From the Richmond Dispatch, 6/11/1863, p. 1, c. 5
EXAMINATION OF ROBERT S. FORDE.
Charged with the Murder of Robert E Dixon.
[REPORTED FOR THE RICHMOND DISPATCH.]
Hustings Court, June 10, 1863. – Present: Recorder Caskie, Aldermen Sanxay, Gwathmey, Timberlake, and Jones.
The examination of the witnesses in the case of Robert S. Forde for the shooting of Robert E. Dixon was resumed.
Geo. W. Thomas deposed: Was coming out of the Treasury Department, and was attracted by the report of a pistol; ran out upon the pavement; saw Forde fire; Dixon was not in view from where he stood; did not see the first fire, but heard it, ran up as fast as he could; Dixon was then staggering on the pavement and fell, whilst drawing a Derringer; then went across the street to where Forde was standing; some one came up and told Forde to get away; he said he would not leave, and surrendered to witness, who stand with him until Constable Freeman came up and took him off.
Cross-examined.--Could not distinguish whether the first fire was a double shot or reverberation from single shot; after that the shots seemed to alternate from one side of the street to the other. The second shots were nearly together; thought he heard seven shots and one soap; could not be positive; if the first sound was a single shot there must have been seven; if double, there was, be thought, eight; was the first one to approach Forde after the shooting, except one, a gentleman who advised him to escape; Forde’s reply to this gentleman was, “I am not going anywhere,” and surrendered to witness with the remark that he would go with any one, and was willing to surrender to any one; returned to where Dixon’s body was lying; heard Cardozo remark, “he has been after him all the morning, and I tried to keep him in my room, but could not.” When he first saw Forde he was standing about seven feet from the curb, on Bank street, in the act of stepping back to the pavement, firing as he went; when Dixon fell, Forde was in the act of putting his pistol up; Dixon started towards Forde with a menacing look, and fell after he had taken the second step.
Geo. G. Vest appeared, and was asked by the Court why he was absent yesterday, and after his excuse was given he was informed by the Court that a fine of $20 would be imposed upon him.
The witness replied that he cared nothing for the $20, but would test the right of this Court to impose a fine upon him.
Witness then deposed: Had two interviews with Dixon previous to the shooting. Deceased told him that he expected to have a difficulty with Forde; that he had been detained here in Richmond some two weeks after the adjournment of the last session of Congress righting up errors in the journal caused by Forde’s negligence; that he had that morning discharged him; did not mean to take him back; Dixon also made some remark to the effect that he did not believe Forde had ever liked him since he said to him one day, “Forde, it is very strange that as handsome a woman as your wife should ever have married you;” deceased said Forde’s face flushed up, and he afterwards demanded an explanation; had a subsequent interview with Dixon, who was somewhat excited, and told him he had received a letter from Forde; showed witness a knife and pistol; on parting deceased seemed to be somewhat affected, and witness thought his eyes seemed to be a little moist; Dixon said to witness. “God knows I want no difficulty with Forde, but shall not seek or avoid him;” he said Dixon then told him he would reinstate Forde but for the letter; witness told Dixon that while that letter remained he could not well reinstate the accused; had several conversations with Gen. Reed about the difficulty, and a day or two before the shooting went with Gen. R to hunt Forde, who could not be found; the last interview with Dixon was at the Capitol the night before the shooting.
Mr. Fiquet deposed: Was sitting by window in third story of Post-Office Department; heard a report which he at thought or a shot gun; soon after heard the report of a pistol; throw up the window and saw a man standing near the curb on Bank street; heard a shot from the opposite side of the street; then saw Dixon; the man on the north side of the street seemed unusually cool under the circumstances; he ran down to where the shooting was going on; Dixon fell before he reached the spot; there was a man in the crowd moving to and fro, apparently much excited, and he thought at the time that he was perhaps the party who had shot Dixon.
Cross examination commenced, when witness was about to detail what was said to him by Goodrich on the ground.
