The following simple and unvarnished story has hardly a parallel in the page of fiction. Its strict truth is beyond question:–
Near Murfreesboro, June 28, 1864,–The original of the following letter is in my possession. The events so graphically narrated transpired in Overton County, Tennessee. I knew Dr. Sadler from a small boy. The men who murdered him were noted guerrilla, and killed him for no personal grudge, but on account of his sentiments. I have no personal acquaintance with the young lady; but have the highest authority for stating that she is a pure, high-minded girl, the daughter of a plain farmer in moderate circumstances. It only remains to state that Peteet was killed January 30, and Gordenhire February 4, 1864, so that the vengeance they invoked has overtaken all three of the murderers of M. G. Sadler.
John W. Bowen.
MARTIN’S CREEK, April 30, 1864.
Major Clift,–According to promise I now attempt to give you a statement of the reasons why I killed Turner, and a brief history of the affair. Dr. Sadler had, for two years previous to his death, seemed equally as near and dear to me as a brother, and for several months nearer than any person,–my parents not excepted. If he had not, I never would have done what I did, promise to be his.
The men who killed him had threatened his life often because he was a Union man; they said he should not live; and after taking the oath they arrested him, but Lieutenant Oakley released him at pa’s gate. He stayed at pa’s till bed-time, and I warned him of the danger he was in; told him I had heard his life threatened that day, and that I felt confident he would be killed if he did not leave the neighborhood, and stay off until these men became reconciled.
He promised to go; said he had some business at Carthage, and would leave the neighborhood that night, or by daylight next morning, and we felt assured he had gone. But for some unaccountable reason he did not leave. About 3 o’clock, P. M., next day, news came to me, at Mr. Johnson’s, where I had gone with my brother, that Dr. Sadler was killed. I had met Peteet, Gordenhire, and Turner on the road, and told my brother there that they were searching for Dr. Sadler to kill him. Sure enough they went to the house where he was, and, strange to me, after his warning, he permitted them to come in. They met him apparently perfectly friendly, and said they had come to get some brandy from Mr. Yelton, which they obtained, and immediately after drinking, they all three drew their pistols and commenced firing at Sadler. He drew his, but it was snatched away from him. He then drew his knife, which was also taken from him. He then ran round the house and up a stairway, escaping out of their sight. They followed, however, and searched till they found him, and brought him down and laid him on a bed, mortally wounded. He requested some of his people to send for Dr. Dillin to dress his wounds. It is strange to me, why, but Sadler’s friends had all left the room, when Turner went up, and put his pistol against his temples, and shot him through the head. They all rejoiced like demons, and stood by till he had made his last struggle. They then pulled his eyes open, and asked him in a loud voice if he was dead. They then took his horse and saddle, and pistols, and robbed him of all his money, and otherwise insulted and abused his remains.
Now, for this, I resolved to have revenge. Peteet and Gordenhire being dead, I determined to kill Turner, and to seek an early opportunity of doing it. But I kept that resolution to myself, knowing that if I did not I would be prevented. I went prepared, but never could get to see him.
On the Thursday before I killed him, I learned he was preparing to leave for Louisiana, and I determined he should not escape if I could prevent it. I arose that morning, and fixed my pistols so that they would be sure fire, and determined to hunt him all that day. Then, sitting down, I wrote a few lines; so that, if I fell, my friends might know where to look for my remains. I took my knitting, as if I were going to spend the day with a neighbor living on the road toward Turner’s. It rained very severely, making the roads muddy, so that I became fatigued, and concluded to go back and ride the next day, on Saturday. But ma rode my horse on Saturday, and left me to keep house. We had company Sunday P. M., so that I could not leave; but the company left about noon, and I started again in search of Turner. I went to his house, about two-and-a-half miles from pa’s. I found no one at home, and therefore sat down to await his return. After waiting perhaps one-and-a-half hours, a man came to see Turner, and not finding him, he said he supposed he and his wife had gone to Mrs. Christian’s, his sister-in-law, who lived about one-half mile distant.
I concluded to go there and see, fearing the man would tell him I was waiting for him, and he would escape me. I found him there, and a number of other persons, including his wife, and her father and mother. Most of them left when I entered the house. I asked Mrs. Christian if Turner was gone. She pointed to him at the gate, just leaving. I looked at the clock, and it was 4-30 o’clock, P. M. I then walked out into the yard, and, as Turner was starting, called to him to stop. He turned, and saw I was preparing to shoot him; he started to run. I fired at the distance of about twelve paces, and missed. I fired again as quick as possible, and hit him in the back of the head, and he fell on his face and knees. I fired again and hit him in the back, and he fell on his right side. I fired twice more, only one of these shots taking effect. But this time I was within five steps of him, and stood and watched him till he was dead, and then turned round and walked toward the house, and met Mrs. Christian and her sister, his wife, coming out. They asked me what I did that for. My response was, “You know what that man did the 13th of December last,–murdered a dear friend of mine. I have been determined to do this deed ever since, and I never shall regret it.” They said no more to me, but commenced hallooing and blowing a horn. I got my horse out and started home, where I shall stay or leave when I choose, going where I please, and saying what I please.
L. J. W.
Originally posted 2009-02-23 17:16:51.