From our California Correspondent.
San Francisco, June 4th, 1856.
The 22d of May 1856 - the day after the date of my last letter, will be forever set apart and remembered through future ages by the residents of this State, and of San Francisco particularly, as a day ripe with impressive scenes, of sad and thrilling interest. On that day this great city - the "Queen of the Pacific," was in mourning for the loss of one of her worthiest and best beloved sons. The houses were all draped in mourning, the flags were displayed at half mast, while the solemn tones of the tolling bells pealed forth the funeral knell of James King, of William, he whose many social virtues had endeared him to the hearts of the people. Mournfully and silently the long pageant wound through the crowded streets as they followed him to his last resting place, and even as they passed, the body of his murderer - Casey - hung suspended from the gallows, side by side with Charles Cora, executed by the hands of a justly indignant populace. Three thousand of the Vigilance Committee were in the streets and on the roofs of the buildings near the Committee rooms, with gleaming muskets and bristling bayonets. In the midst of all this, the steamer Golden Age arrived from Panama, bringing the news of the late horrible railroad accident on the Isthmus. What must those passengers, just arriving here, have thought of the land of promise to which they had come. It was certainly rather of a hard introduction to California.
After services at the Unitarian church on Stockton street, the coffin was brought out by the Masons, of which Order the deceased was a member, and placed in the hearse. The procession then formed, passed down Washington St., to Montgomery, along Montgomery to Bush street, and up and out on Bush street to Lone Mountain Cemetery. The procession was about two miles in length, the longest ever before known in San Francisco.
First in order came the different Lodges of the Masonic Fraternity. They were dressed in black, with the usual aprons and regalia, with crape on their arms and badges on their breasts. Next came carriages bearing the officiating Ministers and others, and then the hearse, decorated with black and white plumes, and drawn by four splendid white horses in black nettings and plumes on their heads. The coffin was a plain one and it was covered with wreaths of flowers. Five pall bearers walked on each side. Next came a line of carriages containing the bereaved family of the deceased, and the nearest relations and friends. After the carriages came those connected with the editorial publication office and composing rooms of the Evening Bulletin, on foot, after which came the California Pioneers with badges on their breasts and crape on their arms. These were followed by a brass band from Sacramento, who bore their instruments in silence. The family of the deceased had expressed a wish that all display and ostentation should be avoided as much as possible, therefore the procession passed along in silence and the large number of musicians who were in the procession bore their instruments shrouded in crape. Next came the Pioneer Association from Sacramento, followed by the Sacramento Guards in full uniform preceded by mute drum and fife. The numerous fire companies of the city came next with their splendid banners and badges, after which followed a large body of the Musicians of the city. Then came the St. Mary's Library Association, followed by forty-two carriages containing citizens and their families. A cavalcade of five hundred horsemen came next. These were the teamsters and watermen of the city, and being nearly all large strong men, they formed quite an imposing feature in the procession. Next came the Riggers and Stevedores, the San Francisco Turn Verein, the San Francisco Harmony Association and several other civil societies and associations on foot, and the procession closed with forty carriages of citizens. At the Cemetery the coffin was placed in the receiving vault, after which the impressive and sublime burial service of the Masonic Brotherhood was read by A. G. Abell, R. W. Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of California. The Masonic prayer was offered by the Rev. Mr. Lacy and the farewell pronounced by the Grand Secretary. A benediction was then uttered by Rev. Mr. Lacy and the procession returned to the city.
The two prisoners, Casey and Cora, had been tried before the Vigilance Committee, and sentenced to be hung on that day, and preparations were accordingly made during the forenoon. Beams were run over two of the second story windows of the Committee rooms and beneath them were platforms, about three feet square, extending out from the window sills, and turning on hinges like table leaves, the outer ends being supported by ropes leading up to the beams. The prisoners had been brought up in the Catholic faith, and accordingly the Rev. Father Gallagher and Bishop Allemany were with them during the previous night and in their last moments. Ten thousand people crowded the streets and occupied the windows and roofs of the adjacent houses from where a view could be had of the execution, but the streets for a hundred feet or more around in the immediate vicinity were occupied by the Vigilance Committee, who kept the immense crowds of the people back and preserved entire order.
