CIVIL WAR EXECUTIONS

CIVIL WAR EXECUTIONS - Stories

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WILLIAM THOMAS OVERBY

  • GEORGIA

Overby was one of the six Mosby's Men executed at Front Royal by orders of General George Custer on Friday, September 23rd, 1864. Overby and Love, were hung to a tree in sight of the town of Front Royal, and a paper pinned on the breast of one read: "Such is the fate of all of Mosby's gang."

Atlanta, GA.

The remains of the Mosby's Ranger often called the "Nathan Hale of the Confederacy" lie once again in the soil of his native Georgia. William Thomas Overby was given a hero's reburial January 5, 1997, in Oakhill Cemetery in Newnan, Georgia, southwest of Atlanta.

His body had lain the past 132 years in a rural Virginia Cemetery near where he was hanged on September 23, 1864, for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of the headquarters of his commander Confederate Cavalry Colonel John Singleton Mosby.

Overby was the son of a Coweta County, GA, planter, and was wounded at 2nd Bull Run while with the 7th Georgia Infantry. In 1864 he was a 27 year old member of Company D, of Mosby's Rangers. He was captured near Front Royal, VA, with 5 other rebels. All six were executed, and Overby was one of the last two to die. His captors offered to spare his life if he would reveal Mosby's whereabouts, but he was refused and was hanged from a walnut tree. His last words were reportedly: "Mosby will hang 10 of you for every one of us." Mosby did indeed retaliate: he hanged seven captured Union troops, attaching a note to the body of one of them with words to the effect that he would hang no more prisioners if Yankee commander George Custer desisted from hanging anymore captured Confederates. The hangings ceased. Overby was buried in Markham, Virginia, in the family cemetery of one of the other men executed that day, according to the Atlanta Constitution. The Sharpsburg Sharpshooters Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Coweta County made numerous attempts in recent years to have Overby's body returned, but without success. They finally got permission when the owner of the Virginia graveyard died and the new owners, descendants and judges in both states were amenable. Overby's few remaining bones were retrieved on the weekend of December 20-21, 1996, by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), and returned to Newnan, GA. There, they were placed in a pine period coffin and lay in state on January 4, 1997, in the Coweta County Courthouse. The coffin was draped in a Confederate flag and topped with a framed photo of Overby under a pair of Confederate swords. An honor guard of Confederate reenactors stood vigil, wearing black armbands over their left sleeves. The following day, a Sunday, Overby's casket was transported to Oakhill Cemetery via a horse-drawn artillery caisson, accompanied by more than 300 reeanctors while about 300 spectators looked on. (reported by Joe Kirby, for the Civil War News, Route 1, Box 36, Turnbridge, VT

PVT. THOMAS E. ANDERSON

Born September 9th, 1834, Thomas was one of the six Mosby's Men captured after the attack on Merritt's Cavalry Division's Reserve Brigade near Chester Gap. Although it cannot be directly confirmed on whose order, never the less, he was executed at Front Royal (supposedly by orders of General George Custer) on Friday, September 23rd, 1864. Thomas was taken out and shot. He is buried in the Anderson Family Cemetery, Markham, Virginia.

PVT. LAFAYETTE RHODES

Rhodes was one of the six Mosby's Men executed at Front Royal by orders of General George Custer on Friday, September 23rd, 1864. He was the last of the 6, whose home was in Front Royal. He fled up Happy Creek but was pursued and captured. The townspeople all knew of the executions before he was brought back. As he was carried through the streets his old mother, whose only support he was, rushed out and clasping her arms around his neck, pleaded with all the eloquence of a fond mother's love that the Federals would spare the life of her son. But deaf to all her entreaties, they rudely unclasped her arms, and pushing her roughly to one side, carried their prisioner outside of the village and put him to death. After the war, Dr. R. C. Buck, of Orlean, VA wrote: "I saw this fight, and from a distance saw the killing of Rhodes, who was a friend and playmate of mine. I saw Overby and Carter just before they were hung. They were taken by their captures to Petty's wagon yard, and as I passed them General Custer and his staff rode along the street. The Yankees were taunting the poor fellows, who stood up proud and defiant and apparently unmoved. I recollect the appearance of Overby; he was standing with his hat and coat off, his wavy black hair floating in the breeze. I never saw a finer specimen of manhood."

THE 1862 HANGINGS AT GAINESVILLE, TEXAS

  • TEXAS

Certainly one of the worst atrocities of the Civil War occurred in Gainesville, Texas in Oct. 1862, when 40 men, suspected of Union sympathies, were hanged. Although they were condemned by a questionalble "People's Court," and found guilty by a simple majority of 7 slaveholders, Dr. Richard Peebles characteried the act as "the great lynching," for which statement he was exiled.

Cooke County and 4 of its Red River neighbors were a center of opposition to secession from the Union. Five counties voted an average of from 61% to 70% against secession. When the Butterfield Stage Line connected the region with Kansas and elsewhere, many new residents resettled there from Kansas and Missouri, but the opposition to secession stemmed mostly from a fear for personal safety, rather than Northern sympathy. The 369 slaves in Cooke County were owned by only 10% of the population, and 95 of those were owned by the 2 men, Cols. James G, Bourland and William C. Young, who were principally responsible for the atrocity.

Actual opposition was quiet until the Confederate Conscription Act of April, 1862, was announced. Thirty men, calling themselves the Peace Party, sent a petition to the Confederate Congress, protesting the exemption from the draft for the largest slaveholders of Cooke County.

Bourland was commander of a battalion of Texas State Troops, called the "Border Regiment." Young commanded the 11th Texas Cavalry, but as of Oct. 1862, he was home on extended sick leave.

On Oct. 1, 1862, the two colonels arrested 150 men, who were accused of treason and conspiracy. The colonels impaneled to try them, an extralegal "People"s Court" (unlisted in "Gammells Laws of Texas"). Conviction came upon a simple majority of 7, and Bourland and Young made certain, that of the impaneled jurors, 7 of them were the county's largest slaveholders. Hence it became a contest between the slaveholders and the 90% who owned no slaves.

The 40 defendents were convicted by the "People's Court," and the first 21 were hanged during the same week. About Oct. 10th, Col. Young was murdered by an unknown assassin, and as a result, his son, Capt. James Young of the 11th Cavalry, took his place, exhibiting a real vengeance; and he soon hanged the other 19 defendents. Young tracked down 2 men, accused of killing his father, and he shot one, and lynched the other, using his own family slaves to do the dirty work.

Bourland was also accused of other atrocities, but the Confederate Army took no action concerning them. At the end of the war, he obtained a pardon from President Andrew Johnson, but there is no record that he was ever subjected to a Union court martial. He was also acquited of wrong-doing by a civil court at Gainesville.  He died in seclusion, a lonely and broken old man, on Aug. 20, 1879.

Many other atrocities and harassments were committed against the Central Texas immigrant Germans, even though many of them served in the Confederatre Army. Generally the Germans opposed slavery, and like Gov. Houston, opposed secession as well. Yet enough Texas Germans went north to fight in 1861, that they comprised the nucleus of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Texas Regiments of the Union Army. Neighbors harassed, pillaged and burned the farms of Germans who were loyal to the North.

In Aug. 1862, 65 Germans from Comfort, Texas attempted to flee to Mexico, hoping to go north to fight. They were intercepted by a Confederate company, which killed 19 at the Battle of Nueces, and executed 15 others that were captured. In 1866, their bones were gathered and buried in the Comfort Cemetery, beneath the tall "True der Union" monument.

SOURCE: By W. T. Block

http://www.texasescapes.com/WTBlock/Hangings-at-Gainesville-Texas-1862.htm