Jacob Thompson (1810-1885)
Jacob Thompson was born in Leasburg, North Carolina. After studies and being admitted to the bar, he moved to the frontier state of Mississippi in 1835. He flourished there, married well, and was elected to Congress in 1839. He served as United States Secretary of the Interior in the Buchanan administration and resigned on the outbreak of the American Civil War, to become Inspector General of the Confederate States Army.
In 1864, Jefferson Davis asked Thompson to lead a delegation to Canada, where he served as the leader of the Confederate Secret Service. He is known to have organized many anti-Union plots and was suspected of many more.
Union troops burned down his mansion in Oxford, Mississippi, the hometown of William Faulkner, who based some of his fictional characters on Thompson.
In 1865 he was charged with conspiracy in the Lincoln assassination, and a $25,000 reward was posted for his capture. He spent several years in Europe, arguing his innocence. Eventually he was able to return to Oxford.
The sources of the Thompsons’ postwar affluence have been the basis of much speculation. Some claim that he invested his wife’s money in English securities prior to the war. Historian William C. Davis has theorized that he embezzled vast Confederate funds entrusted to him in Canada.