy to understand and follow and the illustrations and pictures that are included are a nice bonus – I find it easier to “see” the person being talked about when I can see how they actually looked.

    Whitley is a cunning man in his own right – ready to fight for the US and against the evils of the Ku Klux Klan, but was also willing to fight against the very thing he was trying to vanquish when it met his own personal needs [before the war, he went and rounded up wayward slaves to return them to their owners]. He never, ever took the blame for anything that happened negatively – either denying it vehemently, or tried to push it off on other people – sometimes both. Sometimes with success, and others, not so much. He was, in my opinion, the perfect man to be a spy and to lead espionage against the evils of the Klan, against counterfeiting and against evil in general. He had a spy’s mind and a willingness to bend the rules to get what needed to be done, done. They say if you want to catch crooks and bad men, you have to be a little bit of a crook [or in this case a spy and con-man] yourself.

    Be prepared though – many people I had previously held in high esteem [President Grant for one – his willingness to release and pardon men convicted of murder in hopes the South would be willing to accept Reconstruction more willingly, shows just how weak and ultimately, stupid he was in regards to just how powerful the Klan and white supremacy was], slipped several notches in the reading of this book. I realize that most of Washington is tainted, but there are moments in this book that caused real frustration and potential headbangingagainstwall moments. There were actual moments where I wondered just who really wanted the war to end and who really won when the Civil War did end. And even though blacks were considered free, there were many that still considered them to be “non-human” and many of them were based in Washington and had fought for the North. It was, at times, disconcerting and disheartening to say the least. And the lengths that the politicians, on BOTH sides, were willing to go through to get “what they wanted at any cost” was appalling and frustrating to read.

    If you know little about this time period, this book is an excellent introduction to the evils that came out of the ending of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction. It shows how powerful the South still was [though bankrupt and poverty stricken otherwise] and how strong the racial divide was [and still is today] in the Southern states. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this time period and in spies and espionage and the beginnings of the Secret Service and the fight against the Klan.

    Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin/Hanover Square Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  • Shoshana

    Anyone interested in American history, particularly in the mid-nineteenth century and beyond, will find this well-researched and well-written book has much to teach us. Charles Lane tells the story of Hiram Coombs Whitley, the first head of the Secret Service, and a man not afraid to take on the burgeoning Ku Klux Klan. Whitley also went after counterfeiters and illegal distillers.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the book is Whitley’s own character; like most of us he was a mixture of good

    Anyone interested in American history, particularly in the mid-nineteenth century and beyond, will find this well-researched and well-written book has much to teach us. Charles Lane tells the story of Hiram Coombs Whitley, the first head of the Secret Service, and a man not afraid to take on the burgeoning Ku Klux Klan. Whitley also went after counterfeiters and illegal distillers.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the book is Whitley’s own character; like most of us he was a mixture of good and bad, although due to his position his characteristics were thrown into relief. In the end, his federal career came to a halt due to his own bad judgment.

    I really enjoyed this book. I had never thought much about the Secret Service other than that they protect the president and other people, and I was interested to learn so much about what they did during this period just after the Civil War. This thought-provoking book is worth reading, and if you have any interest in the period at all I urge you to pick it up.

  • Krisette Spangler

    The rise of counterfeiters and the Ku Klux Klan posed a different kind of challenge than the United States had ever faced. It necessitated the rise of a national police force that would be able to cross state lines and report directly to the National government. Hiram C. Whitley was the first man to run a secret service for the U.S. government. This book covers his experiences as head of the Secret Service during the Reconstruction Era.

    It was sad to me to learn that not much has changed over the

    The rise of counterfeiters and the Ku Klux Klan posed a different kind of challenge than the United States had ever faced. It necessitated the rise of a national police force that would be able to cross state lines and report directly to the National government. Hiram C. Whitley was the first man to run a secret service for the U.S. government. This book covers his experiences as head of the Secret Service during the Reconstruction Era.

    It was sad to me to learn that not much has changed over the years. Careers were ultimately ruined by involvement in corrupt government scandals just as they are today.

