Mini Posting #2: William Coxshall’s Missing Digit

May 11, 2009: Barry Cauchon

For those of you who follow this blog, you’ll know that I have focused much of my research on the events and people involved in the executions of the four condemned Lincoln assassination conspirators. One of the four men who stood below the scaffold to help spring the traps on July 7, 1865 was a soldier named William Coxshall.

Alexander Gardner's photograph "Arrival at Scaffold" with William Coxshall beneath the gallows on the front left side.

Alexander Gardner's photograph "Arrival at Scaffold" with William Coxshall standing beneath the gallows on the front left side.

Did you know that Coxshall served with Company K, 37th Volunteer Infantry, Wisconsin and during the Battle of Petersburg was wounded, losing part of his left index finger?

It’s true. After recuperating from his injury, he was transferred to Company F, 14th Regiment Veterans Corp and  assigned to the Old Arsenal Penitentiary in Washington DC. Coxshall was one of four soldiers assigned to spring the traps of the gallows. Alexander Gardner’s photo “Arrival at Scaffold” captured Coxshall’s injury.  

Coxshall beneath the scaffold.

Coxshall beneath the scaffold.

William Coxshall's missing digit

William Coxshall and his missing digit

Best

Barry

“An Awesometalk With” Ed Isaacs, Owner of Civil War Diary from Soldier Who Guarded the Lincoln Conspirators

April 10, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Ed Isaacs holds the diary of his great great grandfather George E. Dixon.

Life has a way of blessing you when you least expect it. Call it karma, good luck or maybe even a genuine intervention by a higher power. I personally believe that things happen for a reason and so when this story began about two weeks ago, I can say that I was blessed again. A kind and humble gentleman by the name of Ed Isaacs, a retired fire fighter from Norwalk, Connecticut wrote to me saying that he had just come into possession of the diary of his great great grandfather, George E. Dixon. George was a Civil War sergeant in Company C of the 14th Regiment Veterans Corp; the regiment that was assigned to guard, and eventually take part in the executions of several of the Lincoln assassination conspirators in 1865. This was extremely exciting news for me as this is the focus of my current research.

Once Ed shared some of the contents of the diary with me, I knew I was seeing something that was never before on the public record.

The diary is the first known document found to list the names of the guards and their duties guarding the prisoners. It also adds another perspective to the story. It’s a first hand account, documented in the handwriting of the man who was actually there and participated in this famous historic event.

From a researcher’s point of view, George E. Dixon’s diary is a great find. And as you’ll read, Ed Isaacs’ efforts to share this as well as honor the members in his family tree are genuinely uplifting. I am happy and honored to share this story with you on his behalf. Enjoy.

Barry 

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B.Hey Ed. How are you? 

 

E. I’m good and ready to go! 

 

B.(laughing) Alright then, let me start by asking you where you live and what did you do for a living before you were retired?

E. The answer to that is I live in Norwalk, Connecticut. I just recently retired on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th of this year from the Norwalk Fire Department with nearly 32 years on the job.

B.Wow. 

E. Yup. It was a good career. I took good care of my family with that.

B. Let me ask you about two associations that you are affiliated with. You are a member of The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and a member and past president of The Sons of the American Revolution.

E. Yes I am.

B.What are those organizations and how do they serve their members?

E. These are hereditary societies whose missions are to preserve the ideals our forefathers fought for during the Civil War and the American Revolution. I was the past president of The Roger Sherman Branch, Connecticut Society Sons of the American Revolution. I had three ancestors that were in the Revolutionary War and they were Amos Dixon, John Saunders and Samuel Brown Isaacs. And then I became a member of The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and my ancestors there of course were George E. Dixon and Edwin Lorenzo Tuttle who fought in the 5th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and then he reenlisted into the 17th.

B.And the reason we are talking here today is because of your great great grandfather, George E. Dixon.  

 

Sergeant George E. Dixon.

Sergeant George E. Dixon wearing his medals which can be seen later in this article.

 

You contacted me by email back on March 23 and I’d like to read a portion of that note now.

“I recently acquired a diary that was my great-great grandfather’s. His name was George E. Dixon from Poundridge, NY. During the Civil War he was stationed in Washington, D.C. This is what his diary says,  

May 16, 1865: On guard at the old penitentiary over the Booth party conspirators.
I was in the court room during the day while the witness’s were being examined. I saw the bullet that killed the President, also the pistol and two carbines. Booth’s photograph and the boot that was cut open to take it from his broken leg by Dr. Mudd.

