From the Richmond Dispatch, 1/10/1863, p. 2, c. 3
Execution of a Woman for Murder. - The sentence of the Hustings Court of Richmond, condemning Margaret, slave of Mrs. Mary M. Butt, of Oxford, North Carolina, to death, for the murder of Francis Deane Tardy, infant child of Mr. Samuel C. Tardy, on the 3d day of December last, was duly carried into effect yesterday at ten minutes past twelve o’clock, on an elevated plateau on the side of the hill east of the new City Almshouse and Powder Magazine, in the immediate vicinity of the spot where Louis Napoleon alias John Richardson was executed for counterfeiting Confederate Treasury notes. The procession escorting the prisoner to the scaffold consisted of a guard from the City Battalion, surrounding the wagon which contained the condemned, sitting on her coffin, and the jailor, following which was the carriage of Dr. Dove, City Physician, and other vehicles.—On the sidewalk, following the cortege, were promiscuously mingled civilians, soldiers, and negroes by hundreds all pushing forward with a determination that bespoke their intent to be present at the execution. The procession started from the jail at twenty minutes past eleven o’clock, and proceeded immediately to 17th street, the most direct road to the place of execution. Up to the hour of starting the condemned was engaged in devotional exercises — a portion of the time with Rev. Mr. Watkins, pastor of the Second Baptist (African) Church, and afterwards with Rev. L. W. Sedley (?), to both of whom she had uniformly protested her innocence. When the time arrived for starting she came out of the jail smiling and at the best humor possible. Tripping lightly down the steps leading into the jail yard, she bade adieu to the old colored cook in a voice in no wise broken by emotion, and emerging from the gate into the street, bowed to all she knew.—Nearly a half hour was consumed in the journey from the jail to the gallows, and during the whole time she preserved a very calm demeanor. A brief interval of time elapsed before she ascended the scaffold, which was occupied by her in conversation with several persons who approached her. She persisted in the assertion that she was innocent, and willing to die. The time arriving for her execution she ascended the steps leading to the platform without help. The Sergeant then proceeded to read the record of the Court condemning her, to which she listened with marked attention. This duty done, she was told she could say anything she pleased. She commenced and continued at some length, in a perfectly free and unembarrassed manner in a clear voice and perfectly distinct enunciation, and without any of those contortions of the body in which persons of her class in the same situation are apt to indulge. She said she was sorry that the Governor had not allowed her time, in order that her mother might see her — She said though innocent she trusted her fate might serve as a warning to both white and black, who had assembled to see her die. She was prepared to go; and though the mode was horrible, she trusted when the pain of the body was over her spirit would rest in Heaven, &c. Her address ended, a brief interlude occurred, when she again spoke, to the same purport, however, as on the first occasion. Rev. Mr. Sedley, who was on the scaffold with the girl, then, at her request, read the following address, which she had composed for the occasion:
My Dear Friends You have assembled here to see me a poor criminal hung I are glad to see you that I can tell one and all I know I die a painful death but thanks be to God I die perfectly innocent My sufferings in this wicked and sinful world will soon be over, Those that have condemned me I willingly forgive though they gave me but a short time to prepare myself for this horable death. My Lord Jesus as said in His Holy Word that we must for give in hopes to be forgiven, I have prayed to my God trusting in Him as my Redeemer. If there is any of my friends preasant I take it hard of them that they did not send me a few clean clothes for the last time, but I forgive them hoping God may, I never thought I would come to this, I never was accused of anything wrong before any of you but are preasant can go to Mr. Pocahontas Butt and enquire my character. There is only one thing I are sorry to leave this world for, and that is my poor Mother I should liked to of seen my dear Mother once more but it is not granted to me so I must leave her in the Hands of God hoping she may walk in His way’s so that she may meet me some day at the throne of God, where there is no sorrow or pain no trouble but all joy world without end, I have thought hard of it when two of Mrs. Tardy’s family died the same way and I a poor creature like me to be accused of it but I forgive in hopes of being forgiven I wish you all farewell take me as a warning and prepare to meet me in Heaven, I hope some of my friends will publish this letter in the Dispatch, so the world may see I die prepared and happy. MARGARET ANN BUTTER.
The reading of this paper was followed by an address and prayer by Rev. Mr. Sedley During the latter she exhibited the first signs of emotion noticeable. She shed a few tears. The prayer concluded, she embraced the opportunity to make another address. In this latter she said that had the woman who bore testimony against her before the Court been allowed to proceed and tell all she knew, she (the witness), would have shown her innocence, and now occupy the place she did on the gallows. She said no more on this point, but bid all present farewell. Her hands were then pinioned by the jailor, the rope (a cotton cord) affixed to her neck, the black cap drawn over her face, and the jailor and preacher left the scaffold. A moment after a heavy thud against the side of the scaffold announced to the thousands assembled that the fatal drop had fallen. As usual on such occasions, an audible murmur from the crowd was heard to break the stillness that reigned around.—The body gyrated till the coils of the rope unwound. A spasmodic contraction of the shoulders and a few struggles, and the body hung motionless. After being suspended for eighteen minutes the cords that confined her hands were unloosed, and Dr. Dove pronounced her dead. The body was then lowered and given in charge of the undertaker, who proceeded to bury it in the colored burying ground, not far from the place of execution. We learn that two days before the execution Governor Letcher was applied to for a respite, and announced his willingness to grant it if it were needed to prepare her for death. He was told that, in the opinion of those asking the favor, she would never be any better prepared than she was then. The respite was declined. We greatly doubt whether an exhibition of the kind is either instructive or edifying. It is certainly horrible to look at especially when the victim is a woman. We trust that the next execution will take place in the jail yard. The party who suffered yesterday was a bright mulatto, of medium size, aged twenty years and unusually intelligent for one of her class. If guilty of the crime for which she suffered she died with a lie on her lips and played(?) with consummate art the part of a self-possessed and entirely innocent person.