Posts filed under 'Mass Executions'

1786: Five men at York Castle, under the “Bloody Code”

Add comment August 19th, 2018 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1786, five young men were hanged together before a large crowd in front of York Castle. They were William Nicholson, John Charlesworth, James Braithwaite, William Sharp and William Bamford.

William Knipe’s Criminal chronology of York castle; with a register of criminals capitally convicted and executed at the County assizes, commencing March 1st, 1379, to the present time records,

The above were all executed at Tyburn without Micklegate Bar.

Nicholson, aged 27, labourer, for stealing two geldings, the property of Robert Athorpe Esq., of Dinnington. Thomas Whitfield, Mr. Athorpe’s man, was the principal witness against him.

John Charlesworth, of Liversedge, clothier, for breaking into the house of Susan Lister, of Little Gomersal, single woman, and stealing various articles of trifling value; also further charged with stopping William Hemmingway, of Mirfield, clothier, and robbing him of three guineas and a half and some silver and copper. He was 21 years of age.

Braithwaite, for breaking into the dwelling-house of Thomas Paxton, of Long Preston, innkeeper, and stealing various article therefrom. He was a hawker and a pedlar, and 30 years of age.

William Sharp, labourer, aged 26, and William Bamford, labourer, aged 28, for robbing Duncan M’Donald, of Sheffield, button-maker, by breaking into his house, and carrying away a number of horn combs, a silver threepenny-piece, and fourpence in copper. Sharp was a native of Conisbro’, and Bamford, a native of Clifton.

It was noted that Nicholson, Charlesworth, Sharp and Bamford all left a widow and children behind, but Braithwaite had “two wives and three children by his lawful one, and two by the other, to whom he gave £70, and appeared most attached to her, as he would not permit the former to take leave of him.”

This British Library article on crime and punishment in Georgian Britain explains why these individuals were punished so severely for what, to modern eyes, look like relatively minor offenses:

The 18th-century criminal justice system relied heavily on the existence of the ‘bloody code’. This was a list of the many crimes that were punishable by death—by 1800 this included well over 200 separate capital offences. Guilty verdicts in cases of murder, rape and treason — even lesser offences such as poaching, burglary and criminal damage — could all possibly end in a trip to the gallows. Though many people charged with capital crimes were either let off or received a lesser sentence, the hangman’s noose nevertheless loomed large.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,Mass Executions,Other Voices,Public Executions,Theft

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1950: The Hill 303 massacre

Add comment August 17th, 2018 Headsman

North Korean regulars on this date in 1950 committed a notorious mass execution upon 41 U.S. prisoners during the Korean War.

The Hill 303 massacre took place upon a 303-meter hill guarding the northern approach to Waegwan. In mid-August of 1950, said hill was defended by the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, which narrowly escaped encirclement there by the advancing North Koreans.

Most of them escaped encirclement.

It’s a barely remembered atrocity in a war that America has consigned to forgetfulness; the massacre has seemingly never had anything like a thorough investigation. An indelible horror to the five men* who lived to tell the tale, its narrative outline is crude timelessness itself: holding these 42 U.S. POWs for two days, the North Koreans were themselves pummeled by a counterattack on the fiercely-fought hill;** unable to continue guarding the Americans, their captors fusilladed them.

This indiscriminate mass firing mere minutes ahead of the American approach was far from a thorough affair — hence the survivors, who were subsequently able to point out some of the captured Koreans who took part.


Massacre survivors James Rudd and Roy Day.

As a result of this and other summary battlefield executions, U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur addressed a threatening leaflet that was heavily dropped behind North Korean lines, threatening to “hold you and your commanders criminally accountable” according to the recent Nuremberg precedent.

There’s a monument to this gratuitous bloodbath that’s been recently installed, at the site of the shooting which is also nearby to a still-extant U.S. Army base called Camp Carroll. (The stone displays the date “June 25, 1950″ — which denotes the start of the war, and not the day of the massacre.)

* Even the exact figures involved are a bit slippery. I believe we have 37 humans killed out of 42 captured, leaving five survivors. Some sources give it as 41 (attempted) executions with four survivors. A private named Frederick Ryan apparently was given last rites and declared dead on the scene but miraculously survived, possibly accounting for the variance.

** Hill 303 changed hands at least seven times.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Execution,Executions Survived,History,Korea,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,North Korea,Not Executed,Occupation and Colonialism,Shot,Soldiers,South Korea,Summary Executions,U.S. Military,USA,Wartime Executions

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1704: Roland Laporte, posthumously, and five aides, humously

1 comment August 16th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1704, the great Camisard commander Pierre Laporte was publicly burned. He was already two days dead, but the same could not be said by five comrades-in-rebellion who were quite alive as they were broken on the wheel.

Familiarly known by the nom de guerre “Roland”, Laporte (English Wikipedia entry | the far more detailed French) was a whelp of 22 when entrusted with command of about 400 Protestant guerrillas operating around Lassalle, and his native Mialet.

These were rebels in a very dirty regional civil war in France’s heavily Protestant southeast, following the crown’s revocation of tolerance for the heretics. Roland proved himself one of its ablest prosecutors, putting Catholics to fire and sword be they enemy troops or wrongthinking neighbors.

By 1704 the insurgency was circling the drain as Camisard officers were either killed off or bought off. Our self-proclaimed “general of the children of god” was not the type to be had for 30 pieces of silver plus an army commission,* and so only violence would do for him. On August 14, betrayed by an informer who was amenable to purchase, Roland was slain in a Catholic ambush at Castelnau-les-Valence. Five officers escorting him opted not to go down fighting and surrendered instead, which proved a regrettable decision.

But even death could not slake the vengeance of his foes. “On the 16th August, 1704, the body of Roland Laporte, general of the Camisards … was dragged into Nimes at the tail of a cart and burnt, while 5 of his companions were broken on the wheel around his funeral pyre.”

For the unusually interested reader, there’s a 1954 French biography by Henri Bosc — who also authored a multi-volume history of the Camisard war — titled Un Grand Chef Camisard Pierre Laporte dit Roland, 1680-1704. It’s long out of print and appears to be difficult to come by.

