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Author Topic: The Execution of Anna Marie O'Donnel  (Read 1257 times)

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The Execution of Anna Marie O'Donnel
« on: March 25, 2009, 04:58:58 AM »
The Execution of Anna Marie O'Donnel

It was Anna Marie O'Donnel’s eighteenth birthday when the home guard arrived at the doorstep of her Charleston South Carolina home to announce that she was under arrest for treason. The fear that filled her must have manifested itself on her young face, but she tried not to allow it to control her reaction to the arrest. She accompanied the home guard calmly as she was placed in Irons and led to the city jail, where she was placed in a holding cell and forced to wait. Her parents were shocked when the home-guard read the charges to her.

“Anna Marie O'Donnel,” said the long-bearded grey-uniformed man as he stood angrily at their door. “You’re under arrest for treason against the confederacy.”

She said nothing, but when her parents protested, the man simply stated:

“We know she’s been spying on our boys’ cannons and sendin word to the Yankees, we just don’t know whose been takin her messages to em.”

“Nobody,” she quickly said. “I was working alone!”

Her parents suddenly fell into a shocked silence.

“So you admit to yer charges?” the Home Guardsman asked.

“Yes,” she replied with a slight shake in her voice.

The Home Guardsman smiled: “Well then, yer trial will certainly be short then wont it?”

Anna Marie was medium height, with long, straight, light-brown hair and relatively light skin. She was not, by any means, fat, in fact she was rather thin for her size, but she was a large girl for her age. She had been snooping around the rebel artillery positions and munitions dumps near the city’s harbor since the war began almost three years ago and sending her observations via rider to the Federal forces landing on the South Carolina Coast. It was only a matter of time, she figured, before she was caught and executed, but she simply had to make her observations and send them to the Federals, she simply had to. It was a matter of ideology for her, an ideology she was introduced to via the transcendentalist friends she and her parents associated with before the war.

Her parents taught her that slavery was simply immoral and must be opposed. There was no questioning this opinion, and it didn’t matter to her that so many of her neighbors thought of it as the “life blood of the south,” it was simply immoral and had to be opposed. Her parents would not have approved her specific actions though, while they wrote for an underground newspaper which spread secretly amongst Charleston’s more liberal residents, she—without their knowledge—engaged in actual acts of espionage.

The Federal Navy had blockaded Charleston Harbor for the past three years, occasionally trading shots with the artillery positions along the city’s harbor. Their knowledge of the exact positions of most of the said artillery positions was fed by a network of Union-Sympathizing spies which managed to smuggle coordinates to the invading Federal forces which had already landed just south of the city. It was the Union Army’s dream to capture the city, but in order to do this they would have to first eliminate most of the city’s defenses as well as the forts which protect the coast leading up to the harbor. In order to make amphibious and land-based assaults on said forts, they would need to know the exact positions of every artillery piece stationed within the forts and long the coast. The Sand-dunes and the marshes along the coast often made it difficult to spot these artillery pieces and so the Federals relied on any information passed to them from helpful sources like Anna Marie and her group of friends.

On the walk to the jail, across the way from the courthouse, Anna Marie spotted John Wendell, the young man whose h0rsemanship actually managed to get her written observations to the Federal Army. She gave him a significant look as she passed him in irons, escorted by the grey-uniformed members of the home-guard, but the two did not speak.

John was just under a year younger than Anna Marie, and to say that she fancied him was an understatement. John Wendell had occupied Anna Marie’s dreams since they had met and played together at the various transcendentalist circle meetings between their respective parents. Anna Marie suspected that her feelings for him were shared by John, but did not have the courage to share her feelings with him. John’s look was clearly Irish; his red hair and freckles easily gave that away but like Anna Marie, he was German. In fact the two’s respective sets of parents were born in the same town in East Prussia, and only by coincidence both ended up in Charleston.
When she arrived at the jail, she was led into one of the few cells which were built into a short, dark corridor whose only light came through the small, barred windows of the cells. After entering the small cell, she sat down upon the only bed therein and waited with only her thoughts to keep her company.

