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The Freedmen's Bureau Online

Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Tennessee
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865 - 1869

National Archives Microfilm Publication M999, Roll 34
"Reports of Outrages, Riots and Murders, Jan. 15, 1866 - Aug. 12, 1868"

Office Supt. Freedmen, Gibson Co.
Trenton, Tenn. Jany. 24th, 1866

Maj. Genl. C. B. Fisk
Ass. Comr. for Ky. & Tenn.


Your circular letter dated Jany. 5th, 1866 at Nashville came to hand the 22nd instant and in compliance with your request therein contained I would respectfully submit the following:

From the 15th of April 1865 until about the 1st of Dec. 1865 the time last mentioned being the date when I entered upon the discharge of my duties as Superintendent &c., I remember of no serious disturbance or outrage committed by or upon the freedmen in this county though it is possible some such may have been committed.

Since the last mentioned date some outrages and acts of violence have occurred coming under my observation the particulars of which as near I can get them I will now give in detail.

About the 1st of January 1866 a freedman the name of Daniel Wood aged about sixty years, peaceable and quiet in his character whose wife lived five miles from his place with a Mr. Coleman was taken from his bed at his wife's house in the night time by some white men and carried by force to a considerable distance and shot several times and left by them as dead. Daniel recovered and is now nearly well. I had the parties suspected of committing the outrage arrested and bought before me, but was unable to obtain any satisfactory evidence of their guilt or rather identity of the parties charged. Daniel himself could not identify them. The result was the discharge of the parties accused, and as yet no clue can be obtained as to the parties who committed the outrage.

Soon after and within a few days of the above outrage on Daniel Wood a colored man by the name of (name left blank) having a wife living at Tom Harris's was shot and severely wounded. Harris at my insistence was arrested on suspicion, a justice of the peace for said County issuing the warrant of arrest under the State law. The colored man never came to me to make any complaint and was not before the justice of the peace, being, as I learn, unable from his wound to do so, and is still unable to quit his bed and may yet die. On the trial before the justice no evidence could or was had except the statement or admission of Harris himself - they are as follows.

Harris accused the colored man of giving a venereal disease to the colored man's wife living at Harris's and also to a colored girl in Harris's employ and told him he ought to pay the doctors bills, where upon according to said Harris's statement, the colored man replied that any man who made such a charge was a d__ned liar and advanced upon Harris for a fight, and Harris then drew a pistol and shot him. Upon this evidence the justice discharged the prisoner which in my view even of the State law he ought not to have done, Harris upon his own admission being guilty of manslaughter if nothing more; but having been arrested and tried and discharged by a justice of the peace, a state tribunal, I am uncertain as to whether I should take jurisdiction of the case myself and if so what punishment can I inflict and in what manner can I do it, and what instruments or agents can I use in carrying out and making effectual my action in the previous. I ask your advise on the subject and will await the same before taking my steps in the matter.

The third and last one of any serious consequence occurred also within a few days of the other two & was the murder of a freedman by the name of Nettles, quite an old man and one of the most harmless and inoffensive men in all this county. He was shot in broad daylight on the public highway leading into this town and only about 1½ miles from it. He was driving a team peaceably and quietly along the road, and was met by three men, white men, on horseback and under the influence of whiskey. One of them rode up to the wagon and caught hold of the old man and attempted to pull him out, upon his pulling back, the man having hold of him called to other one of his crowd to shoot him, and he drew his pistol accordingly and shot him through the body and then left him. The old man survived the wound only three days. Upon hearing of this most wicked and wanton outrage I caused a warrant of arrest to issue for the parties, and placed it in the hands of a constable but as yet they have not been found and I learn have fled the county. If the parties can be arrested there will be no difficulty in making the proof. It can be done by an eye witness.

Some month or more ago in the North Western portion of the County, some freedmen who had rented homes & farms for this year had their houses burned by some evil person in the neighborhood. They made complaint to me but we were unable to ferret out the guilty parties. I thereupon caused a notice to be published in our Town Gazette warning the white people of the consequences of such conduct if it were continued, since which nothing further of the kind has occurred.

I will add in conclusion that a large portion of the people of this County are beginning cheerfully or at least seemingly so to adapt themselves to the new order of things and with the exception of the few outrages above mentioned peace and quiet is prevailing between the two races, and the acts of violence committed on the blacks are generally done by worthless and loose characters.

All of which is respectfully submitted
John M. Jones, Supt. Freedmen
Gibson Co.

P. S. I know of no acts of violence committed or attempted to be committed upon the person of any white man or woman by any colored man; some colored people have been arrested by the State magistrate for larceny and such like offenses.

Yours T
John M. Jones, Supt. Freedmen, Gibson Co.