Posts filed under '19th Century'

1801: Hyacinth Moise, Haitian Revolution general

Add comment November 9th, 2020 C. L. R. James

(Thanks to the Communist historian C.L.R. James for this guest post, an excerpt of his classic exploration of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins. James here details a pivotal incident in the last months of the ascendancy of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the great general of the Haitian Revolution, when his militant adoptive nephew Hyacinth Moise joined a rebellion of plantation workers — former slaves — against the harsh discipline that L’Ouverture was now re-imposing upon them. Although L’Ouverture squelched the rebellion and had Moise executed on November 9, 1801, his uncertain hold on the loyalty of his people left him vulnerable, and within months an expedition from Haiti’s former colonial overlord, France, defeated the Haitians and weighed L’Ouverture with chains. The latter died in 1803, imprisoned in a French fortress. -ed.)

And in these last crucial months, Toussaint, fully aware of Bonaparte’s preparations, was busy sawing off the branch on which he sat.

In the North, around Plaisance, Limbe, Dondon, the vanguard of the revolution was not satisfied with the new regime. Toussaint’s discipline was hard, but it was infinitely better than the old slavery. What these old revolutionary blacks objected to was working for their white masters. Moise was the Commandant of the North Province, and Moise sympathised with the blacks. Work, yes, but not for whites. “Whatever my old uncle may do, I cannot bring myself to be the executioner of my colour. It is always in the interests of the metropolis that he scolds me; but these interests are those of the whites, and I shall only love them when they have given me back the eye that they made me lose in battle.”

Gone were the days when Toussaint would leave the front and ride through the night to enquire into the grievances of the labourers, and, though protecting the whites, make the labourers see that he was their leader.

Revolutionaries through and through, those bold men, own brothers of the Cordeliers in Paris and the Vyborg workers in Petrograd, organised another insurrection. Their aim was to massacre the whites, overthrow Toussaint’s government and, some hoped, put Moise in his place. Every observer, and Toussaint himself, thought that the labourers were following him because of his past services and his unquestioned superiority. This insurrection proved that they were following him because he represented that complete emancipation from their former degradation which was their chief goal. As soon as they saw that he was no longer going to this end, they were ready to throw him over.

This was no mere riot of a few discontented or lazy blacks. It was widespread over the North. The revolutionaries chose a time when Toussaint was away at Petite-Riviere attending the wedding of Dessalines. The movement should have begun in Le Cap on September 21st, but Christophe heard of it just in time to check the first outbursts in various quarters of the town. On the 22nd and 23rd the revolt burst in the revolutionary districts of Marmelade, Plaisance, Limbe, Port Margot, and Dondon, home of the famous regiment of the sansculottes. On the morning of the 23rd it broke out again in Le Cap, while armed bands, killing all the whites whom they met on the way, appeared in the suburbs to make contact with those in the town. While Christophe defeated these, Toussaint and Dessalines marched against the rising in Marmelade and Dondon, and it fell to pieces before him and his terrible lieutenant. Moise, avoiding a meeting with Toussaint, attacked and defeated another band. But blacks in certain districts had revolted to the cry of “Long Live Moise!” Toussaint therefore had him arrested, and would not allow the military tribunal even to hear him. The documents, he said, were enough. “I flatter myself that the Commissioners will not delay a judgment so necessary to the tranquility of the colony.” He was afraid that Moise might supplant him.

Upon this hint the Commission gave judgment, and Moise was shot. He died as he had lived. He stood before the place of execution in the presence of the troops of the garrison, and in a firm voice gave the word to the firing squad: “Fire, my friends, fire.”

What exactly did Moise stand for? We shall never know. Forty years after his death Madiou, the Haitian historian, gave an outline of Moise’s programme, whose authenticity, however, has been questioned. Toussaint refused to break up the large estates. Moise wanted small grants of land for junior officers and even the rank-and-file. Toussaint favoured the whites against the Mulattoes. Moise sought to build an alliance between the blacks and the Mulattoes against the French. It is certain that he had a strong sympathy for the labourers and hated the old slave-owners. But he was not anti-white. He bitterly regretted the indignities to which he had been forced to submit Roume and we know how highly he esteemed Sonthonax. We have very little to go on but he seems to have been a singularly attractive and possibly profound person. The old slave-owners hated him and they pressed Toussaint to get rid of him. Christophe too was jealous of Moise and Christophe loved white society. Guilty or not guilty of treason, Moise had too many enemies to escape the implications of the “Long Live Moise” shouted by the revolutionaries.

