Saturday, April 9, 2011

Trial of John M. Crisp

John Crisp was hoping for understanding, mercy and forgiveness from the jury of the Citizens Court as he begged for his life.  Instead, he was given a rope around his neck.

The State vs. John M. Crisp – Disloyalty & Treason

Eli Thomas sworn.
[Witness] John M. Crisp swore me into a secret organization having for its object the reconstruction of the old Constitution and Union. He gave me the sign, grip, and password.

Crisp, himself, when brought before at before the Court, admitted that he had been initiated into the organization. Pending his trial, he addressed the Court the following letter:

Fully believing this to be the last time that I will be permitted to communicate with the Honorable tribunal by which I am to be tried, I adopt this method to do so; and for this reason: Having never before been brought before a Court, and my natural disposition and constitutional powers being so framed, the presence of that august body has the effect to scatter my mind. And while in your presence I cannot collect my thoughts, I will now make in writing these further statements in behalf of my injured Country:
Some time in the month of August, 1862 Dr Thomas and Parson Baker, came to my shop; and being there a short time, went out and seated themselves some distance from me. They returned and requested me to initiate him (Thomas), I understanding him to mean, to enter as a member into the Secret institution to reinstate the old Constitution, I refused, pointing to Baker, [and] told him to get Baker to do it. Thomas laughed, and said no; but for me to do it. I told him I was awkward but would do the best I could. Not having a regular form of oath, I framed one, in like manner, as I have stated before your Honors heretofore; giving him the signs, grip, and password. Parson Baker and myself, about one week before the above stated time, were initiated by Dr McCarty. McCarty told Baker he could initiate also.
A few days after this I was informed that each member had the right to initiate his neighbor. I have initiated six persons, in all, towit: Sam'l Crisp, H. J. Essman, Eli Hinkle, I. M. Baily, Mansell Baily, and Dr Eli Thomas. I suppose Essman and Hinkle are not yet arrested. Dr Thomas informed me that he had initiated an old man, by the name of Parson Howard.
I desire to explain one other thing, which I named to one of your honorable body just as I left the jury room. James Harryman came to my house the day before I was arrested and informed me that they had held a secret meeting, and said that Capt. Garrison, or Lock, had been to a Mr Love's in the Chicasaw [sic] Nation and had initiated him; and that he had plenty of powder that the order could have whenever they wanted it. And now, I acknowledge my wrong and implore you that while examining the testimony I have given, if I have, or seemed to quibble, I pray you to remember the situation of my mind, and deal with me in mercy.
John M. Crisp

After being condemned, he again addressed the Court as follows:
Gainesville, Oct. 18th 1862
To the Honorable Court now in session, at Gainesville:
Whereas, through the mercies of Almighty God, and the Court, my life has been prolonged to the present time, I greatly desire the patience of the Court, yet a little longer.
I hope the Court will condescend to hear my imperfect petition and offered obligations to my injured country. I do not expect to influence you; but implore you, for mercy - that my life may be spared.
First, if in your wisdom and mercy you see fit to spare my life, and I ever again show any signs of not being true to our Southern Confederacy, then I will not plead for mercy any more; but will submit my life, to pay the forfeit.
Secondly, I desire to be placed under the watch-care of some of our truest and best Southern men, that they may from time to time examine my conduct; and if they find any thing wrong, report me forthwith.
Thirdly, I am willing and anxious at any time to do any thing in my power to sustain the independence of our Country. And forthly, if we can have any correct of the future by the past, I would refer your honorable body to Capt. Roff, Harry Howeth, W. B. Magill, Joseph Martin, Wm. West, and Charles Hibert, and let them say what my actions have been heretofore in giving aid to the volunteers. I now submit by begging your forgiveness for the wrongs which I may have done; and I promise you that if my life is spared, I will never commit wrong again.
John M. Crisp

He was hung in accordance with the sentence of the Court and, no doubt from the record before us, died a much better man than he had lived."

George Washington Diamond's Account of the Great Hanging at Gainesville, 1862, Manuscript Edited by Sam Acheson and Julie Ann Hudson O’Connell, The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. LXVI, January, 1963, No. 3, pages 394-396.

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