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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
"Statements Relating to Abuses of Freedmen in Richmond"

Statement of Wellington Booker
late messenger in the Rebel War Department---was this day arrested by the police and put in jail---after some hours confinement was released, my pass being deemed sufficient---a number of others similarly situated was also released.

Statement of Albert Brooks
Albert Brooks a colored man, who paid ($1,100) eleven hundred dollars for his freedom, has kept a livery and hack stable in Richmond more than ten years. At the commencement of the war he and his partner James Turner, owned 10 hacks and 22 horses and were worth more than $10,000---during the war all their horses were taken by the Rebels, but one, and their hacks destroyed, but three. They have since increased their hacks to five and their horses to ten, with which they are now carrying on their former business. On the arrival of the Federal Army both applied to the Military Authorities for permission to carry on their business, took the oath of allegiance paid $12.50 each for a licence to run five hacks and received "protection" papers. On the 6th of June one of Mayor Major's old policemen, who had known all about me and my business for many years called at my stable and asked me if I had a pass. I showed him all my papers. He said they were no account I must have a pass, and that I must come along with him and go to jail---all niggers that did not have a paper from their master, showing that they were employed, must be taken to jail and hired out for $5.00 per month. He delivered me to a Federal Cavalry soldier and they together took me to the jailor, and he locked me in and they went away. I asked the jailor, the same one who has kept the jail for many years, and who knew all about me and my business, what the law required of us, and what they were agoing to do with us. He said we are agoing to hire all you niggers out for $5.00 a month, so you will not live on the Government. I said five dollars a month why I now pay four men each $35.00 a month myself. Well all this is done by your Yankee friends, who pretended they was agoing to set all the niggers free---we always told you they was the meanest men in the world, and that it would be a great deal worse for you when they come. Now you have nobody to protect you, and they are agoing to hire you out for $5.00 a month. After a good deal more of the same sort of talk about the Yankees, and I had remained there an hour or more, one of Mayor's old policemen who was on duty there said Brooks you are a good fellow and I will have you turned out. I asked him what I was to do to prevent being arrested and taken from my business again. He said I must have some white master to give me a pass to show that I was employed. I said if I must have a master, I would have some of these Union men. I went to Asst. Provost Marshal Chas. Warren, 11th C. I. And asked him if he would be my master and give me a pass. He said he would. I asked him if my oath and permit, and licence and the seal of the U. S. were not sufficient---he would not answer. I said don't deceive me again. You told me before that these papers were sufficient---give me something now that will protect me---he than gave me a pass which I am obliged to show to Mayor's police, who stop on nearly every corner of the street and make it nearly impossible for me to carry on my business. I have lived here 40 years, have never received a stripe and was never before arrested, for any cause whatever. I will take oath to the above and can refer to hundreds of the best men in this city who will certify to my good character and voracity.

The above was taken down by me, as related, sentence by sentence.

signed H. W. Pierson

Richmond, Va.
June 10th 1865

Statement of Albert Brooks
I am an old and well known resident of Richmond, was a slave, but bought myself, my wife and six children. Have kept a livery stable for 10 years, and have nor a licence for running three carriages signed by the military authorities, and which I was told was necessary to save my carriages from confiscation, and for which licence I paid $37.50. I employ several colored men and pay them $35 per month. I was arrested by the police and put in the city jail, on the plea that my pass was not good.

Statement of Edward Davenport
was employed in the Rebel War Office, and keeps a boarding house, and is otherwise engaged in business---was arrested by the police, who demanded my pass---exhibited my license to carry passengers, signed by Genl. Patrick, in whose office I had been employed upon the recommendation of Genl. Lee, who sent a letter to Genl. Patrick asking employment for me. I was well known by the police to be a respectable man, but they disregarded all my papers, and I was obliged to submit to arrest.

Statement of Wm. Ferguson
Proprietor of the "Shaving Emporium" Exchange Hotel. On the 7th inst. I saw a drunken white man assault a colored boy, for some time the boy made no resistance, but finally seized and threw the white man. A gentleman and myself separated them, and while the boy was hunting his hat, a second attack was made upon him, and they were again separated, and the colored boy retired, but soon after he was arrested and strung up by his arms in front of the Exchange Hotel. I saw him there suspended, and made his case known to two Northern ladies, one of whom went with me to the office of the Provost Marshal where I stated the facts of the case and the boy was released, together with another man who was being punished in a similar manner. Soon after this occurrence, I was talking in the street with Rev. & Mr. Stickney, an U. S. Army Chaplain, when several U. S. Soldiers assaulted me. Mr. Stickney interfered on my behalf & caused the arrest of one of the soldiers, and he was taken before the Provost Marshal, but whether punished or not, I cannot say.

