Execution for Desertion


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, December 28, 1861

This WEB site contains online, readable versions of the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These old newspapers allow you to develop a unique understanding of the important events of the Civil War. This site is created to help you in your studies and your research. Check back often, as we add new material each day.


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Civil War Refugees


Burning Charleston

Trent Affair

Trent Affair

Fort Pickens

Fort Pickens Bombardment

Fire in Charleston

The Charleston Fire

Execuation of Deserter

Execution of a Deserter

Gold Pens

Gold Pens


Fort Pickens

Bombardment of Fort Pickens


Charleston, South Carolina

Firing Squad

Execution by Firing Squad

Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski

Winslow Homer's Great Fair









DECEMBER 28, 1861.]



world, as those who sail with the tide of a river, hasten to take the middle of the stream, as those who sail against the tide are found clinging to the shore. I returned to my habitual duties and avocations with renewed energy ; I did not suffer my thoughts to dwell on the dreary wonders that had haunted me from the evening I first met Sir Philip Derval to the morning in which I had quitted the house of his heir ; whether realities or hallucinations, no guess of mine could unravel such marvels, and no prudence of mine guard me against their repetition. But I had no fear that they would be repeated, any more than the man who has gone through ship-wreck, or the hair-breadth escape from a fall down a glacier, fears again to be found in a similar peril. Margrave had departed, whither I knew not, and, with his departure, ceased all sense of his influence. A certain calm within me, a tranquillizing feeling of relief, seemed to me like a pledge of permanent delivery.

But that which did accompany and haunt me through all my occupations and pursuits, was the melancholy remembrance of the love I had lost in Lilian. I heard from Mrs. Ashleigh, who still frequently visited me, that her daughter seemed much in the same quiet state of mind—perfectly reconciled to our separation—seldom mentioning my name—if mentioning it, with indifference; the only thing remarkable in her state was her aversion to all society, and a kind of lethargy that would come over her often in the day. She would suddenly fall into sleep, and so remain for hours, but a sleep that seemed very serene and tranquil, and from which she woke of herself. She kept much within her own room, and always retired to it when visitors were announced.

Mrs. Ashleigh began reluctantly to relinquish the persuasion she had so long and so obstinately maintained that this state of feeling toward myself—and, indeed, this general change in Lilian—was but temporary and abnormal ; she began to allow that it was best to drop all thoughts of a renewed engagement—a future union. I proposed to see Lilian in her presence and in my professional capacity ; perhaps some physical cause, especially for this lethargy, might be detected and removed. Mrs. Ashleigh owned to me that the idea had occurred to herself; she had sounded Lilian upon it ; but her daughter had so resolutely opposed it; had said with so quiet a firmness "that all being over between us, a visit from me would be unwelcome and painful ;" that Mrs. Ashleigh felt that an interview thus deprecated would only confirm estrangement. One day, in calling, she asked my advice whether it would not be better to try the effect of change of air and scene, and, in some other place, some other medical opinion might be taken ? I approved of this suggestion with unspeakable sadness.

" And," said Mrs. Ashleigh, shedding tears, "if that experiment prove unsuccessful, I will write and let you know ; and we must then consider what to say to the world as a reason why the marriage is broken off. I can render this more easy by staying away. I will not return to L- till the matter has ceased to be the topic of talk, and at a distance any excuse will be less questioned and seem more natural. But still—still—let us hope still."

Have you one ground for hope ?" "Perhaps so; but you will think it very frail and fallacious."

" Name it, and let me judge."

" One night—in which you were on a visit to Derval Court—"

" Ay, that night."

"Lilian woke me by a loud cry (she sleeps in the next room to me, and the door was left open) ; I hastened to her bedside in alarm ; she was asleep, but appeared extremely agitated and convulsed. She kept calling on your name in a tone of passionate fondness, but as if in great terror. She cried, 'Do not go, Allen ! do not go ! you know not what you brave ! what you do !' Then she rose in her bed, clasping her hands. Her face was set and rigid : I tried to awake her, but could not. After a little time she breathed a deep sigh, and murmured, 'Allen, Allen ! dear love ! did you not hear—did you not see me ? What could thus baffle matter and traverse space but love and soul ? Can you still doubt me, Allen? Doubt that I love you, now, shall love you evermore ? Yonder, yonder, as here below ?' She then sank back on her pillow, weeping, and then I woke her."

" And what did she say on waking ?"

