Excerpts from the Published Works of Eric Buckland
From Mosby's Rangers: Many Hazardous Exploits
Guerrilla Executed: HANGING OF CHARLES FENTON BEAVERS AT WASHINGTON.
(From the Washington Star, Aug. 27.)
Charles Fenton Beavers, of London County, Va., late a private in Mosby’s guerrilla band, was executed in the yard of the Old Capitol Prison a few minutes of 12 o'clock to-day, by hanging, in pursuance of a sentence of a court-martial. Beavers, about the 22d of February last, came into our lines at Vienna and gave himself up as a deserter from Mosby’s force. He took the oath of allegiance, and lurked within our lines for some time, and in March was sent to this city and committed to the Old Capitol Prison, where he was released shortly afterward, upon again taking the oath. After he was released he applied to Mr. W.P. Wood, in charge of the prison, to give him a pass to cross the river. Mr. Wood advised him not to cross the Potomac, telling him he would go right to his old friends and companions again, and that he would be certainly caught again, and if caught would no doubt be hanged. Beavers insisted that he only wished to go home, and he declared his determination to keep the oath of allegiance inviolate. Beavers left, and in June was recommitted to the Old Capitol, having been captured with arms in his hands and with Mosby’s guerrillas. On July 20, by special orders, No. 177, a court-martial, of which Col. G.W. Cartwright was president, was convened for the trial of this and similar cases. The charges against Beavers were lurking about our camp at Vienna as a spy, and violating the oath of allegiance by taking up arms in aid of the rebellion, after having voluntarily taken the oath. The court acquitted him of the charge of being a spy, but convicted him of the violation of the oath, and sentenced him to be hanged on Friday, Aug. 26, between the hours of 10 and 12 o'clock. The sentence was approved, and Col. Ingraham, Provost-Marshal, D.C., was charged with the execution of the sentence.
Beavers was notified of his fate yesterday afternoon, and during the night the scaffold was erected in the southwest corner of the yard of the Old Capitol Prison. The scaffold has already been used several times -- having served for the execution of no less than five noted criminals.
As soon as Beavers was aware of his fate, he asked for a spiritual adviser, and Rev. O.P. Pitcher, missionary of the Young Men’s Christian Association, was called, and remained with the condemned man until 2 o’clock this morning, and engaged in prayer with him. Mr. Pitcher again visited him at 8 o'clock this morning, and remained with him until he was ushered into eternity.
About 11 o’clock Col. Ingraham arrived at the prison, and a few moments afterward the prisoner was called across the yard and taken to a room upstairs to be prepared for execution. He walked with a firm tread. He was clad in the butternut pants of the Confederacy and a pair of dilapidated boots.
At 11 1/2 o'clock Beavers was brought down stairs leaning upon the shoulder of a friend, also a prisoner. Beavers was by this time clothed in the black shroud, and he was evidently nervous as he approached the scaffold. Just before mounting the scaffold he took off his boots and pants, having donned a clean pair of socks, drawers and shirt. As he mounted the scaffold he looked toward the windows where a number of rebel prisoners were eagerly gazing upon the scene before them, and said in a loud voice. “Oh, men, let this be a warning to you.” The rope was then adjusted around his prisoner’s neck and his arms and legs were tied, after which Col. Ingraham in a clear voice read the proceedings of the court-martial that had tried Beavers, and also the order for the execution. Col. I. then remarked to the prisoner that it was his painful duty to see the order executed.
Mr. Pitcher then read the 90th psalm, and afterward made a fervent prayer. Beavers did not appear to pay much attention to the devotional exercises, and he moved his head in different directions, and looked out upon the trees and other objects, and was evidently desirous of seeing as much as he could of the world he was so soon to leave. Indeed he two or three times, as the arrangements of tying him, &c., progressed, asked to be permitted to take “just one more look.”