To the blacks of the North, already angry at Toussaint’s policy, the execution of Moise was the final disillusionment. They could not understand it. As was (and is) inevitable, they thought in terms of colour. After Toussaint himself, Moise, his nephew, symbolised the revolution. He it was who had led the labourers against Hedouville. He also had led the insurrection which extorted the authority from Roume t take over Spanish San Domingo, an insurrection which to the labourers had been for the purpose of stopping the Spanish traffic in slaves. Moise had arrested Roume, and later Vincent. And now Toussaint had shot him, for taking the part of the blacks against the whites.

Toussaint recognised his error. If the break with the French and Vincent had shaken him from his usual calm in their last interview, it was nothing to the remorse which moved him after the execution of Moise. None who knew him had ever seen him so agitated. He tried to explain it away in a long proclamation: Moise was the soul of the insurrection; Moise was a young man of loose habits. It was useless. Moise had stood to high in his councils for too long.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Guest Writers,Haiti,History,Other Voices,Power,Shot,Soldiers,Treason

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1888: Pedro, the pirate Ñancúpel

Add comment November 7th, 2020 Headsman

Pedro María Ñancúpel Alarcón, famiiarly nicknamed “the pirate Ñancúpel”, was shot on this date in 1888 for his long campaign of banditry in Chile’s Guaitecas Islands.

He had once been pulled in more legitimate fashion to these islands, and the adjacent Chiloe archipelago, both floating off the edge of southern Chile’s Patagonia region — as a part of the late 19th century pull of virginal resources in want of capitalization. Ñancúpel and his wife, as well as a brother of his, followed this call and for some years he worked as a cypress tree cutter, then a trader of the rich sea lion furs to be hunted there.

For unknown reasons he abandoned this frontier hustle to join the robber gang of yet another relative, José Domingo Nahuelhuén. They specialized in seaborne piracy, attacking ships by piercing their hulls and then boarding aggressively while the crew struggled to keep their ship from sinking — whereupon the boat could be looted for its freight and the crew slaughtered to eliminate witnesses. This was obviously a dangerous way to make a living, and the pirate Ñancúpel seems to have risen to leadership after his kinsman Nahuelhuen was captured and executed along with several mates.

Ñancúpel himself had been imprisoned on a few different occasions, always managing to wriggle out of the jam. His arrest in August 1886 whilst in his cups toasting his latest outrage would be the last one: although five other relatives taken with him all(!) managed to avoid punishment — three were minors released for that reason, and his brother and his nephew managed to escape — our man Pedro was sentenced at the island town of Castro, Chile for several of his piratical murders and shot in a prison courtyard there. Picturesquely, the execution was delayed for several hours because there was a woman in labor on a nearby street, and it was thought that conducting an execution in such circumstances would put the evil eye upon the newborn.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Chile,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Murder,Piracy,Pirates,Shot

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1837: Luis Candelas, urban bandit

Add comment November 6th, 2020 Headsman

The brigand Luis Candelas was garroted in Madrid on this date in 1837.

Candelas — that’s a Spanish link, as are most available sources on the man — was a bad boy from a bourgeois family with a penchant for high living and high blood, the latter of which got him kicked out of school when a priest slapped him by way of discipine and Candelas repaid him in kind.

From here he went on to the life of a sybaritic picaro, worthy of remembrance in various song and verse.

He was a dashing Don Juan type, smartly dressed and famed for his love of the written word and the opposite sex; he was a triumphant duelist, that noble old sport; and he was the king of a gang of robbers that haunted the taverns of Madrid and won both treasure and popular affection by their exploits.

“Money is badly distributed,” ran one of their reported aphorisms of social banditry, “and it is not fair that while some are dragged in coaches, while others trudge through the mud.”

In this last he had a Jekyll-and-Hyde double life, posing as the respectable Luis Alvarez de Cobos by day only to transform into lovable underworld rogue by night.

As ought to happen to such a romantic desperado, he was betrayed in the end by his heart. Feeling inordinate police heat due to robbing some inordinately important people — the Queen‘s personal dressmaker, the French ambassador — Candelas attempted to slip out of the country with his lover, a woman named Clara. The latter went with him as far as Gijon before she was overcome with longing for hearth and home and convinced Candelas to return to Madrid and ride out the manhunt there. He was caught.

They tried him for 40 different robberies, and he hung with a jaunty “Adiós Patria mía, sé feliz!” (“Farewell, my country, be happy!”)

