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In Their Own Words

September 27, 1863

Civil War Soldier Wrote of Good Food, Grisly Execution

A Georgia soldier wrote home to his wife, telling her of conflicting occurrences - first, he and his friends had enjoyed some good food at the expense of some local farmers, but had then witnessed a disturbing scene.

“…There was a large corn field near un unguarded and we made roasting ears get up and dust worse than you can imagine. We had had none in some time and were worse than hogs. Officers and all pitched in. Soldiers will steal or press, as they term it, and there is no use to deny it. … Among the other good things we found were pumpkins which we cook and eat at all stages. If they are green we cook them after the squash order and if ripe after the usual manner of cooking them at home. They eat splendid either way. … now comes the most solemn scene I ever witnessed. We were ordered to witness the death of two men who had been court martialed and sentenced to be shot for desertion. … I shall never forget the impression it made on me. After reaching the end of the line, the prisoners were conducted to the stakes, and the guards were placed ten paces in front of them, in two ranks. There were ten men to shoot at each prisoner. Six guns of the ten were loaded with balls, the others with powder only, but none of the guard knew whether his gun contained a ball or not. After arranging the guard and prisoners, they sung a hymn and went to prayer. The Prisoners were then tied to the stakes. They were kneeling with their face towards the guard and had their arms tied to the cross piece and were blindfolded. The command was then given to fire and they were launched into eternity. The cross piece to which one was tied was shot to pieces. He raised himself perpendicular fell forward and turned over on his back and died instantly. He was pierce through with six balls. The other was struck with only one ball. He turned to one side and was some time dying. …”

Source: Jeffrey C. Lowe and Sam Hodges (eds.), Letters to Amanda: The Civil War Letters of Marion Hill Fitzpatrick, Army of Northern Virginia (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1998), pp. 89-90.