From the Richmond Dispatch, 4/29/1863, p. 1, c. 6
The Recent Homicide. – The preliminary examination of Robert S. Forde, for shooting and killing Robert E. Dixon, Clerk of the Confederate States House of Representatives, on Friday last, was appointed to take place before the Mayor at the City Hall yesterday. When the case was called, all the witnesses on both sides not being present, it was continued by consent till Saturday, May 2d. In the examination of witnesses before the Coroner’s jury, mention was made of a letter written by the prisoner to deceased, containing threats. As this letter preceded the tragedy on Bank street, and explains the motive actuating the prisoner, we insert a copy of it:
Richmond, April 23, 1863.
ROBERT E. DIXON, Clerk House of Representatives:
While you were a candidate for your present position as Clerk you entered into a verbal contract with me, to which Mr. Dill and the Hon. H. R. Read are witnesses, that if I would procure certain votes for you from the State of Kentucky you would appoint me as one of your assistants. At my solicitation, several members from Kentucky voted for you; you were elected, and, according to promise, I was appointed to act as your Journal Clerk.
Since my appointment I have performed the heaviest part of the work in your office. I will assert that I have done twice the amount of labor of any of the clerks in your employ. Since the House commenced its night sessions, you have required my constant attendance, both day and night in the House, thereby allowing me only the few hours before the meeting of the House in the morning to get up the Journals, (unless I should sit up nearly the whole night, which, of course, after the heavy duties of the actual session of the House, from 11 o’clock A. M. until 10 at night, I was unable to do.)
I will state to you, that since these night sessions have been held I have been constantly at work in your office, from seven o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night. During the last ten days I have more than once appealed to you for assistance, stating to you that the work of writing up the Journal was becoming too great for one man to do, unless you would relieve me from attendance in the House at night, and give me an opportunity to write up the Journal for the next day. These requests you half-way promised to comply with; but you failed to render me the assistance desired, although a resolution had passed the House authorizing you to employ temporary assistance. Your engrossing clerk, although not working except during the sessions of the House, you allowed two assistants; and you yourself divide the labors of reading clerk with Mr. Lamer. Of me you exacted the full performance of the duties of Journal Clerk unsided, and regardless of the accumulating work occasioned by the rapid reports of committees.
Although I am a rapid penman yet I clearly foresaw that the first day that an extra amount of work should be done by the House it would be impossible for me to get the Journal ready in time; that exigency occurred yesterday, and you promptly and abruptly discharged me from your employment.
Under ordinary circumstances, I should not protest, perhaps, against such action, but I am cut off from home, friends, and resources; I have a young wife, in delicate health, dependent entirely upon me for support; and in view of the fact that I assert, and can maintain by proof, the fact that I have performed the most arduous duties in your office faithfully and well; and in view also of the circumstances under which I was appointed, I should be false to myself and recusant to my duties to those who are dearer to me than life, if I quietly submitted to such palpable injustice.
I therefore address you this communication with the hope that it is not yet too late for you to reconsider your action of yesterday, and redress an unprovoked wrong. Should such fail to be the case, I can only notify you to be prepared for a settlement of the matter as soon as we shall meet.
ROBERT S. FORDE.
P. S. – Any communication that you might possibly desire to make can be sent to me up to five o’clock this evening at Starke’s Bookstore, Main street.
R. S. F.