Imágenes de páginas



ATLANTA, GEORGIA, October 3, 1868. General U. S. Grant, Commanding U. S. Army, Washington, D. C. : SIR: You have been apprised, that on receiving intelligence of the disorders occurring in this State on the 19th instant, at Camilla, in Mitchell county, that I at once had troops in readiness, to meet any call of the civil authorities, such as are referred to in the letter of instructions from the General-in-Chief of date August 25, 1868, and that at the same time, I dispatched Captain Mills, a most reliable and intelligent officer on whose cool sound judgment and freedom from any prejudice or party bias I could depend, to investigate thoroughly and report the facts in the case.

The affair passing off with the riot or rather collision of the 19th instant, and no call having been made on me, the Legislature, (as I think properly) declining the request of the Governor to authorize him to make the call, no troops were sent. The report of Captain Mills was yesterday received, and after its perusal I deemed the only thing for me to do, was to transmit it to the Governor of the State, the officer with whom I am required to communicate and to assure him, that in any measures that might be taken by the civil authorities in the investigation of the affair and punishment of derelict civil officers or citizens, that in case he met with resistance, or he or they found themselves unable to execute the laws I was prepared on being so informed to aid and co-operate with him to the fullest extent of the force under my command.

My letter to the Governor, the report and accompanying documents of Captain Mills, are herewith forwarded by the hands of Captain C. McKibbin, U. S. Army, and I should be pleased to receive any comments thereon, which yourself, the Honorable Secretary of War, or the President may please to make.

I deem it proper to add, that in a few days I shall distribute the troops in the Department, with a view of "aiding the civil authori ties to keep the peace" during the approaching Presidential election. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


A true copy:

R. C. DRUM, Assistant Adjutant General.

Major General.

ATLANTA, GA., October 3, 1868.

To His Excellency, R. B. Bullock, Governor of Georgia.

GOVERNOR :-Enclosed you will find a printed copy of the instructions sent to me from the General-in-Chief, for my guidance in determining when and how the forces under my command may be used to "preserve the peace.' ."* You will perceive they require not only that the call must be made

* See Circular Letters of August 25 and October 1, 1868.

by some Marshal or Sheriff, but that this call must be made in accordance with law, and that the application, with the facts in the case, should be sent, if practicable, to the President of the United States for his orders, before action is taken, and action can only be taken by any subordinate officer on an emergency justifying him, for which he will be held to a strict accountability.

[ocr errors]

The laws referred to in these letters of instruction having been enacted at periods when the present anomalous condition of affairs, at this time existing in the several States of this Military Department, was never anticipated. They do not provide that prompt and summary action which, in cases of riot and unpremeditated disorder, is so necessary for its immediate suppression, and they throw directly and entirely on the Marshal or Sheriff the duty of initiating the process by which military aid can be given to "preserve the peace." As much latitude may be given to this expression, "preserving the peace," and to guard against unnecessary or improper and illegal use of the United States troops, subordinate officers are enjoined in all cases to obtain, it practicable, from their superiors the authority to act when called on. These remarks are made to explain to you my course in the recent occurrence at Camilla, in this State. The moment I received intelligence of the difficulty, I directed troops to be held in readiness to meet any legal calls from the properly constituted authorities, and I, at the same time, dispatched an intelligent and reliable officer, in whose judgment I had implicit confidence, to make an investigation, and report to me the facts obtained. The report of that officer, Captain William Mills, 16th Infantry, with accompanying affidavits, is herewith forwarded for your consideration, and such action as you may deem proper; making the following remarks, which may be deemed pertinent in view of the delicate duty devolving on me, and my future action in similar cases:

