From the Richmond Dispatch, 4/30/1862
Trial, Sentence, and Execution of Timothy Webster as a Spy - We append
a brief synopsis of the proceedings of the Court-Martial that condemned the
above person in order to correct understanding of the matter alleged against him
and for which he yesterday, at 22 minutes past 11 o'clock, suffered the extreme
penalty of the law at the military camp at the New Fair Grounds:
On the 2d of April the Court-Martial convened for the trial
of Timothy Webster as an alien enemy, Col. Nat. Tyler being President of the
same. Charge - Lurking about the armies and fortifications of the
confederate States of America. 1st Specification - That on the 1st
of April, being an alien enemy and in the service of the United States, he
lurked about the armies and fortifications of the Confederate States in and near
Richmond. 2d Specification - That about the 1st of July, 1861,
prisoner being an alien enemy and in the service of the United States, did lurk
in, around, and about the armies and fortifications of the Confederate States,
at Memphis, in the State of Tennessee. The prisoner was defended by Nance
& Williams, who introduced a number of witnesses in his behalf.
The Court having minutely considered the evidence adduced,
and two thirds concurring therein, they find the prisoner guilty of the charge.
First specification - guilty.
Second specification - not guilty.
Whereupon, two thirds of the Court concurring, it was
adjudged that the accused "Suffer death by hanging."
On the 25th of April, the proceedings, findings
and sentence of the Court were approved by the Commanding General of the
Department of Henrico, who ordered that the sentence should be executed under
the direction of the Provost Marshal, on the 29th of April between
the hours of 6 and 12 o'clock AM.
On the announcement of his approaching fate, the prisoner, as
we hear, grew defiant, thinking no doubt that he would not be hung. He also said
he could make several parties in the War Department "shake in their
jackets" by his revelations; but he made none up to his last hour.
Learning on Monday night that there was no show for him, he became completely
unnerved. He was carried to the Fair Grounds as early as 6 o'clock yesterday
morning by Capt. Alexander, but prior to that time received a visit from Rev.
Mr. Woodbridge. He asked the clergyman to read the Psalm of David invoking
vengeance on his enemies. He refused, and Webster grew indignant, causing the
clergyman to take an early departure. When brought to the gallows the
prisoner was visibly affected by the sight of the preparations observable, and
shuddered when he looked at his coffin. After the rope was adjusted around
his neck, prayer was offered up by Rev. M. D. Hoge. At the conclusion a
black cap was drawn over his eyes, he having previously bid farewell to several
persons standing by. The signal being given, the trigger that sustained
the drop was drawn, and it struck against the uprights with a loud sound.
Owing to defective cotton rope, the noose slipped, and Webster fell on his back
to the ground. The half hung and partially stunned man was speedily raised
and assisted up, and a new rope being ready, he was soon swinging in accordance
with his sentence. This occurred at 22 minutes past 11 o'clock. Fifteen
minutes later we left the ground, but the party was still suspended. He
died in about one minute.
Webster, who had plenty of gold and C. S. Treasury notes,
gave it to his wife the night before his execution. He was in the
employment of one of the departments here as a letter carrier between this city
and Maryland. It is said - how true we know not - that he used to take the
letters received here to Washington, where they were copied, and the answers
received were served in the same way, thus being used as evidence against the
parties, as many of them have found to their cost by subsequent arrest and
incarceration in Northern forts. Suspicion was first excited against the
prisoner by the style of his evidence against Lewis and Scully and they let the
cat out of the bag on him after their conviction. Mrs. Webster, who was
arrested along with her husband as a spy, is still at Castle Godwin, but will no
doubt be sent out of the Confederacy. Webster is the first man executed
here as a spy. Perhaps it would have been better had the business been commenced
at an earlier day.
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