Joseph Henry Accused of Treason




Date: October 1861


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Englishman C. F. Anderson accuses Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry of treason for operating signals from the tower of the Smithsonian Building. It is possible Anderson had witnessed signalling tests carried out by Henry with the support of President Abraham Lincoln, or that Anderson had seen the flashlights of night watchmen on the tower. This is among a number of claims made by persons who question Henry's loyalty to the Union.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Anderson, C.F
  • Lincoln, Abraham 1809-1865
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • United States President (1861-1865 : Lincoln)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 10, January 1858-December 1865: The Smithsonian Years. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2004, pp. 234-45, 430-32.
  • Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, 4 vols. (New York, 1939), 1:400.
  • Thomas Coulson, Joseph Henry: His Life and Work (Princeton, 1950), p. 243.
  • Robert V. Bruce, Lincoln and the Tools of War (Urbana and Chicago, 1989), pp. 84-85.
  • Noah Brooks, Washington in Lincoln's Time (New York, 1895), pp. 11-13.
  • Leonard Carmichael, "Joseph Henry--Scientific Genius," The Military Engineer, 1946, 48:418.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


  • October 1861
  • Civil War, 1861-1865


  • Signals and signaling
  • Wartime Activities
  • Secretaries
  • Treason
  • History
  • Communication


United States

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