" She did not remember what she had dreamed, except that she had passed through some great terror—but added, with a vague smile, 'It is over, and I feel happy now.' Then she turned round and fell asleep again, but quietly as a child, the tears dried, the smile resting."

"Go, my dear friend, go ; take Lilian away from this place as soon as you can ; divert her mind with fresh scenes. I hope ! I do hope! Let me know where you fix yourself. I will seize a holiday—I need one; I will arrange as to my patients—I will cone to the same place; she need not know of it—but I must be by to watch, to hear your news of her. Heaven bless you for what you have said ! I hope!! I do hope!"


SOME days after I received a few lines from Mrs. Ashleigh. Her arrangements for departure were made. They were to start the next morning. She had fixed on going into the north of Devonshire, and staying some weeks either at Ilfracombe or Lynton, whichever place Lilian preferred. She would write as soon as they were settled.

I was up at my usual early hour the next morning. I resolved to go out toward Mrs. Ashleigh's house, and watch, unnoticed, where

I might, perhaps, catch a glimpse of Lilian as the carriage that would convey her to the railway passed my hiding-place.

I was looking impatiently at the clock ; it was yet two hours before the train by which Mrs. Ashleigh proposed to leave. A loud ring at my bell! I opened the door. Mrs. Ashleigh rushed in, falling on my breast.

"Lilian! Lilian!"

"Heavens ! What has happened ?"

"She has left—she is gone—gone away! Oh, Allen ! how?—whither? Advise me. What is to be done ?"

"Come in—compose yourself—tell me all—clearly, quickly. Lilian gone ? — gone away ? impossible ! She must be hid somewhere in the house—the garden ; she, perhaps, did not like the journey. She may have crept away to some young friend's house. But I talk when you should talk : tell me all."

Little enough to tell ! Lilian had seemed unusually cheerful the night before, and pleased at the thought of the excursion. Mother and daughter retired to rest early: Mrs. Ashleigh saw Lilian sleeping quietly before she herself went to bed. She woke betimes in the morning, dressed herself, went into the next room to call Lilian-Lilian was not there. No suspicion of flight occurred to her. Perhaps her daughter might be up already, and gone down stairs, remembering something she might wish to pack and take with her on the journey. Mrs. Ashleigh was confirmed in this idea when she noticed that her own room door was left open. She went down stairs, met a maid-servant in the hall, who told her, with alarm and surprise, that both the street and garden doors were found unclosed. No one had seen Lilian. Mrs. Ashleigh now became seriously uneasy. On remounting to her daughter's room, she missed Lilian's bonnet and mantle. The house, and garden were both searched in vain. There could be no doubt that Lilian had gone—must have stolen noiselessly at night through her mother's room, and let herself out of the house and through the garden.

"Do you think she could have received any letter, any message, any visitor unknown to you ?"

"I can not think it. Why do you ask? Oh, Allen, you do not believe there is any accomplice in this disappearance ! No, you do not believe it. But my child's honor ! What will the world think?"

Not for the world cared I at that moment. I could think only of Lilian, and without one suspicion that imputed blame to her.

"Be quiet, be silent ; perhaps she has gone on some visit, and will return. Meanwhile, leave inquiry to me."


YOU placed this ring on my finger,

My Willie warm and true,

And bade me take it off when I

Loved some one more than you.

You went to fight for native land,

My Willie strong and brave,

And when you went away I said

I'd love you to the grave.

Low on my dying bed, Willie,

I'm lying in this hour,

But the ring is on my finger still,

And I love you more and more.

I'm wasted to a shade, Willie,

My voice comes faint and low,

But my heart is strong with love for you,

And the ring shall never go.

My hand is thin and white, Willie,

My finger is too small;

And last night, as I slept, the ring

Slipped off-I heard it fall.

No one was nigh me then, Willie,

To give it me again,

And I crept down and got it, though

I thrilled with fearful pain.

And now I'm dying. No one knows

What rashness I have done;

I'll never tell them what I did;

They'll wonder when I'm gone.

Good-by, a last good-by, Willie,

My voice comes faint and low;

But I keep my thin hand tightly shut—

The ring shall never go !

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, November, 1861.


ON page 821 we publish a picture representing the FLEET OF MORTAR-BOATS which have been built for the descent of the Mississippi. Our artist, Mr. Simplot, writes us as follows :

"ST. LOUIS, December 11, 1861.