 July 7, 1865: On guard at the penitentiary. The execution of Surratt, Payne, Atzerodt + Herold.

 I hope you find this interesting”.

Well Ed (laughing) the first thing that I thought to myself was ‘DAH! Of course I’d find this interesting”. For me, this is great stuff. This is sort of what I specialize in and so I was dying to talk to you and I’m glad that we now have a rapport and are talking more and more about this.

E. And for me it was very interesting because I wasn’t really aware of any of that history. Maybe I mentioned that I have his obituary, “Civil War Veteran Claimed by Death”. Commenting on the execution, of which he was an eyewitness, he says in his diary,

 “The first two, having fainted, were carried to the gallows by the guards: the latter two walked calmly up and put their heads in the nooses.”

So of course, when I eventually got the diary this is what I expected to see. I’ve never seen this line in here yet! So, it could have been hearsay from his wife or a child. But the information I did find was pretty fantastic.

B.So that quote is actually not in the diary from what you can find so far! 

E. I have not found that quote. Nope. 

B.George lived to be quite old. And two things I’ll ask you to explain to everyone are ‘Who was George Dixon’ and ‘what was his history’?

E. George E. Dixon was 90 years old when he passed away. He was a Civil War Veteran who resided in Pound Ridge, New York. He was well known to the people of Stamford. He was the driver for an old mail and passenger stagecoach line for many years. He was born in Pound Ridge on December 2, 1834.

 

George E. Dixon's business card.

George E. Dixon's business card.

He attended the schools of that district. And on April 4, 1859, he married Sarah E. Birdsall, a native of Pound Ridge. After the Civil War broke out, he volunteered for the service of his country, joining the 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery. He was mustered in at Yonkers, and went to a training camp for three months. 

B.[NOTE: At this point in the interview I interrupted Ed with another question and we never got back to George E. Dixon’s history, so here is the rest of it before we pick up the interview again].

His military service states:

 He enlisted as a Private in the 172nd Infantry Regiment New York on September 6, 1862, at the age of 27. He was transferred into Company M, 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery on December 4, 1862. He was transferred on January 26, 1864 from Company M to Company A. He was wounded on June 20, 1864 at Petersburg, Virginia. He was transferred to Company M, 6th Regiment New York Heavy Artillery on January 19, 1865 and then transferred to Company C, 14th Regiment Veterans Reserve Corps January 19, 1865. On July 7, 1865, he was appointed Sergeant in Company C of the 14th Regiment of Veteran Reserve Corps to rank as such from the 1st day of July 1865. During the war, he was twice wounded in action and fought in the following battles: Manassas Gap, Mire Run, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Harris House, North Anna River, Totopopomoy, Cold Harbor, and Bethesda Church. In this last battle, he was wounded when the handle of a musket was shot off and later, at Petersburg, he was shot in the right arm. He was honorably discharge July 31, 1865. Just prior to his discharge, he was present to witness first hand, a chronicle of American History. During his final service in Washington, DC, he served as sergeant of the guard at the penitentiary in Washington where the persons implicated in the death of President Abraham Lincoln were kept and later was in charge of the guards at the execution of Mary Surratt, Lewis Payne, George Atzerodt, and David Herold, who were involved in the assassination plot.

 Following the war, he returned to Pound Ridge where in 1868, he was given a contract of carrying mail between Stamford and Pound Ridge; a position which he held for 22 years. At first, he only carried the mail three times a week but, later, the number of trips was increased to six. When the rural routes were instituted, he continued carrying freight and passengers until 1916.

Ninety-year old George E. Dixon died on March 16, 1925; just 19 days shy of his 66th wedding anniversary (April 4, 1925). He was one of the oldest members of the Charles A. Hobbie Post #23 of the Grand Army of the Republic located in Stamford. At the time of his death, he was survived by four children – Charles L. of New York City, Mrs. Ada Isaacs of New Canaan, Myron A. of Stamford, and Wilbur of New Canaan: his wife, Sarah E., and 14 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

——————————————– 

George and Sarah Birdsall Dixon on their 65th wedding anniversary.