“It is not only a matter of time,” she thought. “I’ve admitted to them what I was doing, and it’s only a matter of time.”

There was no debate over the matter of how to deal with traitors and spies, they were to be made and example of. Over the course of the past three years she had watched many of these examples made publicly. The prisoner was given a short, public trial, and then led out the next day to a simple gallows erected in the central town square, made to stand on a stool with a noose around their neck and hanged. They usually gave a long, [email protected] struggle before meeting their deaths and she did not relish this, but she realized that she didn’t really have much of a choice at this point.
She didn’t have any support from the populace who relished seeing spies and traitors hung, taking some kind of twisted pleasure from the proceedings of watching a condemned man or woman dance from the noose. The eyes of the Guardsman, the Police Officers, and everyone she had met since her arrest had tried, convicted, and sentenced her with their unrelenting hatred. She hadn’t a friend in the world, she was to hang and that was that.
Her only regret was not being able to fulfill her one life’s ambition: having c h i l dren. Transcendentalist women usually became writers or artists in defiance of traditional gender roles, but she embraced this role and looked forward to it with great anticipation. It was with a slight twinge of guilt though, that she not only looked forward to having c h i l dren, though, but to the act by which they were procured. She dreamt nightly about being known by a man; a strong, smooth skinned man taking her into his powerful embrace, and entering her with his manhood. The mere thought of this excited her, and there was only one man with whom she saw her self making love. Now she would never experience this closeness with him, or with anyone, she would die a virgin, never knowing the touch and love of a man. She almost regretted this more than not having c h i l dren.

It was these thoughts that occupied her mind in the days leading up to her trial. Since she was being tried by a military tribunal, she was not to be given the benefit of council; she would have to prepare a defense of her own, something which she did not care to do. She almost ignored the frequent visits from her parents, barely even paying attention to what they said to her.

“Are they treating you well?” they would ask, their voices shaking, their eyes beginning to fill with tears.

“Yes,” she would say dreamily as if she found the conversation boring and was off in the world of her thoughts. “I suppose.”

“You’re brother’s starting school next month,” they would continue, struggling for something to say. “We almost had to exhaust our family savings to send him, seeing as how few teachers would take a member of a family with our political views.”

“I see.”

“You know you really should be preparing some kind of defense.”

“I know.”

“If the tribunal finds you guilty they’ll…” they would pause, not wanting to admit it to themselves.

“I know,” she would say somewhat reassuringly. “Don’t worry, everything will be alright.”

As she had thought it wouldn’t be though, it was not alright. The trial was fast and had the air of a mere public formality. The people in attendance all gave her odd smiles of pleasure at the coming execution. She merely looked away from them. The fear she felt was definitely beginning to show itself as her hand began to shake. When the trial ended she was made to stand before the Military Judge, a Confederate Colonel who quickly read a verdict.

“Miss Anna Marie O'Donnel,” He began. “You have been tried and convicted of crimes against the Confederate States of America, of Treason and Espionage. Do you have anything to say before this tribunal passes sentence upon you.”

At first she opened her mouth to begin to speak, then she looked back into the audience and her eyes caught John Wendell, whose eyes were filled with tears, her head turned back around to face the judge and she shook her head.

“Very Well then, Anna Marie O'Donnel, you are hereby sentenced to be on the morrow at dawn, taken to a place of execution, and hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may God have mercy upon your everlasting soul.”

With a bang of the gavel she was placed back in irons and lead back to the jail across the square from the courthouse. During the short walk back to the jail she noticed the simple crossbeam gallows that had stood in the square since the first spy was executed almost three years prior. The soldiers were placing a sandbag tied to a makeshift noose upon a stool and releasing it to see if the gallows and the rope would hold her weight. They must have been doing this since before the trial had even ended; they had never expected to do anything but hang her.

