1790: Joseph Mountain, Atlantic picaro

Add comment October 20th, 2018 Headsman

The remarkable-if-true criminal autobiography of Joseph Mountain, executed on this date in 1790 in New Haven, Connecticut, is transcribed here from the Dec. 14 and 21, 1790 issues of Spooners Vermont Journal, which has repurposed them from the American Mercury.

From the AMERICAN MERCURY.

Sketches of the life of JOSEPH MOUNTAIN, a Negro, who was executed at Newhaven, on the 20th day of October, 1y790, for a Rape, committed on the 26th day of May last.

I, Joseph Mountain, was born on the 7th day of July, A.D. 1758, in the house of Samuel Mifflin, Esq., of Philadelphia, father of the present Governor of Pennsylvania. My father, Fling Mountain, is a Mulatto, and now lives at Philadelphia. My mother is a Negro and was a slave until she was twenty one years of age. She now lives at Reading in Pennsylvania.

The first seventeen years of my life were spent in Mr. Mifflin’s family. As a servant in the house I acquired the reputation of unusual uprightness and activity. My master was industrious to instruct me in the Presbyterian religion which he professed, teach me to read and write, and impress my mind with sentiments of virtue. How grossly these opportunities have been neglected, the following story will too fully evince.

In the 17th year of my age, on the 17th of March 1775, with my master’s consent, I entered on board the ship Chalkley, commanded by Joseph Spain, and owned by Messirs. James and Drinker of Philadelphia, and on the 20th of May following we arrived in the Downs. I soon quitted the vessel, and in four days was strolling the streets of London in quest of amusements. In this situation, the public will easily conceive, I could not long remain an idle spectator. It will not be surprising to find me speedily initiated in practices disgraceful to human nature, and destructive of every moral virtue. Unfortunately for me, a scene began to open which will close only in the shadow of death.

One day, at an alehouse in London, I accidentally became acquainted with one Francis Hyde, originally from Middlesex, and one Thomas Wilson, of Staffordshire in England. They were travelling the country, with a hand organ and various other musical instruments, pretending to great art in numerous performances, and really professing surprising knowledge in every species of juggling. This was their employment in the day time, for the purpose of executing more effectually the principal business of their lives, viz. highway robbery. [Here a footnote in the original text clarifies that “the reader will note, that when we use the term footpad we mean him who robs on foot only; highwayman intends one who robs on horseback.” -ed.] They soon found me susceptible of almost any impression, and neither incapable of, nor averse to, becoming a companion in their iniquity. We all set out from London about 8 o’clock in the evening after I had joined them, each armed with a hanger and a brace of pistols. We had also suitable dresses and a dark lanthorn. Our landlord, who kept tavern at the sign of the Black horse, in Charingcross, furnished us with every requisite for the expedition. His name was William Humphrys. The plan this evening was to attack the mail coach, which would start at 12 o’clock at night, from the ship tavern, between Woolwich and Gravesend, about 9 miles from London.

We were on the spot at the hour agreed upon, and dignified ourselves for the adventure. Hyde and Wilson were dressed in white frocks and boots, with their faces painted yellow to resemble Mulattoes. Mountain was dressed in the same manner, with the addition of a large tail wig, white gloves, and a black mask over his face. When the stage arrived, I started, and caught the leading horses by their bridles, while Hyde and Wilson each presented a brace of pistols in at the coach window, and demanded of the passengers their money. There were four gentlemen and one lady in the coach. They denied having any money. Wilson said, “Deliver, or death.” They then gave us a bank note of 50 l. one other of 20 l. and about 60 guineas in cash. We then retired to an unfrequented place, shifted [?] our dresses, and prepared to prosecute our journey to Chathaw in the County of Kent.

In the day time, Hyde and Wilson commonly played upon their instruments, and preformed [sic] various feats of slight of hand, as though that was their sole occupation. We were also very particular in making observations upon all travellers, to learn if they might be touched (For that was our word for robbed).

In four days after the former robbery, we met a Capt. Hill, at the foot of Rochester bridge near Chatham — He was a captain of the marines, and we had seen him in the day time at Brumpton Barracks, about half a mile from the bridge. We walked directly before his horse. Wison asked him the time of night. He made no reply. Hyde then caught the bridle; I, his left hand, and Wilson presented a pistol to his breast, and said, “Deliver, or death.” He assured us that he had no money worth taking. Wilson said, “then give us your watch,” which he did. The watch was gold, and valued at 50 guineas. We then walked off about 300 rods towards Gravesend, and immediately tacked for Rochester, where we lodged at the mariner’s inn. There was a great hue and cry for us; but the pursuers, supposing from Capt. Hill’s information, we had gone for Gravesend, entirely mistook our rout. The next morning we took postchaise for London, where we arrived about 6 o’clock in the evening. Our booty was delivered to a broker whom we constantly employed. He was a Jew, and lived in St. Katherine’s Row, near Tower-hill, and his name was William Moses. There were also other brokers in different parts of England, with whom we had constant communication, and who were perfectly acquainted with our modes of acquiring property. After such a jaunt we thought it adviseable to recruit ourselves by rioting on our spoils.

In a few days, it was concluded that I should go alone, and attempt to “touch” some gentlemen who frequented the play at Covent Garden: this, considering my age and inexperience, was thought rather a bold stroke. Being villain enough to attempt any thing, I did not hesitate; but posted myself agreeably to direction. My efforts were wholly unsuccessful and I returned empty. The next night I was placed at London bridge, while Hyde stood at Blackfriars, and Wilson at Westminster. At half-past 11 o’clock I met a Captain Duffield, and asked him the time of night. He told me. I said, “You know my profession; deliver or death.” He stepped back to strike me with his cane; I cocked my pistol, and told him to deliver instantly, or death should be his portion. He then threw me his purse, which contained about 10 guineas and a silver watch, which was valued by our broker at 6 l. Hide, the same night, obtained about 40 guineas of Sir John Griffing, Wilson about 30 of a Mr. Burke; and each a watch, one gold, the other pinchbeck. The next day we saw advertisements describing the robberies, and offering rewards for the perpetrators.

The next night, with little difficulty, I robbed Hugh Lindsly of 16 guineas, and a gold ring. Hyde, on the same evening, took from Lord John Cavendish about 20 guineas, and Wilson robbed William Burke of 11 guineas.

We now concluded to remain in London for a while, gentlemen of pleasure. the repeated robberies had furnished us with cash in abundance, and we indulged in every species of debauchery. We gambled very deeply at dice, cards and billiards. Hyde and Wilson were very expert at this business, and wou’d almost invariably swindle, a stranger out of his money.

