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THE FIRING SQUAD
At the Battle of Pilot Knob, near Bloomfield, Mo., in Sept. 1864, a Union Major (James Wilson) and six of his men were captured by the Confederates. According to Brig.-Gen. Thomas C. Fletcher, USA, "they were held for one week, then turned over to Major Tim Reeves, CSA (called a guerilla by the Union Forces) of Marmaduke's command. It has never been determined who gave the order, but Major Wilson was taken out and hung and his men were shot. When word of this murder reached Gen. Rosecrans, commanding the Department of the Missouri, he issued a retaliatory order to the effect that a Major and six enlisted men of the Rebel captives be shot. In carrying out this order, only those prisoners who refused to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Federal Government were selected. These men were marched into a room where they were ordered to draw lots. A container which held marbles or small balls, of which there were six black ones, was held above eye level so the men could not see the color they were drawing. The ones drawing a white marble were paroled - those drawing a black one were to be executed.
One of the men was Asa Valentine Ladd was born 23 Nov 1829 in Wayne Co., Mo. He served with Jacksons Co A, Burbridge's Regiment, 4th Missouri Calvery. He was captured by the Union army in Sedelia, Mo., on 16 Oct 1864. He was taken to Jefferson City and remained there for eight days, then was sent to Gratiot Street prison in St. Louis on the 25 of Oct 1864. According to his statement, which he made 28 Oct 1864 at the Gratiot Street prison, he was in the service constantly until his capture, yet he is listed on the muster roll as having deserted 27 July 1863. Death: Oct. 3, 1864
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery
St. Louis County
Plot: Section 20, Grave 4608 FIND-A-GRAVE SUBMISSION: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=ladd&GSfn=asa&GSmn=v&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=19380&
The six men selected to expiate the crime of Tim Reeves' murderers had previously been examined at the Provost Marshal General's office and their status ascertained by their own statements. One of die six, John M. Ferguson, of Crabtree's Arkansas Cavalry, was ascertained to have served but a short time as a soldier, having been employed much of his time as a teamster. His name was therefore stricken from the roll of death, and George F. Bunch, of Company B, 3rd Missouri rebel Cavalry, substituted for him. Ferguson was so rejoiced and grateful at this unexpected deliverance, that he shed tears and declared that hereafter he would fight only for die Union. The six men were in Gratiot Street Prison, and were not informed of the doom awaiting them until the day of execution. They were greatly affected when told they were to be taken out and shot. Father Ward, of the Catholic Church, and Rev. Philip McKim of the Episcopal Church, visited the men in the prison, accompanied them to the place of execution, and remained with them to the last moment. Mr. McKim baptised five of them on Saturday morning. The sixth (Asa V. Ladd) had already been baptised. He was a member of the Methodist Church.
At about two o:clock on Saturday afternoon, the six men were taken from the prison, placed in covered wagon[s], and escorted to the place of execution by a detachment of the 10th Kansas, followed by a number of other soldiers, and by a few citizens. Fort No.4, a short distance south of Lafayette Park[,] was selected as the place of execution. And to that point the procession marched without music.
On the west side of the fort six posts had been set in the ground, each with a seat attached, and each tied with a strip of white cotton cloth, afterwards used in bandaging the eyes of the prisoners. Fifty-four men were selected as the executioners, forty-four of them belonging to the 10th Kansas and ten to the 41st Missouri. Thirty-six of these composed the front firing party, sixteen being reserved in case they should not do die work effectually.
About three o'clock the prisoners arrived on the ground, and sat down attached to the posts. They all appeared to be more or less affected but, considering the circumstances, remained remarkably firm. Father Ward and Mr. MeKim spoke to the men in their last moments, exhorting them to put their trust in God. The row of posts ranged north and south, and at the first on the north was Asa V. Ladd, on his left was George Nichols, next was Harvey H. Blackburn, George T. Bunch, Charles W. Minniken and James W. Gates. Ladd and Blackburn sat with perfect calmness, with their eyes fixed on the ground, and did not speak.
The firing party was about ten paces off. Some of the Kansas men appeared to be reluctant to fire upon the prisoners, but Captain Jones told them it was their duty, that they should have no hesitation as these men had taken the life of many a Union man who was as innocent as themselves.
At the word, the thirty-six soldiers fired simultaneously, the discharge sounding like a single explosion. The aim of every man was true. One or two of the victims groaned, and Blackburn cried out: "Oh, kill me quick!" In five minutes they were all dead, their heads falling to one side, and their bodies swinging around to the side of the posts, and being kept from falling by the pinions on their arms. Five of them were shot through the heart, and the sixth received three bal1s in his brest [sic], dying almost instantly.
The execution was witnessed by several thousand spectators, most of them soldiers, and it was conducted in a manner highly credible to those engaged in the performance of this disagreeable duty.
The bodies were placed in plain painted coffins, and interred by Mr. Smithers.
