From the History of William Francis Corbin
by John C Demoss published in 1897.
I have in my possession a letter written by Elder Robert Graham, of the Christian Church, under date of May 13, to W F Corbin, then prisoner on Johnson's Island, two days before the execution; also two letters from W F Corbin, one bearing the date May 11, four days before his death, and one bearing the date May 14, one day before his death, both written on Johnson's Island, addressed to his mother, brother and sister; also a letter from Melissa Corbin, to her friend, Mrs. Kercheval of date May 18, three days after her brother's death, and one day after his burial.
These letters so well and beautifully express the emotions and experiences, not only of the author, but of many of the relations and friends then living, and some are yet living, whose feelings will respond to these sentiments, that I think it will be no breach of confidence to insert them here as written, believing as he does, that they will be read with more than passing interest by the friends. (J C DeMoss)
Letter from William Francis Corbin
May 11, 1863
Dear Mother, Brother and Sister:
I write this to let you know how I am. I am well, but have given up nearly all hope of being pardoned. I trust in God that he, through Jesus Christ, will save me in His kingdom. I have been made to rejoice in His name even in prison. O Mother ! If I could live for your sake, and to serve my Savior, how happy I would be; but we must all die, and I am resigned. Let us put our trust in God, and we will soon meet where there is no more parting, no more sorrow. God being my helper, I will meet you all in heaven. Sorrow not as those who have no hope; we will meet again. We pray and sing day and night.
My dear brother, serve God. Let the world go and prepare for heaven;
put your trust in Him, and He will save you.
Dear Sister, continue in the Lord. Sorrow not for me; God is with me. Meet me in heaven. Give my love to the children and all my friends. Remember me to Gus Dameron for his kindness to me. May God bless him, and my he bless and keep you all, is the prayer of your loving son and brother. Farewell! till we meet in heaven. W. F. CORBIN
Letter from Robert Graham
Cincinnati O. May 13, 1863
Mr. W. F. Corbin
Dear and Afflicted Brother:
At the request of your sorrowing sister, and moved by my interest in you, I seat myself this morning to commune with you, in all probability for the last time on this earth. It is with deep sympathy in your affliction and that of your dear mother and sister, that I endeavor to do this. To contemplate death at any tine is solemn, and well calculated to awe the human soul; but in a case like this, we feel all our pity awakening and our sympathy called forth. 1 would I had the power to describe the feelings of your family and friends, in view of the approaching end.
I am charged by your sister to assure you that neither she nor your mother can attach ignominy to your memory; though you die a violent death, and are so required by the laws of the country, they can make allowance for influences under which you acted with others, who know you not, can not make. She requested me to inform you what efforts had been made by her and your friends to obtain a reprieve or commutation of your penalty. Your sister and Mr. DeMoss got here on the day you were removed from this city. I had an interview with them and related the substance of our interview. I can assure you, it gives us all pleasure to know that in this sore affliction you enjoy the comforts and consolations of our holy religion. I told your sister the Substance of what you said to me during our interview: it was a cordial to her wounded spirit to be assured you would meet your end prepared for the solemn change, and in blessed hope that, through the mercy of God in Christ, you will attain the crown of eternal life.
Mr. Patterson, who saw you during your confinement here, Brother Bishop, former mayor of this city, Mr. DeMoss, your devoted friend, and myself, had an interview with General Burnside and presented a petition in your behalf, signed by some of the most influential citizens of your county. The General treated us very kindly and heard all we had to say.
He assured us it would be one of the happiest acts of his life to recommend you and Brother McGraw to the clemency of the President, if de could do so consistently with his views of duty in the responsible position he now fills. We were all deeply impressed with General Burnside's goodness of heart and his sincerity. He kindly offered to send the petition to the President. We had a copy made and gave the original to General Burnside, to be sent on to Washington. Mr. DeMoss and your sister went on immediately to Washington and used all their power and the influence of friends, enlisted in your behalf, to get the President to commute your sentence. They returned day before yesterday, and yesterday morning your sister had an interview with General Burnside, who has given your sister and your friends permission to see you before Friday.