* Not long before Roland’s defeat, just such a deal had shockingly induced fellow Camisard commander Jean Cavalier to turn coat.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Broken on the Wheel,Burned,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,France,God,Gruesome Methods,Guerrillas,History,Mass Executions,Posthumous Executions,Power,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Revolutionaries,Soldiers,Terrorists,Torture,Treason,Wartime Executions

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1939: Las Trece Rosas

Add comment August 5th, 2018 Headsman

The Spanish Civil War’s victorious fascists shot Las Trece Rosas — “the thirteen roses” — on this date in 1939.


Plaque at the Cementerio de la Almudena in Madrid in honor of 13 young women shot there by Francoist troops on August 5, 1939. (cc) image by Alvaro Ibanez.

Earlier that 1939, Franco had clinched victory by finally capturing the capital city after a siege of 29 months. A punishing suppression of the Spain’s leftist elements ensued, running to hundreds of thousands imprisoned, executed, or chased into exile.

Our 13 Roses were members of a communist/socialist youth group, JSU, and they had been arrested in rolling-up of that organization. They were crowded into the overflowing dungeons of the notorious women’s prison Las Ventas.

A few Spanish-language books about Las Trece Rosas

And there they resided on July 29, 1939, when their JSU comrades struck back against the dictatorship by assassinating Isaac Gabaldón, the commander of Madrid’s fascist police.* The 13 Roses were immediately court-martialed and executed in revenge. Their names follow; there’s a bit more detail about them in Spanish here:

  • Carmen Barrero Aguado (age 24)
  • Martina Barroso García (age 22)
  • Blanca Brissac Vázquez (age 29)
  • Pilar Bueno Ibáñez (age 27)
  • Julia Conesa Conesa (age 19)
  • Adelina García Casillas (age 19)
  • Elena Gil Olaya (age 20)
  • Virtudes González García (age 18)
  • Ana López Gallego (age 21)
  • Joaquina López Laffite (age 23)
  • Dionisia Manzanero Salas (age 20)
  • Victoria Muñoz García (age 19)
  • Luisa Rodríguez de la Fuente (age 18)

The affair is the subject of a 2007 Spanish film.

* Gabaldon’s predecessor, the police commander under the Spanish Republic, Jose Aranguren, had been removed from his post and executed in April.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Hostages,Innocent Bystanders,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Power,Revolutionaries,Shot,Spain,Torture,Wartime Executions,Women

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1540: The Botolph Plotters of Calais, the last English Carthusian, and Thomas More’s son-in-law

Add comment August 4th, 2018 Headsman

The 4. of August, Thomas Empson sometime a monke of Westminster, which had beene prisoner in Newgate more than three yeares, was brought before the Justices of goale deliverie at Newgate, and for that he would not aske the king pardon for denying his supremacie, nor be sworne thereto, his monkes cowle was plucked from his backe, and his body repried till the king were informed of his obstinacie. The same 4. of August were brawen to Tiborne 6. persons, and one led betwixt twaine, to wit, Laurence Cooke, prior of Dancaster, William Horne a lay brother of the Charterhouse of London, Giles Horne gentleman, Clement Phillip gentleman of Caleis, and servant to the lord Lisle, Edmond Bromholme priest, chaplaine to the said lord Lisley, Darby Gening, Robert Bird, all hanged and quartered, and had beene attainted by parliament, for deniall of the kings supremacie.

-John Stow, Annals of England to 1603 (see page 977 of this archive.org version)*

Tyburn hosted a mass execution on this date mingling several different offenders with a Catholic bent from Henrician England’s religion/politics bloodsport.

The most politically intriguing are Clement Phillip (or Philpott) and Edmund Brindholme, two members of the retinue of the Viscount Lisle. Lord Lisle governed Calais, Henry VIII’s vital French bridgehead.

Phillip and Brindholme were part of the “Botolph Plot”, so named for a fellow-servant called Gregory Botolf or Botolph.

Botolph was an energetic conspirator and/or trumped-up con man who represented to his mates that he was shuttling mash notes with the exiled Cardinal Reginald Pole, Henry VIII’s once-loved, now-despised nemesis noted for his noisy denunciations of the king’s break with Rome. Botolph’s declared objective was to “get the towne of Calais into the hands of the Pope and Cardynal Pole; this was the matter that I went to Rome for; and I have consulted with the Holy Father the Pope and with the Reverent Father Cardynall Pole.”

The implausibility of these fanciful pretensions — one chronicle calls this guy “Gregory Sweetlips” which gives you an idea of his credibility — stood in inverse relationship to the damage such a plot’s execution would inflict: Calais was a commercially and strategically important port that had been in English hands for nearly 200 years; for a dynasty perpetually nervous of its prestige, fumbling it away could have proven catastrophic.** So once a plan to betray it from the very governor’s household was exposed, the crown prosecuted it ferociously, although as best I can determine Botolph himself appears to have successfully escaped the royal vengeance.

Lord Lisle himself was also clapped in the Tower† for his servants’ misbehavior but no attainder was ever proceeded upon. In 1542, Henry cut him a break and released him; Lisle would already have been near or past the age of 70 by this point, which we mention as context in reporting that news of his intended release caused the poor ex-governor to keel over dead of a heart attack. “Henry VIII’s Mercy was as fatal as his Judgments,” one waggish historian would later remark.‡

Things might have gone less mercifully for Lisle had not his situation happened to overlap with the fall of Thomas Cromwell, which unfolded that same summer of 1540.

Cromwell was beheaded on July 28, significantly upstaging this August 4 coterie, and events in Calais might have played a part in that unhappy end. Politically weakened by his authorship of the failed Anne of Cleves marriage, Cromwell’s defeat is sometimes read in the light of excessive reformation zeal unleashed in Calais. (Like most theses about Tudor England, the Calais-reformers line has its detractors.) One possible way to read the Botolph Plot stuff is as one of Cromwell’s very last, desperate gambits: threatened by the conservative Duke of Norfolk, who had the whip hand during this brief interval thanks to his kinship to incoming queen Catherine Howard, Cromwell struck back against his persecutors “with the concentrated energy of a desperate gambler” (Source) … by going hard after the papist plot in Calais and implicating in the treason Howard’s ally, the aforementioned Lisle.


In William Horn(e) the crown completed the destruction of the Carthusian order, which had been violently suppressed several years previous — with 18 executions into the bargain. Eleven more Carthusians had avoided the scaffold only to be consigned to the dungeons where pestilence and neglect took their toll, until only Horn survived.

