Sunday, August 10, 2008

Schuylkill County Civil War Soldier Executed For Murder 1863

How the execution of Dormady and Clark would have looked like.


Between the years 1861-1867, 267 Union Soldiers were executed either in front of a firing squad or they were hanged. The soldiers were court martial under military law. The common soldier swore an oath to defend the constitution, but in reality he was denied a lot the basic rights of the constitution.
Soldiers were denied the right to” Free Speech”, “Immunity from search and seizure”, “Double jeopardy”, and a speedy and public trial. They were also denied “the right for obtaining witnesses on their own behalf and the assistance of counsel.” And also “Avoidance of cruel and unusual punishment.” According to Dr. Robert I Alotta, in his book Civil War Justice.
Dr. Alota also states “there was no precedent for the Civil War in American judicial system. Military men, just like those steeped in the law, were unprepared for the adjustment to wartime reality. And their was no desire, at least on the part of the military to come to grips with the situation.”
Of the 267 men listed as executed, there were actually many more that were not listed according to an 1887 report by the military. A certain bias toward ethnicity, race and religion played a major roll in who was to be executed.
There was also an extreme difference in the character of a court martial for an officer versus that of an enlisted man. Enlisted men were really doomed because of their lack of sophistication and lack of political pull.
The major reason for execution in the Union Army was for that of desertion. A major problem during the Civil War. Under the Articles of War desertion is possibly the worst of the crimes a soldier could commit. Although desertion stood as the largest reason for execution, men were also executed for murder, mutiny, stealing, assault, striking an officer, rape, and highway robbery.
On 5 September 1862, Private William Dormady a 19 year old canal boat man from Pottsville serving in Battery H, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery along with Pvt. Charles Clark a 29 year old private of the same battery, and regiment were charged by a Military Commission with 1st charge: Quitting their post to plunder and pillage, 2nd charge: “Assault with intent to kill” and the 3rd charge.” Murder” A unique aspect of this crime is the fact that other men of the same regiment were involved in this act, but none were ever charged.
Both William Dormady and Charles Clark were members of Battery "H", 1st Regiment Pennsylvania Light Artillery (43rd Volunteers)
Organized at Philadelphia August 5, 1861, and ordered to Washington, D.C. Attached to Defenses of Washington to October, 1861. Buell's Division, Army Potomac, March, 1862. Artillery, 1st Division, 4th Army Corps, Army Potomac, to July, 1862. Reserve Artillery, 4th Army Corps, Yorktown, Va., to June, 1863. Camp Barry, Washington, D.C., 22nd Army Corps, to May, 1864. 1st Brigade, DeRussy's Division, 22nd Corps, to June, 1865.
Their service included duty in the Defenses of Washington, D.C., until March, 1862. Advance on Manassas, Va., March 10-15. Ordered to the Virginia Peninsula. Siege of Yorktown April 5-May 4. Battle of Williamsburg May 5. Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines) May 31 June 1. Seven days before Richmond June 25-July 1. Bottom's Bridge June 28-29. Glendale June 30. Malvern Hill July 1. At Harrison's Landing until August 16. Moved to Yorktown, Va., and duty there until June, 1863 when and where their crime was committed.

Privates William Dormady and Charles Clark, of Battery H, 1st Penna. Artillery, convicted by General Court Martial of the murder of Hesekiah Stokes, a citizen of York County, Va. Were hung outside of the walls of Fort Yorktown, yesterday, at 1 ½ o’clock, P.M. March 2, 1863.
Particulars of the murder.
The day previous to the murder, Dormody and a companion-their battery then encamped two miles below Fort Yorktown went about three and a half miles south of their battery camp, and fell in with two citizens of York County, Patrick Dawson and Thomas Hogg, at work near an orchard. They asked these citizens for apples, and were told to take as many as they pleased. After leaving the orchard they proceeded to a corn field and commenced stripping off the corn. Dawson and Hogg left their work and approached and expostulated with them. An angry altercation followed, succeeded by a fight, in which Dormody and friend were soundly flogged, and from which they were glad to retire and seek their camp with all possible speed. The next morning Dormody, sore in body and mind told, the affair to Clark, who proposed to raise a posse on the ground that they had been abused by Secesh for being Union soldiers. And go down and take revenge. Dormody agreed, and a posse was formed. Going to the neighborhood they searched two houses without finding the men they sought. They attempted to enter a third, but were driven away by a Union Soldier guard. They turned toward camp, when they espied Stokes coming in a “Virginia tumb’er,” or a one horse cart. Dormady cried out, “here comes one of them,” on which Clark started full speed towards him; coming up to the cart, he sprung in and knocked Stokes out and flat upon the ground at the first blow. He sprung on him and after striking him a few times, said, “will you promise never to assault another Union soldier?” Stokes replied, “ I never have assaulted a Union soldier.” This enraged Clark, and he struck him a number of times” He then repeated the question. Stokes said he would promise, for there was no reason why he should not, as he had never done such a thing, and never intended to. This enraged Clark still more, who lifted him to his feet and then knocked him down. This operation was repeated three times. He then left, and the others abused him at some length, and dragged him to the side of the road. As they turned away, Dormody said, “I'll knife him, “and suiting the action to the word, plunged a knife into his body. Stokes lived about two weeks after receiving the wounds. He left a wife, one son and two daughters. The wife was present at the execution, in what, we are told, is the same cart her husband was in when assaulted on the 5th of September. Her driver was a Negro woman.

