Haymarket Affair Digital Collection

Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial transcript no. 1.
Testimony of John Wessler (first appearance), 1886 July 19.

Volume I, 250-266, 17 p.
Wessler, John.
Detective, Chicago Police Department.

Direct examination and re-direct by Mr. Grinnell. Cross-examination and re-cross by Captain Black. Testified on behalf of the Prosecution, People of the State of Illinois.

Detective, at the Haymarket meeting. Claims in his testimony to have seen Samuel Fielden shoot at the police from behind the wagon. Testified on various topics (page numbers provide a partial guide): street lights and/or lights on the wagon (vol.I 264), actions of police during the Haymarket meeting (vol.I 251), Captain Ward's command to disperse (vol.I 251), Fielden's response to the police advance at Haymarket (vol.I 250), trajectory of the bomb (vol.I 251), time and place origination of the gunfire (vol.I 251), Fielden, Samuel (vol.I 252), position of the defendants and others on the speakers' wagon (vol.I 254).

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a witness produced on the part of the people, being first duly sworn, testified as follows:

Direct Examination by

Q You are a police officer?

A. Yes.

Q Were you at the Hay market Square on the 4th of May last?

A. Yes.

Q In whose company?

A. Lieut Bowler's, on the right.

Q On which side of the street was he?

A. He was on the east side of the street. I was on the right of his company.

Q In reference to Kruger where were you? Did you know officer Kruger, the man who was on the witness stand last?

A Yes..

Q Did you see him that night?

A. I did.

Q Was he in the company ahead of you?

A. He was right ahead of us.

Q He was in Steele's company?

A. I think so.

Q When you were marching down the street, did you hear any talking from the wagon: if so, what did you hear?

A I did. We had got about as far as the Randolph street car track, on the north end; we were marching along and I heard the remark "Here comes the bloodhounds! " and what other remark was made after I could not state. We marched

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along and our company just had landed at the south end of Cranes alley. I was standing at the lamp post. Sergeant Moore was on my right, and we came to a halt there and Capt. Ward went over to the speaker; Mr. Fielding was on the wagon, and he says "I command you in the name of the State to disburse peaceably, and Mr. Fielding turned on the wagon and he says "we are peaceable"; he had not hardly the word peaceable out of his mouth when I saw something thrown a little mite south of where he got off of the wagon; it was in the rear of the wagon towards Cranes building; that had struck the ground; it struck on the left of our company and on the right of Lieut. Stanton's; it did not take a minute, probably half a minute when it went off. I saw it flying through the air; it struck and it laid there probably a couple of seconds when it exploded; just as it got exploded there was about a hundred shots; I would not say exactly, but there was a volley of shots fired into us by the opposite party

Q By the crowd around?

A. Yes; so they shot into us and our men fell by our sides. Lieut. Bowler told us then to draw our revolvers and shoot and kill every one we met,--"shoot and kill" he says. I drew my revolver and I ran north..

Q On the street or on the sidewalk?

A. On the sidewalk next to Cranes building. I ran probably 20 or 30 feet north of Cranes alley and when I got there I shot probably

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twice. I heard the order fall in the rear of me just where I had left. I ran back to see what was going on, and when I got to this wagon, the same wagon that the speaker was on, at the wheel at the south end of it- the wagon stood next to the curb lengthwise, and at the middle of the south end of the wagon Mr. Fielding stood there, and I noticed before I got there a man who would not stand up, and he would shoot into the police and get down behind a little and I think it was Captain Bonfield, because that night he wore a black slouch hat the thought struck me and I said I would be sure, and I went up and I saw that Mr. Fielding was there and he got up a second time and shot into the Police and he got down by the wheel of the wagon and as he did I shot him and he fell under the wagon.

Q Did you lose track of him absolutely?

A. Then they were hollering fall in in the rear and I ran away and left him, and we got orders to pick up the wounded and we did so and took them to the station.

Q How close were you to him when you fired at him?

A I might have been three feet.

Q How many shots did you see him fire?

A. Two.

Q How far north of that wagon did you run before you stopped and came back?

A. Probably 20 feet or 30, not over 30.

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Cross Examination by

Q Are you on detective service now?

A. Yes.

Q That accounts for your not having your uniform on?

A Yes.

Q How much of the time are you on detective service?

A I have not been a detective. I have been detailed in citizens clothes for about a year.

Q What is your first name?