Nobody seems quite able to put a finger on why Horn was kept alive all that time: was he just hardier or “luckier” than the rest, or was he being intentionally saved as an accent upon an occasion such as this? With him went Friar Lawrence Cook, the last Carmelite executed in the king’s suppression of that order: he hailed from Yorkshire and had once countenanced that region’s subversive (in Henry’s eyes) Pilgrimage of Grace.

In a similar vein, we also find among this batch Giles Heron, a son-in-law of the first name in Catholic obstinacy, Sir/Saint Thomas More. Heron had kept his head about him and even sat on the Middlesex grand jury that recommended proceedings against Anne Boleyn, which is the sort of thing a Thomas More client wouldn’t mind doing at all.

Alas, he was in the judgment of a contemporary “wise in words, but foolish in deeds” during such dangerous times. Comfortably situated as a rentier landlord, Heron appears to have fallen into a ferocious tiff with a tenant who revenged an eviction by informing to Cromwell’s spies about Heron’s divergences from the new orthodoxy. The evidence of this tenant, one Lyons, eventually led Parliament to attaint Heron. The confiscated estates would be restored to Heron descendants under Queen Mary.

Darby Gynnyng — to use a more Gaelic rendering of his name — was a bit more forceful about his dissidence, for he came “late of Dublin,” where he “has maintained divers of the King’s enemies in Ireland, especially Fitz Garrard whom he succoured and accompanied.”

* A somewhat different roster for the same date is supplied by Wriothesley’s Chronicle (p. 121 of this archive.org version) which might be double-counting his “six persons more” to suggest so many as 13.

This yeare, the fowerth daie of Awgust, were drawen from the Tower of London to Tiburne, Giles Heron, gentleman, Clement Philpott, gentleman, late of Callis, and servant to the Lord Lile, Darbie Gynning, Edmonde Bryndholme, priest, William Horn, late a lay brother of the Charter Howse of London, and another, with six persons more, were there hanged drawn, and quartered, and one Charles Carow, gentleman, was that daie hanged for robbing of my Ladie Carowe, all which persons were attaynted by the whole Parliament for treason.

** The Tudors actually did lose Calais to French siege in 1558. These were the last months of the ailing Queen Mary’s rule; she’s reported to have wailed on her deathbed that “When I am dead and cut open, they will find Philip [her husband] and Calais inscribed on my heart.”

† Seized upon Lord Lisle’s arrest were seven years of correspondence comprising more than 3,000 distinct documents. This trove has survived to present times and become an invaluable resource for historians’ exploration of Tudor life. It’s known as the Lisle Papers; there are published collections and commentaries on them available by the late Muriel St. Clare Byrne.

‡ Still, this was a better fate than that enjoyed by the next Viscount Lisle, John Dudley, who briefly exercised de facto rulership of England only to have his head cut off after the fall of Lady Jane Grey.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Drawn and Quartered,England,Execution,God,Gruesome Methods,History,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Treason

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1942: Nikola Vaptsarov, Bulgarian poet

Add comment July 23rd, 2018 Headsman

Poet Nikola Vaptsarov was shot on this date in 1942 for organizing anti-fascist resistance in Axis Bulgaria.

A communist machinist — the Varna naval academy where he learned engineering is now named for him* — Vaptsarov — Vaptsarov was a proper proletarian poet who only ever versified on the side.

Nevertheless, he was well-known in his time and remains so to this day in Bulgaria, particularly given his political bona fides and martyrdom thereto, which bear ready comparison to Spanish Civil War martyr Frederico Garcia Lorca.


Spain

What were you to me?
Nothing.
A land forgotten and remote,
a land of knights and high plateaux.
What were you to me?
The hearth
where blazed a strange and cruel love,
a wild intoxicant
of blood,
of glinting blades
and serenades,
of passion,
jealousy
and psalms.

Now you are my destiny,
now I live and share your fate.
In your struggle to be free
wholly I participate.

Now I’m stirred, now I rejoice
at all your victories in the fight.
In your youth and strength I trust
and my own strength with yours unite.

Crouching in machine-gun nests,
I fight on to victory,
down among Toledo’s streets,
on the outskirts of Madrid.

A worker in a cotton shirt
torn by bullets near me lies,
Ceaselessly the warm blood streams
from the cap pulled o’er his eyes.

It is my blood that I feel humming
through my veins, as suddenly
in him I recognize the friend
I once knew in a factory

where we shoveled coal together,
stoking the same furnace fire,
and found there was no barrier
to check our young and bold desire.

Sleep, my comrade, sleep in peace!
Though now the blood the blood-red flag be furled,
your blood into mine will pass
and stir the peoples of the world.

The blood you gave, already flows
through village, factory, town and state,
arouses, urges and inspires
all working men to demonstrate.

That workers never will lose heart,
but will advance relentlessly,
determined both to work and fight
and shed their blood that men be free.

Today your blood builds barricades,
infuses courage in our hearts,
and with a reckless joy proclaims:
‘Madrid is ours!
Madrid is ours!’

The world is ours! Friend, have no fear!
The whole expanding universe
its ours!
Beneath the southern sky
sleep
and have faith,
have faith in us!

-Vaptsarov

Vaptsarov published his lone book, Motor Songs, in 1940, which was the same year he was interned demonstrating against Bulgaria’s tenuous neutrality and in favor of alliance with the USSR. A few months after his release, the Third Reich forced Bulgaria into the Axis. A member of the Central Military Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Vaptsarov was arrested for doing just the sort of things that such a committee would be doing in 1942.

A Selected Poems volume of his was published posthumously; it can be enjoyed free here.** Perhaps the most moving entry is the very last one, a short composition dedicated to his wife just hours before his execution.

On Parting

To my wife

Sometimes I’ll come when you’re asleep,
An unexpected visitor.
Don’t leave me outside in the street,
Don’t bar the door!

I’ll enter quietly, softly sit
And gaze upon you in the dark.
Then, when my eyes have gazed their fill,
I’ll kiss you and depart.

The fight is hard and pitiless.
The fight is epic, as they say.
I fell. Another takes my place —
Why single out a name?

After the firing squad — the worms.
Thus does the simple logic go.
But in the storm we’ll be with you,
My people, for we loved you so.

2 p.m. — 23.VII.1942

* You’ll also find the man’s tribute on the frigid slopes of Vaptsarov Peak on the Antarctic Livingston Island. More accessibly, there are museums to him in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia as well as Vaptsarov’s hometown of Bansko.