In March 1776 we went to the city of York, about 200 miles from London. Here we continued several weeks, waiting some favorable opportunities to rob at the plays; but none presented. We went from York to Newmarket, to attend the famous races which took place about the first of June. There we found Lord Gore of Richmond, and Lord Tufton of Sheffield in Yorkshire: We were much perplexed to invent the most advantageous mode of “touching” them. It was at length concluded to attack them at their lodgings, which were at an inn very large and greatly frequented by various classes of people. About 7 o’clock in the evening, while the attendants of those gentlemen were in the kitchens and stables, we entered the front door, and having bribed the porter with a few guineas, were immediately let into the room. Lords Tore and Tufton were sitting over a table at a dish of coffee, and reading newspapers. We instantly presented our pistols and demanded their money. Lord Tufton delivered us one bank note of 100 l. and three others of 50 l. each. Lord Gore delivered us about 100 guineas and two gold mourning rings. We quitted Newmarket next morning, and went in the flags to York, where Wilson presented his bills for payment. Unfortunately for us, Lord Tufton immediately after the robbery dispatched his servant to the bank, with orders to stop those bills if offered. The bills were accordingly stopped, and Wilson arrested and sent to Newmarket to be examined before a justice of the peace. Upon his examination he pressed Hyde to swear that he was riding from Newmarket to York with Wilson, and that he saw him pick up a pocket book containing those bills. The coachman, having been previously bribed, swore to the same fact. Upon this testimony, Wilson was acquitted. I was not sent for as a witness at this examination, as I understood Lord Robert Manners was then in Newmarket, and would probably attend the trial. The reason why I did not wish to meet his Lordship’s eye was, that on the night before we left London, I made a most daring attack upon him. He was walking unarmed, near Hounslow Heath, attended by his footman. I met him, presented my pistol, and he gave me 75 guineas, two gold watches, and two gold rings. Hyde and Wilson were near at hand; but they did not discover themselves, leaving me “to play the hero alone.”

In the latter end of June we again met at the old rendezvous in London and divided our plunder. The property which I then had on hand enabled me to live very freely for some months. My time was spent in that round of dissipation which was the necessary attendant upon so vicious a character, and which was tolerably well supported by the stock of cash in my own possession, and that of my broker.

I now resolved to quit this course of life which I had hitherto pursued with so much success. Accordingly I entered on board the brig Sally [?], as cook, and made two voyages in her to Lisbon. Upon my return, after exhausting my pay, I made another voyage in the Fanny, Capt. Sinclair, to Kingston in Jamaica: Which being finished in nine months, I again visited London, and concluded to relinquish the seafaring business for the present. At the old place of resort I became acquainted with one Haynes and Jones, both of Yorkshire. They were partially initiated in the science of footpads. They soon proposed that I should resume my profession, and join them. My former mode of life, though singularly vicious, yet possessed many charms in my view. I therefore complied with their request; at the same time doubting, if they were possessed of sufficient courage and skill for companions to one who had served under experienced makers, and who considered himself at the head of the profession. Our first object was to assail the Newcastle stage, which would be in Tottenham Court road at 8 o’clock in the evening. We were on the spot in season, and Mountain addressed them thus: “My lads, it is a hazardous attempt — for God’s sake make a bold stroke.” Upon the arrival of the coach at half past 7 o’clock, four miles from London, I seized the bridles of the two foremost horses. Jones and Jaynes went to the coach door, and said, “Deliver, or death.” Lord Garnick and several others were passengers: His Lordship said, “Yes, yes, I’ll deliver,” and instantly discharged a pistol at Jones, the contents of which entered his left shoulder: Upon which he and Haynes made their escape. The coachmen was then directed to drive on. He replied, “There is a man who yet holds the leading horses.” Lord Garnick then fired at me, but without damage; upon which I discharged my pistol at the coach, but without effect. Jones was so badly wounded, that Hyanes and I were obliged to carry him into London upon our shoulders. We were soon overtaken by two highwaymen, who had assaulted Lord Garnick about 15 minutes before our engagement, one of whom was badly wounded. The next day we saw an advertisement offering a reward of 60 guineas for the detection of the robbers, and informing, that it was supposing three were killed. This specimen of the enterprize of my new associates convinced me, that they were not adepts in their occupation, and induced me to quit their society.

The business which now seemed most alluring to me, was that of highwayman. Considering myself at the head of footpads, I aspired for a more honorable employment, and therefore determined to join myself to the gang of highwaymen, whose rendezvous were at Broad St. Giles’s, up Holborne, at the sing of the Hampshire hog, and kept by a William Harrison, a native of the Isle of Man. Harrison was the support, the protector and the landlord of this whole company. The horses and accoutrements were kept and furnished by him, and occasionally supplied to adventurers. He inquired my name, and finding that I was Mountain, who was confederate with Hyde and Wilson, he readily admitted me to the fratnerity. He asked if I dared to take a jaunt alone; and finding me willing for any thing, he quickly furnished me with equipments proper for the expedition. Mounted on a very fleet horse, and prepared with proper changes of dress, I set out for Coventry, about 90 miles from London. I made great dispatch in travelling, and about 10 o’clock the night after my departure, I met Richard Watts coming out of a lane about two miles from Coventry. I rode up to him, and inquired if he was afraid of highwaymen. He replied, “No, I have no property of value about me.” I then told him that I was a man of the profession, and that he must deliver or abide the consequences. Upon this he gave me his gold watch: I insisted on his money, and cocked my pistol, threatening him with instant death. He perceived that resistance and persuasion were equally unavailable, and threw me his purse, containing 13 half guineas and some pocket pieces. The gold watch was valued at 40 guinea. I then ordered him back down the lane, accompanied him thither, and fled with the greatest haste into an adjacent wood: Here I shifted my own and horse’s dress, leaving them in a bye place, rode directly to a neighboring town, and there put up for the night: Thence I took my course for Newcastle in Devonshire, about 270 miles north of London, and thence to Warrington in Lancastershire. Here about 7 o’clock in the evening I met with a gentleman who drew his watch, and told me the hour. I observed, “You have a very fine watch.” He answered, “Fine enough.” “Sir, ’tis too fine for you — you know my profession — deliver.” He drew back, I caught his bridle, with one hand, presented a pistol with the other, and said, “Deliver, or I’ll cool your porridge:” He handed me his purse of 8 guineas, and a gold watch valued at 30 l. sterling. To complete the iniquity, and exhibit the extent of my villany [sic], I then took a prayerbook from my pocket, and ordered him to swear upon this solemnity of God’s word, that he would make no discovery in twelve hours: He took the oath: I quitted him, and heard nothing of the matter until the next morning about 10 o’clock, when I saw a particular detail of the transaction in the newspapers.

