Digital Library of Georgia > Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868

Affidavit of John Murphy: Albany, Georgia, 1868 Sept. 22

author: Howard, O. H.
date: September 22, 1868
extent: 8p
summary: On September 22, 1868, Sub-assistant Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in Georgia, Brevet Major O.H. Howard writes this affidavit taken from John Murphy, a Republican elector and one of the organizers of the political rally that was to be held in Camilla, September 19, 1868. This affidavit is Murphy's account of the violence that broke out between freedmen who entered the town together with Republicans and the townspeople who opposed them. Murphy includes details from the events leading up to the incident, including his initial encounter with Mitchell County Sherriff Mumford S. Poore, through the incident itself and its aftermath.
repository: DeSoto Trail Regional Library (Camilla, Ga.)
collection: Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868

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[added text: 16X] Affidavit of John Murphy, (White.)

Georgia State
Dougherty County

Personally appeared before me John Murphy who being duly sworn says that on the morning of the 19" inst [instant] I & Wm [William] P Pierce started in a buggy from Albany Ga [Georgia] to Camilla Ga [Georgia] at which place we were to address the citizens according to notice which had been printed & circulated through Mitchell County for five or six days before. A band of music destined for the same place & occasion left Albany on the evening of the 18" inst [instant]. We over took this band of music in about four miles of Camilla together with quite a number of freed-people who had been attracted to the road by the music & and who were then enrout [en route] for the place of speaking this number continued to augment until we reached Camilla, numbering then in all (men women & children) about two hundred. In about one & half miles from Camilla we were met by the Sheriff of Mitchell County, Mr Poore, and several men, who

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represented themselves as a delegation sent out to meet us by the citizens of Camilla, to protest against our entering the town of Camilla unless the freedmen who were following the music along the road would stack their arms (From 1/3 to ½ of these freedmen had shot guns). This protest was made under the Govonors [Governor's] proclamation forbiding [forbidding] armed organizations, I tried to convince them that this was not an armed organization, that each man who had a gun was carrying it in accordance with the right he had to do so under the constitution of the State, Capt [Captain] Pierce & myself told them positively that no order had been given these freedmen to carry their guns to Camilla, that they carried them of their own will respectively, and they knew it was a custom over the whole country with freedmen to carry their guns wherever they went. These Gentlemen manifested great uneasiness about the safety of Camilla if these freedmen were suffered to enter that town with arms, Capt [Captain] Pierce & myself gave them every assurance of our peaceful intentions, that the rights

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[added text: 17X] of the people of Camilla in person or property were in no danger whatever of being molested by the Col [Colored] people and finally for the purpose of allaying their fears (then supposed to be real) I proposed to have our speaking at Dr Dasher's about one half mile from Camilla on the road we were travelling, this proposition was agreed to by these Gentlemen one of them saying well "we will let you speak there" these Gentlemen then left us riding toward Camilla, Capt [Captain] Pierce remarked at the time that if Dr Dasher objected to our speaking on his premises we would speak at the court-house.

When we reached Dr Dasher we applied for permission to speak on his premises & he objected. I then addressed a note to the Sheriff stating that Dr Dasher had refused to let us speak on his premises that we would not intrude on his right, that we would speak at the court-house, this note I sent by a cold [colored] man on horse back but before he had gone far, he met the Sheriff returning to us, a conversation then ensued between Capt [Captain] Pierce & the Sheriff which I did not hear, we then proceeded

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to Camilla,& not as an armed organization, but peacefully following after the music, little dreaming that an armed organization was awaiting our arrival for the purpose of murdering us. Capt [Captain] Pierce & Mr Putney entered town about two hundred yards in advance of the crowd, for the purpose of allaying the fears of the citizens which from the representations of their delegates we thought were aroused by false representations of our motives & purposes. Mr Putney told the freedmen to "scatter out" along the road, not to enter town in a body for fear of alarming the people of the place. Thus we entered town in the most perfect quiet. Upon entering, to my utter astonishment I discovered two different crowds of men arranged in such position as to "cross fire" over the public square, armed with guns.

I then, and not till then, realized that fact that the vague reports among the freedmen that the democrats intended to attack us

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[added text: 19X] alluded to had fired and until the voley [volley] had been fired by the crowd. It is true [document damaged: the ] voley [volley] from the crowd[unclear text: in ] the store & the voley [volley] from the negroes was close together, but that from the former was a little in advance, and about the same time a fire was opened from the crowd of democrats already mentioned on the south side of the square. I estimated the crowd of Democrats on the west side of the square at fifty men. I could not see enough of the crowd on the south side to make a correct estimate of the number.

Of course under this gaining & unexpected fire the negroes fled, the fire from the crowd on the south side of the square, was mainly directed at Capt [Captain] Pierce & Mr Putney who were standing in the Portico of the court-house, as I have since been informed and as the bullet marks on the court-house prove, Capt [Captain] Pierce, Mr Putney Mr Joiner & myself attempted to rally those of the freedmen who had guns in the bottom behind some undergrothe [undergrowth] on the

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north side of town, not for the purpose of renewing the fight because we had no such desire but for the purpose of retreating compactly and holding the mob back from murdering the men, women & children, who were unarmed & scattered & fleeing, but in this we were unsuccessful. After the first fire all the freed (saving not more than six or eight) were unarmed having no ammunition to load with, delay of any kind was found to be an evil and each man took care of himself -- Capt [Captain] Pierce & Mr Putney with quite a number of freedmen escaped by way of the Thomasville road through the woods on foot, walking about thirty miles that night & reaching the residence of Mr Wm [William] W Fish a staunch Republican about day light next morning.

Mr Joiner & myself escaped in a buggy back the road we come. Amid the conflicting reports it is impossible to make a correct

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[added text: 20X] estimate of the killed & wounded I feel confident however that fifteen or twenty persons were killed & about forty wounded, [deleted text: only two freedmen were killed] other reports to the contrary notwithstanding. [deleted text: I feel but] only two freedmen were killed in town where all the resistance on the part of the freedmen was made, all the ballance [balance] were followed up & shot down as they fled across the fields &woods, Peter Hines [deleted text: Cold [Colored]] the leader of the band was wounded and [deleted text: most] all the numbers of the band either killed or wounded, Mr Putney was wounded in the arm, I was wounded in the head, Capt [Captain] Pierce, owing to his small size, went unhurt several bullet holes were made in his clothing.

One expression made by the Sheriff to me to wit "We received a dispatch from Albany this morning that you was coming to Camilla with an armed force for no good purpose" induced

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me to believe that the people of Camilla were laboring under a false representation of our motives & object. They should however have waited until we were guilty of some hostile demonstration before they attempted to kill us espeacily [especially] after we had given them every assurance of our peaceful intentions. And espeacily [especially] do I blame them let their information have been what it may for following up the colored people & shooting them.

John Murphy
Sworn to and subscribed
before me, at Albany Ga. [Georgia]
this 22nd Day of September
A. D.1868.
0. H. Howard
2nd Lieut [Lieutenant]. 5th U. S. [United States] Artillery
Brevet Major
Sub Asst. Com'r [Sub-Assistant Commissioner] B.R.F. & A.L. [Bureau of Refugees Freedmen and Abandoned Lands]

Affidavit of
John Murphy white.
G341 A F. ras Vol 13/68

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