Armed guard over sees hanging corpse on a scaffold
Original Author: Timothy H. O'Sullivan
Created: June 1864
Medium: Albumen print, one-half of stereograph

Public Execution of a U.S. Colored Troops Soldier

An armed guard and other members of the U.S. Colored Troops look on at the deceased body of William Johnson of the 23rd Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops, a federal soldier executed by hanging in June 1864 near Petersburg. The soldier's arms and legs had been bound before his execution. This is one half of a stereograph—a double image on a card that, when viewed through a stereoscope, appears to be three-dimensional. This view was sold commercially in the North as part of a photographic series called "The War for the Union: Photographic History." This image was doubtless chosen for its sensational appeal—and also perhaps as a warning to Blacks serving in the Union army. As the following caption indicates, this soldier accused of rape was made a public example, not only to federal troops but to Confederate forces nearby. Both armies viewed the execution, as described in this caption:

Execution of a Colored Soldier. In the month of June, 1864, a colored soldier in the Union army in front of Petersburg, attempted to commit a rape on a white woman whose house chanced to be within our lines; the woman's husband was absent from home, serving in he Rebel army. This colored soldier, named Johnson, was caught, tried by Court-martial, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged. A request was made of the Rebels, under a flag of truce, that we might be permitted to hang Johnson in plain sight of both armies, between the lines. The request was granted, and this is a photograph of him hanging where both armies can plainly see him."
E. & H. T. Anthony & Company, a "stereoscopic emporium" in New York City, published this gruesome image in 1864.