A. John.

Q You have lived in Chicago how long?

A. About 7 or 8 years.

Q Where do you live now?

A. I live at 14 Martina Court.

Q Now your location was in the second column of police?

A Yes.

Q And you were in the front rank or rear rank?

A I was in the front rank.

Q Did you occupy the extreme right?

A. Yes

Q How far was your company or platoon in the rear of Lieut. Steele's company?

A. I should judge about as far as from here to the jury seats.

Q A matter of ten feet or so?

A. Yes.

Q Where did you stand with reference to the alley south of Crane Bros. establishment?

A. I stood right on the southeast corner of the alley---right at the lamp post.

Q The lamp was lighted at that time, was it?

A. Yes.

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Q Stanton's company stood how near, do you think? to the north of the alley?

A. I don't know. I paid no ate ntion to Stanton's company.

Q I mean Steele's company, the company that was in front of you? Did it stand north of the norgh side of the alley?

A I should think it did.

Q How far from you as you stood there by that lamp post at the southeast corner of that alley at Desplaines Street was the south end of the wagon?

A. It was just across the alley; probably the wheels were about three feet north of the alley.

Q If the wagon stood within 3 feet of the alley and if you stood at the south end of it, then I will ask you again, where according to your recollection did Steele's company stand?

A. It stood north of the alley.

Q How could it stand north of the alley and the wagon be only 3 feet north of the alley?

A. Well, I could not state surely where they stood,

Q Isn't it a fact that the wagon was, according to your present recollections further from the alley than 3 feet?

A No sir, it was not: I should not think it was.

Q Then I will ask you again, do you now remember where Steele's company stand with reference to the alley and wagon?

A I know it was north of the alley, but I could not say how far.

Q Between the alley and the wagon?

A. I could not say

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as to that.

Q When the order to fire was given, I understand you, you started north on the sidewalk?

A. Yes sir.

Q Were there many people on the sidewalk at that time?

A No; they got pretty well cleared out.

Q Did they scatter through Cranes alley and run out towards Randolph street?

A. Yes.

Q Had any of them ran to the north?

A. Yes.

Q So that you had a comparatively clear race track?

A Yes.

Q You ran, you think, about thirty feet north of the alley?

A. Yes.

Q Firing as you went?

A. No sir.

Q When and where you on firing--when did you fire and were were you?

A. There is a steps that go up into Crane Bros. factory, and I was probably three or four feet north of that.

Q When you commenced firing?

A. Yes.

Q And you commenced firing at the crowd to the north?

A Yes.

Q Did you empty your revolver?

A. No sir%

Q How many chambers had your revolver?

A. Six

Q You got four or five feet north of those steps going up to Crane Bros. before you commenced firing?

A. Yes.

Q Did you have but one or did you have two?

A. I had one.

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Q You had that in your hand when you were running north?

A. Yes.

Q You got four or five feet north of those steps going up to Crane Bros. before you commenced firing?

A. Yes.

Q How many shots did you fire to the north at that time?

A I had two.

Q Then you heard the words "fall in" behind you?

A Yes, from the rear.

Q And you turned and ran back to your company?

A. No sir.

Q How far back did you run?

A. I ran back to this wagon where Fielding was standing.

Q When was it that you saw Fielding firing?

A. At that time.

Q As you were coming towards the south?

A. Yes.

Q You saw somebody firing and stooping down under the wagon and raising up and firing again?

A. Yes.

Q His back was towards you then of course?

A. His back was not towards me; he was more sideways.

Q If you were 20 or 30 feet when you started back his back was towards you?

A. Yes.

Q Did you stop right at the wagon to let him go through the performance of firing?

A. Yes.

Q Then when he fired his back was towards you?

A. Yes.

Q You hadn't come up to him?

A. Yes; I was up within

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three or four feet.

Q You didn't stop him firing?

A. I did not.

Q Why didn't you fire at him?

A. I didn't know who he was.

Q You testified at the Desplaines street station?

A Yes.

Q Didn't you testify on that occasion that you did not know who the party was?

A. No; I did not testify to any such thing.

Q You will swear to that?

A. Yes.

Q That you did not at the Desplaines Street station testify that you did not know who the party was; you will swear to that?

A. Yes.

Q You do swear to that?

A. Yes.

Q Did you testify at the Desplaines street station that you did not know the man there at the wagon who was firing and whom you fired at?