"Inclosed I send you a sketch of the Mortar-Boats intended for service in the military expedition down the Mississippi. They are thirty-eight in number, and are now lying complete—with the exception of their necessary armament—near this city, I understand, however, that they will be towed down immediately to Cairo, and there equipped. Each boat is to carry a heavy mortar, and will be also used for conveying the troops on the expedition."


WE devote pages 824 and 825 to illustrations of THE GREAT FAIR which opened on Friday, December 13, at the New York Assembly Rooms. This fair was got up by the LADIES OF NEW YORK, without distinction of sect, for the relief of the poor, especially that part of them left destitute by the war. It proved a complete success. The array of beauty and fashion which gathered round the tables has never been surpassed, and the proceeds will prove a handsome fund for the object proposed by the managers. The rooms were placed at the disposal of the Ladies' Aid Association by



ON page 828 we illustrate the military execution of Johnson, who was shot at Washington for desertion on 13th. The culprit's crime is clearly described in the following extract from his confession:

I had not the slightest intention of deserting up to a few minutes before I started in the direction of the enemy's lines. The way I came to leave our army was this: I was on the outposts, and after dinner, when out watering my horse, I thought I would go to the first house on the Braddock road and get a drink of milk. When I rode up to the house I saw a man and a boy. I asked the man for some milk and he said he had none, and to my inquiry as to where I could get some, he said he did not know, except I should go some distance further on. I said I thought it would be dangerous to go far, and he remarked that none of the rebels had been seen in that vicinity for some time. It was then that I conceived the idea of deserting. I thought I could ride right up to the rebel pickets and inside the enemy's line, go and see my mother in New Orleans, stay for a few weeks in the South, and then be able to get back to our regiment again, perhaps with some valuable information. I never had any idea of going over to the rebels, and as it is I would rather be hung on a tree than go and join the rebel army. I don't see what under heaven put it into my head to go away. I acted from the impulse of the moment. When the man at the house said none of the enemy had been seen lately in that vicinity I asked where it was that the five rebels I had heard of had been seen some time ago, and he said it was at the round house on the left-hand side of the road. I asked him where the road led to. He said to Centreville, and so I went that way. Riding along on the Braddock road, some miles beyond our pickets, I suddenly came across Colonel Taylor, of the Third New Jersey regiment, with his scouting party. I thought they were the rebels, but at first was so scared that I did not know what to say. However, I asked him who they were, and he said they were the enemy. Said I to him, "I'm all right, then." "Why so?" said he. "Because we are all friends," said I; "I am rebel too—I want to go down to New Orleans to see my mother." Then he asked me how our pickets were stationed. I told him two of our companies which had been out went in that day toward the camps. He asked if I thought he could capture any of them, and I told him I did not think he could. He asked why, and I replied that there were a number of mounted riflemen around. The head scout asked me what kind of arms the Lincoln men received, and at the same time said, "Let me see your pistol." I handed him my revolver. Colonel Taylor took it, and cocking it, said to me, "Dismount, or I will blow your brains out!" I was so much frightened I thought my brains had been blown out already. 1 dismounted, delivered up my belt and sabre, while at the same time they searched my pockets, but there was nothing in them except a piece of an old New York Ledger, I believe. Then he tied my hands behind me, and sent me back to camp in charge of three men, besides another who took my horse.

He was duly tried by court-martial and found guilty. The sentence having been approved, it was ordered that it be carried into effect on 13th. The following extracts from the Herald report complete the melancholy history :

The spot chosen for the impressive scene was a spacious field near the Fairfax Seminary, a short distance from the camp ground of the division. The troops fell into line, forming three sides of a square, in the order designated in the programme, precisely at three o'clock P.M.

In the mean time the funeral procession was formed at the quarters of Captain Boyd, Provost Marshal of the Alexandria division, near the head-quarters of General Franklin. Shortly after three o'clock it reached the fatal field.

The Provost Marshal, mounted and wearing a crimson scarf across his breast, led the mournful cortege. He was immediately followed by the buglers of the regiment, four abreast, dismounted. Then came the twelve men—one from each company in the regiment, selected by ballot—who constituted the firing party. The arms—Sharp's breech-loading rifle—had been previously loaded under the direction of the Marshal. One was loaded with a blank cartridge, according to the usual custom, so that neither of the men could positively state that the shot from his rifle killed the unfortunate man. The coffin, which was of pine wood stained, and without any inscription, came next, in a one-horse wagon. Immediately behind followed the unfortunate man, in an open wagon. About five feet six inches in height, with light hair and whiskers, his eyebrows joining each other, Johnson presented a most forlorn spectacle. He was dressed in cavalry uniform, with the regulation overcoat and black gloves. He was supported by Father M'Atee, who was in constant conversation with him, while Farther Willett rode behind on horseback. The rear was brought up by Company C of the Lincoln Cavalry, forming the escort.

