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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"

Bureau RF & AL
Office Sub. Asst. Comr.
Nashville, Tenn. Jany 11/68

Bvt. Maj. Genl. W. P. Carlin
Asst. Comr. Tenn.


In obedience to your instructions of the Asst .Comr. I proceeded to Pulaski, Tenn. on the 9th inst. to investigate the riot and murder at that place of Orange Rhodes and the wounding of several others on the 7th inst. The riot was commenced by Calvin Lamberth (white). After a thorough investigation I find the following to be the facts.

Some time last summer a feud originated between Calvin Lamberth (white) and Calvin Carter (col'd) about some matter of trade and which left a disagreeable feeling between the parties but as it was a small and trifling matter no difficulty arose from it. The immediate origin of the riot was from Calvin Carter (col'd) interfering with a colored strumpet, Lucy Reynolds, kept by Calvin Lamberth (white). Calvin Carter (col'd) had threatened to whip said Lucy Reynolds if he caught her going to Lamberth's house. Whitlock Fields (col'd) was with Carter at the time Carter said he would whip the woman. The woman Lucy Reynolds who frequented Lamberth's store at unseasonable hours informed Lamberth what had been said by Carter and Whitlock Fields. On the 7th inst. Lamberth (white) was hunting Carter (col'd), stating he would kill him on sight, and about 9 o'clock on that morning he (Lamberth) went into John Carter's grocery store still looking for said Calvin Carter (col'd) and having a stick in his hand but failed to find him. About 1 o'clock in the day Lamberth with John Kennedy and two other friends went into and stood in front of John Carter's grocery with pistols in their hands. The town Constable N. Amit(?) dispersed them. In about half an hour after, Lamberth (white) again went over to the grocery with a stick in one hand and a pistol in the other & stood in front looking for Calvin Carter. Whitlock Fields stood in Washington Rhodes house and told Calvin Carter (col'd) that Lamberth (white) was coming -- without further provocation Lamberth then shot at Whitlock Fields twice and then in return Fields snapped a cap -- his pistol would not go off.

Immediately upon the firing the young men of the town ran out of their several houses carrying double barrel shot guns & pistols already loaded for the occasion and drew up in front of John Carter's grocery store in line. The Negroes who were in the grocery store numbering eight (8) attempted to defend themselves, a few of them having pistols. The whites who were in line then made a general attack firing volleys into the house. At this time Mr. Malone was trying to quell the disturbance and told the Negroes that the whites had promised to keep back if they would keep quiet. Under Mr. Malone's advice the Negroes crowded back into a heap in the house and doorway and as they were thus huddled together the whites rushed up and again fired into them. The results of this volley was the killing and wounding of the following colored men. Orange Rhodes mortally. Calvin Carter supposed mortally. Ben Nelson severely. Tom Butler severely. John Carter slightly. Calvin Carter slightly. None of the whites were injured. There were 18 white men firing into the colored at 10 paces distance. Orange Rhodes killed was known to be both by white & black one of the best col'd men in the county, being orderly quiet and peaceable. The Mayor, Town Constable Mr. Richardson and Mr. Malone deserve great credit for their exertion in quelling the riot and ran the risk of their lives in doing so. Some of the white men engaged in this were Calvin Lamberth, John Kennedy, McLamore, James Taylor Jr., McKinny, Sterling Payne, Robt. Moore, Black Richardson, May Ezell, McCrea, Percy and Ed Black.

The white men waiving an examination were placed under bonds of $1500.00 each to appear before the criminal court.

From all the facts and evidence that could be obtained it is evident that this difficulty was sought and brought on by Lamberth and that the parties who aided and assisted him were prepared and ready for such an emergency. There being only 8 Negroes and a few of them armed proves, contrary to the assertion made, that they were not prepared for the murderous assault made. Circumstances further prove that the white men acted upon this occasion from preparation and precedented action for in an instant after the first firing by Lamberth, 18 white men drew up in line in front of the store prepared for action. From the readiness in which these men attended upon this occasion it could only be done by an organization well matured and drilled. There is reason to believe and circumstances & affidavits warrant the belief that such organization is in existence & that is called the Ku Klux Klan, having for its end the expulsion of loyal men whites and blacks from the counties of Giles & Maury and thus terrorizing similar to that which was general in this county about the breaking out of the rebellion. The parties, numbers & instituting of such clan is not as yet definitely known, but sufficient of the clan and its intentions is known however as to warrant its prompt suppression.

I am General
Very Respectfully
Your Obt. Servt.
Michael Walsh
Sub. Asst. Comr.