“This murder is a terrible affair”: Death of a sutler in the Artillery Reserve

Earlier, I brought up the subject of sutlers and the Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac, during the 1864 Winter Encampment.  A “sidebar” of sorts on that subject comes from the letters of Colonel John Howard Kitching, 6th New York Heavy Artillery.   In January 1864, Kitching was temporarily the commander of the Artillery Reserve.  Writing to his mother on January 17, he related a rather grisly incident:

Artillery Reserve, near Beverly Ford, Virginia, Sunday Evening, January 17, 1864.

My own precious Mamma: – I had set apart this evening particularly to devote in part to you, but I have been occupied all day with a murder case which occurred last night, and since my return from prayer-meeting, my tent has been full of officers visiting me in relation to the murder, so that I am now alone for the first time, (eleven o’clock, p.m.)

This murder is a terrible affair.  It appears that the tent of a sutler for one of the brigades in my command was forcibly entered last night, the sutler beaten to death, and all his goods destroyed, by men belonging to some of the batteries.  The facts being reported to me, I immediately ordered a Board of Inquest in the case, and I have arrested everybody upon whom the slightest suspicion rests. The Board have not yet finished their investigations, but I imagine that it will turn out that there was an attack made upon the sutler for the purpose of robbery, which ended in a general fight, during which the deed was committed.

Such a thing could not have happened in a fort regiment, having guards and sentries; but in the batteries, no guards are considered necessary; consequently the men are more at liberty.  If the crime is proved upon any man, he will be dealt with summarily….

I stumbled across this account about two weeks back.  It was one of those “looking for something else” finds, which at the time didn’t strike any cords.  But after a few days, curiosity took hold.  Now I’d like to locate any transcripts of the board or results issued.

(Citation from Theodore Irving, “More than Conqueror’ or Memorials of Col. J. Howard Kitching, Sixth New York Artillery, Army of the Potomac, New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1873, pages 111-2.)


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