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"
Office Asst. Supt. Floyd, Roanoke & Craig Co.s', Va.
Salem, Roanoke Co., Va., Sept. 30, 1866
Bvt. Brig. Gen. O. Brown
A. A. A. G.
In compliance with Par VI Circular No. 10 Bureau of R. F. & A. L. State of Va., dated Richmond Va., March 12, 1866, I have the honor to make the following report.
In the county of Roanoke there were during the past month several trials of Negroes for Larceny, which was fairly and impartially tried.
In Floyd Co. a case occurred in which although the trial was a fair one, it was generally conceded by the Judge, Commonwealth Attorney and all parties knowing the particulars of the case that the verdict of the jury was a very severe and unnecessary one.
The case was as follows. Two Negroes led by a white man (against whom I believe there has been no indictment found though there is a good evidence of his guilt and who fled the country on the arrest of the Negroes) broke into the outhouses of a man named Wm. Harmon who resides in Floyd Co., in the night and stole several articles, the white man getting the benefit of most of them. The Negroes were shortly afterwards arrested and confined in the jail; a short time after their examination before the County Court, one of them, while the jailor was doing something in his cell, struck the jailor on the head with a piece of iron fracturing his skull, and then walked out of the jail and has not since been heard of; the other Negro (whose name is David Helms) instead of making his escape remained and assisted the jailor's family in attending to his wound.
Helms afterwards had another opportunity to escape while they were making repairs upon the jail but he did not take it; he was in jail nearly six months and behaved quite well while there.
The evidence against Helms consisted only of a confession that he had been with the party and as he had been in jail some time and was evidently drawn into the affair by the white man and had always borne a good character, it was supposed that he would not be sentenced to over three months in the County jail. The jury however, sentenced him to two years in the penitentiary. The friends of this man feel satisfied that if the case is laid before the Governor a pardon can be obtained.
Some time since a Freedwoman in Floyd Co. named America Ingraham and a white man named Notley P. Adams were arrested, the woman for stealing a horse and the man for receiving the stolen property; the horse was branded U. S. and the woman claimed it as her property, it having been given her by one of Gen. Stonemen's men, and she sold it to the man Adams; a statement of the case was sent to Gen. Terry by Adams' Counsel, and he directed that the case be investigated and if Adams statements were found to be true that the Court be ordered not to proceed in the matter. Lieut. C. S. Schaeffer, Asst. Supt. 8th Dist., Va., investigated the case and issued an order directing the County Court of Floyd Co. not to proceed in the matter, but the Court refused to recognize Gen. Terry's authority and decided to go on with the trial.
I attended the trial and am satisfied from the evidence adduced and from the strenuous exertions made by the man from whom the horse was taken to convict Adams of receiving stolen property - two additional Counsel besides the Commonwealth Attorney having been retained by the complainant to prosecute the accused - that the freedwoman has the best claim to the horse.
The trial of the white man lasted nearly two days and on the first day the Court refused to admit Negro testimony, though the case clearly comes under the statute admitting such testimony; on the second day Mr. Adams' Counsel again attempted to introduce Negro testimony and pressed the matter so strongly that the Court admitted it but I am satisfied placed no weight upon it.
Both the man and woman were sent on for trial before the Superior Court.
I would respectfully state that in my opinion there is no chance for the freedwoman to obtain possession of the horse through any of the Civil Courts here; if obtained by her at all it must be by an order from the Military Authorities.
No further cases have occurred during the past month in my Sub. Dist.
I am Gen.
Your Obt. Servt.
Hiram L. Hunt
Lt. and Asst. Supt.
8th Dist. Va.