Liverpool was my next stage. Here I tarried two days making observations for evening adventures. On the night of the second day I robbed Thomas Reave of 6 guineas, and a gold watch worth 30 l. sterling. To insult him in his distress, after committing the act, I pulled off my hat, made a low bow, wished him good night, and set out for Lancaster in company with the stage. It occurred to me, that riding as a guard to the stage would secure me against suspicion. Accordingly, I accompanied it to Lancaster, and there put up at the “swan and two necks.” Here I continued three days, waiting a favorable opportunity to exercise my profession. On the third evening at eight o’clock, I stopped a Col. Pritchard, took from him a gold watch valued at 44 guineas, a purse of 30 guineas, 3 gold rings, and a pair of gold kneebuckles worth 6 l. The kneebuckles appeared so tempting, I told Pritchard, I could not avoid taking them. At 11 o’clock I left Lancaster, and having rode about one mile from town, I stopped, pulled off my hat, and bid them “good bye.”

My course was now for Manchester, where I put up for about 24 hours at the “bull’s head.” The evening following I touched a Quaker. It was nearly 9 o’clock when I met him. I inquired if he was not afraid to ride alone. He answered, No. I asked him his religion; he replied, “I am a Friend.” I observed, “You are the very man I was looking for — you must deliver your money.” He seemed very unwilling, and said, “Thou art very hard with me.” I replied, “You must not thou me.” He then gave me his plain gold watch, 6 guineas, and 4 bank notes of 20 l. each. I then presented a prayer book, and demanded an oath that he would make no discovery in 3 hours: He refused an oath, alledging that it was contrary to his religion, but gave his word that my request should be complied with. I then dismissed him, returning the bank notes and took a circuitous rout for London. The guineas which I had obtained in this jaunt, I concealed and carried in the soles of my boots, which were calculated for that purpose, and effectually answered it. The mare which I rode was trained for the business. She would put her head in at a coach window with the utmost ease, and stand like a stock against any thing. She would travel also with surprising speed. Upon my arrival at Harrison’s (having been gone eleven days) I gave a faithful narrative of my transactions, and produced the plunder as undeniable proof. I never shall forget with what joy I was received. The house rung with the praises of Mountain. An elegant supper was provided, and he placed at the head of the table. Notwithstanding the darkness of his complexion, he was complimented as the first of his profession, and qualified for the most daring enterprizes.

Fatigued with such a jaunt, and fearing lest too frequent adventures might expose me, I determined on tarrying a while at home. My horse was given to another, and he directed to seek for prey.

After one month’s absence he returned with only 16 guineas, and was treated accordingly by the gang. He was inadequate to the business, and was therefore ordered to tarry at home, just to visit the playhouses and sharp it among people who might easily be [choufed?] of their property. Each took his tour of duty in course; some succeeded; others, from misfortune or want of spirit, was [sic] disgraced. One young fellow of the party was about this time detected at Guilford in Surry, tried, condemned and executed. He made no discovery, though we all trembled. A plan was now in agitation to dispatch two or three of the gang to Portsmouth, to attack some of the navy officers: It was finally adopted, and one Billy Coats, a Londoner, and Mountain were selected as the most suitable for the expedition. We mounted our horses on the next morning, and reached Portsmouth that day, a distance of more than 70 miles. We took lodgings at an inn kept by a rich old miser. We were soon convinced that he had cash in plenty, and that it “was our duty to get it;” but the difficulty was what plan should be concerted. At length, by a stratagem which was deeply laid, and faithfully executed, we plundered the old man’s hosue of 300 guineas, and 50 l. sterling in shillings and sixpences. There was a very great clamor raised the next morning. The house was surrounded with the populace. The old fellow was raving at a great rate for the loss of his money. I was a spectator of this chagrin of the old man and his wife. We remained at Portsmouth two days, and then returned to London richly laden, and received the applause of our companions. The three following months I spent in frequently ale-houses, defrauding and cheating, with false dice, and practicing every species of imposition which ingenuity could invent, or the most depraved heart execute.

In the beginning of June 1780, I joined the mob headed by Lord George Gordon. This mob was the result of a dispute between the Papists and the Protestants. It was a matter of the most sovereign indifference to me, whether the rebellion was just or unjust: I eagerly joined the sport, rejoicing that an opportunity presented whereby I might obtain considerable plunder in the general confusion. Lord Gordon represented to us in a speech of some length, the open attempts upon the Protestant religion, and the manner in which the petitions of the injured had been treated by parliament. He exhorted us all to follow him to the house of commons, and protect him while he should present, with his own hand, the parchment roll, containing the names of those who had signed the petition, to the amount of about 120,000 protestants. His speech was answered with loud huzzas, and repeated assurances of our zeal to support him and his cause. The whole body of us, in number about 50,000, left St. George’s fields, and marched directly for the parliament house: We were in four separate divisions. A most tremendous shout was heard from all quarters, upon our arrival before both houses. Lord Gordon moved that he might introduce the petition; but the house would not consent that it should be then taken up. The mob became greatly inflamed; they insulted several members of the house of lords, who narrowly escaped with their lives. Several gentlemen of parliament reprobated the conduct of Lord George in the severest terms; and Col. Gordon, a relation of his Lordship, threatened him with instant death the moment any of the rioters should enter the house. At length, when the question was put in the house of commons, in defiance of the menaces of the mob, only six out of two hundred voted for the petition. The rioters now disposed themselves into various parts of the city, destroying and burning the chapels of the Roman Catholics and their houses. The five succeeding days were employed in demolishing the houses of Sir George Saville, in burning Newgate, and relieving about 300 persons confined in it, (some under sentence of death) in setting fire to King’s Bench and Fleetprisons, and in innumerable other acts of violence and outrage towards those who wer ein the opposition. The bank was twice assailed, but was two [sic] well guarded for our attempts. On the 7th day we were overpowered by superior force, and obliged to disperse. During this confusion, I provided for myself, by plundering, at various times, about 500 l. sterling.

(To be concluded in our next.)

(The narrative continues in the Dec. 21 issue)

After leading a live of such dissipation, for five or six years, an incident occurred which caused me, for some time, to abandon my former pursuit and settle down in tolerable regularity. I became acquainted with a Miss Nancy Allingame, a white girl of about 18 years of age. She was possessed of about 500 l. in personal property, and a house at Islington. It may appear singular to many, that a woman of this description should be in the least interested in my favor; yet such was the fact, and she not only endured my society, but actually married me in about six months after our first acquaintance. Her father and friends remonstrated against this connexion; but she quitted them all, and united herself to me. My whole residence with her was about three years, during which time I exhausted all the property which came into my possession by the marriage. We then separated, and she was received by her father.

In June 1782, having joined Hyde and Wilson, we determined to quit England and see if the French gentlemen could bear “touching.” We accordingly crossed at Dover, and at Dunkirk about 7 o’clock in the evening robbed a gentlemen of about 200 French crowns. We then proceeded to Paris by way of Brest. On the second evening after our arrival in this city, we robbed Count Dillon, on his return from the plays, of a gold watch and 12 French guineas. The next day, about 1 o’clock in the afternoon, we attacked Governor Du Boyer, at his country seat, about four miles from Paris, and took from him about 200 l. in bank bills. Hyde and Wilson performed this, while I lay about 250 yards distant.

