Company B, 1st Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops
”It is my duty and I would rather die in the field fighting for my country than be spared at home in the finest ease while my brothers die on the altar of their country” - Alanson L. Sanborn in May 1862.
Lt. Sanborn was shot and killed by Dr. David Minton Wright, a Confederate sympathizer and former slave owner, on 11 Jul 1863 in federally occupied Norfolk, Virginia.
The murder was a high profile case which attracted the attention of President Abraham Lincoln, who was instrumental in the selection of expert witnesses chosen to testify to Wright's state of mind. Wright, determined sane, was found guilty and sentenced to be executed. He was hanged for his crime on 23 Oct 1863.
New York Times
14 Jul 1863
Deliberate Assassination of An Officer of Colored Troops by a Citizen – Great Excitement – The Assassin Under Close Arrest
On Saturday afternoon, 11 July 1863, as Lieutenant A.L. Sanborn, of Company B, First United States Colored Volunteers, was marching his company down Main Street on the sidewalk, a prominent citizen and violent Secessionist named Dr. David M. Wright, rushed from the store of Foster & Moore, and shouted to the Lieutenant that he was a damn cowardly son of a b----. The lieutenant, who was about the center of his company and on the opposite side from the doctor, gave the command “halt”, and started to pass around the front of his company to where the doctor stood. While doing so, the doctor unperceived by the lieutenant, drew a Colt revolver from his pocket and placed his hands behind him. The lieutenant dispatched an orderly for the provost guard and advanced opposite the doctor and said: “I am an officer of the United States Army. Consider yourself under arrest.” The doctor presented his pistol, and standing within four feet of the lieutenant, fired two shots in rapid succession. The first ball passed through the lieutenant’s hand, the second entered the left shoulder, passed through the base of the neck and came out near the right shoulder blade. The lieutenant rushed upon the doctor after the second shot and bore him back into the store, where he sank to the floor, the blood pouring from his mouth and nose, and immediately expired. The colored soldiers with fixed bayonets followed them into the store, but were prevented from wreaking summary vengeance upon Doctor Wright, by Lieutenant-Colonel Flood, 155th New York Volunteers, who was passing at the time and seized the doctor as the lieutenant fell. Colonel Flood handed him over to the provost guard that had arrived, and he was taken before Major A. E. Booly, the Provost Marshal. He was followed by a crowd of excited officers and soldiers, the latter of whom could scarcely be kept from killing the assassin upon the spot. Amid the greatest excitement Major Booly, with a highly praiseworthy calmness, made arrangements to secure the safety of the prisoner and vindicate the majesty of the law, and held an examination allowing the doctor counsel and witnesses. The whole testimony showed it to be a most wanton and deliberate murder, and the prisoner was placed in confinement, heavily ironed and under guard, to await the orders of the commanding general.
To John G. Foster
Executive Mansion, Washington
August 3, 1863
Major General Foster, or whoever may be in command of the Military Department, with Head Quarters at Fort-Monroe, Va.
If Dr. Wright, on trial at Norfolk, has been, or shall be convicted, send me a transcript of his trial and conviction, and do not let execution be done upon him, until my further order.
To Dr. John P. Gray
Executive Mansion, Washington
September 10, 1863
Dr. David M. Wright is in military custody at Norfolk, Virginia, having been, by a military commission, tried for murder, and sentenced to death, his execution awaiting the order of the Major General in command of that Military Department, or of the President of the United States. The record is before me; and a question is made as to the sanity of the accused. You will please proceed to the Military Department whose head-quarters are at Fort-Monroe, and take in writing all evidence which may be offered on behalf of Dr. Wright and against him, and any, in addition, which you may find within your reach, and deem pertinent; all said evidence to be directed to the question of Dr. Wright's sanity or insanity, and not to any other questions; you to preside, with power to exclude evidence which shall appear to you clearly not pertinent to the question.
When the taking of the evidence shall be closed, you will report the same to me, together with your own conclusions, as to Dr. Wright's sanity, both at the time of the homocide, and the time of your examination. On reaching Fort-Monroe, you will present this letter to the officer then commanding that Department, and deliver to him a copy of the same; upon which he is hereby directed to notify Hon. L. J. Bowden, and Hon. L. H. Chandler, of the same; to designate some suitable person in his command to appear for the government, as Judge Advocate or Prosecuting Attorney; to provide for the attendance of all such witnesses before you as may be desired by either party, or by yourself, and who may be within convenient reach of you; to furnish you a suitable place, or places for conducting the examination; and to render you such other reasonable assistance in the premises as you may require. If you deem it proper, you will examine Dr. Wright personally, and you may, in your discretion, require him to be present during the whole, or any part, of the taking of the evidence. The Military are hereby charged to see that an escape does not occur.
Hdqrs. Norfolk and Portsmouth, Numbers 14.
October 22, 1863
The time set for the execution of Dr. David M. Wright by General Orders, Numbers 17, headquarters Department of Virginia and North Carolina, promulgated in General Orders, Numbers 12, from these headquarters, having been by order of the President postponed until Friday, the 23d, the execution will take place to-morrow (Friday) morning, October 23, 1863, at 10 o'clock.
By command of Brigadier General James Barnes:
George H. Johnston,
Fort Monroe, Va.
October 23, 1863
Major General H. W. Halleck,
Dr. Wright was executed this morning at Norfolk, according to orders. Everything passed off very orderly.
J. G. Foster,