Saturday, August 20, 2022

Ogden and Howard.

Washington Howard lived happily with his wife and two children in Charles County, Maryland until the start of the Civil War when he left to join the Confederate Army. After two years of service and several bloody battles, Howard had a change of heart. He resolved to desert the Confederates and join the Union cause. He crossed the Union lines and surrendered to the army who sent him to the Capital Prison in Washington.

There Howard met Zadoc Damrell, another Confederate deserter. After both men took an oath of allegiance to the United States the prison released them. The authorities told them that they must not be found south of the Susquehanna River, so the two men drifted north. In 1864, they found work in Gloucester County, New Jersey, and boarded at the home of Charles Ogden. That is when the trouble began for Washington Howard.

Charles Ogden’s wife, Sarah Ann, was irresistibly beautiful and, unbeknownst to Ogden, was also quite promiscuous. Howard became infatuated with Sarah Ann. He would later describe the situation:

“But for lewdness and seduction, and depth of infamy, too fearful to be committed to print, Ogden’s wife excelled all that I ever saw or heard of. No one can form a just estimate of her matrimonial infidelity and that concealed from the eye of her husband. She laid her snare artfully, she entrapped my feet, she alleviated my affections from my wife. I loved her madly.”

As Sarah Ann seduced Howard behind her husband’s back, she was also plying her wiles on Zadoc Damrell. Damrell did not hesitate; he took Sarah Ann away from Ogden’s house and headed for Cape May. 

When they learned that Sarah Ann had left with Damrell, Ogden and Howard went in search of them. They took rope and knives, intending to tie up Damrell and threaten him. In Jericho, they bought two bottles of whiskey, and as they drank Ogden had second thoughts. He was afraid he would kill Damrell if he found him with his wife, so he intended to abandon the search and return home. Howard urged him to continue the search, but for personal reasons—he still hoped to steal Ogden’s wife. 

On April 28, 1864, they met Damrell and Sarah Ann on the road to Shiloh. Thomas Ewing, who was plowing his field nearby heard one of the men shout, “You are the son of a bitch we are looking for.” 

Ewing thought they were arresting a deserter and did not want to get involved. The man and woman split up and she ran, finding refuge at Ewing's house. Damrell stayed to fight; he and Ogden were both wielding knives. The bloody battle began and at one point Damrell appeared to be winning. Howard entered the fray stabbing Damrell until he lay bleeding on the ground.

Stillwell Randolph, who was driving his wagon down the road stopped to see what was happening. He found Damrell lying on the ground, not yet dead. Ogden, standing over him said, “I want you to go after a magistrate—I will give myself up. He ran away with my wife and I have now got the devil where I want him.”

Damrell died soon after and the magistrate arrested both Ogden and Howard. That June they were tried together for first-degree murder. They were easily convicted and sentenced to hang in July. 

In the days leading up to the execution, both men found religion, confessed, and repented. The thought of hanging weighed especially hard on Howard. He made a noose by braiding strips of cloth from his drawers because he wanted to see how it would feel around his neck. On the day of the hanging, Howard was so frightened that he could scarcely stand up.

“Stand up like a man, Howard,” said Ogden, “die like a man. Trust in Jesus.”

The execution of Washington Howard and Charles Ogden took place in the jail yard at Bridgton, New Jersey on July 20, 1864. Both men made confessions of their guilt and appeared penitent. They died without much suffering.

The following week their written confessions were made public. Howard took all the blame:

“The murder was my fault. I could have prevented it if I had been disposed, but the truth is, I loved the woman, vile as she was, and I would have killed Damrell for the sake of having her. A word from me, and Ogden would have desisted from the murderous work, but I thought that by getting Ogden to murder Damrell I might escape and get the woman.”

In his confession, Ogden agreed that he would not have killed Damrell if he had not been urged on by Howard. “I cannot plead innocent of the murder,” said Ogden, “but the circumstances under which the act was committed were to me very aggravating and trying.”

Ogden also wrote a letter to Sarah Ann, expressing love and urging her to change her evil ways.

“Dear wife, you are still near and dear to me for all you have used me so badly; I am willing to forget the past and forgive you; you have my warmest prayers for you and I want you to pray for me. You know you are a backslider; you have great work to do; you live in a world where everything seems to combine to draw off attention from salvation and to cause you to neglect it. Satan is busy to blind your mind; riches, rank, fame, and honors are but small dust compared with the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with Eternal Glory.”

“Confession of Charles T. Ogden,” West-Jersey pioneer, July 30, 1864.
“Confession of Washington Howard,” West-Jersey pioneer, July 30, 1864.
“Cumberland County,” West-Jersey pioneer, May 14, 1864.
“Execution,” Journal of Commerce, jr., July 21, 1864.
“Execution of Ogden and Howard,” West-Jersey pioneer, July 23, 1864.
“Execution of Two Murderers,” National Police Gazette, July 30, 1864.
“News Article,” West-Jersey pioneer, July 16, 1864.
“Notice,” West-Jersey pioneer, May 7, 1864.
“State Items,” Newark Daily Advertiser, June 6, 1864.
“Trial of Ogden and Howard for the Murder of Damrell,” West-Jersey pioneer, June 4, 1864.

1 comment:

  1. What fools we mortals be. Her for being untrue to her husband. The murdered man for taking another man's wife away from him. The murderers for doing the act, one facetiously leading the other along. The second for being so weak as to be led along. And lastly for getting drunk to build up their courage to commit the murder. And in the end, all three men died in violent manners while she basically got away scot free. There is also no mention of what happened to her afterward. Yes, I enjoyed reading the story. But these are the feelings that went through me as I read it. I am not going to put down what I thought about the wife. It is too biased and prejudiced. Howard, Ogden and Darmrell were all victims. Fools, yes, but victims, nonetheless. Sarah Ann was guilty of adultery and fleeing from her lawful husband without first getting a legal separation/divorce. She was a criminal. And she escaped any punishment. But she was a fool too. For not being true to her legal husband and setting the stage for these events to occur.