Alex. M. Davis
Richmond, VA
June 9th 1865
In relation to the abuse of colored men by the civil military authorities --- also conversation with Genl. Patrick and replies

Office of the Tribune
Richmond, Va., June 9, 1865

Col. O. Brown
Supt. Freedmen's Dept.


In reference to the wish of a friend, who informs me you are gathering the facts in relation to the condition of the colored people here. I would most respectfully submit the following incident occurring Thursday, June 8th as an indicative of the sentiment of those here having charge.

While standing on the corner of Franklin & 12th Sts. Thursday morning, attracted by the halting, examining and dispatching of colored men, I was somewhat astonished to hear Police officer Cowen make use of the following language to a colored lad formerly free, holding a pass from his employer---also a former freedmen, which pass the officer scrupled to accept, the lad observing "things are worse now than they ever were" to which the reply was "well didn't I tell you so, you damned fool, that when the Yankees came here you'd be a damned sight worse off, here take it," handing back the pass, "and get some white man to endorse it." A little chagrined that such a sentiment was tolerated here, I complained to Genl. Patrick that afternoon, desiring to know if former free Negroes could not give a pass to an employee and if the language cited above was becoming a Policeman in the discharge of his duty, my rebuff was "you had better go about your own business and not meddle with the authorities; there were difficulties enough with putting the Negro up to more; in the carrying out of new orders, abuses would at first exist, but in a time they would all right themselves." I stated "I would desire to have accorded me, while obeying the laws or assisting in their execution the right of protesting" "well, well just go along and you'll have no difficulties, the case of the Negro giving a pass was just decided here it will have to be endorsed by some well known white citizen or Provost Marshal."

The power given the police & guard to inspect the passes of colored men has been the past two days sadly abused, a further continuance is to place a class of our citizens in a state of anarchy and conduce more than any other measure to injure the cause of freedom and union.

Very Respectfully

Alex. M. Davis

Statement of Nelson E. Hamilton
Two of my sons were employed in the bakery of George Whit, and while thus employed, Police officer Griffin arrested them because they had no pass, and denied that they were regularly employed. He would not hear me or my sons make any defence, but took them to jail.

On the evening my wife and daughter carried them something to eat, but they had been removed to some other prison, and they could not find them.

June 9th 1865

Statement of Lewis Harris
was born a slave, and remained in slavery until 3 years ago, when I went into the service of the U.S. as teamster---am now a market man engaged in selling vegetables, live in Henrico, 10 miles from Richmond---was this day arrested (June 9th) by the police, for not having a pass. I showed the papers given me at the Union Headquarters, upon which I had travelled and worked up tot his time. I came in town today with a load of vegetables, and being imprisoned lost my days work and my vegetables---was released through the agency of my sister.

Statement of Thos. J. Hayes
On the 8th inst. I was on the steamboat wharf at Rockets & saw Thos. M. Chester, late army correspondent for the Philadelphia press, come off the steamer, where he had been to leave his dispatches for the north, assaulted by one of the Provost guards. He called to a Lieut. of the 20th N. Y. V. who was there on duty, for protection, but the Lieut. told the guard to strike Chester with the butt of his musket. During the difficulty a 2nd Lieut. of the same regiment came up, to whom Chester stated the origin of the affair, the truth of which was denied by a citizen, when Chester reaffirmed the correctness of his statement, whereupon, the 2nd Lieut., assuming a threatening attitude said Chester must not contradict a white man in his presence. During the whole affair, Chester offered no resistance. The pass he exhibited was the usual pass, given to correspondents following the army. Mr. Chester is an educated, cultivated and refined gentleman, and sails for Europe in a few days.

Statement of Washington Hutchison
Born and brought up in Richmond---am a gardner, and work for Mr. Framer. Have been in the habit of selling vegetables in the Richmond market, for employers in the country. Came in town on the 8th inst. to get a marriage licence, went to the Provost Marshal's to get it---was told to bring up the girl---went after her, and while on the way was stopped by the guard, who demanded my pass---showed him a pass given me by Capt. Scoville. The police, who was acting in concert with the guard, then approached and said my pass was not good, and sent me to jail by the guard. After being in jail several hours, the jailor examined my pass---said it was good and released me, together with a large number of other men who had passes.

Statement of Harry P. Jones
Sent as a teacher from the city of New York, and who was eleven months teacher in the 1st Regt. U. S. Colored Troops, while on his way to the boat, bound on an excursion to Dutch Lap, was arrested for not having a pass, marched through the street---for an hour and then, with other prisoners, placed in one of the houses in the burnt district; there was no roof to this house, and no protection from the burning rays of the sun. He remained here for several hours, and was finally released by the interposition of Lieut. Baldwin, Vice President of the Richmond Union League.

