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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"

Affidavits regarding the 1866 Memphis Riot

Silas S. Garrett - affidavit - states that he saw the commencement of the riot on 2nd day. Knows the policemen to blame. Has seen their brutal conduct toward black men for the past 12 months.

Before me personally appeared the undersigned who being duly sworn deposes as follows:

My name is Silas S. Garrett, late 1st Lt. 5th U. S. C. Infty. (Heavy). I was with my regiment at Fort Pickering at the time riot commenced. I have reason to believe there were few soldiers away from camp at that time. When it became known that the police were shooting inoffensive blacks in South Memphis, it was with great difficulty that the officers were able to restrain the men from joining in the riot. The guns having been turned over, there was nothing to be done but by moral suasion.

I staid up until a late hour using my best efforts to keep the men in camp.

The next morning I rode over to South Memphis and saw two of the soldiers that had been killed. From the position in which their bodies laid it was evident that they were trying to get away. This was about 8 O'clock a.m. Everything was quiet in South Memphis at that time. I rode into the city and in about an hour saw a force of policemen (say 15 or 20) under the command of Chief of Police B. G. Garrett - proceeded by 4 or 5 men on horseback and followed by a crowd of excited citizens going in the direction of South Memphis. I followed them down and watched their motions closely.

I saw a policeman pick up a stone and order a black woman to go in the house. She was standing quietly in her own door saying nothing and doing nothing. They arrived at South Memphis and crossed to the opposite side among some shanties occupied by the colored people. I rode immediately to where I could have a full view. There was no disturbance at all.

The police pointed out two or three Negroes and started after them, pistols in hand. The blacks seeing this force, attempted to get away, when the whole force, Police & citizens, began an indiscriminating shooting of inoffensive blacks. I saw one shot and killed as he was moving toward the police with an evident intention of giving himself up. I saw another who had been quietly at work in the yard pursued and killed.

The policemen in this case must have been drunk for he shot at least 4 times at this man within five steps of him without bringing him down. He finally got near enough to knock him down with his pistol.

Soon after, seeing the colored soldiers coming out of the Fort, I rode to the little eminence in rear of the Miss. & Tenn. R. R. Depot and while urging the men to return to their quarters a ball passed in close proximity to my head. I know if it had not been for the police there would have been no row on the 2nd May and but for the brutality of the Irish police towards the blacks as mentioned by myself for the past 12 months in the city of Memphis, there would have been no difficulty at all.

(signed) S. S. Garrett

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 14th day of May 1866.
(sgd) Mich. Walsh
Capt. & A. A. A. G.
& Pro. Mar. Freedmen