Wartime Richmond was filled with gambling "hells" and "houses of ill fame" during the American Civil War, and the August 20, 1864 edition of Richmond's Daily Dispatch carried the story of an incident in one of those establishments.
Homicide in a house of ill fame.
--Yesterday afternoon about four o'clock Benjamin Delarus was accidentally shot and killed by a companion named Joseph Johnson, in a house of ill fame kept by Catherine Blankinship of Twenty-first, between Main and Cary streets. The evidence at the inquest, given by Mary Vanderlip, Eliza Logan, and other inmates, showed that the two men entered the house very good friends and sent out for some whiskey.--They had not been in there more than ten minutes before a pistol was discharged, and immediately thereafter they heard Johnson remark, "Oh, Ben, I have shot you, I did not mean to do it" ! Delarne replied, "Yes, Joe, you have; and I fear I am gone." When they got in the room where the scene occurred Johnson was leaning against the bed, with Delarne in his arms. In a few minuted a physician was sent for, who, as soon as he saw the wound, announced it fatal, and that it was impossible to do anything for him. In about half an hour after the shooting Delarne died.
The weapon used was an exceedingly small-sized revolving pistol, with a barrel about two and a half inches long and probably a half inch in --The ball entered the lower part of the abdomen.--Delarue and Johnson hail from New York and deserted from the Yankee army a few months since.--The deceased then entered the Confederate army, but was not in the service long be deserted. Only the day before the was arrested for absence from his company; but by some means, succeeded in making his escape from his place of confinement. Johnson was in the habit of going to Mrs. Blankinship's house, but none of the inmates had ever seen the deceased before the evening proceeding the accident.
Information of the shooting being lodged at the lower station-house, officers Granger and Crone forthwith started in search of the man who committed the deed, each taking different directions.--Their informant stated that both the deceased and Johnson had just been closely shaved, and soon after Granger left the cage, be espied two men walking hurriedly along Main street, between Seventeenth and Eighteenth, one of whom had the appearance of a man who had just come from the barber's, which attracted his attention, and calling the other aside, he inquired who it was walking beside him. It turned out to be the very person he was in pursuit of. Johnson readily gave himself up, and stated to the officer that he was then looking for a physician to send to Delarne, whom he had just shot unintentionally. He stated that he had his pistol out, exhibiting it to the deceased, and undertook to show him now to cock it, when the hammer fell and exploded the cap.
The verdict of the jury of inquest was that Delarue came to his death from a wound inflicted by a pistol shot by Joseph Johnson, and that from the testimony before them they believed it was accidental.
The matter will be further investigated before the Mayor this morning.