|VOL. XIV.--NO. 4269.||NEW-YORK, WEDNESDAY, MAY 31, 1865.||PRICE FOUR CENTS.|
The New York Times, 31 May 1865.
TRIAL OF THE ASSASSINS
Report of the Testimony
Taken on Tuesday.
Remarkable Statement About Jeff.
A Speech Made by Him at Charlottee,
He Receives the News of Mr. Lincoln's
Murder as a Matter of Course.
He Doubtless Expected a Wholesale Killing of
the Heads of the Government.
Breckenridge Regrets It, But Davis
Davis Wants Andy Johnson, the
Davis Has also the Same Pious Wish for
Special Dispatch to the New-York Times.
WASHINGTON, Tuesday, May 30.
This day's session of the assassination trial has been more than usually interesting in the matter of incident and pertinency of testimony.
A scene of intense, though subdued excitement, was that which attended the introduction of the rebel Gen. JOHNSON as as [sic] witness for the defense, and the objection there to by Gen. HOWE, one of the members of the commission. No sooner had the rebel general stepped upon the stand, than Gen. HOWE rose to make his motion to eject Gen. JOHNSON from the room.
This motion seemed to astonish everybody, if we except the witness, who, meantime, sat gazing around upon the faces in the room, apparently uninterested in the question before the commission. After the motion had been seconded by Gen. Aiken, Judge-Advocate HOLT, that until a witness had been tried and convicted of an infamous offense he was not disqualified, from giving testimony. Gen. WALLACE, promptly remarked that for the sake of justice and the character of this investigation, he hoped the motion would be withdrawn, and the rebel General gave his testimony uninterruptedly. Gen. JOHNSON is a heavy, set man, of about five feet six inches, rather sandy complexion, full and intelligent face. He was dressed in a suit of drab-colored cloth. ...
The rebel Maj.-Gen. Edward Johnson
was here called to the stand.
Gen. Howe--Before this witness is sworn I wish to submit a motion to the court, I will state the facts upon which I base the motion. It is well-known to me as it is to a great many officers of the army, that the person now on the stand, Edward Johnson, was educated at the National Military Academy at the government expense, and that since that time, for years, he has held a commission in the army of the United States. It is well known in the army that it is a condition precedent to receiving a commission, that an officer shall take an oath of allegiance and fidelity to the government. In 1861, it became my duty an an [sic] officer to fire upon a small party of which this man was a member; that party fired upon, struck down and killed loyal men who were in the service of the government. Since that time, it is notorious to all officers of the army that the man now introduced here as a witness has openly borne arms against the United States, except when he has been a prisoner in the hands of the government. I understand that it is proposed that he shall testify before the Court. He comes here as a witness, with his hands red with the blood of his loyal countrymen, shot by him or his assistants, in violation of his solemn oath as a man and as an officer. I submit, therefore, to the Court whether he does not stand in the eye of the law as an incompetent witness. I regard the offering as a witness of a man standing in open violation of an oath administered to him as an officer as an insult to the Court and an outrage upon the administration of justice. I move that this man Edward Johnson be ejected from the court as an incompetent witness."
Gen. Ekin--I rise to second the motion. I am glad that this question has now been presented to the court. I regard this man clearly incompetent as a witness. In my judgement, of all the men in this country, for those who have been educated by the government, nourished by the government, protected by the government, and who have then turned and fought and joined enemies of the government, to come into a court of justice, and especially before a military commission of the character such as that here assembled, as the height of impertinence, and I trust the resolution which has been presented will be adopted by the commission without hesitation.
Mr. Aiken--Before the commission decides upon the motion of Gen. Howe, it is proper for me to say that I was not aware of the fact that, because a person had borne arms against the government, it would disqualify him, and render him incompetent as a witness; therefore I could not of course have intended any insult in introducing Gen. Johnson as a witness. It will also be recollected that at least one witness who has borne arms against the government was introduced here by the Judge-Advocate without objection of any member of the court.
Gen. Kautz--Does this person appear here as a volunteer witness?
Mr. Aiken--He does not.
The Judge-Advocate-General--I feel bound to say that as a rule of law, before a witness can be rendered so infamous as to become absolutely incompetent to testify he must be convicted by judicial proceedings, and the record of that proceeding must be produced as the basis of his incompetency. Without that conviction any evidence of his guilt only applies only to his credibility. This court can discredit him so fat as they please upon that ground, but I do not think the law would authorize the court to declare the witness incompetent, however unworthy he may be of credibility.
Gen. Lew. Wallace--I hope, for the sake of the character of this investigation, and for the sake of public justice, not for that of the person introduced as a witness, but for that of the prisoners at the bar now on trial, the officer making this motion will withdraw it.
Gen. Howe--Upon the statement of the Judge-Advocate-General, that this person is not technically an incompetent witness, I withdraw the motion.
Examined by Mr. Aiken--Q.--State your present status as a prisoner of war? A.--I am a United States prisoner of war captured at Nashville, now confined at Fort Warren, Boston harbor.
Q.--Were you or not an [sic] officer in the scattered Confederate service, and if so of what rank? A.--I was an officer of the rank of Brigadier-General in the Confederate States army from the year 1863 up to the date of my capture.
Q.--Did you have higher rank than that? A.--I did.
Q.--Are you acquainted with Henry Von Steinacker? A.--I am acquainted with a man who went by that name; who represented himself to me as Henry Von Steinacker.