George and Sarah Birdsall Dixon on their 65th wedding anniversary.

B. You sent me two pictures of George, one of him and his wife and the other being a family portrait. I guess these are both from their 65th wedding anniversary on April 4, 1924. Is that correct?

[Note: Just last Saturday, April 4, 2009 would have marked George and Sarah’s 150th wedding anniversary].

E. That’s correct. At their home which we referred to as “Charter Oak Place”. 

B.In the family photo, is there somebody there that you are directly related too? 

George and Sarah and their family on their 65th wedding anniversary

George and Sarah and their family on their 65th wedding anniversary

E. The young couple right behind Sarah and George were my grandparents. The young gentleman is Clarence Isaacs and his wife Muriel. It is very sad how things go because that picture was taken in April, 1924 and my father had just been born in February of that year. My grandmother, Muriel  died the following year at only 21 years old. My grandfather Clarence died at 30 years old in 1927. So they didn’t have a great long life, yet Clarence’s mother Ada, who’s standing right next to him, lived to 96 years old. That’s Ada Dixon Isaacs, my great grandmother.  

Muriel Isaacs, Clarence Isaacs and Ada Dixon

Muriel Isaacs, Clarence Isaacs and Ada Dixon

 

B.Well…I’d love to say that …

E. …you don’t know what tree you’re going to be in. Right!

B.Exactly (laughing).

E. Yup.

B.When did you first get interested in your great great grandfather? I know you have some items of his as well as his diary.

E. Well first, the items that I have, I didn’t have to worry about collecting, outside of the diary, because the items were already here. My father was a great collector. In my family, we save everything. I’vegot a bible from Samuel Brown Isaacs who was in the Revolutionary War and I’ve got a powder horn from Amos Dixon.

But the question is always asked “When did I get interested in it”? Like a lot of people would say “When your parent dies”. My dad was very interested in our family history. And of course when I lost him in 1990, I’d always remember as a young kid when I was 10, 12, 14 years old, the many weekends we would spend going to a cemetery, a library, a town hall or somewhere always looking for facts on family. And that’s what we did. And of course as I came up on sixteen years old, I’m looking at my watch saying “Dad, I got a date. I gotta get out of here”. I didn’t show as much interest then. But when I lost him it became one of the most important things in my life. Honoring my ancestors is honoring my father, Howard R. Isaacs.

 My family has a lot of history in this area.  Ralph Isaacs and Mary Rumsey Isaacs settled in Norwalk in 1725.  My family has not moved more than 20 miles in 284 years.

B.What are some of the items that you obtained from your father?

E. I have George E. Dixon’s certificate promoting him to Sergeant. I’ve got his pension paper. I’ve got original news articles about George and Sarah’s 65th wedding anniversary and of course the article on his death. I’ve got many photos including George with family members in front of his home “Charter Oak Place”. I’ve got a medal given to him for serving in the 6th Regt. New York Heavy Artillery, Army of the Potomac and his GAR [Grand Army of the Republic] medal. And now I have his diary!

 

 

George Dixon's Army of the Potomac and GAR medals

George Dixon's New York Volunteers Heavy Artillery Army of the Potomac and GAR medals

 

B.Well, let’s talk about the diary then (laughing)!

When you contacted me on March 23 you had only just received it a few days before on March 18, so you haven’t had it that long.

E. When it arrived at my house in the envelope I did not open it. I needed to relax in anticipation of what I would discover. I just put it downstairs in a safe place until Sunday the 22nd and that was the first time I opened it. I was just so relieved.

B.How long have you known of its existence?

E. I didn’t know if it still existed. All I had was just a copy of his obituary that said “…in his diary” and that one quote that I haven’t been able to find. But I didn’t know where that diary could be. So really, the story of how I got it is very interesting.

B.I’m sure. Can you tell us?

E. Before I retired, I was looking at family members’ histories and went on Ancestory.com. I started loading the names of different family members that I had, on it. I looked at photographs of George and Sarah and the extended family. One of my parents had put the names of the different family members on the back of the photos. So I just started looking at the different names and I found one, that was Floyd E. Dixon. I put Floyd E. Dixon into my family tree just looking to see who else would be searching for this particular Dixon and I found one that matched exactly. And then of course, I made a phone call to Maine to Pamila Dixon Tift and said, “Hi, I’m your cousin”. I started sending her a lot of information about our great great grandfather.  When I sent her a copy of George’s obituary talking about his diary, she called me back and said she had that diary.