Actual Photo of a Civil War Execution

War Department
Adjutant General’s Office
Washington , Feb. 3, 1863
General Orders No.28
At a Military commission which convened at Yorktown, Va. October 18, 1862, pursuant to Special Orders No. 131, dated October 10, 1862 from HQ 4th Army Corps, Yorktown Va. And of which Brig. Gen Henry M. Naglee, U.S. Volunteers, was president, were arraigned and tried.
1st. Private William Dormady, Battery H, 1st Pennsylvania volunteer Artillery
Charge 1st. “Quitting his post to plunder and pillage.’
Specification.” In this, that private William Dormady, Battery H, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Artillery, did on the 5th of September, 1862, quit his post for the purpose of plundering and pillaging the citizens of the United States in the county of York, Va. This at post of the battery near Yorktown, Va.
Charge 2d. “Assault with intent to kill.”
Specification. In this the private William Dormody, Battery H. aforesaid, did on the 5th of September 1862 offer violence to the person of one Hezekiah Stokes, of York County, Va., a citizen of the United States, while in the peaceful pursuit of his lawful occupation, and did strike, beat and stab the said Stokes, of which the violence said Stokes did there after die. This at the camp of his battery, at Yorktown, Va.
Charge 3d. “Murder”
Specification 1st. “In this, that private William Dormady, Battery H 1st Penna Vol. Art. Aforesaid, did on the 5th of September, 1852, with clubs, pistols and knives, beat, shoot and stab one Hezekiah Stokes of York County, Va. A citizen of the United States, while in the peaceful occupation of his lawful pursuit, and of his own malice did him violence, of which the violence the said Stokes did thereafter die.
Specification 2d. “In this, that private William Dormady, Battery H 1st Penna Vol. Art. Aforesaid, did on the 5th of September, 1852, while divers malicious persons were assaulting with clubs, pistols and knives Hezekiah Stokes aforesaid, and doing him great personal violence, was present aiding, abetting and assaulting the same, of which violence the said Stokes did thereafter die. This near the camp of the said William Dormody, at Yorktown, Va.\
To which the charges and specifications the prisoner pleaded as follows.
The Prisoner William Dormody plead … “Not guilty to all specifications and charges.
The Court after mature deliberation upon the evidence adduced, finds the prisoner as follows: Guilty on all charges. The charges and specifications were the same for the said Charles Clark as in the case of Dormady.
In compliance with the 5th section of the act approved July 17, 1862, the proceedings in the cases of the privates William Dormady and Charles Clark have been submitted to the President of the United States, and the sentences are by him approved, and will be executed under the orders of Major General Dix, Commanding the Department of Virginia.
Description of the Prisoners
Dormody was 19 years old, a native of Ireland; was a medium sized man, brown hair, blue eyes and fair complexion. He has two brothers in the United States Navy, and one brother at Pottsville, Pa. His forehead was contracted and his countenance rather down cast and difficult to describe, but his voice was mild and agreeable.
Clark was 29 years old, might be called large, dark brown hair, light grey eyes. His father and mother have both died since he has been in the United States service; has one sister in Vermont; no other relations that he knows of; calls himself a Vermonter.
After the trial they were confined in fort Norfolk until a week ago, when they were brought up here and confined on the Mahaska.
Place of Execution.
The gallows was erected in a hollow outside of and facing the walls of Fort Yorktown, at the right of the south or middle gate.
Position of the Troops.
By order of Major General Keyes, the troops, after being paraded at 11 ½ o’clock A.M. at 12 o’clock took position as follows.
The troops of all the light batteries except Battery M, 5th U.S Artillery were at the ramparts together with the 172d Regiment P.V. The troops outside under command of Brigadier General Bustead, were formed about the gallows. The 178th Regt. P.V. and Battery M, 5th U.S. Artillery, on the right, the 179th P.M. on the left, and the 178th N.Y. Volunteers in the centre of the square. A squadron of the 6th N.Y Cavalry under Major Hall was distributed at intervals entirely around the other troops.
At five minutes past 2 o’clock all was in readiness. Soon after, General Busteed rode round to various regiments of his brigade, and addressed each and every appropriately and ably.
Major General Keyes and staff were present, taking their positions at some distance in front of the scaffold. There presenting an imposing military appearance, they remained quietly observing everything for two long hours. Not till after the bodies were pronounced dead, did a man leave his place. We have seldom seen anything conducted throughout with such perfect order.
Spiritual Advisers and States of Mind of the Prisoners.