Arriving on the ground at half past three o'clock, the musicians and the escort took a position a little to the left, while the criminal descended from the wagon. The coffin was placed on the ground, and he took his place beside it. The firing party was marched up to within six paces of the prisoner, who stood between the clergymen. The final order of execution was then read to the condemned.

While the order was being read Johnson stood with his hat on, his head a little inclined to the left, and his eyes fixed in a steady gaze on the ground. Near the close of the reading one of his spiritual attendants whispered something in his ear. Johnson had expressed a desire to say a few final words before he should leave this world to appear before his Maker. He was conducted close to the firing party, and in an almost inaudible voice spoke as follows: "Boys,—I ask forgiveness from Almighty God and from my fellow-men for what I have done. I did not know what I was doing. May God forgive me, and may the Almighty keep all of you from all such sin!"

He was then placed beside the coffin again. The troops were witnessing the whole of these proceedings with the intensest interest. Then the Marshal and the chaplains began to prepare the culprit for his death. He was too weak to stand. He sat down on the foot of the coffin. Captain Boyd then bandaged his eyes with a white handkerchief. A few minutes of painful suspense intervened while the Catholic clergymen were having their final interview with the unfortunate man. All being ready the Marshal waved his handkerchief as the signal, and the firing party discharged the volley. Johnson did not move, remaining in a sitting posture for several seconds after the rifles were discharged. Then he quivered a little, and fell over beside his coffin. He was still alive, however, and the four reserves were called to complete the work. It was found that two of the firing party, Germans, had not discharged their pieces, and they were immediately put in irons. Johnson was shot several times in the heart by the first volley. Each of the four shots fired by the reserves took effect in his head, and he died instantly. One penetrated his chin, another his left cheek, while two entered the brain just above the left eyebrow. He died at precisely a quarter to four o'clock.

The troops then all marched round, and each man looked

on the bloody corpse of his late comrade, who had proved a traitor to his country.


WE publish on page 829 a view of FORT PULASKI, in the Savannah River, commanding the approach to Savannah. Our picture is from a sketch by an artist with our fleet. The following account of the Fort, from the Herald correspondent, will be read with interest:

En passant of Fort Pulaski. I am informed by one who has lately visited that fort that it has undergone but few changes. The magazine has been protected by a large sand-bag traverse, built, however, in such a manner as to allow of a possible explosion, for often a shell will cross and roll for some distance before exploding. Now such a shell might, and in all probability would, in the event of an attack, roll into this space; exploding here, the chances would be ten to one that the magazine exploded. The large guns of the armament are all mounted en barbette. These consist of some twelve Columbiads, most of which are of eight-inch calibre, and are all named after prominent rebels. The gun-carriages are all of pine, which, in event of a bombardment, might splinter rather more than would the solid oak of which we of the North make the firm carriage of the heavy guns. The casemate guns are not in calibre more than thirty-twos, and these mostly mounted upon cast-iron carriages—which carriage is, I am told, a most unserviceable one ; for a shot or fragment of a shell that would, at the most, wound the woolen carriage, breaks in pieces and renders utterly useless the iron. The officer's quarters are in the western portion of the work, or that of the land approach, and are pierced for musketry. There are at the present time at the fort some eight hundred or a thousand men, with quite a large quantity of stores.


WE devote page 820 and part of page 821 to illustrations of the recent FIGHT AT FORT PICKENS. Our artist writes us as follows :

CAMP BROWN, Nov. 24, 1861.

