previous next
[24] helplessness; its abject, woe-begone expression was, if possible, heightened by his sallow complexion, light hair and eyebrows.

As this dismal procession passed the left of the artillery brigade, its commander read the charge, specification, finding, and sentence of the court martial: Wm. Johnson of the First New York Volunteer Cavalry had left his post on cavalry picket in Fairfax County, Virginia; had attempted to pass within the Confederate lines; and had communicated to a supposed Confederate officer, accompanied by his staff, information which was calculated to facilitate an attack upon our outposts.

If he were to be believed, he enlisted having such diabolical purpose in contemplation. ‘Sentenced to be shot to death by musketry.’ ‘For simple desertion the punishment is death; coupled with such treachery there can be no mercy.’ In the solemn stillness of the scene, you could hear this last refrain pronounced to command after command for one third of the length of the line. At length the wagon reached the spot, near the open end of the rectangle, where the execution was to take place. Johnson descended, supported by his chaplain; the firing party took its position, the general and staff being without the line and near the head. The condemned man, standing beside his coffin, said, ‘May God keep you, boys, from all such sin.’ Then the signal was given, a simultaneous discharge of twelve carbines followed, and Johnson was seen to fall beside his coffin. One by one the regiments and the batteries passed the fatal spot where he lay stark and stiff. A large black spot above and to the right of his right eye, made his ashen face seem paler by contrast. This was the first instance of the application of the death penalty for desertion in the Army of the Potomac. The Confederate officer whom Johnson interviewed was Col. Taylor of New Jersey, who was scouting in that section, being clad appropriately for the occasion.


In December we moved over the run, across the Leesburg pike, and established our camp beside and west of the camp of D, Second U. S. Artillery. Substantial wooden sheds were built around a rectilinear plot, three sides of it; at the east end was one range of the sheds of the regulars. These were for the horses; within this enclosure, to which there was an entrance on

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
New Jersey (New Jersey, United States) (1)
Fairfax (Virginia, United States) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William Johnson (4)
Jonathan Taylor (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
December (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: