GRAPHIC Rare view of the execution of Union soldier William Johnson during the Siege of Petersburg, 1864

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chubachus

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 27, 2014
Location
Virginia
I don't think I have seen an uncropped version of this before:

william johnson 1864.jpg


"On June 20, 1864, Private William Johnson, 23rd USCT, was hanged, although the execution is not included in the List of US Soldiers Executed by US Military Authorities during the Late War that was produced in 1885. According to a Harper's Weekly article, dated July 9, 1864, the facts known about Private Johnson were that he deserted and..."attempted to commit an outrage on a white woman at Cold Harbor. Considerable importance was given to the affair, in order that the example might be made more effective. Johnson confessed his guilt and was executed within the outer breastworks about Petersburg on an elevation, and in plain view of the enemy. A white flag covered the ceremony."

Civil War photo historian William Frassanito discovered that two different photographers took four photographs of Johnson's execution and sold the images to the public. While working for Alexander Gardner, Timothy O'Sullivan produced two stereoscopic images entitled "The execution of William Johnson, Jordan's Farm, Petersburg, June 20, 1864," and Mathew Brady's studio is credited with taking the other two known photographs of the hanging (Frassanito, pp. 216-222)."

Source.

On another tragic but interesting note, one of the Union soldiers witnessing the execution was killed by a Confederate shell.
 
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RebelHeart

Corporal
Joined
Mar 12, 2016
Location
Southern New Jersey
Addendum: Maybe someone who lives closer can verify, but the former farmland appears to now be an industrial park (or a developing one) near Puddledock Road and East Washington Street (comparing historic map to Google map).
 

Keiri

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 11, 2015
Huh... I searched and can only find a study upon this "the List of U.S. Soldiers Executed by U.S. Military Authorities During the Late War" referenced. Can anyone direct me to where I may find a copy?
 
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chubachus

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 27, 2014
Location
Virginia
There is a another large plate picture of this execution from a different angle which appears in Vol 8 of Miller's "Photographic History of the civil War" "Soldier Life and Secret Service"
https://archive.org/details/photographichist08mill_0
That is actually of a different one from which much less is known about. There us more about the confusion surrounding it here. The author in Miller's claims that the photo shows a spy being executed in it, but two graves can clearly be seen, so I think that there is a possibility that it could be one of their made up stories. You can see that the gallows and the terrain around it are much different from the William Johnson photographs. Here is a link to the negative(s) of that at LoC: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/cwp2003000571/PP/
 
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