View Full Version : Mystery memorial to a CSA Captain in a small British village

John Jones
08-06-2018, 10:40 AM
Dear learned friends,
I am currently doing some work on First World War memorials but came across this reference to a memorial plaque to Captain John Yates Beall of the Confederate States army (see link) who was executed in New York on February 24th 1865. The plaque is contained in a small church in the village of Ainstable in Cumbria, UK.

The colourful Civil War career of Captain Beall appears relatively well known, as noted by his Wiki entry:


The link to the Ainstable memorial is below


All research so far has drawn a blank as to why there is a memorial to him in a small Cumbrian church but as he operated on the Great Lakes area he may have had friends among the British and Canadian populations in Canada, one of whom may have returned to Ainstable and arranged for the memorial.

I would be grateful if there are any keen scholars of the war out there who may be able shed light on this little mystery.

Kind regards,
Sgt Jones

John Jones
08-06-2018, 11:35 AM
Never mind, looks like its a family connection.
I managed to do in 1 hour what the Imperial War Museum has not managed for some time. Apologies for the long read but it is interesting - the following are reports in Welsh newspapers of March 1865 and I thought I'd share.

THE LATE JOHN YATES BEALL. We learn from the Carlisle Journal that Captain Beall, who was lately executed as a spy on Governor's Island, New York, was connected with one of the best known and most highly respected families in Cumber- land. Captain Beall was, on the father's side, de- scended from the famous Highland leader, Rob Roy; on the mother's side he claimed direct descent from the great Border chieftain "Belted Will" of the Lay of the Last Minstrel." Sir Charles_Howard, of Croglin, fourth surviving son of Lord William Howard (ancestor of the Earls of Carlisle and the Howards of Corby, who trace from Sir Francis, the second son of Belted Will) married Dorothy, daughter of Sir H. Witherington, Bart. (of Northumberland). They had a daughter, and, as it would appear, an only child, named Elizabeth, who married William Orfeur, Esq., of Cumberland; their son, Charles Orfeur, wedded Jane Lamplugh, of Ribton, with whom the male line of the ancient family of Orfeur terminated; but they had three daughters, the eldest of whom, Anne, became the wife of Francis Yatee, Jbsq., and was grandmother of the late Major Aglionby, M.P. for East Cumberland, whose, great nephew, John Yates Beall's sad fate now engages public attention. When about sixteen years of age he came over to England with his grandfather, the late John Yates, Esq., and watched over his dying relative with patient and tender care in his last illness. That melancholy event occurred shortly after reaching the Nunnery, which Mr. Yates had longed again to see before he died.

The lad, who was at once sprightly and thoughtful, won upon all whom he met in the old country, was at first intended for the bar, and received a liberal education; but, owing to the death of his father, he never entered on the practice of that profession.

On the breaking out of the civil war, he warmly took up the cause of the Confederates. He served in the brigade of the late General Stonewall Jackson, to whom he was enthusiastically attached, md although ever in the thickest of the fight, for very long escaped unhurt; but his turn came at last; he sell, stricken with a fearful wound, which long disabled him. But his ardent and determined spirit could not brook inaction longer than the claims of nature positively required. For long marches the effects of the injury he had received unfitted him; therefore, on his return to Richmond he entered the Confederate States navy, and was in command on the Chesapeake Bay, when he was taken prisoner, and after a time unexpectedly exchanged. After the repulse of General Grant in front of Richmond, he moved to the Canadian frontier, to engage in maritime enterprises against the enemy.
Illustrated Usk Observer and Raglan Herald 8th April 1865

A peculiarly detailed account of the execution of Captain Beall was also reported:
THE EXECUTION OF CAPTAIN BEALL. The following account of the execution of Captain Beall is from the New York Tribune of the 25th of February the execution of the sentence of death upon John Y- Beall, the rebel spy, recently convicted by court-martial, only took place on Governor's Island yesterday, the 24th of February. Although the sentence was not to be carried into effect until between the hours of 12 and 2 o'clock p.m. the sightseers, who were so fortunate as to procure passes began to arrive in large numbers at Governor's Island at All early hour in the morning, and there was also a considerable throng, among whom were several hundred soldiers.

As we entered the cell of the prison y with Marshall Murray, a Deputy Sheriff, and we were struck by his singularly cool aspect He was sitting on a chair by a little table, which stood in the middle of the cell, with the black cap of death already upon his head. Seeing us enter, he immediately arose, and said to the Marshal “I am at jour service. You will oblige me by making this thing as short as possible." The Marshal, who had seen him frequently before, did not at first recognize him, as the black turban-like night- cap, with its long tasselled overlap, somewhat altered his appearance. He knew him to be the same, however, as soon as he spoke, and promised to comply with his request.

Captain Beall was a handsome man. About 5ft. 9:n. in height, a strong, compactly built form, light beard and moustache and yellowish hair, regular features indicative Of culture and intellectual firmness, and a clear, brilliant grey eye-these were the physical characteristics of the rebel spy- There was also a singular freedom and self-possession in his manner of movement and address. Following Marshal Murray to the door of his cell, he marched between guards, who were awaiting him, towards the designated apartment, heedless of the curious gaze of the knots of loungers who had gathered to witness the scene.
The gallows was erected on a pleasant little knoll Of ground, which slopes gently to the waters of the bay on the extremity of the Narrows." The structure itself was simple enough. There was no drop, but a chair was placed directly under the rope, which ran through an apeture and along a groove or series of pulleys in the beam above, the other end falling into a rude box or shanty, where it had connexion with a heavy weight, on which the severing of a subordinate line would bring the noose up with a swift jerk to the top of the gallows tree.