Dispatch in travelling, after such bold adventures, became very necessary. We immediately quitted Paris, and rode all night for Havre de Grace, where we arrived the evening of the next day. Here we found an advertisement, which prevented our changing the notes and induced us to burn them.

Bayonne was the next object of our pursuit. At this place Hyde robbed two gentlemen in one night, Willson one, and Mountain one — the whole of that evening’s plunder amounted to about 500 l. sterling. France now became dangerous, and therefore we pushed with all possible expedition for Spain, and arrived at Madrid, the capital, in a few days. The regulations of this city were such, that we were obliged to quit the object of our pursuit. The city was strongly walled in, and most scrupulously guarded. The gates were shut every evening at 8 o’clock, and every man compelled to be in his own habitation. After spending several months in rioting on our booty, we went to Gibraltar. We bribed the Spanish centinel, and entered the British lines. We appeared before the English commander, General Elliot, and informed him we were Englishmen, and mechanicks by profession. The fleet commanded by Lord How, arrived there on the fourth day after us. General Elliot consented that we should enter on board the fleet as seamen. Accordingly I joined myself to the Magnificent of 74 guns, commanded by Capt. John Elverston; Hyde entered the Victory, Lord Hose; and Wilson a 74 gun ship, whose name I do not recollect. This was in the fall of 1782. I never saw Hyde and Wilson again until since the peace took place between England and the United States. I tarried on board the Magnificent about three months, during which time we had an engagement with the French and Spanish fleets. We drove them out of the Straits, sunk their junk ships with hot shot, and captured the St. Michael, a Spanish ship of 74 guns. The Magnificent sailed with the fleet for Spithead, where, directly after my arrival, I made my escape from her by bribing the centinel with 5 guineas, and swimming three quarters of a mile to the Isle of Wight. From this place I went to London by way of Plymouth. The landlord at the old place of resort received me very cordially.

The business of robbing again solicited my attention, and in the fall of the year 1783, as I was walking in Wapping in quest of plunder, I accidentally fell in company with my old companions, Hyde and Wilson. They had remained in the sea service ever since we left Gibralttar. We concluded it adviseable to join ourselves to the gang at Harrison’s, and resume our occupation. Holland now appeared an object worth attention. In November 1783, we went to Ostend, and thence to Amsterdam. On the road through Holland, we knocked an old Dutchman down, and took from him 1100 guilders. The next day about 4 [o’]clock in the morning, Hyde attacked a merchant, and obtained about 100 guilders; and the evening following, we robbed four gentlemen of about 150 l. sterling, and three silver watches of small value. We continued living very freely at Amsterdam 4 weeks, without effecting any thing: During which period we were preparing to assail a bank. At length, by the help of various instruments, we entered it about 1 o’clock at night. We found an iron chest which we could not open. We brought a way two bags of gold, containing about 1100 l. sterling. We buried them about 2 miles distant, and suffered them to remain there two months. The noise, relative to the robbery having by this time subsided, we took our money, entered on board a vessel bound for England, and were safely back in London in the spring of the year 1784. To invest our cash, &c. in real property and quit a course of life attended with so much fatigue and hazard, was thought the most eligible plan. In pursuance of this idea, Hyde bought him an house and lot about four miles from London. My share was joined with Hyde’s. Wilson purchased him a situation at Cherry gardenstairs. Each kept an house for the reception of gamblers, swindlers and footpads.

The rioters who were concerned in Lord Gordon’s rebellion were now daily arrested, tried and executed. Knowing myself deeply concerned in this mob, and supposing it probable that Mountain’s turn might come next, I quitted London, went on board an European vessel, and made a voyage to Grenada. From this period until August 1789, I was employed as a sailor, during which time I made two voyages to the coast of Guinea, and brought cargoes of negroes to Jamaica; one voyage to Greenland; one to Leghorn and Venice; three to Philadelphia, and one to St. Kitts. Upon my return from voyages, I frequently went from Liverpool to London, and put up at Hyde’s or Wilson’s. In October 1786, we committed a burglary upon the house of General Arnold, who then resided in London. We entered his house about 2 o’clock at night, with a dark lantern, and, from a bureau in the room where the General and Lady were asleep, we stole about 150 l. sterling, in cash, and a pair of stone shoe buckles.

In the month of August 1789, I left Newyork in the Briton, with a cargo of bread and flour owned by Mr. John Murray, jun. of New york, and went to Bilboa in Spain. The vessel proved leaky, and was sold. Being discharged, I entered on board the brig Aunt, commanded by Captain Thomas Mosely, and owned by William Gray, of Boston, sailed from Bilboa the 7th day of March, and arrived in Boston the 2d of May last. On the 14th of the same month I quitted Boston on foot for Newyork. On my journey, at Easthartford, I stole five dollars from the cabin of a sloop lying in Connecticut river. I was immediately apprehended, carried before George Pitkin, Esq. and adjudged to be whipped ten stripes. The sentence was executed forthwith, and I dismissed. This was the first time I was ever arraigned before any court. No event in my antecedent life produced such mortification as this; that a highwayman of the first eminence, who had robbed in most of the cities in Europe, who had attacked gentlemen of the first distinction with success; who had escaped King’s bench prison and Old Bailey, that he should be punished for such a petty offence, in such an obscure part of the country, was truly humiliating. On the Saturday evening following, I arrived at Newhaven. The Wednesday following, being the 26th of May, about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I set out for Newyork: At the distance of one mile, I met the unhappy girl whom I have so wantonly injured. She was in company with an older [friend?], going into Newhaven. I began a conversation with them, and attempted, by persuasion, to effect my purpose. They were terrified at my conduct, and endeavored to avoid me. Upon this I seized the eldest girl; she, however, struggled from me. I then caught the younger, and threw her on the ground. I have uniformly thought that the witnesses were mistaken in swearing to the commission of a Rape: That I abused her in a most brutal and savage manner; that her tender years and pitiable shrieks were unavailable; and that no exertion was wanting to ruin her, I frankly confess. However I may attempt to palliate this transaction, there can be no excuse given for me, unless intoxication may be pleaded in mitigation of an offence. It was a most cruel attack upon an innocent girl, whose years, whose intreaties must have softened an heart not callous to every tender feeling. When her cries had brought to her assistance some neighboring people, I continued my barbarity, by insulting her in her distress, boasting of the fact, and glorying in my iniquity. Upon reflection, I am often surprised that I did not attempt my escape; opportunity to effect it frequently presented before I was apprehended. Yet, by some unaccountable fatality, I loitered unconcerned, as though my conduct would bear the strictest scrutiny. The counsel of heaven determined that such a prodigy in vice should no longer infest society. At four o’clock I was brought before Mr. Justice Daggert for examination. The testimony was so pointed, that I was ordered into immediate confinement, to await the approaching session of the Superiour Court.

