Among the books and binders that populate the Southeast Missourian's library is one three-inch-thick black binder with the unoriginal title of "Book A."
Book A, and its unremarkable companion Book B, contain handwritten historical notes by the late George Naeter, one of the founders of the Southeast Missourian. In most cases, they are items that appeared in the "Out of the Past" column, carefully categorized by such topics as schools, businesses, churches, etc. Included in Book A is a section on the Civil War in Cape Girardeau. On the fourth page of that 12-page section is this:
"In only two instances were Rebel soldiers executed in Cape Girardeau. One, Bolin, was taken from the prison in the Common Pleas Courthouse and hanged to a tollgate bar.
"Another prisoner, Henry Winter, was brought in. Lynching was feared. A heavy guard was placed in the public square. Courtmartialed and was shot near Fort C on Aug. 10, 1864, in the presence of a large crowd..."
The entry piqued my interest, so I went trolling through online issues of the Cape Girardeau Weekly Argus to see what I could find.
Published Feb. 11, 1864:
On Friday evening last our usually quiet little town was the scene of one of those sudden ebullitions of popular feeling, which sometimes sweep over the human soul -- for the time enchanting all by its suddenness, and electrifying both beholder and actor alike, by its very vividness. We let the Missouri Democrat tell the incidents, in its own words:
On the third inst., a scouting party sent out by Colonel J.B. Rogers, under command of Captain Shelby, 2d regiment cavalry M.S.M., attacked a large band of guerrillas under the noted chief John F. Bolin, killed seven and captured eight men, thirteen horses, and fifteen wagons loaded with corn. Bolin was captured and confined in the guard house at this post.
At a late hour last night he was forcibly taken by the enraged soldiers and citizens from the custody of the guard, and hung. No intimation of the act reached the officers until the deed was being perpetrated. The officers did all in their power to suppress the violation of law, but to no avail. Bolin made the following confession before his execution: "I was at Round Pond; there were eight men killed, two by Nathan Bolin (John Fugate Bolin's brother) and one by John Wright. They were killed with hand-spikes. I emptied one revolver. At Round Pond I shot one man, at Dallas (Marble Hill) I wounded another. I captured eight men on Hickory Ridge; I told them I was going to shoot them, but their soldiers recaptured them before I could do so. I have killed six or seven men; I killed my cousin; I ordered him to halt -- he would not, and I shot him down."
While we deprecate violence in every form, we have no sympathy to expend on one who so richly merited death, and whose hands were so dyed in the blood of his fellow man.
On Aug. 6, 1863, the Argus printed a story about the massacre at Round Pond, which was referred to in the above article.
TRAIN BURNED -- SOLDIERS SLAIN
On Saturday morning last, a train of some thirty wagons left this place for the interior, all heavily laden with Government freight. They encamped that night at Round Pond, some eighteen miles from here, and the guard of ten soldiers with it, instead of guarding it as they should, dispersed themselves, some through the train, while others went off to farm houses, from two to six miles away. That portion of the guard remaining with the train, instead of doing their duty, we are informed, by one of the teamsters, laid down and went to sleep. About twelve o'clock, they were attacked by the notorious band of Bowlin, and nine of them killed outright, while five were wounded so that three of them died next morning. They then burned twenty-seven of the wagons, many mules being left chained to the wagons, and burned with them, They then gathered together all the available horses in the train and made off.
It is to be regretted that our soldiery should be so careless in passing through what is notorious as a bushwacking community, for many of them have paid for their negligence with their lives -- to say nothing of the immense destruction of property, which the affair has involved. Again, the authorities having the matter in charge, out to send stronger guards along with trains of such size. There is too much at stake, to risk it in such a manner. The public interest demands that more care be exercised in future.
To read a more complete account of the Round Pond massacre go to http://www.semissourian.com/story/115815...
From the Cape Girardeau Weekly Argus, Sept. 1, 1864:
EXECUTION OF BERRY WINTERS
Under the following order from the War Department, Berry Winters, Citizen, was "shot to death," on the 20th August, at Fort C, in this city:
"Before a military commission which convened at Cape Girardeau, Mo., April 27th, 1864, pursuant to Special Orders No. 62, dated Head Qr's Distr. S.E.Mo., Pilot Knot, Mo., October 21, 1863, and Special Orders No. 55, dated Head Qr's St. Louis District, Mo., March 16, 1865, and of which Major D.J. McKay, 2nd Cav., M.S.M., is President, was arraigned and tried:
Berry Winters, Citizen.
Charge: "Violation of the laws of war.
Specification: "In this, that the said Berry Winters, a citizen of Missouri, and State of the United States, and owing allegiance thereto, and not belonging to any lawfully authorized force in the service of any power at war with the United States, did take up arms as an outlaw, insurgent and guerrilla, and did join himself and belong to a guerilla band, and did commit depredations and outrages on the peaceable citizens of Dunklin County, Mo., and was so engaged when captured. This in Dunklin Co., in the State of Missouri, on or about the 2nd day of April, 1864."
To which charge and specification the accused, Berry Winters, citizen, pleaded "Not guilty."
