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The San Francisco Daily Morning Call, August 5, 1864


Just before three o'clock yesterday morning, a soldier named Simon Kennedy, while under the influence of a temporary hallucination, killed a fellow-soldier named Fitzgerald, who was confined in the guard-house with him, at Black Point, by stabbing the unfortunate man twelve or fifteen times with a bayonet. The shrieks of the struggling victim attracted the attention of the sentinel, who opened the door, when the murderer rushed out and escaped in the darkness, followed by three or four terrified prisoners. Captain Winder turned out his whole force to pursue Kennedy, but they found neither him nor any trace of him, save a bloody towel under the bank near the Bensley Water Works, where he had evidently washed the blood from his clothing. About seven o'clock a soldier arrived here with a message from Capt. Winder to Chief Burke, announcing the murder, and the latter left at once for Black Point, after giving orders for half a dozen members of the Police force to mount and follow him. He also requested Captain Van Vost, of the Provost Department, to detail an equal number of mounted men, to aid in the search for Kennedy, which request was promptly complied with. Arrived at Black Point, the Chief procured a description of Kennedy, and acquainted himself with his habits and antecedents. He was told that the man was a lunatic, but from the fact of his having wit enough about him to guard against detection by washing himself, it was evident that he was not stupidly mad, at any rate. Further inquiries elicited the information that Kennedy had requested several times, lately, to be taken to Father Cotter, in Vallejo street, and had once been there, a day or two ago, in charge of a soldier. The Chief thought it possible that he might have gone there after his escape, and sent officers Clark and Hoyt to ascertain if such were the case. The surmise proved correct, and Father Cotter was at once relieved of his dangerous guest - and dangerous enough he was, too, as he still had his bayonet with him, bloody and bent by the murderous thrusts inflicted with it upon the body of Fitzgerald. The best information concerning this tragedy goes to show that Kennedy is a sane man upon all subjects except one - that of hanging. He is quiet and sensible enough until halters and scaffolds are mentioned, and then he becomes a madman. Some of the causes of this are recent, and some date far back in the past. He is an extraordinary swimmer, and it is said he once swam the Mississippi at a point where it was more than a mile and a half wide, and his bare head being exposed so long to the burning rays of the sun, the strength and vigor of his brain were impaired by it, and at intervals since then he has seemed a little flighty. He enlisted in Davis street, here, and was sent with his company to Alcatraz, where they remained some time, and were finally transferred to Black Point. While at Alcatraz, Kennedy was swimming in the Bay with a comrade, upon one occasion, when the latter was seized with cramps and was drowned. The men used to tell Kennedy he murdered his comrade, and that he would be hanged for it; they kept it up until finally the poor wretch got to brooding over the fate predicted for him until he began to suspect his brother soldiers of an intention to hang him. He went twice to his Captain for protection against them. A day or two ago, at Black Point, the soldiers pestered him again about his chances of being hanged, and he says the Captain put him in the guard-house for safe keeping. The supposition is that during the night the horrors came upon him that his fellow-prisoners were going to hang him, and he seized the bayonet and fought desperately to save himself. Kennedy told us what he knew about the murder, but his statements were confused, and he said he did not recollect much about it. He only knew that three or four men came in the guard-house to hang him, and said they were going to do it at once; one of them seized and tried to choke him, and he snatched a bayonet from the wall, where it was hanging above a dark-colored cap, and struck out wildly with it in self-defence. He was not certain whether he hit any body, but he thought he did. After ward, he said it was likely he took the bayonet away from the man who was trying to choke him - and then he showed wounds on his hands, as if he had a vague notion that they were evidence of how he came into possession of the weapon. His person and his clothing were as black as a coal heaver's; he said he changed his clothes on his way to town, and left his uniform lying in the road. If he did, the latter was not found. When speaking of the murder, Kennedy gazes upon the visitor with a fixed, vacant stare, and looks like a man who is absorbed in trying to recollect something. The body of Fitzgerald lay at the Coroner's office yesterday; the breast, shoulders, stomach, hip and arms were covered with little triangular red spots, where the bayonet had entered. The inquest will be held to-day, so we were informed. The murderer and his victim were both members of Company D, Third Artillery. Fitzgerald was a married man; his widow resides in this city. Since the above was written, a soldier in the regular army has informed us how the bayonet happened to be in the guard-house within reach of a prisoner popularly considered to be insane. He says Captain Mears makes his prisoners do guard duty, and after they are relieved, their instructions are to take their muskets to the guard-room and clean them during confinement. He further says the members of Fitzgerald's Company are incensed at this conduct of permitting deadly weapons to be carried within reach of the lunatic imprisoned with their comrade. He says that when a prisoner does guard duty, it is usual for a noncommissioned officer to go with him and see that he cleans his musket at the quarters, and leaves it there, and then takes him back to be locked into the guard-house, unarmed. The soldier says Kennedy first attacked a man named McDonald, with the bayonet, and then assaulted Fitzgerald, who was asleep at the time. When he attacked McDonald, he first put his hand on his breast and asked him if he had a heart, and where it was situated, and then, without waiting for the desired information, made a stab at him. It was a wretched piece of business to let a deadly weapon be taken into a guard room where a man in Kennedy's condition was confined, and unmilitary people yesterday were wondering that weapons should be placed within reach of prisoners under any circumstances.

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