On the 5th of August last, I was arraigned before the Bar of the Superiour Court. My trial was far more favorable than I expected. There was every indulgence granted me which I could have wished; and the court, jurors and spectators appeared very differently from those I have seen at Old Bailey. The jury had little hesitation; indeed the most compassionate hearer of this cause could have only pronounced me Guilty. I beheld with astonishment the lenity of the court, and am sure, that in a country where such a sacred regard is had to the liberty of the subject, no man’s life can be unjustly taken from him. On the Tuesday following, the Chief Justice pronounced Sentence of Death against me. I thought myself less moved with this pathetic address than either of the court, or any spectator, and yet, I confess, I was more affected by it, than by any thing which had previously happened in my life. On the next sabbath I attended meeting. The address of the Rev. Dr. Dana on that day, and the subsequent advice and admonitions which I have received from the Clergy of this and other places, were calculated to awaken every feeling of my heart. Much gratitude is due to those gentlemen who have exhibited such a tender concern for my immortal interest.

It now remains that I die a death justly merited by my crimes, “The crimes of injured innocence have entered the ears of the Lord of Sabbath, and called for vengeance.” If the reader of this story can acquiesce in my fate, and view me “stumbling on the dark mountain of the shadow of death,” with composure, he will yet compassionate a soul stained with the [strongest?] crimes, just about to appear unembodied before a God of infinite purity.

JOSEPH MOUNTAIN.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Connecticut,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Rape,USA

Tags: , , , ,

1575: Archbishop Leonid of Novgorod

Add comment October 20th, 2017 Headsman

Jack Culpepper’s “The Kremlin Executions of 1575 and the Enthronement of Simeon Bekbulatovich” (Slavic Review, September, 1965) notes a single anonymous chronicle dating to the early 17th century alluding to a mysterious Kremlin purge … several years after the notorious Oprichnina.

Regarding the other executions of the same year in Moscow on the square near the Uspensky Cathedral, the Tsar disgraced many individuals, ordering the execution within the Kremlin and in his presence, on the square near the Uspensky Cathedral, of the following: the boyar Prince Petr Kurakin, Protasii Iur’ev, the archbishop of Novgorod, the protopope of the Arkhangel’sky Cathedral, Ivan Buturlin, Nikita Borozdin, the archimandrite of the Chudov Monastery, and many others. Their heads were thrown before the residences of Prince Ivan Mstislavsky, the metropolitan, Ivan Sheremetev, Andrei Shchelkalov, and others.

According to Culpepper that Archbishop of Novgorod, Leonid by name, faced the executioner on October 20, 1575 after being summoned to a sobor — but no records preserve the conclave’s deliberations or the proceedings against Archbishop Leonid. Others both secular and ecclesiastical shared his fate throughout that autumn. (Ivan had no compunctions when it came to burdening his soul with the death of a clergyman.)

A Holy Roman Empire courtier who reached Moscow late that year would record by way of explanation for the bloodbath that the perennially paranoid Ivan had put to death some forty nobles for a suspected interest in his assassination.

This supposed plot against him is one possible reason for Ivan’s strange decision around the same time to faux-abdicate the throne. In September or October of 1575, Ivan plucked the ruler of a vestigial khanate dependency and made this gentleman, Simeon Bekbulatovich, Grand Prince of Rus’.

Ivan, of course, maintained the real power; he would claim to an English visitor that it was a ruse to throw off his murderers, telling him:

we highlye forsawe the varyable and dungerous estate of princes and that as well as the meanest they are subiect unto chaunge which caused us to suspect oure owne magnificence and that which nowe inded ys chaunced unto us for we have resyned the estate of our government which heathertoo hath bene so royally maynteyned into the hands of a straunger whoe is nothinge alyed unto us our lande or crowne. The occasion whereof is the perverse and evill dealinge of our subiects who mourmour and repine at us for gettinge loyaull obedience they practice againste our person. The which to prevent we have gyvene them over unto an other prince to governe them but have reserved in our custodye all the treasure of the lande withe sufficient trayne and place for their and our relyefe.

Ivan did indeed relieve his proxy tsar the very next year, demoting him to Prince of Tver and Torzhok. Despite the approaching “Time of Troubles” crisis following Ivan’s death when nobles would struggle for the right to sire the next Muscovite dynasty, the still-living former Grand Prince was such an absurd character that he never figured as a contender for the crown. (He would be forced into a monastery, however.) Bekbulatovich died naturally in 1616.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Notable for their Victims,Power,Religious Figures,Russia

Tags: , , , , ,

1933: Dallas Egan, dancing

Add comment October 20th, 2016 Headsman

On this date in 1933, Dallas Egan hanged at California’s San Quentin Prison — and pretty much nobody was happier about it than Dallas Egan.

A cynic might attribute the puckish jig he reputedly danced en route to the gallows to the liberal allotment of whiskey, straight he had swallowed at the sufferance of Gov. “Sunny Jim” Rolph* — “all the whiskey he can safely stand up under.” It was just the governor’s way of saying thanks to the murderer for going so easy on the justice system.

Barely a year before, Egan and three accomplices robbed a Los Angeles jewelry store when, mid-robbery, an old fella with a hearing deficiency paused at the store window to check his pocketwatch against the wares n display — one of those little accidental moments that make up a life, or in this case, a death. Two deaths, actually. Egan shot the misfortunate William Kirkpatrick dead when the man didn’t respond to an order the robber shouted. “I gave the man full warning,” Egan explained.

But Egan didn’t mean to minimize his guilt; he was fully committed from the time of his capture to get himself the noose.

“I don’t know whether or not I’m insane,” he mused to the court when an attorney tried to secure a sanity hearing for him (per this Los Angeles Times profile). “We’re all a little crazy; even you, Judge. But I don’t want nine years’ punishment, or 20 years. I want to pay in full!” In later months he would write the governor and the Supreme Court insisting on his just deserts and washing his hands of any appeal or clemency effort on his behalf.

Egan’s last morning, Oct. 20, 1933, began with a good breakfast, some final sips of whiskey and a cigar “tilted at a ridiculous angle,” according to one witness. The previous night he’d played a record of “Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider” over and over in his cell, telling guards: “I’ll dance out to that tune.” (Some newspapers misquoted this statement with the more formal “I want to dance out to the gallows.”)

When the hour came, he really did dance an Irish jig as he entered the death chamber handcuffed between guards. He then walked up the 13 steps, energetically and alone. Offering no final words, he plunged through the trapdoor.

Rolph’s generosity toward Egan resulted in a two-day controversy. Some Bay Area preachers chided him for it, but Rolph had the last word: “We would be pretty small when we sent a man into eternity if we could not grant his last request.”