When she was placed back in her cell, she laid down upon the single bed therein. The sun was already going down and the darkness in the corridor was getting thicker. Suddenly a door opened and in came the same guardsman who had arrested her.

“Yeh’ve got a visitor Ma’am.”

She immediately sat up, hoping to see her mother or father in the corridor for one last comforting visit, but instead she saw John Wendell entering the corridor. The Guardsman opened her cell and allowed John to enter it. He sat next to her in silence for several minutes, holding her shaking hand.

“I’m sorry,” he finally said.

“Don’t be,” she replied.

“I’m gonna tell them I was involved too.”

“That won’t help me!” she said urgently. “The Federals still need you, there are others reporting on the position of those guns.”

“I… I know,” his hand started to shake in hers. “I… I just… I can’t bare the thought of losing you.”

What little light was still shining through the small window of the cell was sparkling in his eyes; she focused her eyes on this reflection, seeing the intensity of his feelings for her.

“I should have told you this earlier, but… I love you Anna.”

Her heart leapt, for a moment she had forgotten her fear, forgotten that she was to die tomorrow. There was only him, and his love for her. They were the only two people in the world at that moment, and their small dark cell was the whole world, there was no war, no Confederacy, no Union, no home guard or gallows, only the two of them and they only existed for each other.

“I know,” she replied. “I love you too.”

“Miss Anna,” his voice was even more nervous. “I know this might be forward of me, but if this… if you weren’t gonna be… I mean, if things had been different, do you suppose we could have…”

“Could have been married?” she finished his sentence.


A tear fell down her face, reflecting the small amounts of fading sunlight in the dark cell.

“I’d like to think so,” she told him, her hand moving up to gently caress his cheek.

“Miss Anna,” his voice was extremely tense now. “May I kiss you?”

Before his mind could even give her a chance to answer the question she leaned into him, pressing her lips to his. He returned her pressure with that of his own, pressing deep into her lips with is. His hands now held her cheeks, pressing her face more deeply onto his own. Her hands rested upon his waste; this continued for several minutes more until she took one of his hands from her cheek and moved her face away from his. She gently and somewhat nervously placed his hand upon her breast, signaling her intentions quite clearly.

With one hand on her chest, John allowed the other to work its way to the back of her dress in order to undue it. Slowly, in midst of kissing eachother ever so gently, the two undressed each other. It was now dark outside but John could see Anna’s feminine form in the moonlight, her bare breasts stared right at him, yearning for him to touch them, he wanted her, and she wanted him.

As she slowly lay down upon the cell’s bed, she could see his penis erect in the moonlight. It made her vagina wet just imagining it inside of her. Her hand slowly moved to her vagina and drew circles around her vaginal opening with her pointer finger. John wasted no time joining her on the small bed, lying directly on top of her. The hand whose finger had been playing with her Vagina now took hold of John’s Penis, guiding it to her opening.

John entered her slowly; the walls of her Vagina were difficult and somewhat painful to penetrate. As his penis entered her, it sent sharp pains throughout Anna’s Pelvis at first. John then slowly began thrusting against her, and she against him. It was not what she had expected, it hurt somewhat, but it still felt good. It was not so much the sex that pleasured her as the feeling of John’s body lying against hers, wanting her intensely. She lost herself in the moment, allowing herself to submit perfectly to John’s will as his thrusts began to increase in speed and intensity until finally she could feel a warm, wet substance entering her from his penis. His embrace became more intense and his extremities began to shake. After he had fully ejaculated into her, the two rested with his penis still inside of her. His hands caressed her cheek as he looked directly into his eyes and she into his.

“If only I had a few more weeks,” she thought to herself. “I might conceive and be allowed to carry my c h i l d before they hang me.”

It was several more minutes of lying together before Anna and John got dressed and kissed each other goodnight. They didn’t speak to each other again, saying goodbye would simply have been too painful for each of them; they both wanted to leave each other with the thoughts of having gotten as close to each other as it is possible for people to get.