Statement of Stephen Jones
I am a huckster in one of the Richmond markets. On the 8th inst. I was in the shoe shop of Joseph Gilpin, when Police officer Perry came in and asked one of the men at work for his pass---the man said he had no pass, Gilpin told the officer the man was in his employ, but notwithstanding this, Perry took the man off his seat and carried him to jail.

Statement of Thomas Lucas (col'd) of his abuse by the Provost Guard
12th June 1865
Thomas Lucas (colored) states that he was sitting down near the corner of 5th and Broad street, on the sidewalk on a store carriage step, suffering great pain from toothache; a squad of soldiers had been dispersing a crowd nearby, they ordered all to move away. He was sitting on the sidewalk as above stated and got up to move away, one of the guards (in liquor) overtook him, and struck him on the hip with his gun, he then took his gun with both hands, using it as a club, and struck him (Lucas) in the back, hurting him severely and from which he is now suffering great pain. This occurred about 7 o'clock P.M. tonight.

Richmond, Va.
12th June 1865
Place of business corner of 1st & Marshall St.

Statement of John Oliver of Mass.
I came to Richmond from Boston, a few weeks ago, on a visit, having a passport made out in due form, and signed by the Secretary of State of the Commonwealth of Mass. A few days ago I was walking in Franklin Street with Mr. Hawley (also colored) of Springfield, Mass.; upon arriving at Davis' old slave pen, we stopped to look at it, when I was hailed by a Provost guard, who, without asking for a pass, demanded to know why I was walking in the street---told him I came to see Richmond, then said he, you will stop here with me. I asked him how long, "longer than you think for," he replied, and continued to address me in abusive and vulgar language. I showed my protection from Massachusetts, which I told him "ought to protect me in any part of the world," but he said he did not care for that, and contemptuously spurned it. I then wrote a note to the Provost Marshal, asking him why I was detained in the street? and sent it to his office he sent for me. I told him my story, and showed him my passport. He said it was not sufficient, and gave me another. My friend Hawley also showed his passport to the guard, without effect and while he was standing in the street the officer of the day told him that "he had given insolence to the guard, which Hawley denied, whereupon the officer dismounted and beat him with his fist.

I was in evidence before the committee that irresponsible persons stopped Negroes in the street and entered their houses, demanding passports, and that citizens aided the police & military in stopping & running down colored men.

Statement of Bernard H. Roberts
was born in Richmond, was lately of Wilbeforce College, Ohio, am at present keeper of a Restaurant, aged 21 years.

On Wednesday, June 7th saw a white and colored man fighting, after the fight was over a white spectator observed that if the white man had not been drunk he would have whipped the colored man. I replied that no drunken man could fight as hard as he did, whereupon, he assaulted me, and after striking me three times, I knocked him down and made my escape, was pursued by the Provost guard, who overtook and arrested me and took me before Capt. Snider a Provost Marshal. I stated to him the facts as here related, adding that if I had not defended myself, I would have been beaten to death. After my statement the man who assaulted me told the Provost Marshal that he had been assaulted by two colored men, and had he not been protected by his friends, would have been severely beaten. No other witnesses were examined, and the Provost Marshal ordered me to be tied up by my hands, in which painful position I remained for more than 20 minutes. When I was taken down and put into the guard house, where I remained an hour and a half, when I was released.

Statement of Jinny Scott wife of Ed Scott
On Monday night about 7 o'clock my husband and I, in company with Richard Adams and June Minor took a walk on Main St. near 25th, two Reb boys with grey coats came from the opposite direction. We gave way so that they could pass, one of them ran against me and struck me in the breast with his fist. They said before they got to us that they "were not agoing to get out of the way for damned niggers." We got out of the way as far as we could. I let go of my husband's hand and went one way, and he went the other, and gave room for them to go between us, one went between us and the other went on the outside and struck me---my husband told him I was his wife and asked what he had struck me for. He said "I will strike her and you to, you damned nigger." My husband said "no you won't, if you strike her again I will strike you." They called me all kinds of bad names. I was frightened and ran off. They kept cussing me and calling me bad names, and threw rocks at me. I left my husband there and ran home. I did not see the soldiers beat my husband. On Wednesday a soldier came to me and told me they had got my husband the night before, and took me to the Provost Marshals. They brought my husband in and the Provost Marshal showed me his cap and cravat and asked me did I know them. I told him yes, they were my husbands. That was all he asked me. I didn't hear him ask any more questions. He told me to go and I went. I have never seen my husband since.