Before this reaches you, some of your friends will have seen you and told you. I will only add, while on this point, that a1l praise is due to your devoted friend, Mr. DeMoss, for his untiring labors for your pardon; had you been his own brother, he could not have done more. I need not say that your sister has done all that a devoted sister could do for you. Let these reflections cheer you in this dark hour; your grave shall be wet with tears, and fervent prayers shall go up to our God in heaven that your faith fail not.
And now, my dear brother, let me point you to the "Lamb of God," who alone
can pardon your sins and sustain you in death. Betrayed in an evil hour,
and I would fain hope without reflection, into hostility, to the government of
our fathers, I devoutly pray that, having seen your error, and made full
confession to your God, and with a conscience at peace with your Maker and
fellow-men, you are now prepared to bid farewell to the shadows of earth, to
enter upon the glorious realities of the future world. Read this letter to
Brother McGraw. Though written to you, it is to him also. Farewell,
brethren, may the God of all mercy and grace, who alone can know our hearts, and
before whom we all shall soon appear, comfort, console, and support you, and at
last receive you both to the world of life and peace, where the redeemed of the
Lord shall dwell secure forever. We cease not to pray for you, and hl, my
brethren, cast all your care on Jesus. Again, farewell! in tears, but in hope
and love. Farewell!
Letter from William Francis Corbin
May 14, 1863
To my Dear Mother, Brother and Sister:
This is the last writing I ever expect to do in the world,
therefore I address it to you all. I know you are all praying for me, but
when you get this I will be no more. I hope to be with the blessed; with
my dear brother and all who have gone before. Oh! do not weep for me.
O Ma, we will meet in heaven, where we will sorrow no more. God will in
nowise cast off those who have put their trust in Him. I have thrown
myself upon His mercy and have prayed Him, through Jesus Christ, to forgive all
my sins. "A contrite spirit and a broken heart He will in nowise cast
off." He has been very precious to me in my lonely hours; He will be
more precious to me in heaven. Oh! may you all continue faithful, and may
God grant we may meet in heaven, where there will be no more wars, no more
crying, sighing, sorrows nor fears, but where the wicked cease from troubling,
and the weary are at rest. Give my dying love to all and oh, tell them to
meet me in my Father's house, where there are many mansions prepared for us.
Oh! may God bless you all and at last save us all in His kingdom is the prayer
of your ever loving son and brother. WILL
Letter from Miss Corbin to Mrs. Kercheval
May 18, 1863
We have lain him to rest. No longer do dungeon walls enclose him, nor cold chains fetter his body. His tried spirit has quit its clay dwelling and gone, I humbly trust, to the haven of rest. Oh ! Eternal rest, eternal life! May God have called him as a wanderer home.
With a strength which 1 did not think I could possess, I have borne this blow. Surely, I received it from heaven; don't you think so? I have realized more fully than ever before, that peace of God, which passeth all understanding. Your comforting words 1 shall never forget; through them I have greatly strengthened my dear mother. We are at our old home; we thought we would feel better to spend the summer here, than at any other place. Every blade of grass, bush and leaf, speak to her of her buried loved ones, and of bygone happiness. She lives in the past. I feel that 1 have undertaken a great deal. I know not what the summer has in store for me, but I trust the Lord will give me strength according to my day and trial.
Ah me! what a desolation around; what a fearful looking for the evil to come. O righteous Father! keep us in thy arms; hide us beneath the shadow of thy wing while the fearful storm is passing. We have lain him beside the gentle boy, who scarce ten months ago, fell sweetly asleep in Jesus. How hard to realize that those love-lit eyes are closed forever in death ; that his sweet " My Sister," will never fall upon my ears again. How strange that 'mid all the flush of beauty that envelopes earth, only man will be miserable; man, for whom all this beauty was created.
