Letter to Governor Patton in 1867 - "Sentenced the men to be hung"

Transcribed by Peter J. Gossett.
Thanks to Joyce Farris and Joann Holdbrooks for their help in the transcription process.

Moulton Ala.
Sept 7th 1867,
Gov R.M. Patton
Montgomery Ala.

Dear Sir

I write to call your attention to the following state of facts. Before the surrender in the spring of 1865 & prior to all of Gen Roddys forces leaving North Ala Col Cudry who was in command of his forces left in this region made a detail of men & sent them under command of proper officers into Winston County with orders to arrest certain parties who were committing robberies upon the good citizens & after they were arrested not to bring them back to him. The Captain pursuant to said orders took his detail & went into Winston Co and arrested five men who were lying out in the woods with arms in their hands (some of them deserters from Confederate army) and the captain believing he had authority from the orders of his Colonel so to do, on the spot organized a Drum Court Martial which Court Martial sentenced the men to be hung pursuant to said sentence one of the men was hung and three others shot and one on account of his extreme youth was brought to the Colonel who I believed ordered his release. The hanging & shooting was done by the men detailed by the Captain regularly & some of the men refusing to execute the orders the captain then pulled out his pistol & threatened to shoot them unless his orders were obeyed.

The matter then went on until the Fall Term of the Circuit Court of Winston Co 1865 an Indictment was found on the captain & his detail & some other men who were not with him making about twenty four men in all indicted for the murder of these men. The captain fled the country soon after the surrender. Now some of the men have been arrested & capiuses are now in the hands of the Sheriff for the arrest of all of them. I have been employed as Attorney to defend them & believe that before an unprejudiced jury they will be acquitted. I further believe that the peace of the country will be much more benefitted & enhanced by the Military quashing the indictment than by an investigation and trial. The young man indicted are of some of our best families honorable peaceable quiet & law abiding citizens. Like all good confederate soldiers they accepted the insult of the late war in good faith & since the surrender have without exception so far as I know been industriously engaged in tilling the soil for an honest living. The investigation & trial will necessarily open anew the strifes of our late conflict, stir up the bad passions of men & cause the bitter feeling that existed during the war between the Inhabitants of the mountain counties & valley to be recalled afresh. I am happy to say that this feeling is now considerably allayed & the "boys in Blue & Grey" mix & mingle as thou they had never been engaged in advance hostility to each other. The Genl commanding this district has issued an order prohibiting the prosecutions for offences committed by Federal soldiers while under military authority & in this county has issued special orders relieving parties from prosecutions pending of them for offences committed by them while in the service of the United States. This being so & being voluntarily known a great proportion of our population without regard to political enticements think that it should be simply justice that soldiers of both sides should be treated alike. During the war on both sides the immunities of soldiers were granted to each party & why can not the same be done now. A blotting out of all past offences so far as the private soldiers are concerned is a course that will bring about peace & harmony among all classes & seems to me would be best.

I have written this letter with a view solely of calling your attention to the fact that cases of this kind are now pending in the various courts of North Ala & civil suits are pending for damages done by soldiers of the confederacy under military authority. I do not wish the facts of this particular case presented to the military authorities but simply askin that you have a conference with the military & let the order heretofore issued by Genl Pope apply to confederate soldiers for acts committed by them under military authority or while in the service, as well as to Federal Soldiers. Hoping to hear from you in regard to this I am

Truly Your friend

H.C. Speake