B.(laughing).

E. Needless to say, I nearly fell out of my chair here. But I had to keep my wits about me. Through many emails and conversations over the next week or so I let her know that since I had everything else of his, and I’m only minutes from Pound Ridge where he lived; and I visited the home where he lived many times… that the diary needed to be here. I was very fortunate that she agreed with me.  

If anything else was interesting, she told me that she put it in the mail on March 16th and just by coincidence, I looked at his obituary again that night and noticed that March 16, 1925 was when he died. So everything has a meaning.

 

 

The Dixon gravestone.

The resting place of George E. Dixon, Sarah Dixon and Ada Isaacs.

B.Yeah for sure! What an amazing story. It sounds like coincidence but perhaps it’s not. It goes deeper than that and was meant to be in your hands.

E. That’s exactly right.

B.When you first opened the diary did you focus on any one page after you looked through it?

E. The main one for me was of course the page we just talked about where he was an eyewitness in the courtroom when the witnesses were being examined. That one, and the other page that’s seems to be the one getting us all really excited, page 27, with the names of the guards and executioners. I didn’t have a clue what anything on this page meant, so I contacted you.

 

 

Page 27 from the Dixon diary.

Page 27 from the Dixon diary.

  

B.At first, when you sent me a photo of the page, we were debating whether the list of names was of guards or prisoners. Well it turned out that it was a list of guards from the 14th Regiment Veterans Corp.

 

A list of men from the 14th Regiment and the schedule of cells they were assigned to guard.

A list of men from the 14th Regiment and the schedule of cells they were assigned to guard.

 

But the names that really jumped out at me were the four at the bottom of the page [#15, 16, 17 & 18]. And those were the names of the four guards that stood under the scaffold and who were responsible for knocking the props out, or springing the traps.

 

Although spelt incorrectly, the names of the four soldiers who sprung the traps at the conspirator executions are

Although some of the names are spelt incorrectly, the names of the four soldiers who sprung the traps at the conspirator executions are in Dixon's list: William Coxshall, Joseph Haslett, George F. Taylor and Daniel F. Shoupe (Shoup).

[Ed later pointed out that on this same page George notes this very fact when he writes “The last four numbers were executioners. Sergt. G. E. Dixon, Co. C, 14th Reg”.]

  

 

The note that George penned indentifying the four men that sprung the traps at the execution.

The note that George penned indentifying the four men that sprung the traps at the execution.

I guess as we’ve talked a little bit further it sounded like George, at the time being a Sergeant, perhaps was in charge of scheduling some of his men to guard the prisoners, hence his list of guards names.

 

 

 

 

 

 

E. These names didn’t mean anything to me because even though I have my family here that I honor very much, I didn’t follow the history as much as I should. But now I’ve started looking into it more. As you know I’ve bought the book “American Brutus” by Michael Kauffman and I have just bought “The Trial” by Ed Steers Jr. That’s just about twice as many books as I’ve probably ever read in my life.

B.(laughing) Well the two authors you mentioned are both excellent in this field. The field of the assassination.

E. Oh yes. It’s very exciting.

B.On your behalf, I did approach some of these gentlemen who I correspond with and respect highly. And right off the bat we had a really good response from Michael Kauffman. I think his first response to me, before I passed it on to you, was “WOW”! So it really meant something to him as it related to his own research. I know that he is now working with you to further discover what other information is to be found in that list as well as in the other pages of the diary.

Michael is definitely excited about the project. I have had responses from other Lincoln experts. Some are quite busy right now. But eventually these folks will get back to you as their schedules free up.

E. I know for sure that this has to be exciting for some of them just like when you contacted me. If someone is going to give you his cell phone number you know that they are interested. To get the home phone number from Michael Kauffman or to hear from Laurie Verge, I mean that is very exciting and I’m very honored for George E. Dixon. I really am!

B.Laurie Verge is the Director of the Surratt House Museum and Surratt Society. She is quite interested in collecting whatever information she can on George, putting it into their files, so any future researchers have an opportunity to explore him and see how his life relates to perhaps the research that they are doing. It’s an exciting time, Ed!

