MURDER, TRIAL, EXECUTION
Carolina Observer, (Fayetteville, NC) Thursday, December 09, 1824; Issue 392; col A
Posted November 03, 2009 by Myrtle Bridges
Pursuant to the sentence pronounced by his honor Judge Nash, on the present Circuit, Alexander Lammon
suffered the punishment of death, on the 9th November in the vicinity of Whiteville, Columbus County
for the murder of James McMillan.
As this is one of the most cold-blooded, deliberate, and atrocious murders which has ever come within our
be uninteresting or un-instructive to
before the public, such circumstances
have come to our knowledge. The following, is we believe, a correct summary of the facts: --
James McMillan who resided with his father and mother, about 4 miles from Elizabeth Town, in the County of
Bladen, was murdered on the 28th August, 1823; a Jury of Inquest convened the following day, from the evidence
before them, charged Alexander Lammon whose house was distant about a half mile from the spot, and who had
been previously arrested, with the murder. He was accordingly committed by the Coroner to be tried at the
succeeding Term of Bladen Superior Court; at that Term a Bill of Indictment was found against him, and the
cause removed on his affidavit to the County of Columbus, there also having been one continuance at his instance,
it came on for Trial at Spring Term. Judge Norwood, who presided, apprehending a deficiency of ..lismen (?)
to make up a Jury, issued a summons to the Sheriff on Tuesday for seventy-five free holders to attend on the
following day, on that day; a Jury being made up, the following summary of the evidence submitted to them.
Wm. Blackwell was the first witness examined on the part of the State, he proved certain threats made use of
by Lammon against the deceased, but as his testimony was in a great degree neutralized by certain persons proving
that they would not believe him on oath, it is considered unnecessary to go into a detail of it.
Two Miss Campbells were next examined-they were originally summoned by the Defendant as has been understood, for
the purpose of endeavoring, by their examination to make out an alibi, but were discharged and afterwards were
summoned by the State to prove certain threats made by Lammon against McMillan. The amount of their testimony
was a follows.
On the night the murder was committed, Lammon came in company with Daniel Gooden, early in the night, to the
house of said Gooden, where they the (Miss Campbells) were on a visit-that they sat up late-Lammon and Gooden
were drinking cider and all of them engaged in conversation-that Lammon complained of some person or persons
stealing his watermelons-that he made use of a great many threats, particularly against some one whom he called
Sharpshins-that by the persuasion of Gooden, Lammon at length
., but late in the night got up and demanded
his horse-his horse was brought to him by a free person of color in the employment of Gooden-Lamon said that
he would go home, and just as he started, they heard Lammon observe, that he had a shot gun that would shoot
over the moon.
It was very late in the night when he left Gooden's house, and the moon shone remarkably bright. They saw no
gun not did they know, who was meant by Sharpshins.
The principal witness on the part of the state, was Colin McMillan; he testified, that on the night of the
murder, he and his brother, James McMillan, in company with two negro boys, went raccoon hunting; that after
hunting a short time, they went to the house of their uncle, a certain Angus Shaw; after remaining there a
short time, they continued their hunt, but had not gone far before they stopt and built up a fire, but at
length proceeded, leaving one of the negro boys asleep at the fire; had not gone far before they got lost,
stopt again, and waited till moonrise, that their dogs treed, they went to the place, and on leaving it again
got lost, after wandering about awhile they found themselves in a path which they supposed they knew, and that
led from Archibald Campbell's to Graig's old field; had not been long in the path in the direction towards home,
and just as they came to a small branch, when witness saw Lammon step from behind a pine tree, at the distance
of ten or eleven steps, present his gun and fire, and that thereupon his brother James McMillan immediately fell
and expired; that Lammon's dog ran up near the body of his brother, Lammon ran down the branch in the direction
towards his house, stopped at the distance of ten or fifteen [yards], chirped to his dog, and again started off;
that the moon shone remarkably bright, and was considerably over the tops of the trees.
On the cross examination of this witness, he was asked how he knew that it was Lammon; his answer was, that he
knew him by the light of the moon, that he knew him by his favour; that he knew him as soon as he stept from
behind the tree, and saw his face distinctly by the flash of his gun, that he could not be mistaken, as he had
known Lammon from his childhood, lived near him, and was in the habit of seeing him very often; that he knew
his dog. He also stated at or near the spot from which Lammon stept, there appeared to be the remains of a fire,
and the ground immediately around was much trampled. This was a circumstance in the testimony which with some at
the time excited much surprise, and appeared to be almost unaccountable. Yet we conceived it to be equally
reconcilable with the other part; for unless we reject the testimony of the witness altogether we must suppose
it to be the spot where the party first stopped and built up the fire; and that Lammon on his return from Gooden's
was attracted to it by the still glowing embers.
