JCCW Rebel Barbarities – Reverend Frederic Denison

26 04 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 460 – 461

WASHINGTON, April 2, 1862.

Reverend FREDERIC DENISON sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. Have you heard the testimony of Dr. Greeley just given to the committee?

Answer. I have.

Question. Will you state whether you were with him during the examination he has referred to, and whether you concur in what he has stated?

Answer. So far as he has stated any matters of which I was a witness, I concur entirely. I accompanied Governor Sprague as a member of his staff; we left here on Wednesday, the 19th of March, and returned here on Sunday morning following. It was on the 21st of March that we went on the battle-field.

Question. If there is anything in addition to what he has stated that you deem of importance you will please state it.

Answer. I would state, in addition to what he has stated in regard to the grave of Major Ballou, that I accompanied the governor up through some pine woods to a house where resided an old gentleman of the name of Newman, a man I should judge to be sixty years of age. The colored girl had told us her story, the lad had told us the same story, and we wanted to learn what we could from others. This old gentleman seemed to be a man highly esteemed by all who knew him, and we went to him and asked him what he knew about the matter. He stated that the Georgia regiment, as he had understood, had suffered severely from the Rhode Island soldiers in the battle of Bull Run, and that through revenge they had exhumed this body, beheaded it and burned it. He said he was not present when it was done, and had not seen it, but that every one who had talked about it had said it was so. But he said that three or four days after it was done he went down there, and saw the fire and the bones, and the coffin, and that the coffin had been afterwards used to bury a colored pauper in. I asked him to go to the spot and show it to me, and he did so; went with me directly to the spot and pointed it out to me, and also showed me where the coffin lay when he saw it last, before it was used for the purpose of burying the negro pauper in.

Question. Did you understand what they did with the head after they cut it off the body?

Answer. This Mr. Newman, or else the colored woman, I cannot recollect which, said it was understood that the head was carried off south. They were not witnesses of the fact. I guess they heard it was so. I looked particularly among the ashes, but saw nothing that to my eye looked like any portion of the skull. In regard to the place where Captain Tower was buried, which was up on the battle-field, I counted eight bodies, as they were laid bare. They were buried in a pit, or a kind of a square hole, into which they had been thrown, with the earth thrown in perhaps two feet deep over them. On top we found an unexploded shell, which I brought with me. What it meant I cannot say — whether a matter of accident or a mark of indignity. It hardly seemed to me that it could be a mere accident.

Question. Did you observe whether they had been buried with their faces down?

Answer. Yes, sir; all of them.

Question. Did you make examination of other graves?

Answer. We opened no graves except those containing the bodies of the dead for whom we were seeking. There was another pit, not far from the one from which we took Captain Tower. We did not open it, not knowing positively that it contained any of our dead, though we suspected it contained the body of Lieutenant Prescott. Mr. Newman spoke a great deal of this matter of exhuming, beheading, and burning the body of Major Ballou. He called it Colonel Slocum, as that was what he had all along understood. He was very emphatic in his declarations that it could not have been done by Virginians. He seemed to think it a very barbaric thing, and wished to exculpate Virginians.

Question. Do you think of anything further that you desire to state?

Answer. In the pit from which we took the body of Captain Tower I counted eight bodies. There may have been more there. We began at one end, and uncovered until we came to the body of Captain Tower, and then opened it no further. There was one body lying right across the feet of the others, and to all appearance must have been trodden down very compactly, as there seemed to be hardly room for a body there. There seemed to have been no attempt to bury the bodies in any orderly, decent, or respectful manner. In regard to the mistaking of the body of Major Ballou for that of Colonel Slocum by the Georgians, it resulted from this, I have no doubt: Colonel Slocum was buried in an oblong box—a square box; Major Ballou was buried in a coffin, or a box which was coffin-shaped; and it is supposed (of course we know nothing about that) that they exhumed both coffins, and supposing the superior officer was in the coffin, and not in the box, which was the one they meant to take, they took the body of Major Ballou. Rumor accordingly stated that they had taken the body of Colonel Slocum. But his body we found. It was the body of Major Ballou that they took.

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