“>Los Angeles Times, January 23, 2011

* Rolph would die in office of a heart attack the following June. He was a one-term governor but has a bit of notoriety for publicly applauding a 1933 lynching in San Jose.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,California,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Theft,USA

Tags: , , , , , ,

1939: Operation Tannenberg public mass executions begin

Add comment October 20th, 2015 Headsman

This photo (from the German Bundesarchiv) captures an SS execution of Poles in Kornik just weeks into the German occupation of Poland in 1939, fruit of a pre-planned Nazi project to secure the new territory as lebensraum.

Operation Tannenberg (English Wikipedia entry | German | Polish) could be seen as a vanguard for the mind-boggling exterminations to come in subsequent years, cementing the army’s commitment to a campaign that extended well beyond territorial conquest. Alexander Rossino examines this understudied segment of World War II in Hitler Strikes Poland: Blitzkrieg, Ideology, and Atrocity and contends that “the unlimited, almost nihilistic violence of the Wehrmacht” emerges first in these initial weeks of the Polish campaign, which proved a “transitional conflict” pivoting towards the more notorious atrocities to come. “The invasion of Poland thus occupies a crucial place in the history of Nazi Germany’s descent into mass murder and genocide.”

Drawn up by Hitler, Himmler, and Heydrich and officially authorized on August 25, a week before Germany invaded Poland, Tannenberg intended to destroy Poland’s elites — from intelligentsia and nobility down to community priests and teachers, and the politically active across the spectrum from Communist to monarchist. The hope was to leave the subject nation supine, incapable of challenging Berlin’s designs on her future. Estimates I have seen vary widely but tens of thousands of Poles (with a liberal portion of Polish Jews) were shot by SS Einsatzgruppen units under Tannenberg even by the end of 1939, and kilings continued apace thereafter. Though not the literal first Operation Tannenberg Killings, the October 20-23 period marked the first public mass executions; a Polish-language list of the incidents and victims involved is available here.

The very name Tannenberg is a nationalist allusion to Germany’s time-immemorial rivalry with Poland; the original Battle of Tannenberg saw the rising Polish-Lithuanian empire defeat the Teutonic Knights, essentially breaking the latter as a European power. This defeat resonated in 20th century German national mythology not unlike the Battle of Kosovo for Serbia; in 1914, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg made himself a household name by smashing the Russians in a battle vaguely in the vicinity, and cannily christened it, too, the Battle of Tannenberg. (The Germans put up a monument to it which they felt obliged to tear down later in the war as they were being driven out of Poland.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Execution,Germany,History,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Poland,Public Executions,Shot,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

Tags: , , , , , , ,

1858: Owen McQueeney, Green Tent Murderer

5 comments October 20th, 2014 Headsman

Murderer Owen McQueen(e)y was hanged on this date in 1858 at Gallows Flat down the road from Old Geelong Gaol.

McQueeney, a wandering Irish robber with one distinctively sightless eye, committed something called the “Green Tent Murder” which consisted of the slaying of the pretty proprietress of a structure that went by that name.

The Green Tent was a grocery and tavern serving Australia’s ample population of itinerant gold-hunters in the environs of Meredith, Victoria — specifically the environs of present-day Green Tent Road.

Fresh off a jail term for horse-rustling, McQueeney turned up at the ‘Tent in July 1858 and began creepily haunting the pleasing mistress with the well-proportioned stock shelves.

Until, for no known provocation save plunder, McQueeney murdered the widow owner Elizabeth Lowe and fled.

The poor woman’s body was chanced upon soon thereafter and travelers’ reports of a dead-eyed and overladen swag-man making tracks for Geelong soon zeroed the search in on the desperado, still carrying Ms. Lowe’s incriminatingly distinctive property.

McQueeney, who was noted for his obnoxious bravado from the moment of his first police examination all the way to condemnation, evidently labored until almost the very last “under the infatuation that he would yet be reprieved … on the ground of the great aversion entertained by a large class of people to capital punishment under any circumstances. This belief of his in the morbid sympathies of his fellow-creatures, there can be no doubt, induced him to the last to disown his crime” even though he admitted to many other ones. Nevertheless, he continued his irascible act all the way to the noose, griping at the executioner for holding him too tight and pulling the hood down too soon.

Notwithstanding (or better owing to) his notoriety, McQueeney was sought out posthumously by a crippled woman, who besought the indulgence of the sheriff to touch McQueeney’s dead hands to her own in hopes of obtaining a curative from the legendary power of the hanged man’s hand.


Modeled on London’s Pentonville Prison, Old Geelong Gaol — officially HMS Prison Geelong — hosted six executions in its initial incarnation from the 1850s to the 1860s. Two occurred within its walls; McQueeney’s and three others took place in a paddock a few hundred meters away.

Old Geelong Gaol was converted in 1865 to an “industrial school” for street urchins, and 12 years after that into a prison-hospital. The dusty old place, famous for is spartan amenities, resumed life as a working gaol after World War II and only closed in 1991 — but never had another hanging after the 1860s. Today it is open for public tours, complete with gallows exhibit.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Australia,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Theft

Tags: , , , , , , ,

1571: Hans Haslibacher, Bern Anabaptist

1 comment October 20th, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 1571, Anabaptist Hans Haslibacher was martyred in Bern, Switzerland.

Haslibacher (German link) joined the oft-suppressed movement in 1532 and quickly established himself as one of the most energetic proselytizers in the Emmental in Bern canton.

Condemned at last in 1571 after a lifetime of arrests, he was honored in a 32-stanza anonymous poem “Das Haslibacherlied” (German) alleging that Haslibacher prophesied that his death would be marked with three signs:

  1. His head when struck off would spring into a hat and laugh aloud;
  2. The sun would turn blood-red;
  3. The town fountain would spew blood.

According to the poem, all three prophesies came to pass … and “the hangman too was heard to say: / ‘Tis guiltless blood I’ve shed today.”

The Swiss Anabaptists are noteworthy as the confessional ancestors of the present-day Amish: the latter sect is named for 17th century Bern canton Anabaptist Jakob Ammann, who was the leader of one faction in a 1693 schism within the Swiss Anabaptist community.

Fortunately (though not for this here site) that schism emerged too late in the day for a classic religious martyrdom. Hans Haslibacher, in fact, was the last Anabaptist put to death for his faith in Bern.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Arts and Literature,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,God,Heresy,History,Milestones,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Switzerland

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

1865: William Grant, evidently a ringleader, a persuader, and adviser

Add comment October 20th, 2012 Headsman

The account below of a forgotten saddler hastily attainted a participant “in the background” in the Morant Bay rebellion comes from Illustrations of Martial Law in Jamaica: Compiled from the Report of the Royal Commissioners, and Other Blue Books Laid Before Parliament.


Another victim was William Grant, saddler, of Morant Bay. The following record of the proceedings in his case is probably unique in the history of judicial or quasi-judicial investigations :—

October 20th, 1865.
Drum-head Court Martial.

President:—Lieut. H. Brand, E.N.
Members:—Lieut. Errington, K.N., Ensign Kelly, 4th W.I.R.