Q.--Was he a member of your staff? A.--He was not.
Q.--Did he rank as an engineer officer or receive pay as such? A.--He did not rank as an officer, neither as an engineer, staff or line officer; he was a private.
Q.--To what regiment and company did he belong? A.--He belonged to the Stonewall Brigade, Second Virginia Infantry I think, I am not positive upon that point, and I do not remember the company.
Q.--Was the Second Virginia Infantry attached to your division? A.--It was a part of the Stonewall Brigade, and that was one of the brigades of my division.
Q.--Please state to the court how, when and under what circumstances Von Steinacker, presented himself to you. A.--In the month of May, 1863, a man accosted me in Richmond, on Capitol-square, by my name and the rank I bore in the United States Army, as Major Johnson. He told me he had served under me.
Judge Bingham--What has that to do with it? There has been no inquiry made as to his service under you.
Witness--Well, he met me in Richmond, and applied for a position in the Engineer Corps, stating that he had served under me previously; that he was a Prussian by birth and an engineer by education, and would like to get into the Engineer Corps in our service.
Judge Bingham--You need not tell what he said.
Witness.--He applied to get into our service, I had no such position to give and declined giving it, and he left me. He called again and made a second application for the position. I told him I could not give it to him; I was then ordered off to Fredericksburgh. In about a week this man appeared there and again made application for a position either in the engineer corps or on my staff. I told him I could not give him a position in either; but that if he would enlist as a private from his representations of himself as an engineer and a draughtsman, I would put him on duty in the engineer corps as a private. On these conditions he enlisted as a private in the Stonewall Brigade, Second Regiment Virginia Infantry, and I assigned him to special duty as headquarters. He was to act as draughtsman and assist my engineer officer, and he so continued to act until I was told he left.
Q.--Was he subjected to court-martial at that time?
Question objected to by Judge Bingham, on the ground that the records of the court must be produced, and he did not think there were any courts down in Virginia in those days that could try at all.
Mr. Aiken stated that as under the circumstances the records of the court could not be produced, parole evidence could be admitted. He presumed the question was not seriously objected to.
Objection sustained by the court.
Q.--Were in Virginia was your encampment after the battle of Gettysburgh? A.--Near Orange Court-house, Orange County, Va.
Q.--Do you know or not of a meeting of the officers of that brigade at the camp of the Second Virginia Rigiment [sic]? A.--I know nothing of it, and never heard anything of the kind.
Q.--Did you ever learn the fact that a secret meeting was held there at that time? A.-- I never heard of any such secret meeting.
Q.--Did you ever, at any meeting of the officers of your division, hear plans discussed for the assassination of the President of the United States? A.--I never heard any plans discussed in any meeting of the officers, nor did I ever hear the assassination of the President alluded to by any individual in my division as an object to be desired.
Q.--Are you acquainted with J. Wilkes Booth the actor? A.--I am not; I never saw him.
Q.--Look at that picture of Booth and see if you ever saw the man? A.--Never to my knowledge; I did not know, in fact, that there was such a man until after the assassination of President Lincoln.
Q.--Have you a personal knowledge of the fact of St. David Cockerill losing a horse?
Judge Bingham--I object; we do not propose to try the question of horse-stealing; it is not the issue.
Mr. Aiken--The charge was made in the paper presented that Von Steinacker had been guilty of horsesteeling, and I understood we were permitted to prove any allegation in that paper.
Col. Burnett--Anything that is legitimate and competent to be proved. We did not go further.
The objection was sustained by the court.
Q.--Did you ever learn anything while at the South of a secret association by the name of the Knights of the Golden Circle or Sons of Liberty? A.--I never belonged to any such association myself, never knew any person reputed to belong to them, and never knew anything of them.
Q.--While in Richmond have you heard it freely spoken of in the street and among your acquaintances that the assassination of the President of the United States was a desirable result to be accomplished? A.--I never heard it spoken of as a desirable object to be accomplished. In fact, as I said before, I never heard any officer or person allude to the assassination of the President as desirable, to the best of my recollection.
Q.--Was Von Steinacker a member of Gen. Blenker's staff? A.--Not that I know of. He stated to me that he was.
Q.--Did he state to you that he was a deserter from our service? A.--He stated to me that he had deserted or attempted to desert, and was apprehended.
Cross-examination by Judge Bingham--Q.--Have you ever been in the service of the United States? A.--I have.
Q.--Were you educated in the United States Military Academy? A.--Yes, Sir.
Q.--How long have you been in the army of the United States? A.--I graduated in 1838.
Q.--And had been in our army down to the breaking out of the rebellion? A.--Yes, Sir.
Q.--What was your rank in the army at that time? A.--Captain and Brevet Major in the Sixth United States Infantry.
Q.--State how you got out of the service of the United States? A.--I tendered my resignation, which was accepted.
Q.--Tendered it to whom? A.--To the Adjutant-General of the United States on May 1. It was not accepted for three or four weeks. I received the acceptance of my resignation in June following.
Q.--Did you then enter the rebel service? A.--I went to my home in Virginia, where I remained a few weeks. I then entered the service of the Confederate States service, and have been in it ever since.
Q.--What was the final rank held by you in the service? A.--Major-General.
Q.--Were you a Major-General in 1863? A.--I was for a part of 1863; I think my rank as Major-General commenced in February of that year.
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