E. It really is. When I retired on March 17, officially after the 18th, I wondered what I was going to do other than feet hitting the floor in the morning and going to get a cup of coffee. I’m still not that old but I plan on doing something down the road. But to have this happen, there isn’t a day right now where I don’t have something to do. I’m doing a newspaper interview tomorrow in George’s hometown of Pound Ridge at 10:00 o’clock. It’s all about honoring George and it’s a great thing. I’m really enjoying it.

B.Do you have children Ed?

E. I have a 19-1/2 year old daughter Emily and my son will be 18 in June and that is Christopher.

B.Do they find interest in this or are they sort of like how you were back when? They have their own life right now!

E. Just like me! (laughing).

B.(Laughing)

E. My wife is very good with this. She understands that not everyone is into this when you are a teenager. But everything is going to be put away safely and catalogued somehow so they’ll have things to look at and be proud of when they do show interest. My son is also a member of The Sons of the American Revolution. And in December of this past year I got my daughter into The Daughters of the American Revolution. So they are good to go. It is just a matter of what they want to do with their lives and their time. But they are good to go.

B.What’s your hope for yourself now that you are retired?

E. Now that I have the Dixon diary, I can see my first book. I can see myself going on some talking tours. Maybe do some schools. It would be very interesting once I figure out everything. It’s nice to say that you’ve got something but you want to make sure that you know what you are talking about. If I can put something together, I would enjoy it. I really would. It’s a nice thing and so many people are interested in the Civil War and of course the assassination of Lincoln. It’s a lot to go over. It really is a lot. 

B.Well it’s a great part of our history and the Dixon clan has been a part of it for decades, for centuries. And you must carry on the tradition.

E. Exactly. There you go.

B.Well Ed, this has been great. And you and I will obviously be talking well beyond this interview. I think there is a lot more to look into and as we start to pick it apart and figure out which way to go, I’m glad you’re taking me for the ride.

E. I feel I’m honored to have you ask me these questions. I’m very excited. And as I’m sitting here looking at my computer now I see this picture of Harold Holzer, the eminent Lincoln scholar and Civil War expert. And thinking that you’re interviewing me, and you’ve interviewed him and some of these other guests, I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill.

B.(laughing).

E. I’m floating on a cloud right now.

B.I have to thank Harold because he was my first interview. He actually contacted me when I was searching out some information for another gentleman who had written me. He is a gracious man and always very generous with his time, and I will always be grateful to him for that. 

E. You have a great website. And of course as you already know, the short article that you put on there about me yesterday, I’ve already sent out to many of my friends (laughing).

B.Ah yes…the TEASER!!! (laughing).

E. You’ve got a lot more followers now, I tell you!

B.Thank you. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you Ed.

E. Again, I’m just very excited and very honored.

B.You’re a good man Ed and I’ve enjoyed learning about you, your family and George E. Dixon. Thanks again.

E. Thank you.

END

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

The Four Soldiers Beneath the Scaffold – The Lincoln Conspirator Executions

March 23, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Yesterday I received a great email from author, Mr. Frank Crawford who has written “PROUD TO SAY I AM A UNION SOLDIER (Heritage Books)”. Frank asked if I could give him more information about the four soldiers who stood beneath the scaffold and sprung the traps on the four Lincoln assassination conspirators. In particular, he was looking for the sources of the information that I had posted. Like Frank, I had initially found conflicting information on the names of these soldiers, so I really wanted to know as close to the truth as I could. Here is what I found out and how I came about that information. If you have any further information on this subject, please feel free to contribute. And please, state any sources that you get your information from. As always, history isn’t always straight forward and contradictory information is common. Enjoy the puzzle.

———————————————————-

The four soldiers responsible for springing the traps. William Coxshall (front left), Daniel E. Shoup, Joseph B. Haslett and George F. Taylor.

The four soldiers responsible for springing the traps. William Coxshall (front left), Daniel E. Shoup (rear left), Joseph B. Haslett and George F. Taylor. Other than Coxshall and Shoup, the other two soldiers in the photo have not been matched with their names.

I started researching this subject about three months ago when I was writing my series called “The Lincoln Conspirators Executions Photos: A Study in Detail” . Initially, the first names I found were published as follows:

Corporal William Coxshall
Private Joseph B. Hazlett
Private Daniel Sharpe
Private George F. Taylor

Two of these names (Hazlett and Sharpe) did not match other sources so I continued my search.