Beavers step-father and step-brother (named Hatton) are also confined in the prison, and they were permitted to be in the yard and hid him good-by upon the scaffold. Beavers asked to see Mr. Wood, and upon the appearance of that gentleman he asked him to have his body and his old clothes sent to his mother, who lives seven miles west of Drainsville. He also remarked to Mr. Wood that he wished to God that he had taken his advice at the time of his release. He then bid Mr. Wood good-by, and shook hands with Col. Ingraham, Mr. Pitcher, and the executioners, and as the cap was being drawn over his face he called out to his relatives and others: "Good-by, father; good-by, boys." This latter remark was addressed to the prisoners, large numbers of whom witnessed the execution from the windows looking out upon the yard.
At 11:45 o’clock the cap had been adjusted; the bolts were drawn; a slight click, followed by a dull sound, was heard, and the body of the prisoner was seen dangling in the air. For nearly five minutes after the fall, there was a contraction of the muscles of the lower limbs, painful to witness, and at times, the legs would be perceptibly drawn up. The body was allowed to hang fifteen minutes, when it was lowered a little, and Dr. C.M. Ford, surgeon in charge at the prison, made an examination, and said he noticed a slight and very feeble throb of the heart. The body was allowed to hang three or four minutes longer, and then Dr. Ford pronounced him dead. The body was cut down and carried to the hospital of the prison, where a further examination revealed the fact that the neck had been dislocated by the fall.
Beavers was a young man not more than 21 years of age. He was nearly six feet tall, and of a heavy, massive frame, indicating great power of endurance. He was rather good-looking, of a light complexion, and light hair, inclined to curl.
Mr. Wood will endeavor to have the remains of the deceased sent to his mother in Virginia, in accordance with his request.
A REPLY TO CHARLES BINNS
I have read in the Fairfax Herald of the 19th instant Charles Binns' reply to my letter which had an extract from the War Records which proved that Binns left Fairfax in July, 1863 with a party to join the Confederate Army; and there were quotations from reports of Colonel Lowell in which he speaks of Binns as a Deserter; of the valuable information which Binns brought with him; of the services Binns was rendering him against his former comrades, and of the pay he was giving Binns for his treachery.
It seems that on February 22, Colonel Mosby addressed a letter to the Herald in reference to the death of one of his best men and best friends, Joe Richards, and incidentally spoke of Joe's prowess in an affair with the California cavalry battalion near Dranesville in which Joe showed great eagerness to capture Binns, who deserted form Mosby's Battalion and was then employed as a guide by the enemy.
He also stated that when the fight began Binns took to his heels and never stopped running until he crossed the Potomac. Bins contents himself with charging me with misquoting the records. He does not specify in what particular. His word is not sufficient evidence of the fact. Why didn't he correct the quotations and show that the record had been garbled to his prejudice? There are about 130 volumes of the War Records; I doubt if Binns ever: saw them. Binns' name is mentioned four times; in July, November, and December, 1863.
Extracts were made to show that Binns' denial of being a Confederate deserter is contradicted by the records. Dates were given so that it is very easy to verify quotations. It is true that only extracts from reports were made but they were perfectly fair and there was no misrepresentation. The truth there is there were two references of him omitted for the sake of brevity which prove as much against him as those that were quoted.
Colonel Lowell's report of November 26th, 1863 twice speaks of Binns as a deserter. I quoted only one such reference to Binns. I can now give Binns the benefit of both. Lowell says: “Capt. Rumery took as guides Yankee Davis and the deserter Binns.” AND “Capt. Rumery managed his part of the expedition with great judgment. The deserter Binns proved of great assistance.” So much the worse for Binns.
I quoted only one reference in Lowell's report of December 27th, 1863. Here are both: Lowell says: “The party of 10 mounted and 40 dismounted men of the Thirteenth New York cavalry under Major Coles with Binns as guide sent out the night before last, scouted the country as far as Leesburg and carefully this side of Broad Run. They searched the houses and brought in 8 prisoners, amongst them were Pettingall (a notorious scout), Joe White, Bridges (one of Mosby's men) and Beavers, with other suspicious citizens pointed out by Binns.”
