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The Freedmen's Bureau Online

Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Virginia
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865 - 1869.
National Archives Microfilm Publication M1048, Roll 59
"Narrative Reports of Criminal Cases Involving Freedmen, Mar. 1866 - Feb. 1867"

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands
Hd. Qrs. Asst. Supt. 8th Dist. Va.
Marion Smyth Co. Va. June 25th 1866

I have the honor to make the following reports relative to the administration of civil justice in my Sub-Dist.

On the 27th of May 1866 Wm. A. Jones a white citizen of this place was tried by the county court for shooting Rosanna a freedwoman then in his employ.

Mr. Jones stated on his examination before a magistrate that he went to whip Rosanna and took his revolver in one hand and a stick in the other. That he struck Rosanna and she attempted to run from him; he ordered her to stop. That he shot at her twice.

On the examination of Mr. Jones before the Co. Court Dr. Watson testified that he was called on or about the 20th of January 1866 to dress the wound. That on examination he found the ball had hit Rosanna on the left arm near the elbow and that the arm was so badly swollen that it was impossible for him to find and extract the ball. He further testified that at that time Mr. Jones told him the same statement about the shooting of the said Rosanna that Jones made on his examination before the magistrate. That the wound could not have been inflicted by a stick, but that it was in his opinion a pistol shot wound. Rosanna testified that Mr. Jones came in the kitchen where she was at work with a pistol in one hand and a large stick in the other. That Mr. Jones struck her with the stick a severe blow. That she started to run. That Jones ordered her to stop that Jones shot at her once or twice. That she did not know whether the wound on the arm was made by the stick or a ball. That at the time she was very much frightened and excited. That sometimes Jones punished her very bad. There was no testimony given for Mr. Jones. The court gave a decision of no cause of action and acquitted the said Wm. A. Jones without any restitution to the said Rosanna.

In my opinion justice was not given the woman. And I am further of the opinion that Rosanna was induced to give the testimony she gave through fear of the said Wm. A. Jones.

Names of the court. Wm. P. Dungan. Matthew Kenston, Samuel Kincanon, Jacob Casell, and John Rosenbom, magistrates of the county of Smyth Va.

I am Genl. Very Respectfully
Your Obdt. Servt.
B. E. Hess Lt. V. R. C.
Asst. Supt. 8th Dist. Va.

To Bvt. Brig. Genl. O. Brown
Asst. Com. of State Virginia

Bureau Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned L.
Office Asst. Supt. Sub-Dist. Westmoreland & Rich. Co.'s Va.
Warsaw, Richmond Co. Va.
June 30th, 1866

Major James Johnson
Sept. 10th Dist. Va.
Fredericksburg, Va.

I have the honor to report that since the adjournment of the Freedmen Court people here seem to think that I have not the power to take the right in reporting outrages committed upon Blacks by the Whites.

Mr. James B. Smith a white citizen of Richmond County in my Sub. Dist. committed an outrage upon a colored Freedwoman named Peggy Rich at his residence, by assaulting her with a heavy stick and knocking her down three times.

Upon her application to me for justice I sent a polite note to Thomas Jones, the Commonwealth's attorney for Richmond County, in which I requested him to prosecute James B. Smith for the alleged offence.

I have to report Mr. Jones promptly responded to my request and had Smith immediately arrested, and examined upon the same day (16th inst.) and Smith was bound over to appear before the Circuit Court in October.

Smith again assaulted her upon the same evening and threatened her life. She again appealed to me and I again sent a similar note to Mr. Jones, and he again had Smith arrested and tried for the offence. But was acquitted, which I think was wrong.

Mr. Jones prosecuted the case with the same ardor and honesty any man could in his position. But the justices in the second trial did not show justice in my opinion that was warranted.

Very Respectfully
Your Obedient Servt.
Henry K. W. Ayres
2nd Lieut. VRC & Asst. Supt. 11th Dist. Va.

Sub-Dist. Nansemond & isle of Wight Counties
Office Asst. Supt. Bureau R. F. &c.
Suffolk Va. July 30th 1866

In compliance with paragraphs 5 & 6 Circular 10 current Services Bureau R. F. &c. State of Virginia I have the honor to report

Mannie Ballard a colored man living near Windsor in Isle of Wight County complains that on the night of Sunday July 1st 1866 a man named Edwin Ely and three or four others broke into his house as he was returning to bed, fired at him wounding him severely also wounding his child; the assailants then took Ballard's wife and gave her a severe whipping. Ballard applied to Justice Ashman of Windsor for redress, but does not name Ely unless the magistrate would promise him protection, for fear of assassination, this the magistrate declined, and no action was taken. My court has no jurisdiction in Isle of Wight County.

I had the honor to report some time since that ruffian named Andrew Carr living in this county had fired two pistol balls into the head of a Negro an inoffensive man named Henry Crump. No action has been taken by the civil authorities in the case; as soon as the excitement among criminals on account of the prospect of justice overtaking them through a Bureau Court subsides I hope to reach this man.