Although these men belonged to different regiments in the Union army during the war, at the time of the executions they all belonged to Company F, 14th Regiment, Veterans Reserve Corps. So my first step was to track down their military records. I searched the National Park Service Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System website at http://www.civilwar.nps.gov/cwss/index.html. There, under Company F, I found their names and ranks although some were slightly different. According the the site, the names and ranks were taken from General Index Cards from soldiers’ records found in the National Archives. Here is how the NPS listed the names and ranks below.

Private William Coxshall
Private Joseph B. Haslett (Hazlett, Hazlitt or Haslitt)(they list all three other versions)
Private Daniel Shoupe (or Shoup)
Private George F. Taylor (but there were also George S. and George W. in the same company).

Seeing these differences, I looked for further confirmation to pin down the names and ranks.

  • ************************************

My next stop was to speak with Roger Norton, the webmaster of the Abraham Lincoln Research Site. He mentioned that on page 471 of Michael Kauffman’s book American Brutus, the names of the four men were listed as follows:

William Coxshall
David F. Shoup
Frank B. Haslett
George F. Taylor

Kauffman’s source:  Coxshall identified the other three in a story in the Milwaukee Free Press, January 31, 1914.
  • ************************************

Roger Norton recommended speaking to the folks at the Surratt Society, where many Lincoln experts and researchers share information. Laurie Verge of the Surratt Society and the director of the Surratt House Museum www.surratt.org was extremely helpful and sent me the following information based on my inquiry.

“The title “The Prop-Knockers” kept ringing in my head, and I realized that the late, great James O. Hall had done a very brief article for our monthly newsletter many moons ago on the subject of the four veterans who stood under the gallows. It was carried in the September 1986 issue.

It does not give much biographical detail, and Mr. Hall cites Roger Hunt (another of our members who is great at finding people, especially their graves) as helping him.

Here’s what he listed in a half-page article:

Soldiers were: Corp. William Coxshall. Co. F., 14th Veterans Reserve Corps. Born in England on July 10, 1843, he died at Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, on April 21, 1922. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Beaver Dam.

Pvt. Daniel E. Shoup, Co. F., 14th Veterans Reserve Corps. He was born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, on January 16, 1839, and he died at Connellsville, Pennsylvania, on February 22, 1913. He is buried in Hill Grove Cemetery, Connellsville.

Pvt. George F. Taylor, Co. F., 14th Veterans Reserve Corps. Born in West Gardiner, Maine, on August 11, 1835, he died at Farmingdale, Maine, on December 24, 1915. He is buried in Hallowell, Maine.

Corp. Joseph B. Haslett, Co. F., 14th Veterans Reserve Corps. He was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania, on July 27, 1841, and died at Reading, Pennsylvania, on February 16, 1916. He is buried in Reading at the Charles Evans Cemetery.

So far as is known, Coxshall’s recollections are the only ones recorded.

Dr. Steve Archer found this account in an obscure book about actors and the theater (I can’t remember the title at this moment) while researching his definitive biography on Junius Brutus Booth, father of John Wilkes Booth.

Laurie sent this information out to a number of Lincoln researchers and Steven G. Miller, who specializes in the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and the soldiers involved in that chase, wrote back.

  • ************************************

Steven G. Miller wrote: “The book Laurie referred to is: Harlow Randall Hoyt, TOWN HALL TONIGHT. (New York: Bramhall House, 1955)”.

Town Hall Tonight by Harlow R. Hoyt (c1955)

Town Hall Tonight by Harlow R. Hoyt (c1955)

  • ************************************

TOWN HALL TONIGHT is about the grassroots of American theater. The author, Harlow Randall Hoyt, was fascinated with theater and published the book in 1955. His work is still used as course material in many universities today. But the question as to why the article called “William Coxshall’s Recollections” is found in his book is strange and seemingly out of place.