** Some other sites with Vaptsarov poems: here and here.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Artists,Arts and Literature,Bulgaria,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,History,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Power,Revolutionaries,Shot,Treason,Wartime Executions

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1661: Antonius Hambroek, defying Koxinga

Add comment July 21st, 2018 Headsman

Missionary Antonius Hambroek was put to death on this date in 1661 as the warlord Koxinga wrested control of Formosa (Taiwan) from the Dutch.

In the 1620s, the running Dutch-Spanish war as projected into both countries’ colonial extrusions had resulted in the two dividing that South China island: the Dutch in the south, based at Fort Zeelandia, and Spain in the north. In 1641 the Dutch conquered Spanish Formosa to establish themselves as the apex predators on a rough and lawless island.


Fort Zeelandia.

But that’s before they ran into Koxinga.

Simultaneous with the Dutch advance on Formosa, China’s Ming dynasty was in the process of collapsing. From the 1640s, civil wars between the advancing Manchus (eventually victorious as the incoming Qing dynasty) and the remnants of the Ming would tear at the mainland.

Koxinga was the last great Ming commander. He’d been born on a Nagasaki beach to a Japanese mother. His family ran a commercial concern stretching across the South China Sea as far as Vietnam and the Philippines; its dubious legality confers the romantic sobriquet “pirate” upon Koxinga but think corporate raider here. “Some people call him a pirate, but he was a businessman,” said present-day Taiwan historian Chu Cheng-yi.

And in both commerce and war, Koxinga could flex.

The author of this book about Koxinga’s victory over Dutch Formosa describes his book in this video.

Paradoxically the Ming’s collapse launched Koxinga; his very name as history knows it derives from a title (“Lord of the Imperial Surname”) conferred by the executed Longwu Emperor in gratitude for staying loyal when even Koxinga’s own dad had gone over to the Qing. In one cinematic moment, with the Ming looking toast, Koxinga torched the scholarly robes he had earned studying for a respectable court career and swore he would don nothing bur armor until he’d expelled the Manchus from China.

This “Badass of the Week” post chronicles his scintillating military career; in the twilight of the Ming, Koxinga’s victories gave the foundering dynasty its last legitimate cause for hope and in the course of the 1650s his sword-arm established a Qing-defying state in the southerly province of Fujian. From this base in 1659 he launched a proposed history-altering attack on Nanjing that only narrowly failed.

Win or lose on terra firma, the pirate was nails on the waves. “Never before nor since was a more powerful and mighty fleet seen in the waters than that of Koxinga, numbering more than 3,000 junks,” Jesuit missionary Vittorio Ricci wrote of the armada he had once assembled to attack Xiamen. (Source) “The sight of them inspired one with awe. This squadron did not include the various fleets he had, scattered along neighboring coasts.”

In his reduced circumstances post-Nanjing, Koxinga managed “only” 400 ships to launch from Fujian with 25,000 souls … to arrive at Formosa and set up shop there. “Hitherto this island had always belonged to China, and the Dutch had doubtless been permitted to live there, seeing that the Chinese did not require it for themselves,” he remarked. “But requiring it now, it was only fair that Dutch strangers, who came from far regions, should give way to the masters of the island.”

To make the argument persuasive, Koxinga delivered his ultimatum via this post’s principle, Antonius Hambroek (English Wikipedia entry | Dutch), a missionary whom Koxinga cautioned not to return with a displeasing answer at the risk of his life.

On May 25, 1661, Koxinga sent Hambroek to Fort Zeelandia with one of the Chinese leader’s letters demanding surrender. Hambroek had to leave his wife and children behind as hostages to assure his return. When Coyett refused to surrender, Hambroek was urged to stay at the fort as he and his family were bound to be killed because of the failure of his mission. The emotional pull to remain was intensified by the discovery that two of his daughters from whom the family had been separated during the chaos of the invasion were among the refugees in the fort. But Hambroek decided his duty was with his wife and other children. The two daughters, says, the fort daybook, “hung about his neck, overwhelmed with grief and tears to see their father ready to go where he knew he must be sacrificed by the merciless enemy.” The fate of Hambroek is recorded by Caeuw, the commander of the relief fleet. Two native boys got into the fort in October and said they had seen Koxinga fly into a rage the previous month and order the decapitation of all the Dutch male prisoners, Hambroek among them. The wives were given to Koxinga’s captains as concubines and the small children were sent to China. Koxinga himself took one of Hambroek’s teenage daughters — “a very sweet and pleasing maiden” according to Caeuw — as one of his concubines. In August there was also a killing of captive Dutch from the hinterland and Fort Provintia [a lesser outpost opposite Fort Zeelandia -ed.]; Koxinga believed they had been inciting the aborigines against the Chinese. The Dutch reports say five hundred men were either beheaded or “killed in a more barbarous manner.” Many women and children were killed too, but others were “preserved for the use of the commanders, and then sold to the common soldiers. Happy was she that fell to the lot of an unmarried man, being thereby freed from vexations by the Chinese women, who are very jealous of their husbands,” says the fort’s daily journal.

The results of these incidents are still evident in some parts of southern Taiwan. There are areas where the people have decidedly European features and even occasionally the red or auburn hair common among seventeenth century Dutch.

-Jonathan Manthorpe, Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan

Koxinga’s siege delivered him Fort Zeelandia by February of the following year.


Antonius Hambroek taking leave of his daughters, by Jan Willem Pieneman (1810)

The fate of Hambroek, Zeelandia, the women, and all the rest make for literary pathos in Joannes Nomsz’s Anthonius Hambroek (1775). Koxinga lives on as an iconic hero celebrated in China and Taiwan and Japan, which is a complicated trick indeed. (A refugee prince from the ancien regime setting up a holdout state on Taiwan made him an obvious propaganda reference for Chiang Kai-shek.) For all his legend, his life remains a bit of a what-might-have-been: a few months after taking Fort Zeelandia, Koxinga died suddenly, perhaps of malaria, still well shy of his fortieth year. His son Zheng Jing, whom the violent-tempered Koxinga had nearly executed in his last hours, maintained an independent Formosa-Fujian kingdom that held out against the Qing until 1683.


Statue of Koxinga at the present-day remains of Fort Zeelandia.