The above was mostly taken down by another person. He brought the statement to me, and afterwards at my request brought Jinny Scott to me. I read it to her, asked her some questions, told here that I was to send it to Washington and asked if it was all true and could she swear to it. She said yes.

signed H. W. Pierson
Richmond, Va.
June 8th 1865

Statement of Richard Adams, former slave of Wm. Barrett
I escaped from Richmond 17 days before last Christmas into the Union lines, and waited on Capt. Hilliard Co. G 48th N. Y. V. five months. He went home on a 30 days furlough from Norfolk, Va. And I came here 2 weeks ago today.

On last Monday night I walked out with June Minor and Ed Scott and his wife. On Main St. between 25th & 26th Sts., we met two Rebs dressed in grey. Scott and his wife parted to let them have the walk, one went between them and the other went to the outside and struck Scott's wife in the breast. I was about three yards behind them. Scott said "man that is my wife don't you strike her again" he said "I will strike her again and you to you damned nigger." Scott's hand was in his pocket and the Reb didn't know what was in it. He said "draw it out and cut" Scott said I will show you with I will do if you strike her again." Scott then told his wife, "come back and go straight home, I am sorry I came out with you for I always get struck if I walk out with a woman."

The Rebs went on and passed some Union soldiers. They did not stop to speak to them but talked to themselves. One of them, a sergeant without any arms or equipment came across to Scott and said "can't any white man pass the street without being insulted by a damned nigger." Scott said " I did not insult any one I only told that man that was my wife, and I did not want any one to strike her." Then another soldier ran over and said "shut up or I will break your damned snout," and struck him in the breast. Another soldier came up and all three jumped on him and knocked him down and beat him. He shook them off from him, and one said "I am cut." Another said "I believe I am cut too." They then all ran to the Provost Marshals, and two got guns, one got a pistol, and one came on horseback. While they were gone Scott ran off. They went to Mr. Gilliams' where his wife lived, and searched the place. Mr. Gilliam got a candle and said "this is my place you may search it, and if you find him kill him." On Wed. about 11 o'clock I went to the Provost Marshals office and saw them bring him in from Castle Thunder. They asked his wife "did she know this cap and cravat." She said "they were her husbands." The P. Marshal then told his men to tie his hands before him. They then tied his hands and "bucked" him. They set him on the floor, stretched his hands below his knees, ran a broom handle through between his knees and elbows and sawed it off. Two soldiers brought him out on the sidewalk on Main St., rolled him about quick two or three times, then rolled him over on his side, so that he could not stir---one of the soldiers went across the street, and took a colored man and made him go across the street and turn Scott on each side and hit him five licks with a piece of the coffin---one of the soldiers said if he did not hit him harder, he would "buck" and gag him. He then hit him five licks harder. They then let him lie in the hot sun, on the walk about two hours. He begged for water but they would not give it to him. They then unbucked him, tied his hands behind him and put a paper on his back. I don't know what was on it. I can't read. They then put two drummers and two fifers before him and some soldiers with charged bayonets behind him. They played the rogues march and marched up Main St. from 25th street and back to the Provost Marshals office. They then tied his hands before him, and tied his feet, and put him into a coffin and nailed on the top, except about a foot and a fourth. They then set him out doors and stood up the coffin. He stood there till near 7 o'clock. They put meal on his face and the flies covered it most all over. He could not get them off. He asked for water but they would not give it to him. They put him in a waggon in the coffin. Two soldiers with guns set upon the coffin one marched behind with charged bayonet, and a colored boy named Henry drove the waggon to Castle Thunder. All the above facts are true and I will make oath to them.

The above statement was made to me and written down, sentence by sentence as narrated, after I had sent for the said Adams to meet me for this purpose and told him that I would sent it tot he War Dept. and charged him that he should give me nothing that was not true.

signed H. W. Pierson
Richmond, Va.
June 8th, 1865

Statement of Albert Williams
am a citizen of Petersburg and while on my way to Alexandria, to establish myself in business, stopped in Richmond, to get some tools I had left there. With my arms full of tools, I was arrested by the Police, who demanded my pass. Told the officers I was not a slave & that the day of passes was at an end. He said it was Yankee freedom now, which he had always told the niggers would be worse than southern slavery. Told him I had no pass, but showed the following letter---

To all whom it may concern, this is to certify that I have known Albert Williams (col'd) for 12 years---has worked for me as a carpenter for 2 or 3 years at a time. He formerly belonged to R. Ragland of Petersburg. Anyone who will give him work, or any jobs for himself will find him worthy of trust.

W. H. Mitchell & Brothers
Builders, Richmond, Va.

The officer took me to jail & I was afterwards sent to Chimbordzo Hospital, and confined, and during the night was robbed by the soldiers on duty there. I am now here without the means of going to my family or to Alexandria.