The Commission having maturely considered the evidence adduced, finds the accused, Berry Winters, citizen, as follows:
Of the Specification,-- "Guilty."
Of the Charge, -- "Guilty."
And the Commission does therefore sentence him, Berry Winters, Citizen of the State of Missouri, to be shot to death, at such time and place as the Commanding General may direct, two-thirds of the Commission concurring in the sentence.
The sentence of Berry Winters, citizen, was approved by the War Department.
THE ORDER FOR EXECUTION.
Head Q'rs. Post, Cape Girardeau, Mo.
August 25, 1864.
Special Order No. 15.
Lieut. O.P. Johnson, Co. "D," 1st Infantry, M.S.M., will detail from his company twelve privates and one sergeant, to shoot to death Berry Winters, sentenced by Gen'l Court Martial, Orders No. 25, War Department, C.S., at 10 o'clock, a.m., 26th inst., south of Fort C. The men will guard the prisoner from the prison to the place of execution, then be drawn up double rank, ten paces distant from the prisoner, all with rifles loaded. The front rank will fire first. If the prisoner is not dead from the effects, the rear rank will be ordered to fire; if they do not succeed in killing him, the sergeant will be ordered to shoot him dead with his revolver. Lieut. Johnson will command the detail, and execute the sentence. By order
J. ROBBINS, Major Cotn'g.
J.C. Thomson, Adj't.
In conformity with the above order, at 9 o'clock of the day appointed, the prisoner was brought from his cell in charge of Sergeant Galloway, accompanied by Rev. Father O'Regan (most likely the Rev. P.M. O'Regan, a member of the faculty at St. Vincent's College here). Winters' arms were bound behind him, and he walked out with a step quite firm, and his countenance wore an expression of perfect resignation, but at the same time of unmanly dejection. Father O'Regan, who had ever since his sentence attended upon him with the most Christian charity, baptized him, and prepared him for death by administering to him all the rites of the Catholic Church, mounted the wagon with him, and never for a moment left his side, until all was over.
Lieut. Johnson drew up the soldiers in proper order about the ambulance in which was placed the coffin. Sergeants William R. Palmer, John W. McRoberts and George Cole assisted the unfortunate man to mount, and seated him upon his last resting place. By order of Lieut. Johnson the mournful cavalcade the moved on. The solemn drum of Connor marked the passage of the doomed man to his doom. Passing up Jackson Street to Sprigg Street, the cortege moved directly to the place of execution.
The troops, numbering all who were not on duty, on arriving at the place of execution, formed a hollow square in Fort C, with an open face on the north side. The preparations being completed, the priest and the prisoner got out of the wagon, and seated themselves upon the coffin, which was place upon the ground. The prisoner now appeared to give hall his attention to his spiritual adviser. Fifteen feet from the coffin were in two ranks twelve soldiers, under the immediate superintendence of Sergeant Spiral Alltiser. Their names are
James H. King, Isaac Love, Lafayette Rogers, Thomas McCarty, Philander Simcoe, E.T. Uppinghouse, H.H. White, Isaac C. Hughey, Simon Alltiser, Maurice Connery, D.H. Glascock, C.S. Gaunt.
These were the executioners. The guns of the first six were loaded all with ball and cartridge except one, so that neither of them could say with certainty that he had caused the prisoner's death, as it was not known which one carried the gun loaded with blank cartridge.
When Father O'Regan intimated that he was through, and not before, Adj't Thompson and Lieut. Johnson came forward; the Adj't read the "death warrant," which the unfortunate man listened to with attention. It was read aloud, distinctly, and with proper solemnity. Lieut. Johnson then asked the prisoner if he had anything to say, to which he answered, "Tell the boys to shoot me dead." His eyes were then bandaged, the priest pronounced the benediction, all retired, and a few solemn moments expired before the voice of Lieut. Johnson was heard, "Shoulder arms -- ready -- aim" (at the last command a perceptible tremor took possession of the condemned man,) -- "fire!" and he fell back upon his coffin, exclaiming, "Oh, oh, oh, Lord!" and Berry Winters passed from earth. He died within a minute.
At the request of Father O'Regan, the authorities promptly detailed an escort, which conveyed the body to the church (most likely St. Vincent's), where it remained until the next morning, when it was expected the mother would remove it to her farm, a few miles from the city.
Too much cannot be said in praise of the officers and men who had charge of this execution. The kindness with which they at all times treated the prisoner, the promptness, the fidelity, and decorum with which they executed their various duties in detail under their respective orders, elicited the highest praise from all who were spectators. The impression left upon the mind of all was that law was supreme, that while mobs and violence terrified and infuriated, a solemn execution, such as the one they had just witnessed, inspired a sense of security, a respect for legitimate authority, and a profound sense of individual responsibility.
We cannot close this notice without the most emphatic language condemning the conduct of those women who were present to witness this awful scene. An intuitive sense of propriety and of self-dignity would keep every true lady from such a place. We discovered among those who were present a frivolous curiosity, a disgusting levity, which was absolutely revolting, when put in contrast with the solemn, noble, manly bearing of the officers and soldiers, and respectable male spectators on the ground.