Up and down in the interior of the inclosure containing the weight, paced the man whose business it was to cut the short line at the signal, and by the action of the falling weight run up the outer cord with its dangling burden of flesh and blood. He was in fact the hangman of the occasion, a deserter long confined on the island, but who, we understand, was extemporised into an executioner on the condition that thereafter his own sins were to be forgiven. By noon there was a large crowd collected round this spot, viewing the structure with a morbid curiosity, and several platoons of troops were marching and counter-marching around it with a full band playing at their head. Nearly all the press was represented and stood very near the scaffold.

As the fatal hour drew near the crowd of spectators came so pressing that a guard was detailed which quickly drove them back, while the troops were formed in a hollow square around the gallows to keep outsiders at a distance. Just about 1 o'clock the guard, with the prisoner and the chaplain in their midst, came filing down the slope, and the crowd respectfully opened to let them through.

The prisoner walked swiftly, and evidently without fear, his arms were pinioned by the elbows behind his back, which induced a slight forward stoop as he walked, but there was something defiant and free in his gait and bearing. There was something gracefully romantic in his attire, especially in the short dark cloak which he wore, falling theatrically down to his waist and concealing the hempen twist round his neck, and even his black cap added to this dramatic effect, being rolled up, turban-like, above his brows, baggy end falling on one side and fluttering in the fresh wind that blew in from the sea.
It is said that the prisoner entertained, almost up to the hour immediately preceding his death, confident hopes that the execution would not be carried into effect. His hopes probably vanished before he started on his last brief journey to the gallows; indeed they must have done so, on the way be looked up, gazed steadily at the sun, which was shining in a clear blue sky and pouring a flood of effulgence over his pathway to the grave, and said to the chap- lain, "How beautiful the sunlight is. I never knew what its splendour was till now, when I look upon It for the last time."

Arriving at the gallows, the prisoner threw a quick, curious glance upward, as though he had never seen the structure before, and quietly stepped forward under the rope, which the adjutant proceeded to read the various findings of Court, the order accompanying it, and the death sentence- While this was going on the quiet, almost cheerful courage of the prisoner won the respect of all who saw him. His demeanour was, however, anything but that of a bravo; evinced a pure moral courage an intellectual contempt for death.

His face was pale, but not sorrowful, and frequent smiles played across his lips as he listened to the reading the different specifications of which he had been found guilty and for which he was there to meet his death. Especially at the reading of that specification respecting the Lake piracy, where he had placed the Innocent passengers of the captured steamer under durance by force of arms, he laughed, as if the reading recalled some incident which had once particularly amused him. In all this carelessness however, there was only contempt and hardihood – nothing like contrition for the crimes which he had attempted, nothing like a conviction of the fanaticism or spirit of vengeance which had impelled him.

Immediately after the reading of the sentence the Prisoner, stood up, and the noose round his neck was fastened to the suspended cord above, leaving a slack of about two feet. He faced the sea. On his right stood Marshal Murray, Major Cogswell, and another, official. On his left stood the chaplain who produced a copy of the Episcopal Liturgy, and read commendatory prayer therefrom in solemn tones, the prisoner bending his head reverently, and evidently listened with profound attention. At the conclusion of this ceremony the Deputy-Marshal approached the prisoner, adjusted the rope and asked him if he had anything to say. The prisoner replied, "Yes I protest against the execution of this sentence. It is absolute murder - brutal murder! I die in the defence and service of my country."

Before the cap was drawn over his eyes, on being asked if he wished to say anything further, he said, "No; I beg you to make haste!" His last words, addressed to the hangman's assistant, were - " Give my body to my brother-in-law, be quick about it." The signal was then given, the weight was heard to fall, the rope was seen to spring high up, and John Y. Beall was In eternity, for his neck was immediately broken, and he probably died in a second. There was a slight convulsion of the legs and all motion ceased. The execution took place at 14 minutes past 1 o'clock precisely. The body was suffered to hang just 20 minutes. It was then cut down, and upon examination the surgeon in attendance pronounced life extinct. It was then placed in the coffin awaiting it and borne away, when the crowd dispersed.

Although there was a natural feeling of commiseration for the youth and respect for the valorous bearing of the prisoner among the spectators, the general and profounder sentiment was that he richly deserved the death he received. A few days before his death the prisoner wrote a sketch of his life, and during the early morning preceding his execution at his own request had a photographic likeness of himself [The one on his Wiki page].
Aberdare Times 18th March 1865

A sad and poignant look into a troubled time.

08-06-2018, 11:54 AM
Yes, i searched a little bit and found some family connections.

As seen here: https://www.geni.com/people/George-Beall/6000000031482110964 , his father married Janet Beall, wich was a daughter of John Yates a cumbrian see here: https://www.geni.com/people/John-Yates/6000000041770379465 . The Mother was a woman from Virgina, see here: https://www.geni.com/people/Julia-Yates/6000000041770824840. So we can certainly say theres a family connection to cumbria.

Also it seems his family from England has a connection to Virginia, predating the revolution.

08-09-2018, 12:48 AM
Very neat, thanks for sharing.