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Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Arts and Literature,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,China,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Hostages,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Netherlands,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Religious Figures,Taiwan,Wartime Executions

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1714: Eleven at Tyburn, amid recidivism

Add comment July 16th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1714, the Tyburn gallows groaned with eleven felons … luckless small-timers, most of them (as we shall see) repeat offenders, whom Executed Today retrieves here in its repeatedly offending eleventh year.

As we sometimes do, we’ll be channeling the words of the Newgate Ordinary, friend of the site Paul Lorrain. His “ACCOUNT OF The Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Speeches of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn, on Friday the 16th of July, 1714″ can be enjoyed in full here.

Lorrain begins by noting that “Nineteen Persons, viz. Fifteen Men, and Four Women,” caught death sentences at the most recent sitting of the grim blackrobes, but “Seven of the Men, and One of the Women, having obtain’d HER MAJESTY‘s Reprieve (which I pray GOD they may have Grace duly to improve) Eleven of ‘em are now order’d for Execution.”

Those fortunate eight, consider ‘em the reserve army for future hangmen. Many of the remaining eleven had in their own time been recipients of such a reprieve and had failed to duly improve, as Lorrain notes repeatedly in his summations below (we’ve linked their antecedent crimes where we could find them in the invaluable Old Bailey Online.)

1. Ann Edwards, condemn’d for two Burglaries; viz. First, for breaking open and robbing the Lodgings of Mr. James Moody; and, Secondly, for doing the like in those of Mr. Emmanuel Francisco; taking out of the former a Pewter Dish, and 3 Plates; and out of the latter several Goods of Value; both which Facts she committed at the same time, and in the same House, on the 30th of May last. She said, she was 36 Years of Age, born at Preston in Lancashire; That she had, for these 15 Years past, liv’d in the Parish of St. James Westminster, and other Neighbouring Parishes, and there serv’d in the Capacity of a Cook (and sometimes in that of a House-keeper) in several good Families; That (besides the Facts she was now condemn’d for) she had done many ill things in her Life-time, and was about two Years ago burnt in the Hand, and order’d to the Work-house, where she remain’d a Twelvemonth, according to the Order of the Court; and being afterwards Discharg’d, but not Reform’d, she soon return’d to her former evil Course, and thereby brought her self to this Untimely and Shameful Death. She said, she heartily repented of all the Sins she ever committed, and desir’d me to pray to GOD for her poor Soul, overwhelm’d with Grief. This I promis’d her I would do, and withal instructed her to pray for her self, and pacify the Wrath of GOD, and obtain His Mercy; which (upon her true Repentance) she would certainly find, through the Merits and Mediation of the Saviour of all Men, especially of them that believe, as the Apostle tells us, 1 Tim. 4.10.

2. William Dyer, who pleaded to a Pardon at the Old-baily on the 12th of August, 1713, was now brought again under Condemnation for two new Facts by him committed, viz. First, for breaking open the House of Mr. John Palmer of Edmonton in Middlesex, taking thence a Gown and Petticoat, with other Goods, on the 13th of June last; and, Secondly, for doing the like in the House of Mr. John Blunt of the same Place, on the 23d of the same Month. He said, he was born in that Parish of Edmonton, and had been a Domestick Servant in several good Families thereabouts, and in London. He confess’d, he had robb’d some of his Masters, both while he liv’d with them, and afterwards; and that particularly since he had obtain’d his Pardon, instead of answering the easy Condition of it, which was, That he should transport himself out of the QUEEN’s Dominions in Europe,* within 6 Months after (which he had 2 or 3 times fair Opportunity to have done) he return’d to his wicked Practice of robbing Houses in his Neighbourhood, and elsewhere; so that, tho’ he pretended he would honestly apply himself to his Business of Carpentry (a Trade he had formerly serv’d part of his Apprentiship to) yet his chief Employment, ever since his Discharge out of Newgate in August last, had been Robbing and Stealing, and doing suchlike Mischiefs, to the great Prejudice of the Publick: And herein his Wickedness and Impiety advanc’d so far, as not to spare even the Curate of his own Parish, whose House he broke open and robb’d in January last, about which time also, he said, he stole a black Mare out of the Grounds of Mr. John Allen in that Parish, for which One William Huggins was try’d at the Old-baily in February following. This William Dyer could read well, and had been carefully instructed in the Principles of the Christian Religion, by those worthy Persons he had serv’d; but yet, for all that, he prov’d desperately Wicked, and was like to have committed Murder, in attempting to shoot the Man that apprehended him. He seem’d, in all his Carriage under this Condemnation, to be unsincere and obstinate; and I must needs say this of him, That he gave me very little Signs of true Repentance for a great while; for when I examin’d him in private, he refus’d to make a free Confession of the many ill things he had done, the discovery whereof might have been of Use and Satisfaction to those honest Persons he had so basely wrong’d; but instead of clearing his Conscience by such a Confession; he said, He had declar’d too much already, and would say no more. Being ask’d how Old he was, he answer’d me, That he could not exactly tell, but thought he might be about 28 Years of Age. As I was discoursing him in private, shewing him the Necessity of doing what I advis’d him to, in order to avoid the severe and terrible Judgments of GOD, and obtain his Mercy, and the Pardon of his Sins, I observ’d him to fleer and snigger, mixing Tears and Laughter together; wherein (as indeed in his whole Deportment) he discover’d both a great Weakness, and Indisposition of Mind; but at last his Confession to me seem’d to be sincere, and Repentance true.

NB. That the Facts for which this William Dyer was formerly condemn’d were, viz. the breaking open and robbing the House of Mrs. Elizabeth Wiser, taking thence a Silver Mugg, and a Spoon, on the 15th of February, 1711-12: And likewise for stealing Ribbons and other Goods out of the House of Mr. Charles King, on the 27th of June, 1712. Of both which Facts he was convicted at the Sessions held at the Old-baily in July following.