At quarter past one the prisoners were brought out on the platforms. Their arms and legs were pinioned and both wore white caps intended to be drawn over their eyes before the drop fell. When they appeared the entire multitude of the people stood uncovered. Cora bore himself erect and unmoved, but Casey, with a haggard and agitated look, after a short pause, thus addressed the assembled multitude, commencing in a loud and clear voice, as follows: -
"Gentlemen, Fellow Citizens - I am not guilty of any crime. When I am dead, when I am laid in my grave, let no one dare traduce my character or asperse my memory. Let no man exult over me or point to my grave as that of an assassin. I am guilty of no crime. I only acted as I was taught - According to my early education - to avenge an insult. Let not the Alta, the Chronicle and the Globe persecute my memory; let them no more proclaim me a murderer to the world. Let them not insult me after death. I have an aged mother in the Atlantic States and I hope she may never hear how I died. I trust she will never know that I am executed on a charge of murder. I am not guilty of any such crime."
Here, Father Gallagher touched Casey and said, "Pray to God to pardon you for your crime; pray God to save your soul."
Casey after hesitating a moment spoke again:
"Oh! God, pardon and forgive me. Oh my mother! I hope she will never hear of this. Oh, God! have mercy on my mother; comfort her in her affliction. Oh! God! have mercy on my soul! Oh my God! my God! I am not guilty of murder - I did not intend to commit murder."
Here his voice rather failed him, and indistinctly speaking of his mother, he drew back. As he did so, the fatal noose was adjusted and the caps were drawn over the faces of the prisoners. At this Casey weakened in the knees, so that he had to be held up until, at given signal, the platforms fell, and in an instant, the bodies falling a distance of about five feet, the souls of James P. Casey and Charles Cora, were launched into eternity.
After remaining suspended fifty minutes - during which time not a shout was heard or the least confusion manifested among the thousands who were assembled - the bodies were let down, and given in charge of the City Coroner, who took them to his office. The body of Casey was afterwards delivered into the hands of Engine Company No. 10, of which he was once the foreman, and they buried him. The body of Cora was given to Belle Cora, his former mistress, but now his widow, as he had married her about an hour previous to his execution, and by her he was buried. Thus ended the first act of the Grand Drama.
On the following day - Friday - the long suspended business of the city was resumed; the stores were re-opened and all classes applied themselves to their usual avocations. The Vigilance Committee still continued their sessions, and have done so up to the present time, retaining from two to three hundred of their number about their rooms, on guard, except on two or three occasions when more were called out. From time to time they have arrested and confined to their Rooms one suspicious and notorious character after another, who have been implicated in sundry nefarious transactions in the way of election frauds and ballot-box stuffing, as well as other crimes. Those arrested by the Committee thus far, are Billy Mulligan, Martin Gallagher, James Carr, Yankee Sullivan, Woolly Kearney, Edward Bulger, and lastly, Charles P. Duane, the former Chief Engineer of the Fire Department here.
Considerable excitement was created again, throughout the city on Saturday, the last day of May, by the announcement that Yankee Sullivan had committed suicide in his cell at the Committee Rooms, where he was confined. Rumor was busy with her thousand tongues, and the friends of Sullivan and enemies of the Vigilance Committee seemed to be impressed with the idea that the Committee had murdered him. The Executive Committee, however, at once caused to be published an account of his death and all the circumstances relating to it.
It seems that at 5 1-2 o'clock in the morning he called to the guard who stood just outside the door of his cell and asked for a glass of water, which was brought to him. He said he had had a most horrible dream and proceeded to relate it. He dreamed that he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hung. Then he heard the tramp of the soldiers leading him out to execution, then he felt the rope about his neck, and the next instant the fatal drop fell, and while hanging, he woke up, and called for a glass of water.
The guard laughed at him and assured him he need fear no such result, as the Committee were only going to send him away out of the country. Notwithstanding the guard tried to re-assure him and cheer him up as much as possible, he seemed to be very much depressed in his mind. He was left to himself again, and at 8 1-2 o'clock, when his breakfast was brought to him, he was found dead and cold.
