From the Richmond Dispatch, 7/17/1866, p. 1, c. 4
EXECUTION OF CHANEY, THE MURDERER. – In pursuance of an order from the War Department, Isaac Chaney, a negro, who was convicted in February last, by a military commission, of the murder of Mr. Gerald and his wife, in Rockbridge county, was hung yesterday forenoon at the Libby prison. The execution was witnessed by the guard and a few others who were granted passes by General Granger. Outside of the prison a large crowd of negroes had gathered, and endeavored to get a glimpse of the execution. The scaffold consisted of a trap door fixed in the hatchway of the third floor, the rope being attached to the windlass. At 11 o’clock he came from his cell, on the second floor, with four negro ministers, with whom he had been engaged in prayer since morning. He was dressed in a black coat, white pants, and white vest. His hands were tied behind him, and as he walked along he displayed no fear, mounting the steps without assistance. No persons except his ministers and executioners were allowed up on the third floor, consequently he was out of our sight until he was dropped. From those who were with him we gather the following facts as to his last words:
When he reached the scaffold he said: “I am satisfied. I owe a debt to the Government. I’ll pay it to God. I am certainly going to Heaven. I desire every one not to do as I have done.” Addressing himself to the ministers, he said: “I have come to eternity. I want my prayers to rest upon the soldiers, the President, and upon everybody around me. Good-bye Mr. Brown. Good-bye, Mr. Vanderhall. I’m willing to go. I’ve nothing against any one. I want everybody to meet me in Heaven.” He had nothing further to say; so a black cap was drawn over his head, and the noose adjusted around his neck. At twenty minutes part [sic] 11, all was silent, and nothing was heard save the click of the bolt as the trap was sprung. Chaney fell, and the rope breaking, let him to the floor beneath, a distance of fourteen feet from the third floor. For a moment he lay as if stunned, and then rose. He was again carried to the third floor, and, from his firm step, seemed not to have been much injured by his fall. He remarked as he was going up the steps that he didn’t object to being hung were it not for the choking part. Another rope was adjusted, and at half-past 11 the trap was sprung for the second time. The fall broke his neck immediately, and after a slight shrug of his shoulders and a shake of his left foot he hung motionless in the air. In twenty minutes afterwards the body was cut down, life was declared extinct, and all that remained of Isaac Chaney, the murderer, was turned over to the Freedman’s Bureau for burial.
Chaney was a man about five feet ten inches in height, weighing about one hundred and eighty pounds. At first sight his face was not repulsive, but upon close inspection there could be seen lurking about his features a mean and devilish expression. He was born in Ohio in 1834, and continued to live there until the war broke out, when he entered the army as a servant. When negro volunteers were received, he enlisted in Sherman’s army. In the raid of Burbridge in southwestern Virginia he was taken prisoner, carried to Lynchburg, and sold to Mr. Gerald, a farmer of Rockbridge. He remained with him even after the fall of the Confederate cause, and on the 6th of October, 1865, whilst engaged with his employer in the field, some words passed between them, which resulted in Chaney’s picking up a hoe and striking him on the head, killing him instantly. He then went to the house, murdered Mrs. Gerald, set the house on fire, and made his escape. He was subsequently recaptured, tried, and convicted before a military commission in Staunton, and sentenced, in February last, to be hung the 5th of May, 1866. He was subsequently reprieved. His conduct in prison since his arrival here has been that of a hardened wretch, without fear of God, man, or the devil. Some weeks ago he came very near making his escape from prison by cutting through the wall. Yesterday he confessed in his cell to having murdered Mr. Gerald, but denied having killed his wife.
But enough of the life and misdeeds of this criminal. Avenging justice has taken his all, his life, in expiation for his crimes, and he has passed into the hands of the Great Judge, who deals with all as they deserve.