3. Margaret Stevenson alias Sarah Williams, alias Susan Rogers, alias Susan Lambeth, which last was her right Name; Condemn’d for Stealing a Piece of green Persian Silk of the value of 3 l. out of the Shop of Mr. John Johnson, on the 25th of May last. She said, she was near 28 Years of age, born at Hamersmith in Middlesex; That she coming to London young, was bound to a Seamstress in Chick-lane, with whom she serv’d the full time of her Apprentiship, viz. 7 years; That she afterwards work’d for her self, and for a great while together liv’d an honest Life; but at last falling into bad Company, was thereby corrupted, and enticed into the commission of several Things, which at first were very much against her Conscience, tho’ (thro’ Custom) became easie to it at last; but she now found by her woful Experience, that, soon or late, Sin brings always along with it unspeakable Sorrow and Misery. She own’d that she was justly condemn’d; and, that she had been so before, and receiv’d Mercy (which, to her great Grief now, she had taken no care to make good use of); for, she having formerly obtain’d the QUEEN’s Free Pardon, which she pleaded at the Old baily on the 12th of August last, under the Name of Sarah Williams, she did soon after return to her evil Course of Life, changing her Name indeed, but not her Manners. NB. The Fact for which she was formerly Condemn’d and Pardon’d, was, the Stealing 60 Yards of Persian Silk out of the Shop of Mr. William Ball, on the 8th of June, 1713.

4. Robert Cook, alias Hedgley, which was his right Name, Condemn’d for Breaking the House of Mrs. Mary Mellers, and stealing thence 8 Pewter-Dishes, 40 Plates, and other Goods, on the 13th of May last. He said, he was about 24 Years of age, born at Hoddesdon in Hartfordshire; and, That while in the Country, he was employ’d in Husbandry: Afterwards he came to London, and being prest to Sea, serv’d above 7 Years on board the Lenox, the Boyne, the Monmouth, and other Men of War. He confess’d, he had been a great Offender; That in May last was Twelve-month he was whipt for a Felony he had committed about that time; and, That the Sentence now pass’d upon him was very just, and he readily submitted to it, praying GOD to fit him for his great Change. He likewise confess’d, That he committed a Robbery in a House at Islington, about 9 months ago, taking thence some Pewter, a Coat, a Hat, &c.

5. Thomas Davis, Condemn’d for being concern’d in the same Fact with Robert Cook, last mention’d. He said, he was 23 Years of age, born at Shrewsbury: That he came up to London about 8 Years ago, and was bound Apprentice to a Waterman for 7 Years, which Time he serv’d faithfully; and being out of it about 6 months since, ply’d for himself. He confess’d the Fact for which he was condemn’d, but said it was his first; and I could not disprove it, but told him, ‘Twas pity he ever enter’d upon such a Course as this, which seldom fails of ending in Destruction.

6. George Horn, Condemn’d for a Robbery committed jointly by him and Thomas Perkins, on the Person of Mr. Thomas Gamball, from whom they took a Coat, a Hat, and a Shirt, with 11 s. and other Goods, upon the QUEEN’ Highway, between Clerkenwell and Islington, on the 25th of May last. He said, he was 23 Years of age, born in the Parish of Allhallows in Thames-street, London; and by his Trade was a Lighterman, that us’d to carry Corn, Wood, &c. He confess’d, That once he was burnt in the Hand for a Felony which he committed about 2 Years ago, and afterwards went to Sea , where he serv’d sometimes on board several Men of War, and at other times in Merchantmen. I found him of a very harden’d Disposition, that could not be brought, but with much difficulty, to a sense of his great Duty and Spiritual Interest, being at first regardless of his present miserable state, and of the Means of preventing his falling into that which is infinitely worse, viz. the State of the Damned. I did what I could to rouze him up to a due Consideration of the Danger he was in; to awaken in him a just Fear, and excite him to a sincere Love of GOD.

7. Thomas Perkins just before-mention’d, as being concern’d with the said George Horn in the Robbery committed on Mr. Gamball. He said, he was about 20 Years of Age, born in the Parish of St. James Clerkenwell: That he went to Sea, and was a Servant to a Commander of one of HER MAJESTY’s Men of War; and afterwards returning home, was bound for 7 years Apprentice to his own Father, a Smith; That his Father dying when he had but three Years to serve, he left off that Occupation, and went to Sea again; and there being employ’d for about 2 Years, he at last return’d to his Trade of Smithery, working Journey-work with One that had formerly serv’d his Father: That falling into bad Company, he (when in Drink) was perswaded to assist George Horn in the Commission of this Robbery he is now to die for: And tho’ he confest he had been an ill Liver, yet he said, he never was Guilty of any such Fact before.

8. James Powell, alias Ashwood, alias Bowen, alias Neale, which last was his right Name. This Malefactor had formerly receiv’d Sentence of Death, being then try’d by the Name of James Ashwood, and obtain’d a Pardon on condition he should (which he did not) transport himself out of the QUEEN’s Dominions in Europe, and pleaded to it accordingly on the 12th of August, 1713; and now was Condemn’d again for a Burglary, viz. for breaking open the House of Mr. Tho. Hulls, and taking from thence Two Guinea’s, and Thirty Shillings in Silver, on the 15th of May last. He said, he was about 20 Years of Age, born in the Parish of St. Martin in the Fields, and was bound Apprentice to a Perriwig-maker in that Parish; but his Master dying, and so being left to himself, presently fell into ill Courses, which he was now sensible he could not well have left off (so far he was engag’d in them) if this Death had not put a stop to his wicked Career.

9. Charles Goodall, alias Goodale. This Malefactor likewise had formerly receiv’d Sentence of Death, for stealing a Silver Cup and other Goods out of the House of Mr. John Beale, on the 6th of November, 1711, and obtain’d a Pardon on condition he should (but like the abovesaid James Powell did not) transport himself out of the QUEEN’s Dominions in Europe: Which Pardon he pleaded on the 6th of June, 1712; as he did to another (and that a Free one) on the 12th of August, 1713; and now was Condemn’d again for breaking open the House of Mr. Albion Thompson, and taking thence a Coat, and several other Goods of Value, on the 17th of May, 1714. He said, he was about 19 Years of Age, born in the Parish of St. Giles in the Fields; but, when very young, his Parents remov’d to that of St. Clement-Danes, and there he liv’d with them, and by them was brought up to School very carefully; but did not improve his Time as he might have done; for he betook himself to ill Courses, and so Corrupt he was, that tho’ after his Pardon he had resolv’d to lead a better Life, (which for a time he did, at his Father’s House) yet it was not long before he return’d again to his wicked Ways, that brought him to this his Untimely End: A Matter which, upon reflection, was a great Grief to him, and ought to be an effectual Warning to other loose Livers, as he had (and confest himself to have) been; for which he earnestly implor’d GOD’s Mercy, and the Pardon of all whom he had any ways offended.

