The Finest Description of a Civil War Execution that we have read – Letter by James C. Stuart of the 7th Indiana Infantry Witnessing the Execution of a Poor Man in the 19th Indiana “Iron Brigade” for Cowardice – “I HAVE STOOD WHERE BULLETS FLEW THICK & FAST & SEEN MEN LITERALLY TORN TO PIECES, BUT I NEVER FELT AS I DID WHEN THIS POOR MAN WAS MURDERED, FOR I CAN CALL IT NOTHING ELSE.”
This 4-page letter is written in ink. James C. Stuart is writing home to his brother and sister and describes the horror that he witnessed after the battle of Chancellorsville. James enlisted in September 1861 as a Sergeant in Company A. He would serve the entire war and was captured on May 24th 1864 at North Anna River, Virginia. Fortunately, he made it home from prison. The letter is headed, Camp of the 7th Ind. Centreville Va. June 16th ”.
Here is the content of that great letter:
• “As we are on the move and not knowing when we would stop again, I concluded to pen you a short note. I suppose you will know before this reaches you that we have abandoned our position on the Rappahannock and are in full retreat for Washington or Maryland.” (They were headed for Gettysburg!)
• “We arrived here last night tired and foot sore, having traversed 80 miles in 8 days. We marched all night, night before last. My feet are in an awful condition, but I had to keep up or be taken prisoner. This place is 3 miles from the Bull Run battle field and is a pretty strong position. I suppose we will stay here until tomorrow in order to let the men recruit a little.”
• “It is reported that the Rebs have gone to Maryland and I suppose we will have to try and head them. We are going through another Pope campaign, and I hope the Rebs will capture Washington if they don’t put McClellan in command of this army.”
• “I WITNESSED AN AWFUL MURDER ON THE LAST MARCH. It was the shooting of a man belonging to the 19th Ind. The poor fellow fell to the rear during the Battle of Chancellorsville, was tried by a drum head (court martial), and sentenced to be shot to death of the 12th inst. Hooker sanctioned it…”
• “…THE POOR MAN WAS IRONED AND HAD TO SIT ON HIS COFFIN FOR ONE DAY PREVIOUS TO BEING SHOT. On the 12 about noon, we were halted and formed in column to witness the execution. The man was hauled up in an Ambulance & taken out. His coffin was then taken out and the men went to digging his grave.”
• “The chaplain then offered up a short prayer. He was then seated on his coffin, his hands tied behind his back, and a bandage placed over his eyes. 6 men were then marched up in front of him. His coat & shirt were each gathered and his shoulders laid bare. The officers then stepped back.”
• “THE MEN COCKED THEIR PIECES & TOOK AIM. THEN CAME THE WORD FIRE & THE POOR FELLOW FELL BACK, BUT NOT DEAD.”
• “The reserve was ordered up and they shot two more loads into him. This put him out of existence. I cannot express the awful sorrow which passed over me.”
• “I HAVE STOOD WHERE BULLETS FLEW THICK & FAST & SEEN MEN LITERALLY TORN TO PIECES, BUT I NEVER FELT AS I DID WHEN THIS POOR MAN WAS MURDERED, FOR I CAN CALL IT NOTHING ELSE.”
• “I don’t know whether you can read this or not. I am so nervous from the fatigue of yesterday. Your Brother J. Stuart”
The letter suffers from staining. Being on the march, no doubt it got wet. Fortunately, it was written in nice dark ink and is all readable. The last page is the worst. Assuming that only the front page will be displayed, the staining will not bother too much. There is some separation at the folds and archival tape has secured. It is very rare to find such an extensive description of an execution and the fact that this poor fellow was not dead on the first volley makes for even a sadder description. Without the staining, a $900 letter.
#L737IN – Price $495