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Outlaws,Public Executions,Spain,Theft

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1817: Manuel Piar, Bolivarian general

Add comment October 16th, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1817, the Venezuelan revolutionary Simon Bolivar stained his hands with the execution of one of his great generals.

Bust of Piar in Maturin, Venezuela. (cc) image from Cesar Perez.

A mestizo of mixed Spanish-Dutch-African, Manuel Piar (English Wikipedia entry | Spanish) was a self-taught and self-made man and a true revolutionary spirit. By the time he joined Bolivar’s rising against Spanish rule in Venezuela, he had already fought in similar campaigns in Haiti (against France) and his native Curacao (against the British).

His prowess in arms saw him rise all the way to General-in-Chief for Bolivar, but it could not bridge the gap in background and outlook between them. Bolivar was of European aristocratic stock, and he did not share Piar’s expectation that their revolution would also entail overturning the racial caste system.

In 1817, conflict between them came rapidly to a head: Bolivar stripped Piar of his command — and then perceiving Piar to be conspiring with other of Bolivar’s rivals, had him arrested and tried by court-martial. It’s a blot on Bolivar’s reputation given his wrong-side-of-history position in their conflict, and also given that when confronted with multiple subalterns maneuvering politically against him, he chose to go easy on all the criollos involved but make an example of the one Black guy.

That example consisted of having Piar shot against the wall of the cathedral of Angostura, the Venezuelan city now known as Ciudad Bolivar.

Bolivar didn’t personally attend this execution — another demerit — but legend holds that upon hearing the volley of the firing squad he wailed, “I have shed my own blood!”

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,History,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Revolutionaries,Shot,Soldiers,Treason,Venezuela,Wartime Executions,Wrongful Executions

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1843: Jacob West, Ridge-Watie faction assassin

Add comment October 11th, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1843, the Cherokee nation in Oklahoma hanged Jacob West for an election-related murder.

The affair was part of the bloody factional conflict among Cherokee following the Trail of Tears expulsion from ancestral homelands in the American southeast. We’ve touched previously on this conflict in our post on Archilla Smith, the first man executed in the new Cherokee lands. Indeed, West’s victim was the man who prosecuted Archilla Smith, a fellow by the name of Isaac Bushyhead.*

Both that previous hanged man Smith and this date’s principal, Jacob West, were affiliated to the RidgeWatie faction — Cherokee who had signed the controversial treaty acceding to removal. It’s a fair supposition that the growing U.S. would have ethnically cleansed the Cherokee in the east no matter what, but in the event, it was this treaty that supplied the legal basis for doing so. For obvious reasons, the faction aligned with it was not universally popular.

That’s especially so given their opposition by the Cherokee principal chief, John Ross — the nation’s great statesman in the mid-19th century who refused to sign off on removal. For several years in the early 1840s, recriminations between the Ridge-Watie and Ross factions boiled frequently over into violence.

No surprise, then, that we find in R. Michael Wilson’s Legal Executions in Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma Including the Indian Territory: A Comprehensive History a deadly attack in the co

On August 8, 1843, following the biennial elections, Jacob West led a party of six men, including sons George and John West, in an attack on three election judges counting ballots in the Saline District. During the melee that followed George West stabbed Isaac Bushyhead, who had been the prosecutor of [Archilla] Smith, killing him, and all the men beat David Vann, treasurer, and Elijah Hicks, associate Judge of the Cherokee Supreme Court, but Vann and Hicks survived and recovered. A large crowd finally surged forward and captured Jacob and John West, but George and the other three men escaped.

West, a born U.S. citizen who had married into and long lived among the Cherokee, in his own turn appealed to the federal government for a writ of habeas corpus to escape his neighbors’ jurisdiction. It was a case potentially implicating many of the thorny questions of citizenship and sovereignty that have haunted federal-tribal relationships for generations.

Future U.S. president Zachary Taylor, then the commander of the frontier military district surrounding the Cherokee lands, forwarded West’s petitions sympathetically to the U.S. Supreme Court. The courts preferred the reply of the Cherokee official who wrote,

Jacob West has resided in the Cherokee nation, as a citizen thereof, between thirty and forty years, enjoying the benefits of the laws of the nation in every respect during the above period, and has raised a tolerable numerous family of Cherokee children since his residence among us; and although his wife is dead, he is still a citizen of our country, by virtue of our laws and customs … If Jacob West were nothing more than a transient citizen among us, the case would be different; but his expatriating himself from his own country, marrying among the Cherokees, raising a family, remaining among us, participating in our funds, enjoying the benefits of treaties, make it appear he is a citizen of the country.

