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Discipline and punishment

“The band discoursed a dirge-like piece of music, when the prisoners [John Tague and George Blowers] were conducted to their coffins, on which they kneeled, and the guard filed around and took position in front of them, scarcely half a dozen yards distant.  A sergeant put a circle around the neck of each, from which was suspended a white object over the breast, as a target for the executioners.  The prisoners were not blindfolded, but looked straight into the muzzles of the guns that shot them to death.  The guard were divided into two platoons, one firing at one prisoner, and the other platoon firing at the other prisoner, but there was no reserve to be ordered up in case of failure.  Blowers had been sick, his head slightly drooped as if oppressed with a terrible sense of the fate he was about to meet.  He had requested that he might see his brother in Co. A, but his brother was not there.  He had no heart to see the execution, and had been excused from coming.  Tague was firm and erect till the last moment, and when the order was given to fire, he fell like a dead weight, his face resting on the ground, and his feet still remaining on the coffin.  Blowers fell at the same time.  He exclaimed, ‘Oh dear me!’ struggled a moment, and was dead.  Immediately our attention was called away by the loud orders of commanding officers, and we marched in columns around the spot where the bodies of the two men were lying just as they fell.  God grant that another such punishment may never be needed in the Potomac Army.” — Wilbur Fisk, Hard Marching Every Day (eds. E. and R. Rosenblatt)

Published inAmerican Civil WarLit & Crit

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