5, The execution of three murderers in Murfreesboro as witnessed by a Wisconsin soldier
June 5th 1863
I just witnessed the hanging of three citizens of this County, for a murder that occurred about the first of March last. It seems that four scoundrels, in their attempt to compel an old man to tell them where he kept his money, used every means of torture conceivable, and upon failure to secure the desired information, finally killed their victim. The murderers fled within the confederate lines, were there arrested tried for the crime and one was hung. The three others escaped to our lines and were arrested as spies, and being recognized by the son of the murdered man, was tried by a military court and hung today. One of the men was over seventy years of age. All of them protested their innocence. A son and daughter of the man murdered as well as ten or fifteen thousand soldiers witnessed the execution. I believe these men justly deserved their fate, but I have no desire to witness another like execution.
J. M. Randall
LETTERS & DIARIES: The James M. Randall Diary
5-6, Execution and a railroad fatality in Murfreesboro
OUR CORRESPONDENCE FROM MURFREESBORO
Special Correspondence of the Daily Press
June 6th, 1863
Yesterday, Wm. A. Selkirk forfeited his life on the scaffold, for the murder of Adam Weaver, of Wilson co., Tenn., in the presence of a large concourse of soldiers and citizens. The unfortunate man was taken from the jail at 1 o'clock P.M., and placed in a wagon, drawn by six horses, the 37th Ind. acting as guard. As the convict walked out from the jail, with hands manacled, and viewed the vast concourse by which he was surrounded, his lips quivered and his whole frame shuddered. He was placed on his coffin and probably then for the first time he realized that before the setting sun he would be summoned before the august throne of Him who gave him life. The solemn procession marched slowly through Lytle street to the place of execution, in the following order: Colonel Stoughton and Captain Cosper, Provost Marshals, on horseback, accompanied by Surgeon J. C. Dorr, Medical Purveyor of this Department, and several surgeons, officers and correspondents, also on horseback; next the 37th Ind., with Col. Hull in command. Then followed the wagon containing the prisoner and his spiritual advisers. As the solemn procession reached the scaffold, there must have been at least 10,000 persons present, in fact, nothing could be seen for yards but a perfect sea of heads, and as the prisoner gazed upon the vast multitude, his whole appearance changed from an almost rose color to an ashy paleness. The recollections of the dreams of happiness he had once found all seemed to vanish when he gazed intently on the assemblage and the rope which hung carelessly over his head. He gave but one solemn, melancholy, dejected look of acute anguish at the rope and scaffold, and then turned and looked abstractedly [sic] towards the guard which escorted him. His philosophy soon restored him to self command, and he looked rather cheerful. It seemed to occur to him that if it would be the last time he would be privileged on earth to behold the faces which now surrounded him, and that he had better prepare himself with fortitude to meet the coming hour. As the wagon entered the square formed by the 27th [sic] Indiana around his scaffold it halted just under the structure. His hands were loosed and he turned round to father Cooney of the 35th Indiana, who sat in the wagon with him, and whispered a few words which I afterwards ascertained to be that he wished to be baptized before his death. Father Cooney went immediately and procured some water and baptized him. After the baptism was over, Rev. Mr. Patterson of the 11th Michigan made a most fervent and eloquent prayer, the prisoner on his knees with eyes uplifted to heaven and seemingly praying with all the fervor of his whole soul. After Mr. Patterson had finished praying the Adjutant of the 11th Michigan stood up in the wagon and read the "General order" which...and then told the prisoner that he had five minutes to live and make any remarks he wished. He then stepped out slowly and dejected-looking on the scaffold, and with faltering voice made the following remarks: "Gentlemen, I am here about to meet my saviour. I am here to give up my life for a crime I am not guilty of, and when you and I meet again before the bar of Justice you will know that I am not guilty of the crime.
"It is true I was there when the murder was committed, but I did not do it; good bye; may; the Lord have mercy; Jesus take me into Thy hands and keeping."
He then knelt down and joined in prayer with a gentleman, whose name I could not ascertain. After prayer was over, he stood up and stepped on the scaffold again, to have the fatal rope placed around his neck. While the rope was being adjusted, he prayed audibly, and his last words on earth were: "Sweet Jesus, take me to Thyself. O, Lord, forgive me for all my sins; " and again, as the person who escorted him was tightening the rope, he said, "For God's sake don't choke me before I am hung." Then, when the black cap was drawn over his eyes, he then seemed t know that in a few seconds he would be consigned to "that bourne from whence no traveller returns;" and said, "Lord have mercy on my soul." The words were scarcely uttered, when that which was a few moments before a stout, healthy man was nothing but a cold, inanimate form. I forgot mentioning that as the "black cap" was about being put on him, Sarah Ann Weaver, the youngest daughter of the murdered man, Adam Weaver, made her appearance inside the square, and quite close to the scaffold. She asked Capt. Goodwin and Maj. Wiles the privilege of adjusting the rope around his neck, but they would not grant it. She is a young lady of about seventeen years, rather prepossessing and intelligent looking; she stood there unmoved while the body lay dangling between heaven and earth. She seemed to realize that the murderer of her father had now paid the penalty with his life. Your corresponded asked her what she thought of the affair, and she curtly remarked, "He will never murder another man, I think." After the body had remained alone for fifteen minutes swinging in the air, and surgeon Dorr pronounced life extinct, it was cut down and put in a coffin. The assemblage departed, some laughing, some crying, and some thinking of the fate of the deceased. Mr. Bettis constructed the scaffold and had everything arranged in proper style.
Capt. Carlton of co. E, 22d Michigan, was instantly killed this morning on the train form Nashville to this place at the bridge across Stewart's creek. He was standing on top of a car and got knocked down under the cars. His left arm was entirely severed from his body.
Nashville Daily Press, June 8, 1863.
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