A government detective also emerged and suggested that the victim was Joseph Smith, a sergeant-major in Regiment F. He was also apparent Army deserter, who had been granted leave in January of 1864, but hadn't been seen by his wife since the fall of 1862. The detective learned that Smith's brother saw him, very drunk, in Fort Green Park before October 1864. The brother scolded him and encouraged him to re-enlist, but his friends continued to see him in the company of bad characters. The detective showed a photograph of the victim's head to Smith's friends, many of whom said it was definitely Smith, but his widow refused to positively identify him.

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Men in an 1860s NYC gambling saloon (New York Public Library)
Seven years later, in 1871, three men were arrested in Sydney, Australia, after a terrible brawl. One of the men confessed to numerous crimes, including Smith's murder. Smith loved to drink and had fallen in with these men, who convinced him to re-enlist but then "jump the bounty"—as in, take $300 from the army and not show up. The confessed killer said he and his two associates had been carousing with Smith on October 2, 1864, at various saloons on Mercer and Green Streets.

They had all been gambling, except Smith, who still had his $300 left. So the three men led Smith to an alley on Prince Street and into a workshop where one had worked, attacking him, shooting him in the head and taking his money. Then they carved his body, wrapped the pieces, and drove to Brooklyn, dumped his body from the Willamsburg waterfront and then set off for Australia.

In 1871, the NY Times complained that the police could have figured out who the murder victim was if they had bothered to follow up on the government detective's hunch that it was Joseph Smith: "The story is now so clear, in fact, that one is led to wonder that the mystery has so long remained a mystery that it was not at once cleared up."

Thanks for the hundreds of readers who entered! We did select a winner—from the D.C. area, in fact!—who will receive a new 32GB iPad with Retina Display, a season pass to watch Copper, and a reproduction 1864 map of New York City!

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