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The Madera Tribune

Witness to an execution

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webmaster | 01/03/14

Madera’s old soldier shuffled out to the front porch of his home on Cottonwood Creek. He eased himself into his rocker for one of his favorite past times — telling Civil War stories. The attentive audience of adults and children, including his granddaughter, Lena Northern, gathered in closely. They always hung on every word that spilled from the old warrior’s lips, even when they had heard them before, and this story they had heard many times. It was one of Frederick John Quant’s favorites.

As he remembered it, the weather had been unusually warm on the night of Feb. 6, 1864, almost 150 years ago. Quant’s company, the famous California One Hundred, had been attached to the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment, and they had been constantly engaged in northeastern Virginia trying to capture the elusive John Mosby, the Confederate Gray Ghost.

Mosby and his band of guerrillas had been nipping at the flanks of the Union Army for months, and it had been made all the more intolerable for Quant and his comrades by the fact that one of their own Californians, William E. Ormsby, had deserted and was riding with the enemy.

For reasons known only to him, Ormsby had left his post to join the rebel side on the night of Jan. 24, 1864, but now two weeks later, he was about to pay for his traitorous defection...


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