Goodrich was then called, and in reply to a question, stated that he had no recollection of making any remarks at the time.
Fiquet resumed: Goodrich was in the crowd; witness asked Goodrich if he saw the firing; Goodrich said he did; witness asked who fire first, to which Goodrich replied, “it is impossible to tell; I saw Dixon’s pistol first, and I judge he fired first.” To be sure that he was right, witness again asked Goodrich who fired the first shot, when he repeated what has already been stated. This could not have been more than twenty minutes after the occurrence, and near the spot where Dixon fell; one or two other gentlemen were in the crowd, among them Mr. Richardson; was satisfied that Goodrich told him that he first saw Dixon’s pistol and his impression was that Dixon fired first; first report witness heard was so loud he supposed it was a shot gun; it might have been simultaneous pistol fire; there was a clear distinction between the sounds of the first and second fires; saw smoke twice from the side of the street on which Dixon was standing.
Wash Goodrich, excitedly.--I wish to make a statement. I wish to tell this witness if he says I told him I saw Dixon’s pistol first he says what is not so; he tells a lie.
The Court told Goodrich to stand aside.
Mr. Crump asked the Court if any one was to be allowed to come into this Court and intimidate witnesses? If such an act of indecency, indignity and outrage is to be tolerated, let it be known. He trusted in God that there was not a Court in the Commonwealth that would pass by such an offence in silence.
The Court mildly reprimanded Mr. Goodrich, and cautioned him not to do so again.
Mr. Randolph, in a rather excited manner, said that if witnesses were to be bullied by Baltimore Plug Uglies he hoped they would arm themselves, and if the Court failed to give them protection that they would defend themselves with their own right arms.
The Court required the counsel to take his seat.
Mr. Randolph preferred to stand up.
After some further interruption the business of the Court was resumed.
--Richardson, deposed: On the morning of the shooting was sitting in one of the rooms of the Treasury Department; owing to defective hearing did not hear any firing; reached the window in time to see Dixon fall; heard Goodrich tell Fiquet “that it was impossible to tell who fired first.” Witness then asked Goodrich what was his impression with reference to the firing, when the reply was “I saw Dixon’s pistol first, and as a matter of course I think he fired the first shot, but cannot say positively.”
I. K Chase, deposed: Heard Goodrich say, in a crowd in front of the Treasury building, that he could not tell who fired the first shot; Goodrich repeated it twice; his statement was substantially that detailed by Mr. Fiquet in his testimony.
B. F. Ficklin, deposed: Was passing Treasury building after the shooting, and saw a crowd standing on the steps; saw a man in the crowd whom he since recognized as Goodrich; in reply to a question as to who fired first, Goodrich said he could not tell who fired first; that Dixon aimed first, but his pistol snapped; that he thought Forde’s pistol was the first to go off.
J. G. Moss, deposed: Saw Forde at the House of Representatives on the day Dixon was shot; he came to the House and asked for Gen. Reed; witness looked for Gen. R., but he was not in the hall at the time; Forde went off, and about an hour after he learned that Dixon was shot; the day previous Forde came to the door of the hall and handed him a letter addressed to Dixon, which witness handed to him; heard Forde found Gen. Reed in the building, but knew nothing of what passed between them; knew nothing of the contents of the letter handed him; could not recollect at what hour the letter was handed him.
--Warrington deposed: Was passing up Bank street towards the War Department; had reached the Treasury building; heard the firing; could fired the first shot; the firing was rapid, except the last shot of Forde, which was a deliberate one, and, in the judgment of witness, the one which took of feet upon Dixon; the first report was prolonged, and be at first thought it was the fire of a musket; saw Forde fire four times and Dixon twice; he went over to Forde and said to him, “My God, Mr. Forde, what does this mean? You have shot that gentleman, and I am afraid you have killed him.” Forde replied, “I am sorry for it; I had a difficulty with that gentleman, and it is now settled, and added, “I am ready to surrender.” Witness thought Forde was the coolest man he had ever witnessed under the circumstances, and witness thought him the bravest man he ever saw.