I referred to a number of Fairfax men who belonged to Mosby's battalion as witnesses to prove that Binns was one of their command, dressed in Confederate uniform, went with them on raids, and then deserted. George Tuberville, of Fairfax, known as the ‘Little Rooster’, is one. I have just received a letter from him. He says he was well acquainted with Binns and endorses all I said about him. Binns speaks of being stabbed in the dark. Col. Mosby’s letter of February 22nd charging Binns with desertion had his signature in full. My letter simply produces evidence from the records to support Col. Moss's charge. Binns can ask the editor who I am.
Alexandria Gazette, 1 April 1909
WILLIAM LYLE HUNTER
William Lyle Hunter was born in Augusta County Virginia, August 24, 1842. At the age of 20 years, as a loyal Southerner, he believed that the cause of his State and section was just and entered the Confederate army. He served faithfully until the close of the war and became a trusted lieutenant under Colonel Mosby. He came to California in 1868 and located at Cerro Gordo. During the height of that camp’s prosperity he owned and operated a large pack train. The business was very lucrative, and he made thousands of dollars; but with the open handed generosity which always characterized the man, he gave his money away as fast as he made it. When Cerro Gordo declined he discovered the mines in Beveridge district known as the Hunter’s canyon mines, which he continued to operate until the time of his death. In 1875 he married Carrie Duval; five children were born to them and the wife and all the children survive him. He was elected county clerk in 1884 and served two years, making an efficient and painstaking officer. Since 1886 his home has been at Georges Creek. He was a member of lee Lodge, No. 209 F. & A. M. of Virginia in good standing. His was an adventurous life, full of spirit and incident, of which scarcely an outline can be given in the limited space of a newspaper item. Several years ago, at our earnest solicitation, he began writing memoirs of his war experiences which are interesting and valuable history. About three years ago he began to suffer from stomach trouble, and while the best physicians in the State were consulted, it was impossible to stop the ravages of the disease, and he gradually became weaker until the end.
Mr. Hunter was a pure-minded, unselfish gentleman. He possessed the most exalted ideas of honor and uprightness and never in his life wronged any human being out of the value of anything knowingly or intentionally. His whole life was an exemplification of generous, courtly chivalry toward women and moral uprightness amongst men. He carried his idea of business honor to such an extreme that he constantly wronged himself in his desire to be just toward others. He was not trained to commercial uses and did not possess the faculty of acquiring and keeping wealth. While he made a great deal of money, he gave freely and his last dollar was always at the disposal of a distressed friend. Such men are always poor in this world’s goods but rich in the respect of his fellow-men. He was conscientious to a fault, and once his mind was made up as to the most honorable course to pursue, no argument could influence or change him. As to material things he was guided by the advice of friends; but where honor was concerned he was the sole judge and arbiter of his course. His early environment and education made him a sympathizer and a soldier in the cause of his people, and he gave to that cause his earnest and valiant support. In the course of later years and riper judgment he acquiesced in the inevitable and the same spirit which made him a loyal and earnest supporter of his section made him a patriotic and honorable American citizen. We were as close in his confidence and friendship as it was possible to be and know that whatever of rancor and bitterness there might have been, it had entirely faded away and the Nation had no more loyal citizen than William Lyle Hunter.
Short services were held at the residence, and the remains were taken to the M.E. Church. Rev. Richard Fysh preached a touching sermon, dwelling upon the hope and promise of immortality. The choir sang appropriate hymns, and Mrs. Walter Hanby sang “Calvary” in a very feeling manner. The coffin was draped in the American flag and the body followed to its last resting place by a large concourse of friends who loved and honored him in life and who respect and venerate his memory. God be with him and peaceful in his everlasting sleep.
Inyo Independent, 14 March 1902