A. I described him, but I did not know him by name.

Q How did you find out that it was Fielding?

A Because I have seen him.

Q You say that you fired at him?

A. Yes.

Q And be tumbled under the wagon?

A Yes.

Q What then did you do?

A. I ran to where my lieutenant was hellowing for us to fall in.

Q What part of his person did you fire at?

A. He had

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fired like this (indicating) and got down and I got upon him and fired at him; and he fell under the wagon.

Q You were right there where you could put your pistol against him?

A. Practically, almost.

Q And he fell under the wagon?

A. Yes.

Q You are sure that was Fielden?

A. Yes

Q What became of Fielding after that?

A. I don't know what became of him after that. I ran back to Lieut. Bowler, and when I came back to look under the wagon for my man he was gone.

Q Was there anything else found under the wagon?

A There was a revolver found there, but I did not find it.

Q What is it that enables you to make certain that it was Fielding?

A Because I know it was Fielding

Q How much light did you have to detect him by?

A I had plenty to see that it was he.

Q Hadn't you had time to find out it was he at the time you testified at the Desplaines street station?

A. I did not know his name.

Q How long after the occurrence was it that you testified at the Desplaines street station?

A. Oh, I guess a week or two; I don't know; maybe longer.

Q Wasn't it about three weeks after the occurrence?

A It might have been.

Q That was on the occasion of a preliminary examination of a number of men?

A. Yes.

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Q You only fired one shot at Fielding?

A. Yes.

Q How many shots did that leave in your revolver?

A That left two.

Q You fired three shots up to that time?

A. Yes.

Q What did you do with those two shots?

A. They are there yet.

Q You carried those away from that field of glory?

A Yes.

Q When you fired north up Desplaines street did you fire at anybody?

A. Yes, I fired into the crowd.

Q They were running?

A. Yes.

Q Getting away from there just as fast as they could?

A Yes.

Q And you fired at them.

A. Yes.

Q They were not firing at you at that time?

A. Yes.

Q You just said they were running?

A. They were firing and running both.

Q You say now they were running, do you?

A. Yes.

Q They were running down the street at the time?

A Yes.

Q Did you see any of the men immediately in your front rank at the time you reached you point 30 feet north of the alley and fired your shots?

A. No sir

Q You did not?

A. No sir

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Q How soon after the bomb exploded was it that you started on your charge to the north?

A. Well, after the bomb went off the volley of shots came into us.

Q The question is, how soon after the bomb exploded did you start on your charge up Desplaines street?

A It might have been two minutes; not more.

Q Did you make that charge all alone?

A. No sir.

Q Who was with you?

A. Officer Foley.

Q What became of officer Foley?

A. He got a prisoner at the steps that was crouched down behind the steps, and he took him to the station and as he was going by where I was just after shooting Fielding, he picked up a revolver.

Q Officer Foley picked up the revolver?

A. Yes.

Q Did you see him pick it up?

A. Yes; I saw him picking up the revolver, and he says "there is a revolver that I found."

Q And that was as he was going back to the station with a prisoner?

A. Yes.

Q He did not go any further then than Cranes steps?

A No; he did not go any further north.

Q And from there north you were entirely alone?

A Well, I saw some officers there.

Q What officers did you see?

A. I see Officer Jentz, or Jensen of the West Chicago Avenue Station.

Q You do not know who this man was that you shot or shot at there at the wagon at the time?

A. I did not.

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Q You did not know him at the time?

A. No sir.

Q You have simply concluded since from the investigation that you have made that it was Fielding?

A. No sir, I am positive.

Q How are you positive if you did not know him at the time?

A. I think if I saw you once I would probably know you again.

Q That would depend a little on the circumstances under which you saw me?

A. I am positive that this was Fielding that I shot at.

Q That is what you have concluded since?

A. Not since, but then right away.

Q Then why at the Desplaines street station didn't you testify that it was Fielding?

A. I did not know his name.

Q You had not found out his name up to that time although that was several weeks afterwards, and although Fielding had been under arrest since the 5th of May?

A. I did not know his name.

Q Hadn't you seen all the prisoners from the 4th of May and the time you testified at the Desplaines street station?

A No sir; I never saw one of them:

Q You hadn't been engaged in making these arrests?

A No sir.

Q What had you been at in that interval?

A. At work.

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Q Everything connected with the detective service?

A Yes.