William Grant, charged with being one of the ringleaders and originators of this rebellion.

The Provost sworn states :—

About four or five days ago I was informed that this man was the originator and founder of the party who raised the rebellion, that he was not likely to be seen himself, but makes the others. He keeps a saddler’s shop, where the secret meetings took place. On the road from St. Thomas-in-the-East to the Guinness (Ginnep) tree, where placards had been posted, calling secret meetings, I searched the house of Chisholm, also a confederate, and in the presence of Mr. Jones, E.A., I took a blue card, as an admission ticket to a Society of Friends, printed William Grant, Founder. That card I sent to the Governor.

The prisoner Duncan Stuart, in his defence, when called upon by Captain Astwood, voluntarily made this statement. He had previously made it in the presence of Mr. Miller, J.P., whose signatures I here produce. “Grant called Bogle at Dr Alveranga’s, and said, ‘Don’t pull this down, wait a little, don’t join with the Volunteers, when you see what they do, run in.’ Grant said, ‘Now is the time to vindicate.’ ”

Mr. Miller, Justice of Peace, for St. Thomas-in-the-East, sworn:—

That statement was voluntarily given and sworn to before me.

Geo. F. Judah, Sergeant-Major of Volunteers:—

I gave the prisoner my rifle to repair on the morning of the riot, and he has kept it, and I have never seen it since.

The prisoner in his defence merely states that he never knew anything about the riot before it actually broke out. He has acknowledged to having corresponded with Mr. Gordon, but that, he states, was quite private, about some land.

This man was evidently a ringleader, a persuader, and adviser, and did his utmost to keep in the background and push the ignorant on to rebel.

Found Guilty, October 20th, 1865. Sentence, Death.

H. Brand, President,
Lieutenant E.N.
Approved and confirmed,

A. A. Nelson,
Brig. Genl. Commanding Field Force.

[The proceedings of the Courts-martial were retained by the Commissioners, and they refused to exhibit them to the Counsel for the parties complaining of the measures of suppression. General Nelson and others were therefore not cross-examined in reference to these trials.]

The first witness, Ramsay, the Provost-Marshal, told the Court only of what he had been informed — the great crime of the prisoner apparently being that he was the founder of a Society of Friends, and had actually a blue card of membership in his house.

The witness, Duncan Stewart, was not called. He had already been tried and was under sentence of death, and was duly hanged the same evening along with Grant. (See List). A so-called statement of this man was produced in writing. It will be noticed he spoke only of “Grant” having used certain words. Three Grants were hung at Morant Bay, and a William Grant was convicted by a Special Commission at Kingston, while the Royal Commissioners were sitting, and sentenced to penal servitude for life. It is clear from the evidence then given that the William Grant alluded to by Duncan Stewart was the one who was then sentenced. John Dickenson, on being examined by the living William Grant at that trial said:— “There was a William Grant, a saddler, who is hung. You are left. You are the man.” (No. 355 of Papers laid before the Royal Commissioners by Mr. Eyre).

Ramsay had evidently a strong interest in the conviction of this prisoner. He sent the following letter to Captain Luke, on 16th October, 1865:— “I also personally apprehended William Grant, the founder of the Society of Friends. I hope I may not be thought seeking for pecuniary benefit alone in claiming the rewards for information against G. W. Gordon at large, seizure of Chisholm, Grant, and Miles.”

Brand, the President of the Court-Martial, seems to have felt the evidence was weak, and he supplemented it by the following statement of his own. “This man was evidently a ringleader, a persuader, and adviser, and did his utmost to keep in the back ground and push the ignorant on to rebel.” The Judge having thus convinced himself, by his own conclusive testimony, adds “Found guilty. Sentence, death,” and, as a matter of course, the experienced officer of Her Majesty’s Service, who was the revising officer, adds:—”Approved and confirmed. A. A. Nelson, Brig.-Genl., Commanding Field Force, Morant Bay, 20th October, 1865.”

It is unnecessary to add that in the list of the executed is to be found the name “William Grant, under date of the 20th October. Charge, ringleader of rebellion!”

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Jamaica,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Rioting,Wartime Executions,Wrongful Executions

Tags: , , , ,

2009: Four Tibetans

Add comment October 20th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 2009, China executed four Tibetans widely considered political prisoners.

The previous year, widespread unrest over Chinese control had shaken the country, most notably riots in the capital, Lhasa that targeted Chinese persons and shops.

(There’s a BBC page preserving a good deal of the original coverage here.)

Loyak, one of those executed Oct. 20, 2009.

The two most prominent prisoners — in fact, the only two confirmed in some of the first media reports — were Lhasa residents Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak. A court spokesperson said both had been “given death penalties had committed extremely serious crimes and have to be executed to assuage the people’s anger.”

Specifically, both had been convicted of torching shops during the Lhasa riots, which arsons both led to deaths.

The other two executed, a woman named Penki (also for arson) and an unnamed man, received less comment, although they might have been executed despite having been condemned only to a “suspended” death sentence, which for China is generally no death sentence at all.

Executions in Tibet turn out to be relatively rare; these were the first known Tibetan executions since early 2003. Widely condemned abroad, this date’s events were barely or not at all reported internally by Chinese state media.

Part of the Themed Set: Illegitimate Power.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Activists,Arson,Capital Punishment,China,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,History,Known But To God,Martyrs,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Ripped from the Headlines,Separatists,Shot,Terrorists,Tibet,Women

Tags: , , , , , ,

1401: Klaus Stortebeker, Victual Brother pirate

1 comment October 20th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1401,* “Victual Brother” Klaus Störtebeker was beheaded in Hamburg.

Statue of Klaus Stortebeker. (cc) image from blariog

This legendary freebooter terrorized the Hanseatic League‘s trading channels from Novgorod to London in the 1390s.

He was the most famous of a company of privateers who’d been hired out in 1392 to place their thumb on the scale of Scandinavian dynastic politics** — notably, supplying Stockholm during a siege, from which service they obtained† the nickname Victual Brothers. It stuck, even when operations had moved far beyond the larder.

In the mid-1390s, the “brothers” turned against Danes and Hanse alike, raiding coasts and plundering sea trade.

Klaus, the most famous of them, is still remembered today “like Che Guevara, a freedom fighter, but also like Robin Hood, because he fights the rich in the name of the poor”:‡ folk hero-outlaws, men of the pirate utopia.

Whatever debunking that legend might invite, its existence speaks to that timeless romance of the road. And then there’s that kernel of truth, or so one hopes: after Stortebeker’s death, the remnants would persist as the Likedeelers, “those who share equally.”

The buccaneer’s end, after capture by Simon of Utrecht, was equally legendary: he’s supposed to have made a scaffold pact with the headsman to spare any of his mates he could walk past once decapitated.