Author Harlow Randall Hoyt included an article in his book Town Hall Tonight called William Coxshall Re

Author Harlow Randall Hoyt included an article in his book Town Hall Tonight called "William Coxshall's Recollections"

So I looked into it a little bit more and what I found out is really interesting. On the website http://www2.powercom.net/~dchs/Personalities.htm I discovered that Harlow Randall Hoyt was from Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Lincoln researcher Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) also spent time in Beaver Dam. That in itself is a very interesting coincidence. And of course, the biggest coincidence of all is that William Coxshall (1843-1922) also lived in Beaver Dam and is buried there.

Lincoln expert Carl Sandburg spent time in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin which was the same town that Harlow Randall Hoyt and William Coxshall lived in.

Lincoln expert Carl Sandburg spent time in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin which was the same town that Harlow Hoyt and William Coxshall lived in.

So it is very likely that these men either crossed paths with each other in the early 1900s, or at least knew William Coxshall’s story from local sources.

  • ************************************

Michael Kauffman wrote me to confirm that two of the four men can be identified. Coxshall is front left and Shoup is rear left. Haslett and Taylor are both on the right but which one is which is still unknown. As well, the discrepency in rank is on my radar. According to the NPS records from the National Archives, all four men were Privates at the time of the executions. From the Gardner photos, none of the four seem to have stripes on their uniforms. Yet, two of the four are identified in the above research as Corporals. Could they have been promoted after the executions. It’s very possible.

If you find other sources for this information, please feel free to let me know. If I can, I’ll be happy to pass it along to the researchers who can see how well it fits into the current historical record.

Best
Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

Note: I want to thank Sandra Walia from the Surratt House Museum who also forwarded information to me which confirmed information in this article.

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DID YOU KNOW (Part 11) ABRAHAM LINCOLN

1. Did you know … that Abraham Lincoln could play a musical instrument? According to Weldon Petz, one the America’s leading Lincoln scholars, “Lincoln played the jews’ harp at the debates (with incumbent Democratic U.S. senator Stephen Douglas during the 1858 Illinois state election campaign)”.

2. Did you know …in 1876, Abraham Lincoln’s body was almost the victim of a grave robbing plot? Unbelievably, it’s true. It happened on November 7, 1876, when a team of Chicago counterfeiters attempted to steal Lincoln’s body Their plan was to ransom his body for both money and the release of one of their incarcerated members (their main counterfeit engraver!!!). For the complete story, please go to the Abraham Lincoln Research Site at   http://rogerjnorton.com/Lincoln47.html 

3. Did you know … that four soldiers of Company F, 14th Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps were assigned the duty of springing the traps that hung the Lincoln conspirators?

The conspirators stood on two separate hinged platforms which were each supported by one vertical heavy wooden post. Stationed below the platform were four soldiers assigned to knock these posts out. On a signal from executioner Christian Rath, the posts were knocked out, thus springing the traps. Reports differ as to how many soldiers actually did the deed (two or four). As you can see from the photo by Alexander Gardner, four soldiers are present beneath the gallows. The soldier at the front left, leaning on the post is Private William Coxshall. At the time of the photo Coxshall, who was impatiently waiting for the formal process on the scaffold to end, stated the following. “I became nauseated, what with the heat and waiting, and taking hold of the supporting post, I hung on and vomited”.

Four soldiers wait below the gallows to "spring the trap"

Four soldiers wait below the gallows to "spring the traps". Private William Coxshall is the soldier holding the front left post below the platform.

In an engraving (below) from Harper’s Weekly dated July 22, 1865, two soldiers, not four are shown dislodging the posts. So the actual number seems to conflict. Do you know the answer to this question?

The actual answer is indeed four men. Their names were Coxshall, Shoup, Haslett and Taylor.

Engraving of Lincoln conspirators execution from Harper's Weekly, July 22,1865

Engraving of Lincoln conspirators execution from Harper's Weekly, July 22,1865

 

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

 
 

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To see the entire series, click here “SUMMARY OF THE “DID YOU KNOW” ABRAHAM LINCOLN SERIES (Parts 1-15)”         

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If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln, you should read these interviews by three Lincoln experts:

 

“An Awesometalk With” ROGER NORTON, Webmaster of the ‘Abraham Lincoln Research Site’ (posted on December 30, 2008)

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“An Awesometalk With” DR. THOMAS SCHWARTZ, Illinois State Historian (posted on December 08, 2008)

 

“An Awesometalk With” HAROLD HOLZER, Lincoln Scholar (posted on November 10, 2008)

 

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