Jacob West was hanged at Tahlequah on October 11. Four days later, his son John West was publicly flogged for the same crime. In between those two days, John Ross enacted packages of new legislation meant to control the destabilizing political violence abroad, authorizing new policing bodies and harsher penalties for hiding fugitives.

* There’s a recent biography about Bushyhead’s brother, minister Jesse Bushyhead.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Oklahoma,Power,Public Executions,USA

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1845: Abner Baker, feudmaker

Add comment October 3rd, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1845 — sneering at the noose with the words “Behold the necklace of a whore!” — Abner Baker was publicly hanged in Manchester, Kentucky.

He was the second casualty — the first was the man whom he murdered — in the Baker-Howard feud, or the Clay County War, a bloody interfamily conflict that would blight the Kentucky mountains into the next century.

Its headwaters were a man out of his head: just how much so would be the controversy of his case, and a foundational grievance of the feud.

Said head perched itself on the shoulders of our man Abner Baker, who — prior to his unfortunate turn towards derangement — was a respectable frontier striver, with an unsuccessful stint in commerce redeemed by a medical practice. He had also to his name a wife born Susan White, a woman — or rather a 14-year-old girl — from a wealthy family who was respectable in the eyes of all save he.

As Baker slid into lunacy, he leveled at his spouse the most lurid charges of concupiscence, of having committed gleeful incest, of having orgies with slaves, and of cheating on him with another wealthy man, Daniel Bates. Bates was married to Baker’s sister.

Testimony printed in an 1845 volume to capitalize on interest in the case, Life and trial of Dr. Abner Baker, Jr: (a monomaniac) features many acquaintances establishing a delusional paranoia about his wife’s intercourse with Daniel Bates — with Baker brandishing a Bowie knife around her to the extent that their mutuals feared for her life; ranting about his wife cuckolding him in his very bed while he slept beside her; fixing on his certainty that Bates designed to murder him. They also report acquaintances, and Baker’s own father, increasingly convinced that the man had gone mad.

On September 13, 1844, Baker presented himself at Bates’s salt works and shot Bates in the back. Bates lingered on for several hours, doing much to stoke the succeeding generations of clan vigilantes by bequeathing $10,000 to seek his murderer’s life and making his son promise to take revenge.

The subsequent legal drama pitted that quest for revenge against Baker sympathizers’ conviction that the man was too starkers to swing. The first magistrates to review the matter days after Bates’s murder took the latter view and released him, allowing Baker to decamp to Cuba to recuperate.

The Bateses were not to be balked this easily, however, and prevailed on Commonwealth attorneys to indict Baker for murder. At the urging of his father, the good doctor voluntarily returned to defend himself when he learned of this. The text of the trial comprises witnesses clashing over whether the killer suffered from “monomania”, but the subtext was the flexing muscle of the White family — that of Abner Baker’s poor traduced wife.

The Whites were Clay County royalty on the strength of their salt mining wealth, and allied to the Bates family. Their peers and rivals, the Garrards, were locked in tense economic competition and even came within a whisker of murdering Daniel Bates himself in a different standoff in 1840. They took a more sympathetic view of Abner Baker’s obviously unbalanced mental state and tried to shield him from his persecutors; the Garrard patriarch was one of the magistrates who had initially ruled Baker too crazy to prosecute.* It was the Whites who, in effect, outmuscled the Garrards by forcing Baker’s prosecution and execution.

“The BAKERS wept with rage for the WHITES helping the BATES to bring Abner Baker to trial when they knew he was insane,” this history of Clay County feuding observes. “The lines had been drawn and competition for salt hardened into hostility.”

Enjoy a podcast situating this affair in the regional economy and the resulting political rivalries, from American History Tellers here, as well as a successor episode on the resulting feud, here

* Baker thanked the Garrards in his last address from the gallows (“the Garrard family, on whom I had no claims, came up like noble-souled men, and asked the county to give me justice”).

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Doctors,Execution,Hanged,History,Kentucky,Murder,Power,Public Executions,Sex,USA,Wrongful Executions

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1832: William Hodkin, child rapist

Add comment September 29th, 2020 Headsman

The crime had taken place at Sheffield on the night of Tuesday/Wednesday the 18th of July. Catherine [Stacey, the victim, a 12-year-old girl -ed.] was a servant to a publican named George Elam and went to bed a little before midnight, leaving her mistress, Sarah Elam drinking with a few regulars, including Hodkin. Around 1 am. Sarah woke Catherine and told her to move over as “Billy” as Hodkin was known was going to be sleeping in the same bed. Hodkin got into bed and immediately began to fondle Catherine and when she complained Sarah told her to be quiet or she would get a beating. Hodkin then proceeded to rape Catherine who tried to escape into Sarah’s room but was refused entry. For two weeks Catherine told no one what had happened to her but eventually she told her mother who took her to the doctor.