The bombardment was commenced on our side November 22, 9 1/2 A.M., having about half an hour's start of the rebels. Since then the firing continued. The first day a heavy rain put a stop to the firing. The first day we had one man killed and one wounded. The killed man was a member of the Zouave Regiment. Good shots were fired on both sides, but little harm was done to Fort Pickens, while Fort McRae suffered very much. The United States frigate Niagara and the Richmond took part in the bombardment with good result. The second day Fort Pickens commenced firing again at half past 10 o'clock A.M., and was answered promptly by the rebels. I think about 2500 guns have been fired in two days. At 3 o'clock P.M. on the 23d November Warrington was set on fire by our guns, amid the fire destroyed already nearly all of that place and the greater part of the Navy-yard. It must not be forgotten that the steamer Time was disabled the first shot fired. She was towed out of the Navy-yard at night. The rebels did not fire as much the second day. Perhaps they are short of ammunition. I hope you will publish all these sketches relating to the bombardment. There is no one on the island at present sketching for any papers but myself, and they are therefore alone original sketches. Two companies of Wilson's Zouaves have the charge of batteries near the fort; two more companies of the same regiment assist in the fort, carrying shells, powder, etc., doing guard-duty in the fort; and the rest lie in the trenches to repel a night attack. The heaviest guns of the rebels are near the light-house, and their best mortars on both sides of the hospital. The water Battery, below fort M'Rae, is proving itself a bad customer, and is to be feared more than Fort M'Rae. Our ranges are now splendid, and it gives one great satisfaction to witness this great trial of our artillery.

CAMP BROWN, Nov. 24, 1861.

It being to-day Sunday, Colonel Brown gave orders not to commence firing unless the rebels commence the fire on us. I went to-day all over the fort; saw the damage done, which is not very considerable, considering the heavy firing. I send you a sketch of one of the rows of guns on top of Fort Pickens. I selected that particular sketch to show one of the disabled guns. It burst, through the excessive firing, the second day of the bombardment. Through a telescope; on Fort Pickens I saw that the rebel side suffered very much. I suppose we commence again to-morrow. I also send you the North Gate to Fort Pickens, facing Fort Barancas. No serious dosage is done there, though the exterior is much defaced. No breach is any where in the fort.

The correspondent of the Times writes:

FORT PICKENS, Monday, November 25, 1861. The long agony is, I hope, over, and well over. We have had as much success as I could reasonably hope for, and with much less loss and damage than I could have expected. We were under a continuous and heavy fire from the forts and batteries of the enemy, fourteen or fifteen in number, for two days, with a loss of only one private killed, and one sergeant, one corporal, and four privates wounded, and, which is singular, but one unit was hurt on the ramparts, the most exposed place.

You can have some idea of the amount of fire we gave and received when I tell you that we consumed fifty- thousand pounds of powder, and that three guns were fired every minute for two days. The avalanche of shot and shell was terrible, but our soldiers did their duty, as Union soldiers fighting for their country should, and most ably did officers and men perform their whole duty.

The navy, unfortunately, could not give us the assistance we expected, in consequence of drawing too much water, and we therefore failed in the great object of our hopes, the capture of Fort M'Rae.

About two-thirds of Warrington is burned, and although we can not see it, I think as much of Woolsey, a village north of the Navy-yard; and a good many buildings in the yard are burned, and the remainder must be shattered by the heavy shot and shell so unceasingly poured upon them.

Two steamers, the Time and Bradford, had become particularly obnoxious to our soldiers, who ardently desired to destroy them; but Bragg, afraid of losing them, always kept them at night at Pensacola, and only sent them down when loaded. At nine o'clock they accordingly came steaming down, little dreaming of the salutation that awaited them. The Time is one of those three-story Mississippi steamers, pictures of which you see in children's books, and the Bradford is a small low gun-boat We waited quietly until they had both fastened to the wharf and let off their steam, when the word was given to fire, and fire did belch forth simultaneously upon them from twenty guns. We were immediately enveloped in smoke, and so continued for an hour; when at length we could see we found the Time there, but the Bradford had gone.

The former continued exposed to our fire all day, and was probably ruined, but her hull being only a scow, we could not sink her, and at night she was towed off.

We think we have done at most important service to the country. In the first place, we have fully avenged the gross insult offered to our flag by the rebels attacking Billy Wilson's camp, and then trying to attack our batteries; and no one with truth can say that a spot or blemish has been received by the glorious old Star-Spangled Banner while in our keeping, that has not been fully wiped out.

In the second place, by attacking Bragg at this time, we think sue have made an important diversion in favor of General Sherman at Beaufort, not only by preventing Bragg from sending more troops there (he has sent some), but by compelling him to bring others here; he was also daily strengthening his batteries. We have very effectually weakened him for some time to come, and have compelled him to expend a vast amount of ammunition, which he can ill afford to lose.

We have, therefore, with eight hundred men, with one fort nearly surrounded by forts and batteries (two forts, and at least fifteen batteries), successfully attacked him with his eight or nine thousand troops.



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