Four Confederate Soldiers Martyred at Pleasureville
By: Uley Washburn
Union Generals appointed to command Military Districts in the Border, and
occupied Confederate, States grew to be hated by Confederate troops in the
field, as well as by their families at home. A large number of these Generals
were political appointees. One of
these was General Stephen Gano Burbridge, appointed commander of the Military
District of Kentucky on August 7, 1864. Burbridge
made several questionable decisions before his removal from command in February
1865. One questionable decision was
"Order No. 59"; this order made him the most hated District Commander
in Kentuckians' eyes, and earned him the sobriquet "Butcher Burbridge"
Burbridge issued this order in an attempt to curtail repeated guerrilla
activity, he actually made things worse. The
order stated that each time a Union man was killed by guerrillas, four suspected
guerrillas would be executed in way of retaliation.
The fifty executions statewide resulting from this order nowhere near
matched the bloodshed and grief caused by it.
particular incident dealt with here involves the areas of Port Royal and
Pleasureville. Two African-American soldiers were murdered near Port Royal. This
act resulted in the execution of four men in Pleasureville in 1864. Confederate
sympathizers in the slave state of Kentucky were already enraged over the
enlistment of African-Americans, many of whom were former slaves.
Under the laws of Kentucky at that time, African-Americans were
considered property, not citizens. One
must recall that slavery was not banned by Kentucky law until after the end of
the War. It seemed wrong to most of the people, for this reason,
to use African-Americans as soldiers. Seeing men they perceived, as
"Negras" in Union uniform was more than enough to incite local
guerrillas to murder.
the spirit, if not the letter, of Order No. 59, four prisoners were selected
from a Lexington prison. Considered
to be "guerrillas", though three seem to have been legitimate
Confederate soldiers, these men were sentenced to death in retaliation for the
death of the two "Negra" soldiers.
The four Confederate men were brought, heavily guarded, to Pleasureville
in a freight car. Herded from the
car like the animals General Burbridge considered them to be were: William Long
of Maysville, William Tighe of Williamstown, William Daibro of Owen County, and
R. W. Yates from Hart County. After
being taken from the train, these suspected guerrillas were marched about 200
yards away from the depot and lined up. One
can only hope they made their peace with God as the guns were aimed, for three
died instantly in the first volley of fire.
Long was only wounded, and dragged himself back to his feet in defiance.
He spat back at the Union troops that he was not afraid to die.
Long was given the chance to prove his statement by a second volley of
rifle fire. Then all was still.
Union men left the bodies where they fell.
There they lay, sprawled in the dirt, for another sixteen hours.
There were some who felt the four had "gotten their due".
Many others were extremely upset over the execution of men who had not
been involved in the murders they were shot for.
But, these were unwilling to be marked as "guerrillas"
themselves, and left the bodies untouched.
However, someone did contact the local guerrillas, probably some of Col.
Jesse's band. A group rode up to
the depot, collected the four bodies, and just as quickly disappeared.
The bodies were carried to Eminence and buried in the cemetery there.
of the reasons stated earlier, the reference in the following inscription
calling the murdered Union troops "Negras" may be seen as an attempt
to express disfavor toward this recruiting policy. Just as likely however, is that this reference was because
most white persons at the time felt that the executions were less than
justified, simply because the initial victims were "Negra." It seems
that even the officials may have felt this way also.
Order No. 59 stated, "four guerrillas to be executed for each Union
man killed", but in this case four were shot in retaliation for two
white marble obelisk still stands over the graves of three executed Confederate
men, in the cemetery at Eminence. It
bears the following inscription: "Three CSA Soldiers who were shot at
Pleasureville by order of Gen. Burbridge in pretense of retaliation of two
Negras that were killed near Port Royal."
"Sleep on ye braves for you have got your last breath. We would not
have thee buried on a lot with him who has caused thy death.
William Tighe aged 30 years, R. W. Yates aged 30 years, William Datbor
aged 20 years." It is not readily known what happened to the body of William
Long. Nor is it clear whether part
of the inscription is meant to allege that Long committed the murders, or was
somehow to blame for the death of the other three men