91st PA: Jesse Wharton's shooting

The Commission on State Prisoners

[source: National Archives. State Department. Civil war papers. Entry 962 or 963.]

Executive Order No. 2.
In relation to State Prisoners.

War Department
Washington City, Feb. 27, 1862.

It is ordered, first, that a special Commission of two persons, one of military and the other in civil life, be appointed to examine the cases of the State prisoners remaining in the military custody of the United States, and to determine whether, in view of the public safety and the existing rebellion, they should be discharged, or remain in military custody, or be remitted to the civil tribunals for trial.

Second. That Major General John A. Dix, commanding in Baltimore, and the Hon. Edward Pierrepont, of New York, be, and they are hereby, appointed commissioners for the purposes above mentioned, and they are authorized to examine, hear, and determine the cases aforesaid ex parte, and in a summary manner, at such times and places as in their discretion they may appoint, and make full report to the War Department.

By order of the President:

E. M. Stanton
Secretary of War.

In obedience to the above order, the Commissioners General John A. Dix, and the Hon. Edward Pierrepont therein named, met at the office of the Secretary of State in the City of Washington the 17th day of March 1862, and being duly organized commenced their sitting. Erastus D. Webster was appointed Secretary to the Commission.

The case first considered was that of Mrs. Mary Morris, of the City of Baltimore and State of Maryland, arrested on the 3d of March instant by order of the Secretary of War now imprisoned in the Old Capitol Military prison in this City. accused of correspondence with disloyal persons, and particularly with Colonel Zarvona a prisoner at Fort LaFayette, by means of cypher, and entering into a conspiracy to aid him to escape from prison. The first paper examined was a letter addressed by her to Colonel Zarvona, in prison, at Fort LaFayette, which was disloyal in tone, and expressed strong sympathy with the insurgent States.

2nd A letter from Ruston Mallory a released prisoner dated February 24th 1862 and addressed to Mrs Morris, being the fragments of one torn up by her at the time of her arrest.

3d A letter from Paris, dated January 31st 1862, evidently from an intelligent person whose every sympathy is with the insurgents, and who talks in a sort of semi-official tone. The writer confesses himself to be a fugitive, and complains because his proceeedings had been reported to the Washington Government.

He says that since his arrival at Paris, a rendezvous has been established there, at which a number of Southern gentlemen meet and though none of them can boast of great personal influence, yet they do a great deal to create a public sentiment favorable to the issue of the insurgents.

4th A few sheets of treasonable doggerel.

5th A report from the officer making the arrest, stating that among the articles found in her house were ten rolls of adhesive plastic, lint, and other articles which it was thought by the officer were intended for the insurgents.


Applications for Release.

1st. A letter from George M. Gill, of Baltimore. Does not vouch for her loyalty.

2nd Reverdy Coheson [?], who does not vouch for her loyalty.

The further consideration of the case was postponed.

The next case considered was that of
Benjamin Cross

Arrested at Seneca October 10th 1861. by the 34th Regiment New York Volunteers and confined in the old Capitol Military prison in this City. It is charged that Cross some time in May 1861 betrayed his brother in law a Mr. Emanuel C. Caustin, a member of the District of Columbia Volunteers into the hands of the insurgents.

The only paper on file was a report from the Provost Marshal of the City of Washington of which the following is an abstract.

This man was arrested on the 10th day of October 1861, at or near his residence at Seneca, Md. by the 34th Regiment, New York Volunteers, and forwarded by General Stone, to the Provost Marshal at Washington.

Cross was charged with having betrayed Dr. Caustin a member of a Military Company called the "Presidents Mounted Guard", in the service of the United States, to the Rebels, in May last, Caustin being his brother in law, and then at his house at Seneca.

From a report of E. J. Allen forwarded by General Porter, Provost Marshal, it appears on the testimony of Lieut. Colonel Owen of the Kentucky Cavalry that on the day that Causton was captured in May 1861, Cross went over the river into Virginia, and soon after the Virginia troops came over, proceeded directly to Cross's house and took Causten captive, and carried him to Virginia, and that Cross did not return to his residence till about the time he was arrested.

Said report also shows, on the authority of Union refugees from the vicinity of Deninsville, Va., opposite Edwards Ferry that Cross has always had the credit in that neighborhood of having betrayed his brother in law, Causten, into the hands of the rebels, and that he has always been a "great crony" of the Virginia rebels, till they became very urgent that he should go into Military service, when he returned to his home and was arrested. It is also alleged on the authority of "parties from the vicinity of Seneca, that at the time of the capture of Caustin an ill feeling existed against him on the part of Cross, growing out of family affairs, which it was thought led to the treacherous and disloyal conduct of the latter".

The further consideration of the case was deferred.


Cases examined by Commission relating to State Prisoners
Commissioners Edward Pierrepont General John A. Dix
Erastus S. Webster, Sec'y
[entries not transcribed; I have 1-26 and 160-170; the list appears to be alphabetical]
163 Wharton Jesse B [Date of examination] " 27 " [sc. March 27 1862]

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revised 18 Jun 02
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