The Agonizing Death of Henry Tucker
By Joel S. Mize
Following is a true story of one horrendous atrocity. Such acts were committed by both sides in the guerilla hill-country war. This event was reconstructed from interviews with about a dozen "old-timers" interviewed by Wesley S. Thompson as source material for his various books. The following is largely drawn from Tories of the Hills, 3rd Edition, 1960, beginning on page 131.
Reader discretion is advised
Henry Tucker is believed to be the son of William and Delilah Rue; a nephew of Simeon Tucker, Sergeant, Companies E&K, 1st Alabama Cavalry; a grandson of Daniel Tucker, soldier War 1812 of Marion/Fayette County Alabama and great-grandson of George Tucker, Revolutionary War soldier, buried at Hopewell cemetery, south of Glen Allen, Alabama.
Henry Tucker had enlisted in the 1st Alabama Cavalry on March 11, 1863 in Glendale Mississippi. For reasons unknown, official "mustering-in" did not occur until October, 5, 1863. He had enlisted for a year but was released a little early - mustered out on February 5, 1864. His military duty completed, he returned home to his rugged hill country (Winston County/Marion County Alabama, between Natural Bridge and O'Mary's) to wait out the war, although he was also considering re-enlistment in the Union army. Little did he know, there would be no peace for him, for the dog-cavalry rangers and "homeguard" of the CSA were out to get any "traitor" they could find.
Led by Stoke Roberts, the vigilante homeguard began scouring the country committing atrocities in the name of enforcing the Confederate's best interests - in forcing men into the CSA army and punishing those who did not join them. They finally reached the home of Henry Tucker on a March or April day during the spring of 1864. As the vigilantes rode into his yard, Henry shouted to his wife, "Lord God, there's a bunch of them homeguards coming up the road now. What can I do ?"
"Here, hide quick in this meat box!" Callie, his wife ordered, pointing to a big box of rough planks in the cook room.
Henry leaped into the box as the men rode up to the house and Callie threw an old worn quilt over the top of it.
"Whar is that man ye got hid around here, woman?" Stoke demanded as he and his bunch of ruffians forced their way into her home.
"How do you suppose there is a man here?" she replied trying to be calm.
"We seed ya bang that door shut, woman! And there ain't no woman agonna be abangin' that door shet like that lessen thar is somebody around summers they air a'tryin' to hide," Stoke declared sharply.
"Men, I don't see why you'd be coming to my house looking for anybody," the poor woman tried to argue.
"Woman!," Roberts snapped, "They ain't no use to be alyin' about it cause thar's plenty of folds round here that try to hide them Tories when they git a chanct - and that Henry Tucker is bound to be around here summers and we're gonna ketch him fore we quit !"
Callie bit her fingernails nervously - she felt she must have turned pale when they called Henry's name. "Oh! I am grieved enough already! Won't you please go on and leave my home alone?" she cried pleadingly.
"Hell No! Men, git busy and hunt every crack in the place for that snake!" Roberts commanded the men.
They began to search under the beds and under the floor and in the loft of the house and in every box and barrel on the place. "Here he is, Stoke! Here he is!" Gibson shouted finally, pulling the old quilt from the meat box in the cook room.
Stoke ran to the door and saw with gloating eyes the form still crouched in the box. "Git him, men! Git him!" he shouted. Henry Tucker leaped tohis feet and tried to run, but was grabbed by half a dozen men.
"Whar's the rope, Ham?" Roberts called to Carpenter. "Here ye air!" One of the men held up a heavy rope. Stoke grabbed it and began tying Henry at once.
"Oh, please, men, don't!" he begged in tones of anguish as Roberts drew the rope about him.
"Thay ain't no use to whimper and beg, Henry Tucker, ye damned Tory you! You'll be damned sorry ye ever shot at me fore I git through butcherin' on ye!" His language was vile and abusive. "Take him to the woods, men! We've got a lot of work on this fool fore he gits out uv his misery!" Stoke finished.
Henry was tied from his shoulders to his waist. The men threw him across a big horse and threw another rope around his neck and tied it so that one could hold it on each side. Then the group went galloping off with the prisoner jolting along on the horse. Callie had tried to save Henry, but was unable to do a thing. She buried her head in her hands and cried hysterically as the men rode away with their prisoner.
"Carry him to old Ball Rock, " Roberts shouted. "I want to take the devil right back nigh the place where he shot at me a year or two ago!" By the time the group arrived to where Stoke was leading them, it was already dark. When they stopped, they found Stoke already off his horse beside an old dead pine tree on the ground.
"Split us up some pine and build us a fire fust. We're agonna take a long time fer this," Roberts told the man with a chopping ax. Four of the others were dragging Tucker by the rope around his neck. Others were bringing limbs for the fire.
"Oh, Lord, Lord, Stoke, don't torture me, please don't! Kill me with your guns or your ax or any other way you want to, but please don't torture me to death!" Henry pleaded pitifully.
"Pull his clothes off," Roberts directed. The men went to work tearing Tucker's clothes from his body, until he stood shivering bare naked. Stoke was getting out a big long knife. Grinning fiendishly, he proceeded to cut the prisoner between the heel, like fixing to hang a hog, paying no attention to Henry's screaming as loud as he could.
"Now, hang him on this limb, men," he ordered, pointing to the limb he had cut off. With the prisoner stripped and hanging head down like a hog ready to be gutted, Stoke stepped back and in a cruel pretense of a magnanimous Judge, said, "Now, you damned Tory - if ye got anything to say, ye can say it!"
"Oh Lord, men, please have mercy! Shoot me or knock me in the head or something!" he pleaded. Stoke laughed. "Skin him, men !" he commanded. Several of the men began at once, but found their knives too dull. "Castorate the devil, cut his whole ___ and all off!" Stoke ordered. "I want to poke them in his mouth!"
"Now punch the devil's eyes out! No - let me have that knife!" Stokes cried, his eyes glowing with fanatical, sadistic fury. "I want to punch-out his eyes!" He seized the big knife and started boring in the sockets of the miserable man's eyes. Directly, he flipped the eyeballs across the leaves on the ground. "Now I want to cut the bastard's tongue out next!" he rasped. "Here, give me that ax!" Maliciously, with the ax, he broke Henry's jaw on both sides, then pulled out his tongue from his mouth as far as he could and proceeded calmly to cut it off, paying no attention to the man's screams.
Stokes grinned barbarously. "Now I want to cut his hide around his head and pull it over his face and tie it! And I want you men to split up a bunch of long pine knots and drive them into his kidneys and his bowels and heart. The men dutifully did this. Then, when the struggling in death finally commenced, Stoke bashed his head in with the chopping ax.
William Rowell heard the prisoner's screams for a mile and a half. Tom Johnson and Andy Ingle found the body four days later, still hanging as the torturers had left him and buried Henry Tucker north of O'Mary cemetery.
About the Author
Joel S. Mize is a descendant of Daniel Tucker, grandfather of Henry Tucker, Private, 1st Alabama Cavalry, Company B.
Service records compiled by Glenda Todd and used with her permission. This and other information about the history of the First and the men who fought with the unit
can be found in her book, First Alabama Cavalry, USA: Homage to Patriotism.