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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"

Centreville, Tenn. January 15, 1866
Brevet Maj. Gen. Clinton B. Fisk

I am in the receipt of your circular letter of Jany. 5/66 Confidential and have the honour to report as follows. Since April 15/65 there have been numerous outrages committed against freedmen in this district. The violence committed was generally death. The Rebels adopted this course to keep them in bondage up til June last when a federal garrison was stationed at this place. During the rebellion the freedman was kept under the control of their rebel master by violence for if any left their former master they sent the young bands of Bushwhackers after him and when was found he was deliberately shot down. This deterred many from leaving and this today keeps them from getting remuneration for their work which they perform under dread of maltreatment. I being a refugee during 5 years from this county am not prepared to give everything in detail at least from observation, but I know of some 5 or 6 having been killed in that manner all for the above purpose, which must sufise for the present. But I will come to more recent date.

About 10 or 15 days ago there was a difficulty occurred some 8 miles from this place or rather provoked by some citizens of this county, the facts of which was detailed to me by an eye witness and is as follows. There is still lingering in this county a set of desperadoes that have never yet submitted to the civil authorities, armed to the hilt, who are still the terror to the freedmen, urged up no doubt by the citizens here. It so happened that a freedman had done some work for a bar keeper in Vernon in this county for which he applied for a settlement and while in the house 3 of them outlaws entered and commenced up on the Black man, all to abuse him, first with words. The freedman made no resistance and started to leave whereupon they drew their side arms and deliberately presented at his head. Fortunately it failed fire, whereupon he seized a butcher knife and ran after him, the Negro being the strongest seized him and threw him to the ground and held him until some one interfered and made a settlement of the difficulty as all through. But he was no sooner released when a gathered an axe and made after him again, this time the Negro ran some 2 or three hundred yards and kept out of the way, but succeeded in bring the boy back, that he had nothing against him. When he got him back he commenced the 3rd time with bricks and rocks, succeeded in striking him several times, bruising him up severely. I attempted to have this matter thoroughly investigated but could get nobody or persons to arrest the parties. I even tried the Military who also refuse after I had set the trap and had a confidential friend to arrange everything and still Captain Vanhice of the 17 US Col. Inft. refused, he would only have had to travel 6 miles to apprehend them.

The fellows still prowl through the county boasting that they have never surrendered and never intend to. Their names are Benj. Durbeville, William Durberville, William Saterfield, and a fellow who resides in West Tennessee whose name I have forgotten. They are tools by which and through whom Rebels work contrayriness. There is every disposition that can be conceived of to thwart the workings of the Bureau. If anything is rong on the part of the freedman I must do something and when I attempt to right it every conceivable obstacle is thrown in my way. For instance, yesterday a prominent citizen came into my office and demanded a warrant of arrest for a freedman on a charge of theft. I ordered his arrest and an investigation. No sooner had I issued the necessary warrant than they, the same parties, carried the news to him to (illegible) and off he went to evade the investigation. The same parties had instituted all of this, was done for effect to make the imperception among the Freedmen that the workings of the Bureau was against them and to keep them from entering into written contracts for the present year. All that is effected. Hire is done by compulsion & I to my own knowledge am satisfied that there is a combination against the Bureau, a perfect understanding among the leading Rebs that they will not pay to have contracts registered, they are determined to manage that matter to suit themselves.

Question, what shall I do to cause them to comply with the order requiring the registration of contracts? For I am shure that it will require something more than orders to do the work, but I am presenting to much upon your patience, for a more lucid report I refer you to Dr. J. N. Puckett at Nashville in the absence of whoom I have the honour to transact his duties. I am your obedient servant.

M. H. Puckett for
J. N. Puckett, Superintendent, V. C.
Hickman County


P. S. I have no knowledge of any outrages on the part of freedmen against the whites.

M. H. Puckett