I also made special report of the case of a Negro named Madder Johnston assaulted and bodily injured on the 30th inst. by some ruffians---one of them the Carr above named. The unworthy incompetent Mayor of this village, learning that I had applied for troops at length gave two of them an examination. Norfleet, the ringleader, after being released by the deputy sheriff in whose hands I placed him, escaped. I am trying to find him.

The two cases examined by the Mayor were discharged on the grounds of having acted in self defence.

I was too unwell to attend the examination, but the evidence that I can address will show that the old man was wantonly assaulted, and that he simply raised his arm to ward off the blows. I propose giving the case a rehearing.

I have reported these cases before under a misapprehension of the requirements of Circular 10, and have embodied the statements in other reports.

Very Rsptly.
Your Obt. Svt.
J. R. Stone Bvt. Maj.
Asst. Supt. Bureau R. F. & C.

Capt. Wm. P. Austin
Supt. 1st Dist. Va.

Bureau of R. F. & A. L.
Office of Asst. Supt. Sub. Dist.
of Culpepper & Rappahannock
Culpepper C. H. Va. July 31, 1866

Bvt. Major
W. R. Morse
Supt. 4th Dist. Va.

In compliance with circular No. 10 dated Hd. Qrs. Asst. Com. Va. Richmond, Va., March 12th, 1866, I have the honor to state that I attended the trial of Robert W. Eastham (not Esom as before reported) for the murder of Minor Menifus before the county court of Rappahannock County. The report of the case as the testimony disclosed was forwarded by Lt. Roth and myself. There was a large number present from all parts of the county and it was plainly seen that Eastham had all their sympathy. The Commonwealth's attorney stood alone doing all in his power to have justice done. Eastham was acquitted and allowed to depart. It would be well for the proper authorities to know who he is. I heard statements about this man that I believe can be proved. One is as follows.

Mr. B. C. Macoy stated publicly in this place that Eastham & himself belonged to Mosby's Command and as they were riding along at one time they came up to a Union soldier (an old man) who was broken down and sitting beside the road his horse near him & his carbine leaning on the fence. Eastham jumped off his horse against the remonstrance of Macoy took up the carbine and the old man began to plead for his life when he struck him dashing out his brains. Henry O'Bannon & U. T. Stark also made statements of like character. This man is considered in his county as a "gallant Southern Soldier."

No other cases have come under my notice during the month.

I am Major Very Respectfully
Your Obt. Servt.
W. S. Chase
2nd Lt. 18th V. R. C. & Asst. Supt.

Bureau Refugees, Freedmen, and A. L.
Office Asst. Supt. Sub. Dist. No. 10
Stanton, Va. July 31st 1866

Captain R. S. Lacy
Supt. Seventh Dist. Va.
Lynchbug, Va.


I have the honor to report in compliance with Par. 6 Circular No. 10 U. S. from Hd. Qrs. Asst. Commr. State Va. That as far as notified I have attended criminal trials in which freedmen were concerned in this Sub-Dist. during the last month. The trials have chiefly been preliminary hearings before Magistrates and almost without exception where white-persons have been parties the decisions have been in their favor --- there have been several cases of assaults upon freedmen - in not one instance has any satisfaction been given the freedman it is only by the most strenuous exertions that I can get Magistrates to hear the cases and the results of trials are so unfavorable as to make it better in most instances not to try the case --- for instance if the freedman makes complaint and it is clearly proven the Magistrate will probably bind both parties to keep the Peace --- then the freedman must get bail or go to jail for making the complaint.

I give the following synopsis of two trials to show the impartiality; of the trials the cases are not exceptions, but fair specimens of the rule.

Chas. L. Saupe (White) vs. Wm. Gearing (F)--- evidence went to jurors that Gearing and his wife live in house adjoining, and belonging to Saupe. Gearing's wife had been abused by the wife of Saupe. Gearing, a quiet mulatto, went in a respectful manner to Mrs. Saupe and asked what the difficulty was. She was angry at being questioned by him, "a nigger," --- her husband came in and without remark struck Gearing heavily with a chair, three blows, disfiguring his face. Saupe then got the boy Gearing arrested, and swore the peace, the Magistrate binding Gearing to keep the peace --- it not having been proven that he committed, or threatened to commit, any overt act.

2nd --- Alexander Props vs. Taylor Dunlap and Robert Dunlap --- trial proved that the parties with the addition of Prop's brother Charles were working in hay when Chas. Remarked to one of the white men in a laughing way that he would let the white man rake a certain part of the work, at which the white man struck Charles. Robert then remarked "come work don't fight," when the remaining white men struck Robert with pitch fork --- after some blows Robert resisted, and came out best in the fight, whereupon the whites together gave him a thrashing --- after (illegible) they told their father when the old man, unable to find his slave whip, had a number of rods cut, and together the party whipped the boy for having resisted. The case after hearing before County Magistrate, in town, was dismissed. It was difficult to get a warrant issued in the case --- the white man admitted the statement of the boy Robert --- and also admitted his general good character --- still (illegible) they had threatened him with further punishment --- no action was taken.

Very Respectfully
Your Obt. Servant
Geo. V. Cook
1st Lt. V. R. C. & Asst. Supt.