After John had left her cell, she lay back down upon her bed and tried unsuccessfully to sleep. Her mind went back and forth between making love to John and what was sure to be a very painful experience with the noose. While it was still dark outside the guardsman came into the corridor of cells carrying a woman’s dress with him. He tapped the bottom of the bars to her cell lightly with his feet to awaken her.

“Ma’am, are yeh awake?”


“The ladies of the city have all got together to get yeh this here dress.”

“Oh?” she replied, noticing the vanity of worrying about what she was going to where to her death.

“Yes’m, they likes folkes to be well dressed when theys hanged.” He opened the cell door and laid the dress atop the bed. “Yeh better get dressed, yeh only have an hour.”

“An hour,” she thought as she dressed herself following the departure of the guardsman. “I have arrived at my last hour of life.” She was glad that at least she was not going to die a virgin, and that she had made love to the young man whom she had loved for years, yet she still wished that she could have had his c h i l d.

Her dress was only barely nicer than the one she had been wearing. It was red with a slight floral arrangement sewn into the fabric. Unlike the Fashion of the time, the skirt itself was not huge but relatively close to her legs. What was most surprising to her was the neckline; it was low, leaving a good deal of cleavage. This was certainly not the Victorian dress that she would have imagined wearing. It seemed the “ladies” of the city wanted her to look like a prostitute when she hanged. She figured she’d oblige them, in fact, to her it was a kind of defiance.

She decided not to use the now increasing sunlight to fix her hair; this was another show of defiance before her executioner. She looked at herself in the small mirror in the cell. She thought she looked beautiful; she would go to her death a pretty young girl. She hoped to make the South Carolina beaus jealous of her as she performed her final dance for them, but there was really only one beau she would be dancing for. Although it was somewhat morbid of her, she hoped that John would take some sense of pleasure from her performance on the noose. These must be quite unusual thoughts of a woman about to be hanged, hoping that her hanging would please her beau but in honest self reflection she still had them.

After several minutes of admiring herself in the mirror a minister entered the corridor of cells. She gave a quick glance at him and then returned to staring at herself in the mirror, giving herself an ever-so-small smirk as she admired her feminine beauty.

“Is there anything I can do for you miss Anna?” He asked. Instead of sounding comforting, he sounded somewhat annoyed, as if comforting a traitor on the way to the gallows was something he only did reluctantly.

She shook her head; she wouldn’t give him or the other citizens the satisfaction of seeing her in need of comfort. Replacing the fear she had heretofore had was a since of courage and pride. She was going to her last battle as a woman who resisted the confederacy, a battle of wits, and this battle she planned to win. After another minute the guardsman entered the corridor, he approached her cell and opened the door.

“It’s time Ma’am, yeh’ve got an awfully large crowd a waitin.”

She gave a slight chuckle, “Well then, I hope they enjoy the show.”

As she left the jail she first noticed that the guardsman’s statement about the crow was true; it seemed as though all of Charleston had showed up to watch. Her eyes first looked out at the eager faces, noticing among them several smiling c h i l dren who had come to see her hang. Her eyes then caught the gallows. A noose hung from a simple cross beam atop a small scaffold which was elevated just enough above the streets to allow the large crowd to see her struggle. The noose itself dangled over a simple stool atop which she would be made to stand.

“This is going to hurt,” she thought to herself, as fear began to again rise within her. Nevertheless she swallowed her fear as she was edged forward by the Guardsman, walking upright toward the gallows. The people crowding around the gallows cleared a path for her, the minister and the guardsman to walk. A man dressed in an elegant southern suit awaited them on the scaffold. The man, though small and thin, looked ominous without a show of emotion on his face.

“This must be necessary for hangmen,” she thought as she walked forward now arriving at the gallows and lifting her dress so that she could ascend the three steps to the top of the scaffold. As she ascended the scaffold, the minister grabbed her arm as if to assist her in her ascent; assistance which she did not need as she walked up the three stares on her own power quite well.

