Samuel Beckwith

Captain Samuel H. Beckwith (December 18, 1837 – December 6, 1916) was a telegraph and cipher officer to Ulysses S. Grant. He was nicknamed "Grant's Shadow" by other staff officers. Beckwith was the first to transmit news of John Wilkes Booth's whereabouts after Lincoln's assassination, leading to his capture.[2] Beckwith was also present as Grant's telegraph officer on Abraham Lincoln's visits.[3]


Samuel H. Beckwith
Birth nameSamuel Horace Beckwith
Nickname(s)Grant's Shadow
Born(1837-12-18)December 18, 1837[1]
Madison, New York
DiedDecember 6, 1916(1916-12-06) (aged 78)
Hampton, Virginia[1]
Madison Street Cemetery
Hamilton, NY
(42°50′02″N 75°32′46″W / 42.833849°N 75.546154°W / 42.833849; -75.546154Coordinates: 42°50′02″N 75°32′46″W / 42.833849°N 75.546154°W / 42.833849; -75.546154)
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1862-1866
RankUS-O3 insignia.svg Captain
Unit11th New York Infantry
Battles/warsCivil War

In Washington, Lincoln used to daily visit the telegraph office, and cipher operator David Homer Bates was later to recall these visits, along with the testimony of Thomas T. Eckert, Charles A. Tinker, Albert B. Chandler, and Albert E. H. Johnson in Lincoln in the Telegraph Office (1907).[4]

Popular cultureEdit

In the 2012 film Lincoln, the character of the Washington war-room telegraph officer is credited as Grant's officer "Samuel Beckwith" but appears to be based on the memoirs of Washington cipher officer David Homer Bates. He was played by Adam Driver.


  1. ^ a b LeClaire, Barbara (August 31, 2007). "Capt Samuel H. Beckwith". Military Telegrapher and cipher operator. Find a Grave. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  2. ^ Congressional edition - Page 39 United States. Congress - 1866 "... General H. H. Wells, then under General Augur's command, George Cottingham and Alexander Lovett, detectives, and Samuel H. Beckwith, a telegraph operator, rendered important service leading to the arrest of Booth and Herold, and the .."
  3. ^ David Homer Bates Lincoln in the Telegraph Office 1907- Page 65 Beckwith — Grant's cipher-operator — told the writer in November, 1906, that a few days after the President's arrival at Grant's headquarters, the flap of the telegraph tent was slowly turned back and there appeared at the opening ..."
  4. ^ David Homer Bates Lincoln in the Telegraph Office: Recollections of the United States Military Telegraph Corps During the Civil War Page 8- 1995 "It was in the War Department telegraph office that Lincoln received from the writer's hands, on May 24, 1861... the first authentic news of Booth's whereabouts should come from Grant's cipher-operator, Samuel H. Beckwith, who ... Thirty-six hours after Beckwith's despatch reached Washington the assassin was hunted down and shot.1 Lincoln's daily visits to the telegraph office were therefore greatly relished... He would there relax from the strain and care ever present at the White House, and while waiting for fresh despatches, ... his cabinet and his private secretaries, none were brought into closer or more confidential relations with Lincoln than the ... of those stirring scenes, namely: Thomas T. Eckert, Charles A. Tinker, Albert B. Chandler, and the writer — who served as cipher-operators in the War Department telegraph office — and Albert E. H. Johnson, custodian of military telegrams."

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