Q Had you seen any photographs of Fielding up to that time?

A. No sir.

Q Pictures of him in the paper?

A Yes, I might have seen those. I don't know whether I did or not.

Q When was the first time that you ever made up your mind that Fielding was the man you shot and who tumbled down under that wagon--the first time you concluded it was Fielding?

A. When I first saw him in this corridor (indicating)

Q It was while the jury was being impanelled?

A Yes.

Q You stood over in that part of the court room?

A No sir.

Q Where were you when you saw him?

A. I was right over in there (referring to corridor).

Q And you then made up your mind it was Fielding?

A Yes.

Q That was the first time?

A. Yes.

Q How far behind your company was Lieut. Stanton's company?

A. He was on the left of our Company--I don't know where he was--I didn't pay any attention to him.

Q You, as I understand, with your company, were at the railroad tracks on Randolph street when you heard the exclamation "here come the bloodhounds"?

A. On the north side

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of the tracks.

Q Between the track and the sidewalk of Randolph street?

A Yes.

Q And you were on the east of the column?

A. Yes.

Q You were therefore next the narrow part of Randolph street--not next to the Hay market?

A. Yes.

Q And just as you got north of the railroad tracks--- between the railroad track and the edge of the street you heard "here come the bloodhounds?"

A. Yes.

Q Where did that come from?

A. It came from towards where the speaker was. I would not swear positively whether it was the speaker or not.

Q Ws that the only time that you heard that?

A Yes.

Q You did not hear it repeated at any time nor by any person?

A. No. sir.

Q And that was all that you heard that you now remember?

A Yes.

Q When you say that it came from the direction where the speaker or speaking was, you mean it came from somewhere on the north of you?

A. Yes.

Q You do not mean to say that the man on the wagon uttered that?

A. No sir; I was too far away.

Q Are you acquainted with Officer Kreuger, the last witness on the stand?

A. Slightly, yes sir.

Q Did you see him that night?

A. Yes sir.

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Q How far were you from him at the time of the explosion of the bomb?

A. He was in the company ahead of me I would say. I know I remember seeing him around there. I remember of his being shot.

Q According to your best recollection Steele's company in which Kruger was, was just a little north of this alley at the time of the halt?

A. I would not say positively, because I don't know.

Q I am asking as to your recollection as to your best recollection?

A. I know there was about 10 or 12 feet difference between us; it might be more and it might be less.

Re-Direct Examination by

Q You say that the lamp post there at the corner of the alley at the south edge was lighted when you halted?

A. Yes.

Q What became of the light, if you know, afterwards?

A It was put out.

Q Who was under examination at the Desplaines street station when you gave the description of the man you saw fire the shot behind the wagon? Were any of these defendants there?

A. No sir.

Q Were any of these lawyers there?

A. Yes, Solomon was there, I believe.

Q At the time you saw Fielding in the court room as you

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have described, or in the corridor, have you ever seen him since?

A. No sir.

Q Where was that bomb when you first saw it?

A. It was in the air.

Q From what place did it come?

A. It came right from behind the wagon; right near the north end of the alley.

Q What was the shape of the passes that it made from what you saw of it? Was it eliptical like this? Was it in a straight line, or was it descending?

A. It was the same as if you took a ball and threw it.

Q Did you get near enough or see it near enough to know its size and shape?

A. No sir; I did not pay any attention to it. I thought it was a fire cracker.

Re-Cross Examination by

Q Where was the bomb when you first saw it?

A. In the air. I did not suppose it was a bomb at that time.

Q At what location in the air?

A. It was right over my head. About like that (indicating).

Q Pretty near straight over your head?

A. Almost.

Q And you were in the right of the second company?

A Yes.

Q Did it pass over your head?

A. It kind of went something like that (indicating).

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Q And it was nearly directly over your head when you saw it?

A. Not directly.

Q At what angle?

A. I am not sure,

Q How near was it from you do you think?

A. I could not say; probably ten feet.

Q How high up in the air do you think it was?

A Ten feet up in the air, is what I mean.

Q Do you remember whether you looked a little to the north or a little to the west when you saw it?

A. I could not say, because I did not pay no attention to it. I thought it was something that they were trying to scare us with.

Q And you simply saw it in the air?

A. Yes.

Q You do not mean that you saw it when it started?

A I know about what direction it came from.

Q You say you think you saw it about over your head?

A That is all.

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