JCCW Rebel Barbarities – Dr. James B. Greeley

25 04 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 458 – 460

WASHINGTON, April 2, 1862.

Dr. JAMES B. GREELEY sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. This committee have been directed by the Senate to collect evidence with regard to the barbarous practices of the rebels in disturbing the graves of our dead at Bull Bun, &c; will you please state to the committee, in your own way, what you know about that matter?

Answer. I, with others, accompanied Governor Sprague, of Rhode Island, to the battle-field of Bull Run, to endeavor to recover the bodies of Colonel Slocum, Major Ballou, Captain Tower, and others.

Question. About what time was that?

Answer. I think it was the 20th of March; either the 19th or 20th. We took with us, as a guide, a Mr. Richardson, I forget his first name, who assisted at the burial of Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou, to identify the spot where they were buried. We arrived at the place of burial on the 21st, I think. The hospital in which Colonel Slocum died had been burned, and we passed it. As we were passing I saw a negro girl at a spring; I questioned her about the way to the battle-field, and she directed us. We made some mistake, which we very soon discovered, when we turned back. Some of our party had been left behind, and when we returned we met Major Anthony, who commanded the escort. He informed us that they had commenced digging at a grave, and, while digging, this colored girl came down where they were and asked them what they were digging for. Said she, “if you are digging for the body of Colonel Sloke—,” she hesitated about the name, saying two or three times, “Colonel Sloke, Sloke.” One of the party said “Colonel Slocum.” “Yes, sir,” said she, “that is the name; you won’t find him ; the Georgia regiment men dug him up some weeks ago, and first cut off his head and then burned his body in the little hollow there,” pointing it out to us. She told us that his shirts were down in a place that she pointed out, and that his coffin had been left in the stream, and afterwards used to bury a colored pauper in. We went to the place she had pointed out to us, and found where there had been a fire, evidently for the purpose of burning the body, as she stated. In raking over the ashes we found a femur, or thigh bone, partly burned, some of the vertebras, or back bone, and portions of the pelvis bones. We also found, in a stream near by, two shirts, both of them still buttoned together at the neck, partially torn open in the centre, and with the wrists unbuttoned.

Question. How did they get the shirts off without unbuttoning at the neck?

Answer. The head had been cut off. We called the attention of every person present to that fact. We supposed that this body thus burned was that of Colonel Slocum. But when we found these shirts, Governor Sprague said Colonel Slocum never wore such a shirt as that. One of the shirts was a silk shirt, and the other was a striped shirt of some kind, I think. We had proceeded with the full conviction that the body thus burned had been that of Colonel Slocum; and when Governor Sprague said those shirts were not those of Major Ballou, we could not believe it possible, and went back to the graves to examine them. Before we had arrived there, Mr. Richardson had described to us the relative position of the graves of Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou. While we were down examining the ashes, men were engaged in digging out one of the graves—the upper grave; and when we returned there they had dug down nearly a foot, and had discovered nothing. Mr. Richardson was positive the coffins had not been buried more than two feet beneath the surface. It was very hard digging, and having discovered nothing after digging clown a foot, I suggested taking a sabre and running it down, by which we could very easily discover if there was a coffin there. I took a sabre myself and thrust it in the ground at least two feet, but could discover nothing. We then thrust it in the place where Mr. Richardson said the other officer was buried, and we struck a coffin not more than two feet below the surface. The coffin was taken out, and the top taken off, when Colonel Slocum’s friends recognized him at once, by his uniform, and also by his countenance, his moustache, &c. Major Ballou’s body was not found in the grave. We then went to a house on the battle-field which had been used as a hospital, in the yard of which Captain Tower had been buried. We exhumed there at least seven bodies, which had been buried in their garments, apparently just as they fell. They were buried with their faces downward. Among them we found the body of Captain Tower. His orderly was positive that when Captain Tower died he had on a very fine pair of boots; they were not on his body when we found him.

Question. Did you make any further search to ascertain whether there had been any further mutilation of the bodies or barbarities practised upon the dead?

Answer. No, sir. We made inquiries of the inhabitants there, and they all corroborated the girl’s story. There was a lad there, about fourteen years of age, I should judge, and he was questioned very closely about it. Colonel Sayles was with us, and was very skeptical about the burning of this body. He questioned the boy very closely, but the boy stood the examination very well. . The boy said that it was the 21st Georgia regiment who came there, and he saw the body burned. He said they put the fire out afterwards, because it made such a horrible stench. He said that he knew, several days before, that they were going to do it. After they did it, it was talked of a great deal in the neighborhood, and they all condemned it.

By Mr. Wright :

Question. What could have been the object of digging up this body, after it had been buried several months, and then burning it?

Answer. I could think of no object.

By the chairman:

Question. You spoke of seven or eight bodies being buried with their faces downward. What did you consider the significance of that?
 
Answer. I did not know. My impression was that it was intended as a mark of indignity; it seemed so to me. Every one we exhumed was found buried with the face downward, no matter in what position they lay. Sometimes they would lie crosswise of each other, four or five packed in together, sometimes with their legs sticking out of the ground, and all with their faces downward.

Question. Did you make any inquiries of the inhabitants to ascertain any further than you have already stated?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. State it, if you please.

Answer. They spoke of this burning of Major Ballou’s body particularly, and several of them said they knew of the fact, supposing, however, that it was Colonel Slocum’s body. One man told me that the Georgia regiment was very bitter against Colonel Slocum, because his regiment had been instrumental in cutting them up very badly. I examined the remains in the ashes very carefully. We brought them all home, and I examined them through my own hands. I examined especially for teeth, for I knew if the head had been there, the teeth would have been the last to have been destroyed. I found the femur, or thigh-bone, which must have been that of a man over thirty years of age. The angle at the neck of it indicated a man at least thirty years of age. The body was proved to be that of a man by the pelvis-bone that was found; but we found no portion of the skull.

Question. You have stated that you found that the shirts were buttoned at the neck?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. The wristbands, however, were not buttoned?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What inference did you draw from that?

Answer. The shirts could not have been taken off from the body without the head had been taken off, unless they had been unbuttoned.

Question. You understood that the head had been taken off?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Did you hear anything said about the skulls of our dead being used for drinking-cups, &c.?

Answer. The negro girl and the young boy I have referred to said that the Georgia regiment carried the skull of what they considered Colonel Slocum home with them.

Question. You are satisfied that it was Major Ballou’s body they had thus treated?

Answer. Yes, sir; and another reason was that we knew Major Ballou had lost a limb.

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