Everyday after the arrival of the prisoners at Yorktown, they were visited by Father Hunt, Chaplin of the 178th P.M. up to Sunday. He found them at first expecting to be pardoned or et all events granted a respite. Dormady professed to be a catholic, and was sly. As the certainty of death stared them in the face they became anxious about their future state. Clark read such portions of scripture as Father Hunt advised, and on Sabbath after he had talked with Father Hunt advised he said he would read a chapter of his own selection, and then he prayed and Father Hunt prayed. He read the 16th of St. John’s Gospel. In the course of his prayer, as tears rolled down his cheeks he said. “O God forgive me the wicked, cruel murder of a man that had never injured me. I am about to suffer punishment, and I deserve it; it is all right. Have mercy upon the widow, made such by my rash and cruel act; let her not suffer and put into her to forgive me for making her a widow. O God bless her six children (he supposed there was that number) made orphans by me, and may the mother not teach them to curse my memory, but to forgive the murderer of their father. O God bless my comrades who will escape this punishment (there were 13 of them) and let my example be a warning to them.
As Father Hunt left them both urged him to come again in the morning. But about this time, by steamer Thomas A. Morgan, from Fortress Monroe, where he had celebrated mass that morning, arrived Holy Father Paul e. Gillen, Chaplain of the 170th Regiment N.Y. Volunteers one of the regiments of Cocoran’s Irish Legion. He is a native of Illinois and was formerly Volunteer Chaplain of N.Y. Engineer Corps serving without any pay from the Government. He had been sent for by Col. R.M. West Chief of Artillery, to whom as well as Lt. Col. Blood, he was well known, having visited their regiments heretofore, and spent Christmas with them in 1861. He met a warm reception from these gentlemen and from General Keyes and his estimable lady. Going on board the Mahaska he was welcomed by the prisoners. Dormody was a member of the Papist church, and Clark received baptism as one of that communion. On coming ashore the night he sent word to Father Hunt that he desired him not to visit them any more, as he had taken them both under his special spiritual care.
On visiting them next morning, he administered to both the sacrament of the Eucharist. He afterward accompanied them to the place of execution.
Escorted by the provost Marshal and two companies of the 4th Delaware Volunteers, they rode in an army wagon, each sitting on his coffin, and the good father between them. They arrived within sight of the scaffold twenty-five minutes before one o’clock.
On arriving at the scaffold all dismounted and knelt on the ground. The venerable Father, with his black santon, purple stole and gray hair waving in the wind, appeared very …………… as he led them in general confession and had them repeat acts of contrition, faith, hope and charity.
Fifteen minutes past one o’clock, accompanied by Capt. Raulston and a sergeant of his guard, they mounted the scaffold.
The general orders, embracing the charges, verdict and sentence, were read by Capt. Raulston. They then made their remarks, which we give below. After this they knelt in prayer, about two and a half minutes. Arising, they kissed the crucifix and said, “Jesus and Mary”.
The ropes were adjusted about their necks by the provost Marshal and his Sergeant, and the caps drawn over their faces. Capt. Raulston touched the drop, and they fell about six feet. They struggled very little, both their necks being broken.
Last Words
After the charges and sentence were read by Capt. Raulston, the prisoners were told if they had anything to say to speak. Clark stepped calmly forward and said:
“Fellow soldiers I do not want to be set down as a cold blooded murderer. That was never my intention. I had a revolver containing six loads, and with any of these I could have killed him in a minute. I merely went out with the intention of assisting a fellow soldier against what I knew to be a rebel. Of this I offered to bring evidence on the trial, and they would not let me.
“Fellow soldiers, from me take warning. I put my trust in my savior, Jesus Christ. Fellow soldiers , farewell.”
Dormady then said:
“Fellow soldiers I confess, what I have before, that I inflicted a blow which, if it caused his death, makes me guilty. I beg pardon of God for my sins. Fellow soldiers, farewell.”
The Bodies
At six minutes past two o’clock the bodies were cut down, and by order of Major General Keyes, turned over to Dr. James B. Reilly, Chief Surgeon of the Brigade, and at the time of our going to press, 1 o’clock this morning, are in the dead house of Nelson Hospital. At 10 o’clock to day, they will be taken to the headquarters of the reserve artillery, where mass will be celebrated preparatory to their burial.
The name Dormady is also spelled in other records as Dormady. I used Dormady for the article. Dormady is what is on his grave marker.
It is interesting to note that there were actually thirteen men involved in this incident, as Clark had stated in his prayers with the Priest. It sounds as though he was wondering why only he and Dormody were charged. Also Clark made the claim that he was not allowed to bring out the evidence that he was only helping a fellow soldier and that he had a revolver and never used it. As Dr. Alota had stated in his books a lot of the rights a soldier should have under the constitution were not granted to them. Now Dormody, well murder is murder as he had confessed.
It is also interesting to note that there was never anything written about this execution or the fact that Dormody came from Pottsville and his brother lived there. I wonder was it shameful or did they kust not know about it? There were certainly men from the
I was able to locate the grave of Charles Clark as follows:
Charles Clark Pvt. 1st Pa. Res. Light Artillery, Buried Yorktown Battlefield National Cemetery in plot 238
William Dormady Pvt. 1st Pa. Res Artillery, Buried Yorktown Battlefield National Cemetery in plot 236
It seems Clark and Dormady still lie side by side.

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