HISTORY OF CHARLES W. MINNEKIN, CO. A, CRABTREE'S REG'T OF CAV., CSA
From "The History of the Six Selected Victims." From interviews apparently conducted by Union officials before the execution:
Aged twenty-two years, lives in Independence, Ark., born there; captured near Jefferson City, Mo., about 8th October 1864; cause, a rebel soldier, was sworn into the rebel service about the 10th day of June 1861 ,by Capain McIntosh of Sebastian County, Arkansas, for one year; was again sworn into the service, in Arkansas, on the 26th August 1863, for three years; arrived at Gratiot Street Prison October 26, 1864; twice in arms during the rebellion; served under Generals McCullough, Chruchill, McNair, McRae, Adams, and Fagan; in skirmishes at Oak Hill, Pea Ridge, and Murfreeshoro; furnished three or four horses for use of rebel army; is a Southern sympathizer and does not want to see the authority of the United States Government restored; has been in camp with his command in Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, North and South Carolina, Arkansas and Mo.; came up from Arkansas with Price's troops, and was with Fagan's Division.
- JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI
HISTORY OF ASA V. LADD
I am 34 years of age, live in Stoddard County, Mo.; born in Wayne County, Mo., was captured in Sedalia, Mo., 16th day of October 1864; cause of capture, was a rebel soldier, private, in Jackson's company A, Burbridge's Missouri cavalry; sworn in the rebel service 10th of March, 1861, by a recruiting officer in Stoddard County, Mo. for three years; have been in the service constantly until captured; when captured was first taken to Jefferson City, there eight days; not examined there; sent to Gratiot Street prison 25th October 1864; never took the oath of allegiance; in arms once; served under Marmaduke, no general engagements; a number of skirmishes; had arms all the time; furnished the rebels two horses for his own use; never pressed horses, etc.; he is a Southern sympathizer; does not desire to have the South put down in this war, and the authority of the United States Government restored; no slaves; wife and four children; farmer; one brother in the rebel army; was in camps with his command in Arkansas and Missouri; he came up with Price's troops under Marmaduke.
Sworn to by the prisoner,
October 28, 1864
It becomes my painful duty to forward you the last letter of your lamented husband, who was shot to death on the 29th of Oct. last, in retaliation for the death of Major Wilson and six of his men by rebels (Major Reeves).
I attended your husband from the time he rec'd his sentence to his death, and am happy to say he bore his fate with Christian fortitude and resignation. At his request, I placed his testament which he had carried with him through the war, on his breast in his coffin. God comfort you and your children is the prayer of your humble servant...
Phillip McKim Chaplain, U.S.A.
Headquarters Department of Missouri,
Office of the Provost-Marshall-General,
Saint Louis, Mo., Oct 29.1864.
Col. J.V. Du Bois, Chief of Staff, in the Field:
Colonel: I have the honor to inform the commanding general that on this day the following rebel soldiers - JAMES W. GATES, Co H. 3rd Mo, Cavalry, CSA; HARVEY H. BLACKBURN, Co A, Coleman's regiment, CSA; JOHN NICHOLS, 2nd Mo. Cavalry, CSA; CHARLES W. MINNEKEN, Co A, Crabtree's cavalry, CSA; ASA V. LADD, Bumbridge's regiment, Mo. Cavalty; CSA; and GEORGE F. BUNCH, Co B, 3rd Mo. Cavalry - were executed by being shot to death by musketry in retaliation for the murder of six men of the Third Cavalry Missouri State Militia by Tim Reves' guerrillas, and in compliance with Special Order No.277, paragraph 12, dated ... October 6, 1864. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, Joseph Darr, Jr. Acting Provost-Marshall-General
Saint Louis, MO.,
November 8, 1864.
Sir: This morning I was called from the prison where the Confederate officers were confined and taken to an anvil and a 12- pound ball and chain riveted to my ankle, and then my sentence was read to me as follows: "In retaliation for Major Wilson, Maj. Enoch, of Lieut. Col B. Ford's battalion, Col. T.R. Freeman's brigade, Gen. Marmaduke's division, Gen. Price's army,shall be shot to death with musketry on Friday next between the hours of 9 and 11 o'clock."
Now, general, I have one favor to ask and it is with you to say whether it is fair or not. The favor is this: If this inhuman and unsoldier-like deed was committed will you please ask General Price to deliver the per- petrator of this crime, and if he turned Major Wilson over to this notorious bushwhacking Tim Reves to be executed, he certainly will make satisfaction by delivering up to the authorities the man who committed this inhuman crime, and if he refuses to carry on an honorable warfare I think all those officers in prison will refuse to take up arms if ever exchanged.
I think these steps should be taken before you go further.I ask as a member of the Masonic fraternity. Excuse my bad writing.
Yours with respect,
E.O.Wolf Major, C. S.A.