This witness underwent a rigorous and torturing examination to produce contradictions on his part-but he remained
firm and consistent throughout, never having committed himself in the slightest instance, and the more remarkable,
as from unfortunate circumstances in his infancy, his knowledge of the word had been extremely limited, and this
was the first time that he was ever examined in a court of justice. There was not a person present at the trial,
it is believed, but yielded implicit credence to his veracity, nor was any attempt made in its progress, to impugn
Daniel Gooden was examined on the part of the accused-he testified that he and Lammon left Lammon's house on the
same evening the murder was committed, with an intention to go the house of Andrew McLennan a neighbor; Gooden's
house was on the way where they stopt, and met with the Miss Campbell's, who were relations of his wife. He and
Lammon commenced drinking cider; no cause is recollected to have been assigned by Gooden, why they did not
immediately proceed to McLennan's-Lammon however on going to bed, said that it was then too late. Gooden, in
the main, corroborates the testimony of the Miss Campbells.
Several other witnesses were examined, both for the state, and for the prisoner, there is no part of their testimony
that could had had any bearing on the case, unless it be that one or two witnesses swore, that a negro fellow belonging
to James Campbell was sometimes called, by way of nickname, Sharpshins.
On this testimony, the Jury after retiring about 10 minutes, returned a verdict of guilty.
Troy, (Solicitor) Henry Cowan were of counsel for the state.
McKay and Wright for Defendant
The prisoner during the whole progress of the trial manifested an astonishing degree of apathy and indifference, and
even when the Jury came in, and pronounced their verdict of guilty, not any change in his countenance was remarked.
On the following day a rule for a new trial was obtained, and the following grounds, as well as can be recollected,
taken by the counsel for the prisoner.
1st. That the Grand Jurors, who found the Bill of Indictment, was also on the Jury of inquest.
2nd. That the Judge had no authority to issue a write of Tales, in the nature of a writ of venire,
returnable the following day, but that the Jury should have been selected from the bye-standers.
3rd. That the Judge had misdirected the Jury as to part of the evidence.
The following reasons were also offered in arrest of judgment.
1st. That the place where the murder was committed was not set forth with sufficient certainty in
the body of the indictment; the name of the county not being repeated.
2nd. That there was no replication to the plea of not guilty.
The rules for a new trial was discharged; and reasons in arrest of Judgment overruled. Judgment of the
Court, was then pronounced by Judge Norwood, from which an appeal was taken to the Supreme Court. At the
last term, the case was argued by the Attorney General and Gaston for the state and by Ruffin for the
prisoner the opinion of the Court below was confirmed, and judgment of death ordered to be pronounced.
In obedience to the
of the Supreme Court, Judge Nash, after making a number of pathetic and eloquent
remarks, ordered the sentence to be carried into execution, between the hours of 10 in the morning, and
4 in the evening of the 9th of November. On that day, an immense crowd of people, far exceeding anything
of the kind, known in that part of the country, assembled from the counties of Columbus, Bladen, Robeson
and Brunswick, and the adjoining parts of South Carolina, to witness the awful spectacle. Lammon was taken
from the prison about 12 o'clock, and was permitted to walk to the gallows, by the Sheriff, attended by a
strong guard of militia; the interval of time between the hour of his arrival on the ground, and the hour
of his execution was taken up in the performance of various religious exercises by three or four ministers
of the Gospel of various denominations.
He was launched into eternity about 2 o'clock. He made no acknowledgements-on the contrary, a paper was
read by one of the Clergymen, purporting to be his last words, in which he denied killing James McMillan,
that his negro man had killed him without his direction-that on his return from Gooden's, on the night of
the murder, he gave his negro man his gun, told him that some one had been stealing his water melons-that
he suspected a runaway negro called McRee's Sam, ordered him to go and see who it was, but not use the gun,
except in his own defense-that when he returned, he told him, he had killed James McMillan. Lammon admitted
that he killed his negro woman Melinda, for whose death, he stood also indicted, but that it was in his own
defense. He forgave the Sheriff for the painful task which he had to perform in relation to him-forgave
Collin McMillan, the principal witness for the State, and stated his opinion that he believed he swore to
what he believed to be the truth-though he was mistaken as to the person. This it is believed was the substance
of his declarations.
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