1. I consider the conduct of Messrs. Pierce and Murphy in the highest degree reprehensible, if not subjecting them to an action-at law, whilst I waive the question as to whether your proclamation referred to such assemblages as met together at Camilla. Whilst I acknowledge the Constitutional right of every citizen to bear arms for a peaceable purpose, I must insist that when a civil officer, charged with the preservation of the peace, commands or requests citizens to put away arms on the ground that unless they do so, he cannot protect them, that it is the duty of every good citizen to yield to the mandate of the law officer, whether that officer be acting from right or wrong motives, or whether his action is strictly and technically legal or not; for it is evident that in the existing condition of the public mind, if individual citizens are determined to put their construction on laws and maintain them by force of arms, that collision, riot and bloodshed are inevitable. Therefore, in my judgment, it was the duty of Messrs. Pierce and Murphy, as the principal parties, to have counselled and urged compliance with the mandate of the Sheriff, and held him responsible afterwards for any assumed authority he may have exer. cised. The strongest evidence of this is to be found in the report of Captain Mills, in which he states that after the riot commenced, it ended in a

few minutes, by the fleeing of the negroes, who composed the mass of the meeting, showing their arms were utterly useless, and might just as well have been left, for all the ability it gave them to maintain their Constitutional rights.

II. The conduct of the Sheriff, in returning to Camilla and organizing a posse to meet a riot he seemed determined to believe would occur, would seem to indicate he had more knowledge of an intention to break the peace on the part of the citizens of the town than those holding the meeting, and that his conduct was such, as to subject him to the grave suspicion, that, under the guise of the law, and his duty, he was a party to the wanton and unnecessary destruction of life which subsequently ensued. For there is no evidence that after all resistance was over, and the negroes were flying in terror, that the Sheriff made any effort to control his posse, and prevent them from continuing till night fall and for miles from town, wounding and killing the fugitives. This is a grave and serious charge-almost too terrible to believe-and I should be most glad to resist the conclusions which have forced me to believing it, but there is so much prima-facie evidence as not only to warrant but to demand-that such legal action, as the code of the State authorises, should be immediately taken, and an investigation according to the forms of law be had, and all guilty parties, whether sheriff, coroner or citizens, should be either acquitted, or if found guilty, punished with the severest penalties the Statutes admit. And now I come to the material part of this communication. There were no troops at Camilla, not only because no necessity for their use was anticipated, but because the place is one so remote and obscure, that had I have been distributing troops, they would never have been sent nearer than Albany, some thirty miles distant; but supposing troops had been present, you can readily perceive how embarrassing would be the duty of the officer in command, unless he was better posted up in local matters than it is reasonable to believe he would be; for in this case, the testimony would seem to point to the civil officer, whom he is instructed to obey, as the very one who is apparently most guilty. I refer to this because I am repeatedly applied to scatter and distribute the troops, to which I have replied, that I have not the force to occupy every village in the State, that the conditions under which the troops can act, requires the soundest discretion and good judgment, which all subordinate officers do not possess, and that I deem it better to hold the troops ready in masses, to intervene in large bodies when the proper time comes; and if the riot at Camilla had continued, or had been followed by retaliation on the part of the colored population, I would at once have sent sufficient troops to have restored order. And I beg now to say to you, that if in taking the action to investigate this matter and punish the guilty therein, if you report to me any difficulty in executing the decrees of Courts, or in serving the processes of the sheriffs and others, I am prepared to sustain the law officers of the State to the fullest extent of the military power under my command. I have no authority to act independent of the civil authorities, and the laws must be adhered to whereever they are defined; but if in executing these laws, you or your sub

ordinate officers meet with resistence more than you can overcome, I am prepared, on being so advised, to use all my power to sustain you. Perhaps the announcement of this fact may remove some delusions, and have the effect to prevent in future, occurrences like the one at Camilla-an affair I trust there will be no delay in investigating, and punishing the guilty, and to aid the action of any officer charged with this investigation, is the object of sending to you Captain Mill's report and accompa nying documents,

A true copy:

Very respectfully, your obedient servant.

(Signed) GEORGE G. MEADE, Major General U. S. A.