Upon arriving at the top of the scaffold she stared up into the noose which awaited her neck. The hangman approached her and said in as unemotional a voice possible… “Ma’am, I’m afraid I’m going to have to remove your shoes.”
Anna Marie nodded as the hangman bent down in front of her and began to untie her shoes. She continued to stare into the noose that would shortly hang her. She thought that it was quite odd that an instrument so simple as a rope could so effectively end her life, and in such a painful way no less. After untying each shoe, she lifted her leg to assist the hangman in removing it.

Once she was barefoot she was made to stand on the stool and face the crowd which had gathered in front of the scaffold. The noose was now directly in front of her by only inches. The hangman took hold of her wrists and bound them together behind her with a thin piece of strong, leather cord. Knowing full well the futility of breaking loose, she still attempted to pull her wrists apart just to test the cord out of curiosity. The cord was indeed strong enough to hold her wrists in place. She then heard a small thud on the scaffolding behind her as the hangman placed another stool behind the one atop which she stood. A few more thuds signaled to her that the hangman had ascended the stool which he had placed immediately behind her. She saw a hand take hold of the noose and slowly place it around her neck.
The rope was hard and stiff. Her heart began to pound within her and sudden twinges of nervousness arose in her stomach as the hangman removed her excess hair from the noose and slid the loops down to position just under her right ear.

“Be brave Anna Marie,” she whispered to herself. “Don’t let fear overpower you now, it’s almost over.”

As she looked out into the crowd she suddenly saw her parents; her father was trying to look brave, but failing, her mother had lost all inhibitions and was crying openly and hard. The rest of the crowd seemed celebratory; she continued to scan the crowd until she found John. John, it seemed, was unsure how to look, his gaze was not nervous but it was not calm, he was not crying but he certainly didn’t look brave either. Looking right into his far off eyes, Anna Marie smiled at him. The rest of the crowd seemed taken back at the size of her smile as it was clearly visible. She was sure that they were unused to seeing a condemned prisoner smile before being hanged. Nevertheless she did smile, and her smile caused a small but barely visible grin to appear on John’s face. All fear was forgotten as memories of their wonderful night came back to Anna Marie. It was well that she was to die because she did not die without knowing love.

“Do you want a mask?” Asked the hangman.

Anna Marie confidently shook her head. The hangman then came in front of her and stood facing her, he produced a rolled piece of paper and after unrolling it read: “Anna Marie O'Donnel, you have been found guilty of Treason and Espionage and sentenced to hang by the neck until you are dead, sentence is to be carried out immediately.”

The Hangman then pocketed the piece of paper and walked around behind her. He heard the minister begin to speak…

“Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live and is full of misery he fleeth as it…” his voice faded as her gaze fixed only on John, John was the only thing in the world to her at that moment.

She suddenly felt a gentle nudge at the stool underneath her a as the hangman bent down and took hold of it from behind her. She then felt it suddenly slip from underneath her bare feet. The time between the first realization of nothingness below her and the end of her drop must not have been more than an instant, but to her it was an eternity. Her heart skipped a breath as she noticed quite well her hair and her dress lifted ever so slightly by the air underneath her as she fell. She only fell a foot at most but the force of the noose against her neck, breaking her fall hit with a force like nothing she had ever felt before.

At first, as the pain hit her, she was somewhat disoriented, forgetting where she was, but as her senses came back to her she realized that her bare feet were only six inches, at most, from the scaffold. An unbearable pain shot into her neck and her head as she discovered that she could not breath. At first she stretched her legs as far down as she could hoping against hope to touch the floor of the scaffold. After realizing the futility of this, her legs, almost against her will, began to violently kick and struggle. She lost sight of John as the people in the crowd became mere blurs to her. Everything became blurry as she slowly faded into darkness.

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