Seth Loflin and the Firing Squad
There are so many passages in "Southern Heroes" in which Friends maintained their principles. I found this one particularly touching:
Others of the members of this meeting suffered severely for their principles, but we will now follow our friend Seth W. Loflin in his time of trial.
He had been a member with the Friends but a short time, when he was arrested as a conscript and sent to camp near Petersburg, Va. He was at once ordered to take up arms, which he refused to do, saying that the weapons of the Christian were not carnal, and that he was a Christian and forbidden to fight. The officers evidently thought that by prompt and severe measures he could be made to yield his conscientious scruples, but they knew not of what spirit he was.
First they kept him without sleep for thirty-six hours, a soldier standing by with a bayonet to pierce him, should he fall asleep. Finding that this did not overcome his scruples, they proceeded for three hours each day to buck him down. He was then suspended by his thumbs for an hour and a half. This terrible ordeal was passed through with each day for a week. Then, thinking him conquered, they offered him a gun; but he was unwilling to use the weapon. Threats, abuse and persecution were alike unavailing, and in desperate anger the Colonel ordered him court-martialed. After being tried for insubordination he was ordered shot. Preparations were accordingly made for the execution of this terrible sentence. The army was summoned to witness the scene, and soldiers were detailed. Guns, six loaded with bullets and six without, were handed to twelve chosen men. Seth Loflin, as calm as any man of the immense number surrounding him, asked time for prayer, which, of course, could not be denied him. The supposition was natural that he wished to pray for himself. But he was ready to meet his Lord; and so he prayed not for himself but for them: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Strange was the effect of this familiar prayer upon men used to taking human life and under strict military orders. Each man, however, lowered his gun, and they resolutely declared that they would not shoot such a man, thereby braving the result of disobeying military orders. But the chosen twelve were not the only ones whose hearts were touched. He who holdeth our lives in his hand melted the hearts of the officers as well, and the sentence was revoked. He was led away to prison, where for weeks he suffered uncomplainingly from his severe punishments.
He was finally sent to Windsor Hospital at Richmond, Va., where he was taken very sick, and after a long, severe illness, during which his Christian spirit and patience won the hearts of all around him, he quietly passed away, leaving a wife and seven children. A letter was written to his wife by one of the officers, an extract from which may be a fitting close to the account of this worthy man's suffering.
"It is my painful duty to inform you that Seth W. Loflin died at Windsor Hospital, at Richmond, on the 8th of December, 1864. He died as he had lived, a true, humble and devoted Christian; true to his faith and religion.... We pitied and sympathized with him.... He is rewarded for his fidelity, and is at rest."