Dear Brother Graham! What words of comfort has he spoken to me. Thank him for me and tell him that I much regret not having seen him on board steamer Magnolia. I remained in the parlor some time, thinking perhaps he would come, yet not much expecting that he would walk so far, till, heart-sick, l sought my own chamber. Oh ! that lonely ride, with not one friend to speak a word of comfort. In vain did I search each face for one look of sympathy, and at last reached home to meet, in silence, my mother's anxious, inquiring looks. Oh ! nothing but the mercy of God could enable us to bear this burden.
I would write a note to Brother Graham, but cannot now. Have just received the paper containing his letter to Will.
I am now surrounded with kind, sympathizing friends, but how lonely I will feel when they have to leave us. I hope you will continue to write when you can; that will always be a bright day that brings a love-laden missive from brethren and sisters in Christ. With this I send a copy of Will's letters. Write soon, and with love to you all, believe me your faithful friend and sister. LICCIE CORBIN
Letter from James G Kercheval
I knew William Corbin from childhood. He was a member
of one of the oldest and most prominent families of Campbell County. He
was a devout Christian; a worthy example of all his associates.
Returning to his Confederate charge in Virginia after a visit to his home, he was caught within the Federal lines, taken as a prisoner and condemned to be shot on Johnson's Island.
My home was in Cincinnati at the time, and as soon as he was brought to the prison in that city, I visited him in company with R M Bishop, Mr. Patterson and Dr. Dameron. Rev Robert Graham also visited him frequently, engaging in religious services, and most impressive was the Service held just before his departure for Johnson's Island. Also of those hardened prisoners, and even the guards wept.
According to promise, I started for the island, but only reached Sandusky, for there I met the ministers returning from the island where they had partaken of the Lord's Supper, and this overcame me so much that I returned home, feeling that to see the sufferings of so noble and christian a character, as well as so true a friend, was more than I could endure.
Mr. Calvin DeMoss accompanied the remains of William Corbin and Jefferson McGraw his comrade. who was executed with him, on the boat Magnolia, to their homes in California, Ky. So great was the respect for him whom they had loved, not a loud word was spoken. The bell of the boat toiled for miles before they reached the shore of the little town, where hundreds awaited in tears and sorrow to receive the remains and convey them to the quiet home of his boyhood, where they now rest in the family graveyard. And such was the ending of a beautiful Christian life. JAMES G KERCHEVAL
Letter from Mrs. James G Kercheval
The pure life of William Corbin had its influence on the
community in which lie lived. Though dead, he yet speaks. It is Sweet to
remember his fervent zeal and devotion to the name of Christ. He was the
faithful elder of the Christian church at California, Ky. In the dark and
trying days of our civil war, he never faltered: but after the toils of the
work, he would draw the children of the village together, to teach them the way
of life and salvation, while many of their fathers spent the day in angry
dissensions. The estrangement between neighbors grieved him. He deplored
the war, and said he could never take up arms or leave his mother.
Those were perilous times. How little we knew what a day might bring forth. However, the time came when he believed he must go. and when returning to his duty after a short visit to his home, he was caught, taken as a prisoner by the Union soldiers and executed on Johnson's Island.
Every effort was made to have his sentence removed, but all in vain. His aged mother. and his sister, were my guests during his imprisonment in Cincinnati, and when the last ray of hope was gone, they bade him farewell just before his departure for Johnson's Island, and returned to their quiet home in Kentucky, where his mother only survived him a short time.
Mrs. JAMES G KERCHEVAL
Letter to Melissa Corbin from J C DeMoss
Newport, Kentucky, January 15, 1897
Miss Melissa Chalfant Corbin
In compliance with your request, that I assist you
in compiling and presenting a brief history of the life and character of your
brother, W F Corbin, I have decided to furnish you with the following article
which l wrote some time since by request, but which was not used as
intended at the time, and which, I trust, will serve your purpose. I understand
that you desire, more especially, a history of that part of his life coupled
with his career as a Confederate soldier, his capture by the Federal army;
his trial by court-martial procedure, resulting in his being condemned to be
shot on Johnson's island, and my connection with the affair.
Truly yours, J C DEMOSS (The article is at William Francis Corbin History)
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