A soldier murdered by a citizen

Niagara1864

Private
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
Location
Niagara County NY
I also find it interesting that it seems Pvt Owen was alone. Pretty bold to be walking around alone in a hostile city and that probably cost him his life. And I mentioned before he was not a new recruit- in fact he was a veteran of about two years. So he certainly would have understood the risks. If he was with companions he probably would not have been shot by Mr. Ball and if he was, Ball probably would have been killed on the spot.
 

Story

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
I also find it interesting that it seems Pvt Owen was alone. Pretty bold to be walking around alone in a hostile city and that probably cost him his life. And I mentioned before he was not a new recruit- in fact he was a veteran of about two years. So he certainly would have understood the risks. If he was with companions he probably would not have been shot by Mr. Ball and if he was, Ball probably would have been killed on the spot.
Secrets are not a secret anymore if more than one person knows...
Owen's comrade might not have been interested in taking the risk.

I can’t see that it would be an accident. Two shots is one shot too many to be an accident. Also there is the story that words were exchanged before shots were fired.
Not really. See below.

Restated,
One morning he looked out to his garden and saw a Yankee soldier destroying the crop. He told the soldier to take what he needed, but not to destroy the rest. The soldier told him what he could do with his garden; so Stephen shot him.

[ETA - note the time-of-day discrepancy, morning in the familial account vs evening in the newspaper clipping]

The more I read of this, the more my opinion of PTV Owen is that he was a complete idiot. In fact, I'll wager $20 that if the complete Provost Marshal report is ever discovered we'll find that PVT Owen had a habit of being a discipline problem.

Think about it -

A) he's out sneaking around doing things he shouldn't be doing and

B) when discovered, doesn't light out and head for his bunk.

C) When told to just take what he need (indicating that Ball showed sympathy), Owen instigates things with his obviously rude replies.

D1) Whether Ball shot Owen out of pride with both barrels of a shotgun (ergo, two shots quick), or
D2) whether there was an exchange of shots (one empty chamber in Owen's revolver, with Ball returning the compliment),

PTV OWEN put himself in this stupid situation.
 

lupaglupa

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
This is all so fascinating! I will comment that foraging was a HUGE gray area in both armies. You were allowed to take what was needed and no more but the definition of needed was an ever moving target. Owen may have felt justified in taking some produce while Ball felt he was not. Both could probably pointed to rules and regulations that supported their position.
 

Story

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
Owen may have felt justified in taking some produce while Ball felt he was not.

But Owen was not just 'foraging' (or stealing, depending on your sympathies) but he was DESTROYING what he couldn't take.

That's just mean (to the point of causing harm to Ball & family via starvation) and deserving of a load of buckshot, IMHO.
 

Niagara1864

Private
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
Location
Niagara County NY
This is all so fascinating! I will comment that foraging was a HUGE gray area in both armies. You were allowed to take what was needed and no more but the definition of needed was an ever moving target. Owen may have felt justified in taking some produce while Ball felt he was not. Both could probably pointed to rules and regulations that supported their position.
Right! The legality of foraging here is a question. I doubt that Pvt Owen was just out roaming alone at night destroying crops of civilians. More likely he was getting produce he and his companions would use. But there is a time and place for foraging and I’m sure he needed some sort of permission from at least an NCO which he probably didn’t have since he was alone.
 

ErnieMac

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Retired Moderator
Joined
May 3, 2013
Location
Pennsylvania
Another distortion in the family account is the reference to Burnside. Burnside had been reassigned from the North Carolina coast to the Army of the Potomac in July, 1862, and never returned. He was not present to arrest Ball in June 1863 or to take his gold.
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I can’t see that it would be an accident. Two shots is one shot too many to be an accident. Also there is the story that words were exchanged before shots were fired.
It would depend--on the time between shots and on sounds between; the two shots may have been from two guns. The story may be one of those family stories with a germ of truth; having read many, many genealogies, I know that families tend to put a most positive spin on events. It's natural. Who is going to say "great grandfather shot at a gopher that turned out to be a soldier"? The story handed down would be more positive, something to put great grandfather in the brilliant light that is the just due for a member of his illustrious family ☺️
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Secrets are not a secret anymore if more than one person knows...
Owen's comrade might not have been interested in taking the risk.


Not really. See below.

Restated,
One morning he looked out to his garden and saw a Yankee soldier destroying the crop. He told the soldier to take what he needed, but not to destroy the rest. The soldier told him what he could do with his garden; so Stephen shot him.

[ETA - note the time-of-day discrepancy, morning in the familial account vs evening in the newspaper clipping]

The more I read of this, the more my opinion of PTV Owen is that he was a complete idiot. In fact, I'll wager $20 that if the complete Provost Marshal report is ever discovered we'll find that PVT Owen had a habit of being a discipline problem.

Think about it -

A) he's out sneaking around doing things he shouldn't be doing and

B) when discovered, doesn't light out and head for his bunk.

C) When told to just take what he need (indicating that Ball showed sympathy), Owen instigates things with his obviously rude replies.

