Item #8091 Head Quarters Department of Virginia, Army of the James. General Court Martial Orders, No. 55. [Order for the execution of an African American soldier.]. Assistant Adjutant General Edward W. Smith.

Sign up to receive email notices of recent acquisitions.

Smith, Assistant Adjutant General Edward W.

Head Quarters Department of Virginia, Army of the James. General Court Martial Orders, No. 55. [Order for the execution of an African American soldier.]

Richmond, Virginia, 9 April 1865. Circular, 8” x 5”. 1 p. CONDITION: Very good, a few tiny stains, old vertical folds, one tiny puncture at upper-right, but no losses to the text.

An apparently unrecorded circular detailing the Court Martial of an African American soldier (and former Virginia slave) who was convicted of three charges and executed by firing squad. 

As specified here, Private Samuel Mapp of the 10th U.S. Colored Troops, Co. D was charged with mutiny, disobedience of orders, and threatening the life of his superior officer. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. The Court, “after mature deliberation upon the evidence adduced,” found the accused guilty of the charges and therefore sentenced him “To be shot to death with musketry, at such time and place as the Commanding General may direct; two-thirds of the Court concurring therein.” 

Before he was executed, Mapp received religious counseling in City Point, Virginia from the noted Black chaplain Garland H. White (1829–1894), an escaped slave who served in the 28th U.S. Colored Troops and was one of the few Black Union officers in the Civil War. During the war, Union chaplains were tasked with comforting soldiers who faced death by execution. Asked to minister to Mapp, White stated that he “would do all in his power ‘to point him to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.’” Mapp wanted to review his case with White, but White refused—opting to discuss religion. White is known to have cited the case of the dying thief who surrendered his life to Christ while hanging next to him on a cross, which White claimed gave Mapp hope. When Mapp was called out of his cell, he and White mounted an army wagon and both men sat on Mapp’s coffin. When White reported on the execution in The Christian Recorder, he informed his readers that Mapp had lacked the benefits of Northern culture as well as guidance from Black chaplains: “[Mapp] was a Virginian, and had never lived in the North. His regiment was raised in Virginia, and has a white chaplain, who is not here at present.” At this time, White was the only chaplain in City Point and was consequently overwhelmed by duties. Cameron T. Sauers notes that “Mapp’s public execution was made a grand affair, complete with a viewing crowd of the public…such a spectacle was intended to punish Mapp and to warn his comrades not to attempt anything similar, while also impressing Richmonders with the army’s strict discipline and intolerance for crimes committed by its soldiers.” White found the execution “the saddest spectacle he had every [sic] witnessed,” and “he hoped never to witness another.” He also wrote that Mapp “was the first colored man shot in this army [hanging was the usual execution method], to my knowledge, during the war.” 

The 10th U.S. Colored Infantry was organized at Camp Craney Island, Virginia in November, 1863 and was mustered in for three years under the command of Col. Spencer Stafford. Following the war, the regiment served in the Department of Texas (June 1865–May 1866) at various locations on the Rio Grande. The 10th was mustered out of service on May 17th, 1866.

No copies of this circular are recorded in OCLC.

An order detailing the Court Martial, conviction and sad fate of an African American soldier who was sentenced to death near the end of the Civil War.

REFERENCES: Miller Jr, Edward A. “Garland H. White, black army chaplain,”Civil War History Vol. 43, No. 3 (1997), pp. 201–218; Sauers, Cameron T. Military Occupation, Sexual Violence, and the Struggle over Masculinity in the early Reconstruction South (Gettysburg College, Fall 2020), p. 19; Wilson, Keith P. Campfires of Freedom (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University, 2002), pp. 114–116.

Item #8091

Price: $3,750.00