10. Mary Billingsby, alias Brown, Condemn’d for trepanning Judith Favero, an Infant, into a By-place near Hoxton, and there stripping her, and putting her in fear of her Life. She said, she was about 18 Years of Age, born at Norwich, and had liv’d 3 Years in George-yard in Shoreditch, and was there imploy’d in Doubling of Worsted . At first she deny’d the Fact, but afterwards confest it, saying, That Poverty had driven her to it: Upon which I told her, This was a very bad Excuse; and, That if she had been an honest and diligent Person, she might have supply’d her Wants otherwise than by such unlawful Means, and such too as were most base and cruel. I found her very ignorant, not being able so much as to Read, nor give an Account of any Thoughts she had of the World to come, and what would become of her there; till she was taught, That by the Merits of CHRIST, embrac’d by Faith and Repentance, (which I particularly explain’d to her) she might be sav’d.

11. Robert Porter, alias Sandey, Condemn’d for breaking open the House of Mr. James Deluce, and taking thence a Wastcoat, two Wigs, and three lac’d Hats, on the 2d instant. He said, he was 16 Years of Age, born in the Parish of Stepney, and for some small time serv’d a Weaver there; but leaving his Master’s Service, went a pilfering. I found him very obstinate and untractable, unwilling to confess any ill thing he had done; yet when I told him, That he had formerly been convicted of a Felony, and for it order’d to the Work-house, out of which he made his Escape, he own’d all this to be true, but would say no more; nor at first receive such proper Instructions and Admonitions, as were given him, in order to bring him to Repentance and Salvation: But at last finding himself in the Death-Warrant, and so having no further Hope of Life here, he appear’d more concern’d for his Soul than before: I was not wanting in making Use of this Opportunity to bring him (if possible) to a thorough Sence of his past sinful Life, his present sad Condition, and his future Eternal State, from which he was not far off, and which would be a State either of Happiness or Misery to him, according as he did or did not sincerely repent of his Sins. This (with several pressing Exhortations I us’d to this purpose) seem’d to make some kind of Impression upon his obdurate Heart: But whether they melted it indeed into that true Repentance, which alone is available to Salvation, I shall not take it upon me here to determine: but advise them, who walk in the same wicked Paths, to repent sooner and better.

As was his wont (except perhaps with Catholic convicts who tended to give him a cold shoulder) the chaplain exercised his office all the way to Tyburn

to which they were this Day carried from Newgate in 4 Carts, [where] I attended them for the last time, and endeavour’d to perswade them throughly to clear their Consciences, and strive more and more to obtain GOD’s Grace, that they might make a good End in this World, and be receiv’d into that State of Bliss and Glory in the next, which shall have no End. To this purpose I earnestly spoke to them, and pray’d for them: Then I made them rehearse the Apostles Creed, and sing some Penitential Psalms; and finally recommending their Souls to the boundless Mercy of our Good and Gracious GOD, I withdrew from them, leaving them to their private Devotions, for which (and for their speaking to the People to take Warning by them) they had some little Time allow’d them: After this the Cart drew away, and they were turn’d off, calling all the while upon GOD, to have Mercy on their departing Souls.

Note, That William Dyer did particularly confess, That he had committed the following Robberies, viz. 1st, he robb’d a House and a Shop at Tottenham, 2dly, the Reverend Mr. Butto’s House; 3dly, Mr. Allen of a Mare at Edmonton in Middlesex; 4thly, Mr. Coward’s House at Waltham-stow; 5thly, Mr. Huvet’s House; and 6thly, Mr. King’s in the Parish of Greenstead; 7thly & lastly, the House of Mr. Reynolds at Stanford-rivers in Essex. These he said, were (as far as he could remember) all the Houses he had broken and robb’d, &c. (besides those he stood Condemn’d for) since his Discharge out of Newgate in August last; and, That he never robb’d on the Highways, nor ever committed Murder.

This is all the Account I here can give of these Malefactors; Four of of whom, together with Five others mention’d in my former Papers, make up Nine out of Fifty-four that pleaded the QUEEN’s Pardon in August last, who (by new-repeated Offences) brought themselves to this shameful End: Which I pray GOD may be such a Warning to those that remain, that they never return again to their Sins and Follies, but lead such a Course of Life as may be comfortable to them in this World, and (through Mercy) advance them to unspeakable Joys and Comforts in the World to come.

PAUL LORRAIN, Ordinary .

Friday, July 16. 1714.

* At the time, this was still a generic sentence of exile (note that the onus is on the prisoner to “transport himself” out of Great Britain). Our hanging-date, however, arrives barely three years distant from the opening of organized mass convict transportation to the Americas, which would continue until the American Revolution. This era is covered in detail by Early American Crime author and occasional Executed Today guest-blogger Anthony Vaver, author of Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Mass Executions,Public Executions,Theft,Women

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1864: The Andersonville Raiders

1 comment July 11th, 2018 dogboy

It’s not hard to understand why the Andersonville Raiders turned criminal. But on this day in 1864, the group was decapitated when six of its leaders were hanged in a quasi-legal action at the most inhospitable prisoner of war camp in the Confederacy.*

Andersonville Prison was opened in February 1864, 26.5 Georgian acres (about 0.1 square kilometers, or about the size of a square 4 city blocks on a side) of tightly-packed tents with a ditch of water flowing through its center. Its design population was 10-15,000 prisoners; its true population at one point was almost 30,000.** Some 45,000 Union soldiers went in, passing first the outer stockade, then the so-called “dead line” that demarcated the line outside of which they could be shot summarily, and finally into a mass of malnourished, often sickly humanity. Of these, 13,000 never emerged.

The Confederacy, you may recall, was not the war’s winner. As an aspiring nation, the CSA borrowed heavily to fund its arms, then found itself strapped for basic supplies as the war dragged on. By 1863 the nation was already economically depressed, and when a CSA-USA prisoner exchange agreement broke down, the Confederacy found itself with a lot of Union soldiers to house and nowhere to put them. Enter Andersonville: far enough from the North to be “safe”, easily defensible, and in the heart of slave labor to build it. All the Confederacy needed to build some basic housing was wood, which should be … oh wait … war update!…the Union controlled lumber supplies. Guess there won’t be housing.

