The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

We have on a few occasions criticized the way some of the commanders of the confederate army had men shot for desertion. The Civil War was between ourselves, some believed one way and others saw different. Hundreds and thousands took their stand at the commencement of the war and remained true to their convictions. These men belonged to both sides. But there were others that fought in the southern army that did not desire to take any part in Civil War and wanted to be with their families in order to give them protection as far as possible from thieves and irregulars of both sides, but were forced into the army. But they, having no interest or love for war, would sometimes leave without permission and visit their families and were arrested and brought back to camp charged with the crime of desertion, court martialed and executed. Mr. Fie Snow, who was a confederate soldier under the command of Captain Charles Newman, Company F, Fagan’s 22nd Arkansas Regiment of Infantry. Colonel Fagan, after he was promoted to a Brigadier General, was succeeded in the command of the regiment by Colonel Jim King. "One day," said Mr. Snow, "while we were in Camp Marrard just south of the Arkansas River from Van Buren, a bunch of our cavalry brought two of our men into camp that had gone home without leave, and were reported as deserters. They were put under a strict guard and word was sent to General T. C. Hindman. The two men were court martialed and sentenced to be shot and General Hindman approved of it. The time of execution was set on the following day after they were condemned.

When the detail was drawn to do the shooting, I was compelled to be on that detail. Sometime before the hour that the execution was to occur the two unfortunate men were conducted under a heavy guard to the northeast corner of the Marrard Prairie where part of the army had assembled by order of Hindman to witness the execution. After the preliminaries had been completed the two men were ordered to stand up side and side and their legs were pinioned together and their hands were tied behind their backs, then they were blindfolded and our detail which was in command of Captain Newman, who had volunteered to take charge of us, was ordered up and the officer in command of us lined us up in front of the doomed men and the usual order ready, aim, fire in such cases was given us. At the report of the guns one of the men fell back dead and the other dropped to the ground awfully wounded, his suffering was so great that he lay writhing on the ground in agony and cried out in piteous tones, "Oh, boys, shoot me again and end this torture. My suffering is unbearable." Captain Newman ordered six of the men to reload their guns and while this was going on the captain ordered us to raise the man up and seat him against a tree, and as soon as the men had finished reloading their guns, a second volley was fired into his chest which killed him instantly. Fortunately for myself, I was not one of the six men that had to reload and shoot again, but I was one of them that was ordered to raise the man up and put him against the tree, which I obeyed. But to my surprise and satisfaction, I discovered afterward that my gun failed to discharge its contents by snapping only. I had a great aversion in the wholesale shooting men and rejoiced to know that a bullet from my gun did not help murder these men. But I kept this to myself as long as I remained in the army."

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