  • Mal Warwick

    Today's Ku Klux Klan is not what is used to be. In its first incarnation following the Civil War (1865-1871), the Klan was a terrorist organization of a sort all too familiar to us in the 21st century. The Klan attracted tens of thousands of men, primarily in the Deep South, who lamented the passing of slavery. They were, in effect, the military arm of the Democratic Party, which was then pro-slavery. A great many were former Confederate soldiers.

    For a time, the Klan ran rampant, terrorizing, br

    Today's Ku Klux Klan is not what is used to be. In its first incarnation following the Civil War (1865-1871), the Klan was a terrorist organization of a sort all too familiar to us in the 21st century. The Klan attracted tens of thousands of men, primarily in the Deep South, who lamented the passing of slavery. They were, in effect, the military arm of the Democratic Party, which was then pro-slavery. A great many were former Confederate soldiers.

    For a time, the Klan ran rampant, terrorizing, brutally beating, and sometimes lynching Republican officeholders and sympathizers in the South. They also turned violent against newly freed African Americans who dared to vote, but their primary focus was political. They simply rejected Reconstruction and set out to kill everyone in the South who worked to make it a reality.

    America's first war on terror?

    In Freedom's Detective, journalist Charles Lane describes the Federal government's response to Klan violence once Ulysses S. Grant succeeded Andrew Johnson in the White House. Johnson, a virulently racist Democrat, had frustrated Congressional policies to bolster Reconstruction. But Grant's victory in 1868 brought Radical Republicans into office. And one of them, serving as Grant's Attorney General, hired a detective with a decidedly checkered career as the second director of the Secret Service (later the United States Secret Service). Lane describes how the new director fought the Ku Klux Klan, characterizing his campaign as America's First War on Terror. However, a half-century earlier Thomas Jefferson's war against the Barbary Pirates (1801-1805) could just as easily be described that way. And that's what an earlier book has done.

    Today's Klan bears little resemblance to its earlier incarnations

    The Ku Klux Klan as Lane describes it bears little resemblance to the massive organization that was inspired by D. W. Griffith's 1915 silent film, The Birth of a Nation. The newly reborn Klan attracted millions of members in such states as Ohio and Indiana as well as the West and the South. Its purpose was to terrorize and often kill African Americans. But that second incarnation of the Klan passed into history by the end of the Second World War. The decentralized and often pathetic version of the organization that cropped up following the war is, fortunately, a pale reflection of its history. And it was one of the splinter groups that constituted the contemporary Klan that Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center crippled with a victory in court.

    He fought the Ku Klux Klan — and won.

    Freedom's Detective is, in part, a biography of Hiram Coombs Whitley, who ran the Secret Service under President Grant, and a history of the Secret Service itself. Lane describes Whitley as "ethically flexible," but the reality is much darker. Whitley professed to oppose slavery but actively participated in capturing fugitive slaves. His business practices were, at best, questionable. And, later, as Director of the Secret Service, he carried out illegal assignments for his bosses and repeatedly lied in court about his actions. But he was effective. He ran a successful, high-profile campaign arresting moonshiners in Virginia and destroying their stills. Then he succeeded whether others had failed in sending members of the Klan to prison in a spectacular murder case. It was on the basis of those successes that Grant named him Director of the Secret Service.

    From combatting counterfeiting to fighting the Klan

    The Secret Service was then "a new unit with a new, and, for the federal government, essential mission: the detection and suppression of counterfeiting." Its work involved using undercover agents, and that was highly controversial at the time. But Whitley took to the assignment with great energy and skill. He was not content to do as others had done and arrest small-time peddlers of counterfeit bills and bonds. Whitley went after the biggest counterfeiter of them all: a wealthy New York businessman named Joshua D. Minor. And despite his success in ending Minor's counterfeiting career, Whitley's battle with Minor ultimately proved to be his undoing.

    Victory over the Klan

    While the Minor case was still dragging on in court in New York, Whitley was assigned to suppress the Klan. Lane recounts how Whitley recruited other detectives in his image—often with criminal backgrounds themselves—and sent them into the South as undercover agents. The work they did was so effective that by 1872 the Klan had ceased to operate openly practically everywhere. Yes, Whitley had fought the Ku Klux Klan — and won. Yet testimony in court in the Minor case, and Whitley's involvement in an ill-advised scheme to eliminate his boss's political nemesis, forced Grant to relieve him as Director of the Secret Service.