Hodkin’s friends tried to intervene at this stage by abducting Catherine to prevent her mother going to a magistrate. Her mother did and reported what had happened leading to several arrests on the 10th of August.

-From the September 29, 2020 Facebook post of the Capital Punishment UK Facebook page.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Public Executions,Rape

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1829: David Evans, in Carmarthen

Add comment September 21st, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1829 in the Welsh town of Carmarthen, David Evans hanged for savagely murdering his pregnant girlfriend Hannah Davis with a billhook, in a fit of jealousy.

As Capital Punishment UK notes, the large public audience in attendance got double the spectacle:

When the preparations had been made, Evans gave the signal by dropping a handkerchief, to draw the bolt but the hook gave way and he landed on his feet. He expected to be reprieved, telling the officials that “He had been hanged once and they had no more to do with him”, but this was not the case in law and the execution had to be carried out, which it was a few minutes later, this time without a hitch. After hanging for an hour the body was taken down and sent for dissection.

The folk belief in this notional post-botch safe space was something that the coalescing state struggled to dispel as an irrational carve-out. It was here over half a century since William Blackstone‘s seminal legal Commentaries went out of its way to dismiss the idea.

it is clear, that if, upon judgment to be hanged by the neck till he is dead, the criminal be not thoroughly killed, but revives, the sheriff must hang him again. For the former hanging was no execution of the sentence; and, if a false tenderness were to be indulged in such cafes, a multitude of collusions might ensue. Nay, even while abjurations were in force, such a criminal, so reviving, was not allowed to take sanctuary and abjure the realm; but his fleeing to sanctuary was held an escape.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Public Executions,Wales

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1829: Helena Katarina Löv

Add comment September 19th, 2020 Headsman

Helena Katarina Löv was beheaded with an ax on this date in 1829 at Skanstull — now just a part of Stockholm but at the time, the city’s southerly toll gate and a traditional execution site — for murdering her master’s children.

Löv was not the last woman executed in Sweden, but she does have the distinction of being the last woman publicly executed. (Executions were moved behind prison walls in the 1870s, so we have some photos of the last public beheadings.) She was also the last Swede, man or woman, whose body was burned at the stake after decapitation.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Beheaded,Burned,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Milestones,Murder,Sweden,Women

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1809: Six at Halifax for the mutiny aboard the HMS Columbine

Add comment September 18th, 2020 Headsman


(cc) image by Dennis Jarvis.

On this date in 1809, the Royal Navy hanged six for a failed mutiny bid aboard the HMS Columbine, subsequently gibbeting four of them at Maugher Beach upon McNabs Island at the entrance to the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Boatswain William Coates, seamen Jacques L’Oiseau, Alexander McKinley, and William Stock, and marines Henry Coffee and Edward Kelly — the latter of whom might also have been acting as the ship’s steward — suffered the extreme penalty, while a seventh man, Pierre Francoise, was reprieved by royal mercy. L’Oiseau, McKinley, Stock, and Kelly were then painted with tar and hung in chains at the same site as a public warning to seafarers, a scene “very disagreeable as it is hardly possible to sail anywhere below George’s Island without being offended at the sight of those unfortunate sufferers,” in the estimation of the provincial secretary.* Sixteen other actual or aspirant mutineers were tried with them, many receiving heavy sentences of flogging followed by convict transportation in irons.

The Columbine’s tars were motivated by the grievances of ill-treatment typical in the British navy, and the proximity of United States territory — whose appeal to deserters as an escape from the empire’s lash would soon help bring about war between the U.S. and the U.K. — presented an inducement to rebel that they could not resist.

For greater detail, I cannot begin to improve upon the thorough and nuanced exploration of this event presented by the Nova Scotia Maritime Museum. Click through for a great read.

* Legend has it that the guy McNabs Island was named for, Peter McNab, was so put off by the practice of gibbeting near his land that one night he cut down whatever poor sufferers were dangling there, plus the whole apparatus.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Canada,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Desertion,England,Execution,Gibbeted,Hanged,History,Mass Executions,Military Crimes,Mutiny,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions

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