Prisoners instead got lumped in with their brigade, and (at least initially) basic materials to make some sort of shelter.† New arrivals often showed up without being thoroughly checked over, so they might come in with food and supplies that weren’t already available to other internees.‡ Very quickly, the grounds were littered with Union POWs from around the country, people with vastly different backgrounds and goods. As the camp’s population breached 10,000 and then 20,000,§ there were, of course, inmates with designs on better living.

It’s not hard to see where this is going.

Sometime around May 1864, dozens of them assembled into a loose affiliation. The Raiders were headed by about a half dozen men: Charles Curtis, Patrick Delaney, John Sarsfield, William Collins (“Moseby”), a guy known only as “A. Munn”, and W.R. Rickson (or possibly Terry Sullivan; there’s an unusual disparity in diary accounts on the person’s name, but first-hand diary entries from the moment prefer Rickson) were considered the principal offenders. Each headed a small band of thieves who would trick new entrants, burgle tents, or use violence or threats of violence to amass “wealth” and keep themselves well-fed, well-clothed, and, most importantly to them in this hostile place, alive.

The Raiders had some huge advantages when they committed these crimes. Thanks to their amalgamated resources, they had good odds of being better armed and more fit than their victims — unless those victims were green, in which case they just knew the place better. The thieves started out as midnight raiders who turned tail at the first sign of genuine resistance unless they thought they could readily overpower the victim. By mid-June they were brazen, according to John Ransom: “Raiders … do as they please, kill, plunder and steal in broad day light, with no one to molest them.”

The victims were soldiers who, even if they weren’t killed, were left without resources in a deadly environment. Even the robberies and beatings were, in many cases, a prolonged form of murder, and Union inmates knew it. Indeed, Collins was thought by most to have never directly assaulted anyone, but he was known to steal blankets from the ill.

It’s unclear what the full Raider population was (estimates range from 100 to 500, but most people settle on the 100-200 range). What we can say definitively is that it was large enough to be a problem. Late in June of that year, a group called “the regulators” began taking police-like action against the perpetrators. Inmates brought their complaints to the group, which sought out and punished — usually through head shaving or other non-destructive means — those they found responsible.

On June 29, that problem started getting a real solution when the Raiders assaulted and robbed a prisoner now known only as Dowd. Dowd complained to the guards, and Andersonville’s overseer, Captain Henry Wirz, officially endorsed the Regulators as a police force/tribunal to maintain order. But first he announced an end to inmate rations until the Raiders were given up. (What a guy!)

The Regulators, headed by a man called “Lumber” (or maybe “Limber”) Jim, quickly had 80-100 inmates to deal with. Jury trials were implemented in the spirit of (but without most of the protections of) common law, and most punishments ranged from setting in the stocks to running the gauntlet.


Detail of a panorama sketch of Andersonville (click to see it) makes space for a certain well-attended sextuple hanging.

The ringleaders were also among this bunch. They were assembled on July 11 and executed at a hastily-erected gallows on the north end of camp. As far as the POWs were concerned, the ultimate crime of the Raiders was a violation of the soldier code of death before dishonor. Their bodies were buried separately from other inmates, and the US makes a point of placing no memorial flags at their graves.

To be clear, the Andersonville Raiders were, for most inmates, not the primary problem but an obviously controllable one. Remember that 30% of the interned died, and for the most part those deaths were borne of bad sanitation, hunger, and disease. The removal of the Raiders was a morale boost at best, as Andersonville was still a pee-pee soaked heckhole in which another 10,000 soldiers would die before liberation in May 1865, most of them before the summer’s end.

* It was also known as Camp Sumter, named after the county it resided in.

** The population density at peak was 330,000 people per square kilometer. For comparison, the world’s densest city is Manila, at about 71,000 people per square kilometer.

† It turns out the term “shebang” wasn’t widely-used camp lingo. Drawings and photos of the camp illustrate the variety of dwellings: open sleeping, simple V-tents, structured tents, lean-tos, huts, and shacks were all scattered about the grounds.

‡ They also came with new diseases.

§ The original camp was actually only 16.5 acres, and the population ballooned to 20,000 in early June and 33,000 in August of that year. Ransom notes that the stockade was “enlarged” on July 6. Fall transfers dropped the number to 1,500 and it bumped back up to 5,000 until war’s end. Sanitation issues persisted throughout.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Georgia,Guest Writers,Hanged,History,Mass Executions,Other Voices,Public Executions,Soldiers,Theft,USA,Wartime Executions

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2018: Shoko Asahara and six Aum Shinrikyo followers, for the Tokyo sarin attack

Add comment July 6th, 2018 Headsman

Shoko Asahara and six of his followers in the Aum Shinrikyo cult were hanged today in Japan as authors of one of the most infamous terrorist attacks in recent history: the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway of 1995.

Thirteen people died and several thousand more were injured when members of this millenial sect deposited punctured bags of homemade liquid sarin on multiple rail lines of Tokyo’s subway during Monday rush hour.

It’s was only one of several gas attacks perpetrated by Aum Shinrikyo during the 1990s; just nine months previous, they had killed nine people in a sarin attack in Matsumoto. But it is by far the most notorious. Images of stricken commuters, blinded and suffocating under the nerve agent’s influence, sprawled on the transit platforms or outside them shocked orderly Japan in 1995, especially so since it came fast on the heels of the devastating January 1995 Kobe earthquake.

These comprised “two of the gravest tragedies in Japan’s postwar history,” according to Haruki Murakami’s Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche. “It is no exaggeration to say that there was a marked change in the Japanese consciousness ‘before’ and ‘after’ these events.” Japanese Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa struck a similar chord in announcing the hangings today: “These crimes … plunged people not only in Japan but in other countries as well into deadly fear and shook society to its core.”

Its mastermind Shoko Asahara, the first man executed this morning, emerged soon thereafter into public view a bedraggled and half-blind fanatic, almost the picture of an agent of chaos. Shockingly, his cult had been able to thrive in the early 1990s thanks in part to murdering an attorney who was investigating Aum Shinrikyo back in 1989.

Beyond the seven hanged on July 6, 2018, six additional members of the cult still remain under sentence of death in Japan for the Tokyo subway atrocity.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Infamous,Japan,Mass Executions,Murder,Popular Culture,Religious Figures,Ripped from the Headlines,Terrorists

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