    Ironically, after a life actively lived on both sides of the law, Whitley quietly retired to Emporia, Kansas. There, he settled down with his wife, adopted two daughters, and grew wealthy as a businessman. He died a respected member of the community in 1919.

    About the author

    Author Charles Lane is a former foreign correspondent for Newsweek and a former editor of The New Republic. He now writes editorials for the Washington Post and is a frequent guest on Fox News. Freedom's Detective is his second book about Reconstruction under the Grant Administration. The first, exploring an event that took place in 1873, was The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction.

  • Brandt

    In

    by Andrew Delbanco, I posited what that actually purpose of writing a history should be. I believe that great historical works should be a reflection of the times that

    live in and basically should be the embodiment of the old adage "those who don't learn from the past are bound to repeat it."

    So how does Charles Lane's

    In

    by Andrew Delbanco, I posited what that actually purpose of writing a history should be. I believe that great historical works should be a reflection of the times that

    live in and basically should be the embodiment of the old adage "those who don't learn from the past are bound to repeat it."

    So how does Charles Lane's

    work if we accept my conceit of how a history

    work? From the title it seems like Lane wants to show us a mirror into our times--invoking the term "War on Terror" creates specific connotations, but whereas the current "War on Terror" invokes a vision of foreign, brown-skinned non-Christian invaders, for good (or mostly) for ill. However, the terror the focus of this book, Hiram C. Whitley, fights is domestic terrorism that we can draw a straight line from the first Grand Wizard of the KKK, Nathan Bedford Forrest, to the Timothy McVeighs and Eric Rudolphs of the United States. Because of this Lane's book is a bit of a misfire--instead of focusing on the legacy of the Klan, he instead focuses on Whitley's complicated and shady past and focuses on the violation of civil liberties that having a "secret service" (read: police) may entail.

    Even if Lane didn't feel the need to connect the Klan's actions to someone like McVeigh, he could have also linked Whitley's "innovations" to the modern surveillance state enabled by corresponding technological advances (Whitley was one of the first people to utilize photography in his investigations--everything old is new again) but Lane misses an opportunity here, instead focusing on Whitley's shady past and the equally shady event that resulted in his dismissal. This is mildly interesting, but honestly, I think the prevailing view of America's surveillance institutions and the people that run them is that those people live in morally murky lands to begin with. Identifying Whitley as one of these people really doesn't do anything except prove that these kinds of people existed in the 19th century. This is not a new revelation, as Christopher Marlowe would prove.

    If you do not agree with my view of why a history should be written in the first place, you may enjoy this book more than I did. The story is interesting and Whitley is definitely a bundle of walking contradictions. However, I'm pretty sure we all know someone like Whitley, and the fact is that it is the human condition to be great and shitty simultaneously. In that respect, Whitley isn't really different from anyone else who has existed on this planet.

  • Craig Pearson

    This is a history book that is pretending to read like a novel. The subject of the book is Hiram C. Whitley, a man of few morals who takes on the Ku Klux Klan. The elements of general history are interesting but it is hard to get interested in anything related to Whitley. He does not rise to the level of a hero of the Secret Service and the writing is too dry keep the readers attention.

  • Jim Cullison

    A rather odd book that promises one story, then frequently wanders off with other tangential narratives that are far less interesting, not to mention unsolicited. There are intriguing questions left dismayingly unexplored by this disappointing book: is the rigorous enforcement of civil rights fundamentally at odds with the nation's commitment to civil liberties? Is American law enforcement irreparably damaged by an inability to emulate its European counterparts? These questions are raised, but n

    A rather odd book that promises one story, then frequently wanders off with other tangential narratives that are far less interesting, not to mention unsolicited. There are intriguing questions left dismayingly unexplored by this disappointing book: is the rigorous enforcement of civil rights fundamentally at odds with the nation's commitment to civil liberties? Is American law enforcement irreparably damaged by an inability to emulate its European counterparts? These questions are raised, but never fully addressed by a book that ambles off into discursive alleys and anecdotes that frustrate and enervate the reader. Skip it.

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