Rising from the chop like St. Denis, the headless trunk of Stortebeker lurched past 11 of them before the executioner himself tripped it up. (In the most embroidered version of this story, Hamburg not only didn’t honor the promise, it executed the executioner when all was said and done. But we’re pretty comfortable saying that once we reach the headless zombie pirate part of the story, the reader has carte blanche to rewrite anything not to liking.)

Drink up me hearties yo ho! “Stortebeker” itself just means, “quaff the mug.”

Klaus Störtebecker is our master
advised by Godeke Michels!
Shoot through the waves like storm, just faster
The Flying Dutchman’s godfather
Gaffer is the ships goblin
Let’s tackle, crew!
Life is bauble!
We are the hell of Helgoland

Our bloody flag is cracking the mast
Rats scurrying on the floor
A skeleton is our guest
On the sail there are strange shadows
The mermaid is swimming in our wake
Laugh, crew!
Life is bauble!
Still ruling is the hell of Helgoland

And when our ship makes its last run
Laugh while like a coffin she goes down
We die an ancient pirate’s way
Today we fight, tomorrow we drown
In green algae and white sand
Land ho, crew, land!
Life is bauble!
Such dies the hell of Helgoland

-Folk song honoring Klaus Stortebeker
(translated here)

* As often for events at this distance of time, the dates are a little bit shaky; 1400, rather than 1401, has been proposed for the actual year of Stortebeker’s execution; October 21 rather than October 20 is also given on some sites. Folklore more so than almanac blogs has the luxury of indifference to such particulars.

** The Victual Brothers were initially retained to oppose the adroit Danish Queen Margaret. She would face (and brush aside) even weirder challenges to her rule en route to lashing together the Kalmar Union under Danish regional hegemony.

Alternate explanation: food-based euphemisms for piracy trace to armies’ victual officers, and their unscrupulous methods of filling the mess hall.

‡ In a continuing spirit of democratic larceny — or as a gang symbol for the local Hell’s Angels, whatever — our man’s alleged skull was stolen from a Hamburg museum earlier this year.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 15th Century,Arts and Literature,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Germany,Hanseatic League,History,Mass Executions,Murder,Outlaws,Pelf,Pirates,Popular Culture,Public Executions,Theft

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2005: Luis Ramirez, claiming innocence

1 comment October 20th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 2005, Luis Ramirez was executed in Texas for engineering the murder-for-hire of his ex-wife’s new flame.

Ramirez went to his death still insisting on his innocence.

I did not kill your loved one, but I hope that one day you find out who did. I wish I could tell you the reason why, or give some kind of solace; you lost someone you love very much. The same as my family and friends are going to lose in a few minutes. I am sure he died unjustly, just like I am.

Maybe so. Maybe not.

Contrary to the widespread misapprehension that DNA and other forensic evidence are rendering criminology a perfect science, the majority of criminal procedures make do without them — consequently depending on the more impressionistic and time-honored pillars of jurisprudence: a weighing of circumstantial evidence; an estimate of the credibility of competing witnesses; the structural advantage of the well-resourced prosecutor’s office against its typical adversaries.

There may never be an answer to Luis Ramirez’s last statement, simply because there’s no obvious prospect of a dramatic forensic science reveal.

Wherever Ramirez’s soul might truly stand on the matter of capital murder, he left behind this interesting portrait of human connection on death row.

I’m about the share with you a story who’s telling is long past due. It’s a familiar story to most of you reading this from death row. And now it’s one that all of you in “free world ” may benefit from. This is the story of my first day on the row.

I came here in May of 1999. The exact date is something that I can’t recall. I do remember arriving in the afternoon. I was placed in a cell on H-20 wing over at the Ellis Unit in Huntsville, TX. A tsunami of emotions and thoughts were going through my mind at the time. I remember the only things in the cell were a mattress, pillow, a couple of sheets, a pillow case, a roll of toilet paper, and a blanket. I remember sitting there, utterly lost.

The first person I met there was Napoleon Beazley. Back then, death row prisoners still worked. His job at the time was to clean up the wing and help serve during meal times. He was walking around sweeping the pod in these ridiculous looking rubber boots. He came up to the bars on my cell and asked me if I was new. I told him that I had just arrived on death row. He asked what my name is. I told him, not seeing any harm in it. He then stepped back where he could see all three tiers. He hollered at everyone, “There’s a new man here. He just drove up. His name is Luis Ramirez.” When he did that, I didn’t know what to make of it at first. I thought I had made some kind of mistake. You see, like most of you, I was of the impression that everyone on death row was evil. I thought I would find hundreds of “Hannibal Lecters” in here. And now, they all knew my name. I thought “Oh well,” that’s strike one. I was sure that they would soon begin harassing me. This is what happens in the movies after all.

Well, that’s not what happened . After supper was served, Napoleon was once again sweeping the floors. As he passed my cell, He swept a brown paper bag into it. I asked him “What’s this?” He said for me to look inside and continued on his way. Man, I didn’t know what to expect. I was certain it was something bad. Curiosity did get the best of me though. I carefully opened the bag. What I found was the last thing I ever expected to find on death row, and everything I needed. The bag contained some stamps, envelopes, notepad, pen, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, tooth brush, a pastry, a soda, and a couple of Ramen noodles. I remember asking Napoleon where this came from.

He told me that everyone had pitched in. That they knew that I didn’t have anything and that it may be a while before I could get them. I asked him to find out who had contributed. I wanted to pay them back. He said, “It’s not like that. Just remember the next time you see someone come here like you. You pitch in something.”

I sat there on my bunk with my brown paper bag of goodies, and thought about what had just happened to me. The last things I expected to find on death row was kindness and generosity. They knew what I needed and they took it upon themselves to meet those needs. They did this without any expectation of reimbursement or compensation. They did this for a stranger, not a known friend. I don’t know what they felt when they committed this act of incredible kindness. I only know that like them, twelve “good people” had deemed me beyond redemption. The only remedy that these “good people” could offer us is death. Somehow what these “good people” saw and what I was seeing didn’t add up. How could these men, who just showed me so much humanity, be considered the “worst of the worst.”

Ever since Napoleon was executed, for a crime he committed as a teen, I’ve wanted to share this story with his family. I would like for them to know that their son was a good man. One who I will never forget. I want for them to know how sorry I am that we as a society failed them and him. I still find it ridiculous that we as a people feel that we cannot teach or love our young properly. I’m appalled at the idea that a teen is beyond redemption, that the only solution that we can offer is death. It’s tragic that this is being pointed out to the “good people” by one of the “worst of the worst”. God help us all.

What’s in the brown paper bag? I found caring, kindness, love, humanity, and compassion of a scale that I’ve never seen the “good people” in the free world show towards one another.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Texas,USA

Tags: , , , , ,

Previous Posts


Calendar

May 2019
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Archives

Categories

Execution Playing Cards

Exclusively available on this site: our one-of-a-kind custom playing card deck.

Every card features a historical execution from England, France, Germany, or Russia!