Alexander McBroom (Execution of)

Alexander D. McBroom was a young Union infantryman who was executed by a firing squad at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) on April 21, 1865, for desertion and larceny.

Alexander D. McBroom, thirty-four, a native of Cannon County, Tennessee, enlisted in Company B, First Arkansas Infantry Regiment (US) at Fayetteville (Washington County) on February 4, 1863. He was reported to be five feet eight inches tall and had dark hair, blue eyes, and a fair complexion. A farmer, he had a wife and two children.

He was listed as absent without leave on February 25, 1863, and deemed a deserter that summer. Confederate service records indicate that he joined Company B of Crawford’s Cavalry Battalion on March 2, 1863. He returned to the First Arkansas on April 17, 1864, but was jailed a month later and sent to Fort Smith to face a court-martial.

At his trial, witnesses said McBroom had fallen ill shortly after enlisting and did not return to duty because he thought he was already listed as a deserter, while others said his commanding officer had offered him a deal that he would not be punished if he returned to duty. McBroom’s younger brother Maxwell, also in the First Arkansas, was said to have brought him the offer; the brother, though, was killed by bushwhackers in July 1864 and thus could not confirm the report. A First Arkansas officer testified that he had heard that McBroom was “connected with rebel bushwhackers.”

McBroom also was accused of larceny on charges that he had stolen two horses for his wife. He was convicted on both counts and sentenced to be shot by a firing squad on April 21, 1865.

On the afternoon of April 21, McBroom was taken to a location outside of the rifle pits surrounding Fort Smith. The soldiers witnessing the execution formed three sides of a square, with McBroom on the fourth, open side. After the condemned man was comforted by a couple of post chaplains, the firing squad shot him, with the Fort Smith New Era reporting that “the fatal volley was given with utmost precision. The prisoner, who was seated on the coffin lid,…fell back and died without a struggle.”

The newspaper concluded: “Thus was ushered into the awful presence of the Eternal Judge another being, who, but for this wicked rebellion, might have lived a useful and honored member of society.”

For additional information:
Childs, Lisa C. “Murder, Honor, and Discipline in Company M, First Arkansas Cavalry (USA).” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 19 (Summer 2019): 140–165.

Furry, William, ed. The Preacher’s Tale: The Civil War Journal of Rev. Francis Springer, Chaplain, U.S. Army of the Frontier. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2001.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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