R. C. DRUM, Assistant Adjutant General.

MCPHERSON BARRACKS, ATLANTA, GEORGIA, September 29, 1868. Brevet Brigadier General R. C. Drum. Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the South, Atlanta, Georgia:

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that in compliance with paragraph VII of Special Orders No. 44, current series from Headquarters Department of the South. I proceeded to Camilla, Mitchell county, Georgia, on the 23d instant to investigate the occurrences at that place on the 19th instant. I respectfully report as follows:

A few days previous to the 19th instant, notices were circulated in Dougherty and Mitchell counties that a Republican meeting would be held at Camilla, Georgia, on that day, and that W. P. Pierce, a candidate for Congress for that district, John Murphy, candidate as elector for the district, T. F. Putney and others would address the meeting; that pursuant to that notice, a number of colored people from the plantations between Albany, Georgia, and the neighborhood of Camilla, proceeded in a body to that place, accompanied by musicians in a wagon. This crowd numbered from two to three hundred colored people, about one half of whom may have carried fire-arms of different descriptions; that when within from two to three miles of Camilla, they were met by M. S Poore, the Sheriff of Mitchell county, accompanied by four or five citizens of Camilla, who protested against their entering the town with arms, claiming that in accordance with a late proclamation of the Governor, he was empowered to demand that they do not enter the town with arms. This demand of the Sheriff was replied to by Messrs. Pierce and Murphy in behalf of the crowd, by their stating that they were not an organized body and in no way under the control of any one leader; that the persons with arms carried them of their own accord, and assured the Sheriff and citizens of Camilla with him, that they were going to Camilla for the purpose of attending a political meeting, and that their intentions were peaceable, and without intent to disturbe the peace of the place. I would respectfully call your attention to the enclosed affidavits of W. P. Pierce, John Murphy, T. F. Putney and M. S. Poore, Sheriff of Mitchell county, for a full understanding of what took place between the Sheriff and the freedmen at this time.

From the affidavit it will be seen that he considered the attitude of the

crowd approaching the town of such a character as to induce him to return to town and prepare the citizens against attack by directing them as a possee to have their arms ready in case he should call upon them to assist him in preserving the peace.

I have been unable to obtain any evidence that these colored people going to Camilla on that day were either instructed or advised by any one to carry arms with them, either for purposes of defence or violence, or that they seriously expected interruption in holding their meeting, although from some of the enclosed affidavits it is alleged that one James Johns, a white citizen of Camilla, had frequently said that no Re➡ publican meeting should be held in Camilla, and that on this day, this man Johns, armed with a gun, met the crowd some three miles from town and told them that they should have no meeting or speaking at Camilla, and that if they come into town they would be hurt. Upon the crowd entering the town en route to the Court House, they are met by this man Johns, who is intoxicated and armed with a gun; he is boisterous and angry in his manner, and orders the musicians in the wagon to cease playing; his orders are not obeyed. In some of the enclosed affidavits it is stated that he then fired his gun at the people in the wagon; by others, that his gun was discharged accidentally and not in the direction of the wagon. However, this may be, the result of the discharge of this man's gun, was immediate fire from both colored people and citizens of the place. It is admitted by all persons that this man's gun was the first one fired; that it was discharged without provocation. In conversation with citizens of Camilla, this man Johns was described to me as a drunken and dangerous man and frequently in difficulties, and one whose acts they deprecated, and that on that day he was intoxicated. Under these circumstances it can not but be considered neglectful on the part of the Sheriff in not seeing that this man Johns was kept out of the way on that day, particularly as he was drunk, and as he, the Sheriff, appears to have apprehended so much trouble from the approaching crowd and the excitement existing among the citizens of the place.

For a full understanding of the occurrences from the time the Sheriff met the crowd advancing on the road to town until the firing commenced and its results, I respectfully call attention to the enclosed affidavits of both citizens of Camilla and persons who went there to attend the meeting. As far as it was possible to learn the casualties on that day, were as follows: 9 kitlel, colored; from 25 to 30 wounded, colored, several slightly; 6 citizens of Camiila, white, wounded, none severely.

From the enclosed statement of parties present, it will be seen that the firing in town did not continue many minutes, but that the colored people fled to the adjoining woods, and that they were pursued by the citizens as a possee of the Sheriff, some of them mounted and some on foot, and that firing of guns was heard through the woods during the balance of the day. The Sheriff in his affidavit states that three colored men were killed one mile from the town.

I have been unable to find any proof that the colored people who went that day to Camilla were advised by any of the white men who accom

« AnteriorContinuar »