Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/246

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


242 Southern Historical Society Papers.

hanging at Front Royal, and I do not condemn you for it. But I desire to make this statement: Though I now belong to General Custer's command, yet I did not belong to it when that deed was perpetrated. I do not think, in justice, that I ought to be punished for the action of that officer before I had any connection with him."

The case was a hard one, but he was, nevertheless, marched off with his comrades.

On the day appointed for the execution, the battalion assembled at Rectortown. About n o'clock A. M., Mosby arrived, prepared to enter upon his painful task. There were twenty-seven men left after Brewster, the lawyer, was excluded from the lottery, and on the list were the names of two officers Captain Brewster and a lieuten- ant of artillery. An officer was detailed to superintend the sad affair, and Mosby withdrew from the painful scene, saying:

" This duty must be performed for the protection of my men from the ruthless Custer and Powell."

The prisoners were drawn up in single rank, and for each a bit of paper was prepared, but seven only of them were numbered. They were then all put into a hat, and each prisoner was required to draw forth one of them. Those who drew blanks were to be sent to Richmond as prisoners of war, but those who drew numbers were to be hung. Various were the emotions depicted on the countenances as each man put his hand in the hat: Firmness, with his closed lips and unquailing eye; stolid Indifference; and Fear, with his ashen cheek and trembling hand, were all there. Brewster, the lawyer, was there too, and with agonized looks, was watching the fate of his brother, while tears coursed down his cheeks. As each hand was taken from the hat an expression of joy and relief would brighten the countenance, or a groan of anguish or a cry of despair would burst from the line.

The condemned men were at once set apart and closely guarded. The two officers had drawn blanks, but not so the drummer boy. His appeals to Captain Richards were now louder and more eloquent than ever, who, touched with compassion, interceded with Mosby for his release. The application was granted, for the boy, in truth, ought never to have been subjected to the lottery. But another had to be substituted in his place, for Mosby remembered the blackened corpses of Overby and Carter, as they hung in the parching wind.

The prisoners, in cruel suspense, again stood in line, but now only one death warrant was in the hat. Captain Brewster again escaped, but the artillery officer was not so fortunate.