Physicians were summoned at once, but they found that the spark of life had fled and were of opinion that he had been dead for some time. He was lying upon his bed and the knife with which he had committed the deed was lying by his side. It was a common case-knife which he had used in eating his food. It was very dull, but with it he had managed to cut into the fleshy part of his left arm, just above the elbow, laying open a horrid wound and completely severing two large arteries, which doubtless produced speedy death.
He had been tried by the Vigilance Committee and sentenced to be sent out of the country, but nevertheless he seemed to think they would hang him yet. He had made a full and unreserved confession of his numerous crimes and rowdyisms, and his confession is published in the papers, but the names of those implicated by it are suppressed for reasons best known to the Vigilance Committee. He was very penitent and expressed a determination to reform, if liberated, give up fighting and drink no more liquor. He begged them not to send him to Sydney, as he was once a convict there and had escaped. He seemed destitute of all moral courage whatever. He appeared completely cowed down and conscious-stricken and probably, if he had lived, he would have reformed and become a better man.
His real name was Francis Murray. He was born in Ireland, was thirty seven years of age, and leaves a wife and child in the city. The Coroner took charge of the body and afterwards delivered it to Mrs. Sullivan. While at the Coroner's office, upwards of ten thousand persons visited the body, to get a sight at the remains of this widely known individual.
On Friday last, at 1 o'clock P.M., Nicholas Graham was hung, in the yard of the County Jail, by the Sheriff for the murder of Joseph Brooks on the 18th of January last. He was a native of Ireland and about 27 years of age.
On the gallows he made a speech, which was published in the daily papers, and though short, it was the best and most impressive lecture on Temperance I ever knew of. He said his sentence was just and that he was contented to die. He said he was drunk at the time he committed the deed, and that it was entirely through the use of strong drink that he had at length come to the gallows. He most earnestly warned all who valued life and happiness in this world to abstain from the intoxicating cup. He mounted the scaffold with a firm step and seemed supported in his last moments by the consolations of religion, and the gallows appeared but a step into a brighter and happier world. His last words were, "I die a true Catholic."
At the inquest of the body of James King, of William, evidence was adduced implicating Edward McGowan and Peter Wightman, as well as Casey, in the assassination, and the Grand Jury accordingly indicted all three, but notwithstanding the strict search which has been made for them, both McGowan and Wightman made good their escape and are now fugitives from that justice which would be surely meted out to them if taken.
Casey and Cora being Catholics, and as Casey and Sullivan were Irish, as well as most of those who are now in the hands of the Committee, the ignorant lower classes of the Irish in this city are very jealous of the acts of the Committee and easily excited on the subject. Many of those holding office in the city were elected by fraud and by the ballot box operations of Casey and his accomplices. Therefore feeling rather insecure in their present positions they are endeavoring to get up a movement in opposition to the Vigilance Committee by exciting the Irish and the friends of those with whom the Committee have dealt so summarily.
They called a mass meeting on the Plaza a day or two ago, but although there were a great many people gathered together there, such a row and fuss was raised that nobody could be much listened to and the meeting fairly "fizzled out," and amounted to just nothing at all.
The Committee have made additional preparations at their headquarters, in case of emergency. They have now thirteen cannon mounted and ready. The tocsin, to be sounded in cases of emergency, is a large triangle, weighing one hundred pounds, placed upon the roof of the building, and ten thousand men are ready to shoulder their muskets at the first sound of the alarm.
Governor Johnson, during the trying scenes of the past fortnight, has been extremely busy at Sacramento, and could not find time to attend to things in this locality, but now finding he must "keep it before the people" that he is the duly elected Governor of this state, he yesterday issued a proclamation to the citizens of this County containing many "whereas-es" and declaring the "aforesaid county of San Francisco, to be in a state of insurrection," proclaiming martial law, and ordering and directing all of the Volunteer Militia of the county, also all persons between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, subject to military duty within the county, to report themselves for duty immediately to Major General William T. Sherman, and to do military duty and serve as long as General Sherman wants them. He also orders the Vigilance Committee to disband their forces immediately and disperse. General Sherman also, having received his general orders from the Governor, has a word to say to the people. He says he has nothing to do with what has been done within the past two or three weeks, but must in future do what his duty plainly points out to him; so taking all things into consideration there would seem to be a very fair prospect of a civil war here soon. However, we can tell rather better about it by the end of the next fortnight. Until then,
Adios, BEN BOLT.