Cross-examined.--The first report was not at all similar to those subsequent, as before remarked, it sounded more like the report of a musket; could not hear the snapping of a pistol; there was an uncertainty in Dixon’s movements; be moved about on the sidewalk, as if dodging or trying to get out of the way; Forde was standing still.
Col. Johnson deposed: Was in the room occupied by the President in Treasury building; heard the firing, which was rapid; went to the window; could see nothing; had heard four shots; in a short time saw Forde, who had a pistol in his hand, moving it as if following the movement of some one, but from his apparent coolness did not think he was principal in the shooting affray; he did not fire, and put up his pistol; some one came in and said Dixon was killed.
Cross-examined.--When he first heard firing it did not occur to him that there was any difficulty; when be heard fourth shot he was satisfied that an affray was going on; had known Forde slightly for about ten years; had served with him in the army; witness was Major of the 2d Kentucky regiment, and accused was a Lieutenant of the same regiment; thought he was a quiet, peaceable man; was popular at home, and was regarded as a young man of more than ordinary intelligence; was a member of the Secession Convention of Kentucky, and a member of Gov. McGoffin’s staff; was a practising lawyer, and at one time edited a newspaper; on one occasion witness was sent on an important military service, and selected Forde on account of his high opinion of him as a brave man and disciplinarian.
Maj. Magruder deposed: Knew the accused, who was his kinsman; he was a young man who stood well in the estimation of every one; was regarded as a quiet and peaceable man; rather amiable and gentle in his disposition; knew him in Washington city, where he held a clerkship, to which he was appointed by Mr. Guthrie, who selected accused on account of his personal knowledge of his qualifications as a clerk.
Alex. K. Marshall deposed: Knew Forde in Washington city, where witness boarded at the same house with him for two successive winters; his standing was as good as that of any man, and witness regarded him as quite a promising young man; believed him to be a brave, spirited man, but quiet and even gentle in his disposition.
Mr. Abbott deposed: Knew Forde in Washington, where he sustained a high character as a clerk and a gentleman; always believed him a man of quiet, peaceable habits, and not disposed to seek a quarrel with any one.
Mr. Cary deposed: Was at one time a member of the Kentucky Legislature, and Forde was at the same time Assistant Clerk of the body; he was regarded as a faithful and efficient officer; witness was not very intimate with Forde, but knew that he stood high with his party, and enjoyed its confidence; was an earnest Secessionist, and in the canvass of 1860 took an active part in polities.
Mr. Clarke bore testimony to the character of Forde, and knew him to be high-minded and honorable. Other witnesses bore similar testimony.
Dr. Beasley deposed: Was acquainted with Forde; had known him since 1858; witness resided in the same county with Judge Churchill, who was married to Forde’s mother; accused visited the family of witness; Forde’s standing at home was very high, and as a young lawyer had a fine practice; as a politician the accused took an active part, and was on in 1860 knew that Forde had sacrificed as comfortable home as any man in Kentucky on account of his Southern-rights views; his mother had all the time been a warm secession lady, and witness had felt some anxiety about her, knowing that her husband was a strong Union man.
The counsel for the accused applied to the Court for permission to introduce the sworn testimony of Gen. Reed before the Coroner’s jury, but the Court refused to admit the introduction of the testimony.
A motion was then made by counsel for the accused to introduce, as testimony, the depositions taken at the Coroner’s inquest; but the motion was overruled by the Court. Counsel then moved to postpone further proceedings on the ground that one of the sitting magistrates acted as coroner at the inquest. This motion was also overruled by the Court.
The Court then, at 3¼ o’clock, took a recess till half-past 4.
At 4½ o’clock the Court again convened, and the motion of prisoner’s counsel to offer in testimony the depositions at the coroner’s inquest allowed to be put upon record.
Counsel for accused then asked time to review the evidence, which was granted, and the Court adjourned till 10 o’clock this morning, when the arguments in the case will be commenced.