Friday, April 3, 2009

Execution in Henderson 1864

Charles W. Thompson
Pierman Powell
Confederate Soldiers
Executed in the City of Henderson KY
July 22, 1864
By Order of Gen. Burbridge.

Photograph from St. Alphonsus Cemetery, St. Joseph, Daviess County, Kentucky 25 March 2004, courtesy of Christopher Myers of Evansville, Indiana.

On July 16, 1864, Major General Stephen G. Burbridge issued Order No. 59, which declared “Whenever an unarmed Union citizen is murdered, four guerrillas will be selected from the prison and publicly shot to death at the most convenient place near the scene of the outrages.”

Burbridge, a native of Georgetown, Kentucky, had been “given command over the state of Kentucky to deal with the growing problem of Confederate guerrilla campaigns. During his rule in Kentucky, he directed the execution and imprisonment of numerous people, including public figures, on charges of treason and other high crimes, many of which were baseless.”

The Henderson Reporter of Saturday, 23 July 1864 gives the following details of one senseless execution.

“On Friday … the day dragged lazily along, until about 3 o’clock, when it was bruited about that an order had been received by the Federals to execute the two men without delay and leave the city … A Catholic Priest had administered religious comfort to the prisoners – both of whom were Catholics. The soldiers being fully prepared for departure, marched from the Court House with the prisoners, assuring them that they should be unharmed. They then marched to the river bank and held a conference with the gunboat – a skiff being sent from it for that purpose. A sky-rocket was shot up from the other side of the river, and immediately a signal was displayed by the gunboat.

“The prisoners were then taken back up the bank, two chairs were secured in which to seat them, and their arms were tightly fastened to the boards of the fence opposite Howard’s Livery Stable, on First Street. Their eyes were bandaged and 12 soldiers were detailed to execute the sentence upon Powell first, who bore his fate with modest silence and unflinching firmness. The soldiers were placed at a distance of about 18 yards from the prisoners. At a word given, an irregular volley was discharged upon Powell, 10 balls entering his body … Strange to say, groans of acute anguish emanated from the mangled body … A thrill of ineffable horror pervaded the missaneous assemblage. The other platoon was now ordered to fire upon Thompson, who manifested considerable trepidation, and bitterly moaned the cruelty of his fate. The galling silence was broken and the leaden sheet of death rolled upon his unoffending bosom. A shudder, a gasp, a struggle and his life eddied out … The bodies, lacerated and sticky with blood, were handed over to a few citizens, who washed, properly dressed and promptly sent them to their friends in Curdsville, Daviess County, Ky.

“John P. Powell, the first unfortunate in this diabolical disgrace, was a young Kentuckian and a resident of Daviess County two months ago, and active in the vigor of strong manhood. He was about 23 years of age, a little over medium height, well-proportioned and a seemingly athletic man. He had soft, expressive eyes, and a bright florid bloom upon his cheeks. Red whiskers and bristly hair of a sandy color … We noticed a remarkably pleasant expression upon his face even in death.

“William Thompson, the other victim, was a youth of 19 years, medium height, bronze complexion, a sickly wanness overspreading his features, a high forehead, black hair and no beard. The expression upon his face in death seemed to us as one of violent pain and fierce determination.”

This ended one of the saddest tragedies ever witnessed by citizens of Henderson.

Burbridge was dismssed from his role of overseeing operations in Kentucky in 1865 and soon thereafter resigned from the army. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Copyright on text and photographs
Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG
Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog

1 comment:

joe said...

so has anyone ever figured out the names of the other men executed about a mile from Henderson supposedly 3 brothers from Indiana named HORTON along with men named Forest, Fry and Moore any help would be appreciated . Joe Masterson
my email address is