Late in the afternoon of December 17 the Fifty-fourth with all the troops was formed to see a deserter shot. The unfortunate man was Joseph Lane, a drafted soldier of the Third New Hampshire. On November 28 he started from Morris Island toward James. At last, despairing of crossing the water ways, he turned back to our lines, representing himself as a Rebel deserter. Taken to the post guard-house, he was recognized by some of his own company, whereupon he was tried and sentenced to death. General Stevenson commanded the division, by reason of General Terry’s illness. After forming, the column moved slowly up the beach followed by a wagon, in which, seated upon his coffin, rode Lane. When the troops halted, the wagon passed along the line to the lower beach. There the coffin was unloaded, the deserter knelt upon it, and at a signal, in full view of all the troops, the blindfolded man received the musket-shots of the firing party, falling forward on his face a quivering corpse.
December 16-18, 1863
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