D1) Whether Ball shot Owen out of pride with both barrels of a shotgun (ergo, two shots quick), or
D2) whether there was an exchange of shots (one empty chamber in Owen's revolver, with Ball returning the compliment),

PTV OWEN put himself in this stupid situation.
It occured to me as well, since union held control of the legal system, Owens was probably a troublemaker or not well liked.

Perhaps a rare instance of justice to a abuse of power by an occupier.
 
Last edited:

lelliott19

Brigadier General
Moderator
* OFFICIAL *
CWT PRESENTER
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
This explains my failure to credit @ErnieMac - you usually get steel on target when you dig.

So.

Whadya find?
Thanks. Unfortunately, I came up empty so far on newspaper mentions of "Stephen Ball" but Ill go back and search with some other combinations. I just got off work. Late night.
 

ErnieMac

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Retired Moderator
Joined
May 3, 2013
Location
Pennsylvania
IMO there is a good case for suspecting extenuating circumstances that allowed Stephen Ball to be freed. Unfortunately I have not been able to find any additional details as yet. While looking into this case I found references concerning the execution of David M. Wright, a well respected Norfolk, Virginia medical doctor who was arrested, tried and convicted of murdering Federal Lt. Alanson Sanborn (1st USCT). The case was reviewed by Lincoln who approved the sentence which was carried out on October 23, 1863. I can't imagine the Federal authorities turned a blind eye to the Bell - Owens incident.

https://www.pilotonline.com/history...0210318-qlpj34nnzzciblq2etzpkx465y-story.html
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/106787812/david-minton-wright
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
IMO there is a good case for suspecting extenuating circumstances that allowed Stephen Ball to be freed. Unfortunately I have not been able to find any additional details as yet. While looking into this case I found references concerning the execution of David M. Wright, a well respected Norfolk, Virginia medical doctor who was arrested, tried and convicted of murdering Federal Lt. Alanson Sanborn (1st USCT). The case was reviewed by Lincoln who approved the sentence which was carried out on October 23, 1863. I can't imagine the Federal authorities turned a blind eye to the Bell - Owens incident.

https://www.pilotonline.com/history...0210318-qlpj34nnzzciblq2etzpkx465y-story.html
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/106787812/david-minton-wright
I didn't mean that either side was turning a blind eye to the killing of one of its own--but to killing by its own. Recently I've been researching the war in Arkansas: the killing of civilians because of the suspicion that the victims were helping enemies seems to have been pretty much SOP. It was a terrible time for civilians.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
It's rather bizarre that some seem to not consider the "extenuating circumstances" might be there was no crime........it actually is the rather common reason for release with no charges.....instead of nefarious conspiracies.

It seems to me, what we know is their was a shooting, that the details are rather incomplete to us....and that he was detained then released. Which would be rather common practice for an investigation that concluded no charges were warranted. Normally I thought we start with a presumption of innocence. I'm not seeing what has been presented, to suggest Ball did anything criminal.
 
Last edited:

ErnieMac

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Retired Moderator
Joined
May 3, 2013
Location
Pennsylvania
It's rather bizarre that some seem to not consider the "extenuating circumstances" might be there was no crime........it actually is the rather common reason for release with no charges.....instead of nefarious conspiracies.

It seems to me, what we know is their was a shooting, that the details are rather incomplete to us....and that he was detained then released. Which would be rather common practice for an investigation that concluded no charges were warranted. Normally I thought we start with a presumption of innocence. I'm not seeing what has been presented, to suggest Ball did anything criminal.
That there was no crime is what I meant by "extenuating circumstance". @Story presents a couple of viable scenarios. Federal authorities would not have hesitated to hang him had there been evidence otherwise.
 
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Location
Kingsport, Tennessee
Also does anyone know of another circumstance where a solider was killed by a citizen?
The Confederate guerilla, Champ Ferguson had a brother in the Union 1st Kentucky Cavalry. Its believed he was ambushed and killed by a civilian.

James Ferguson

The residence was not listed;
Enlisted on 7/27/1861 at Camp Dick Robinson as a Corporal.
On 10/28/1861 he mustered into "C" Co 1st Kentucky Cavalry
He was Killed on 12/18/1861 at Stanford, KY


 

Story

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA

While there is no specific mention of this case, the following article is worth reading to set the stage for conditions in the area at the time -​

Removing the Mask of Nationality: Unionism, Racism, and Federal Military Occupation in North Carolina, 1862-1865​

Judkin Browning The Journal of Southern History Vol. 71, No. 3 (Aug., 2005), pp. 589-620 (32 pages)
https://www.jstor.org/stable/27648821?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
PTV OWEN put himself in this stupid situation.
Agreed.

Sounds to me like he was probably drunk at the time. Particularly so if the "take what you want but don't destroy" story is true.

I have no reason for passing judgement on either him or Mr Ball ... not that it would matter if I did.

That Ball was neither punished nor, apparently, prosecuted, speaks for itself.

Owens had volunteered, and served (honorably, as far as we know) for two years before falling afoul of a "stupid situation."

That seems to settle it. What happened, happened.
 
Top