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

Newspaper clipping from Albany Semi-Weekly News: Albany, Georgia, 1868 Sept. 22

date: September 22, 1868
extent: 1p
summary: This is a newspaper clipping of an article that appeared in the Albany Semi-Weekly News in Albany, Georgia on Sept. 22, 1868. Written on the Camilla Riot, an incident that occurred in Camilla, Georgia on September 19, 1868 when Republicans together with freedmen came to Camilla to hold a political rally and were met with violent opposition from the townspeople, the article presents the details of the riot as given by Sheriff Mumford S. Poore. This version, which was approved by the Georgia legislature as the "official account" differs from many of the other accounts documented by Freedmen's Bureau subassistant commissioner O.H. Howard on several points. It represents the group of freedmen as being "mostly armed," and portrays them as having violent intentions, statements that are not corroborated by the other affidavits, and claims that James Johns misfired his gun into the ground, an act which induced more than a hundred freedmen to "fire a volley into the whites that were present, wounding three severely, and several others slightly." The article states that 20 whites returned fire, and the freedmen fled.
repository: DeSoto Trail Regional Library (Camilla, Ga.)
collection: Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868

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Riot at Camilla, Mitchell County

With much regret we give some of the facts furnished us by a friend, of an unfortunate and fatal rencounter that occurred at Camilla, Mitchell county, on Saturday last .

It appears from statements of citizens that posters had been put up at various places in that county, and runners sent out notifying the negroes that there would be a Republican Mass meeting in Camilla, on Saturday, and for them all to attend "and to come prepared for any emergency." On Saturday morning a large number of negroes had gathered, and, led by W. P. Pearce Republican candidate for Congress, John Murphy, F. F. Putney, and Phil. [Philip] Joiner, colored -- lately expelled from the Legislature -- with fifes and drums, moved towards Camilla . Nearly all of them were armed, and at each plantation they passed other negroes, armed also with shotguns and muskets, joined them. -- Pearce told them to "follow him and he would lead them to Camilla fuss or no fuss." This shows that he fully understood the matter, and went there for the purpose of creating a disturbance, as there are but few negroes residing in or about that place. About 1 o'clock, P.M., this motly crowd having reached within some three miles of Camilla, were met by a white man who told them not to go into town armed, as it was in violation of the Governor's proclamation, and would create a disturbance. They paid no attention to his warning, some of them declaring "that was what they went for." About a mile from town they were met by a deputation of the best and most prudent citizens of the place, headed by the sheriff, who advised them very urgently not to go into town armed, as it would cause trouble, but if they would stack their arms and come in, they might speak as long as they wished. They refused to do so or listen to any advice whatever. The Committee remained with them until they were near town, vainly endeavoring to prevail on them not to go forward armed. Murphy said he

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had been refused permission to speak at some gentlemen's plantation, and that the court-house was the proper place and there he should go, and the negroes set up a wild yell and said they would follow him "regardless of the consequences."

On entering town, Pearce and Putney in advance in a buggy, proceeded at once to the court house. The Band in a large wagon filled with negroes, followed and halted near Mr. Cox's store when a white man armed with a shot-gun, and under the influence of liquor met them. He told the band to quit playing, and on their refusing fired off his gun into the ground some five paces in front of him Immediately, as if preconcerted, all the armed negroes, over a hundred, fired a volley into the whites that were present, wounding three severely, and several others slightly. The whites that had arms, numbering some twenty, returned the fire and the negroes ran off in all directions. Pierce followed and endeavored to rally the armed negroes and make them fight, but failing in this he also fled. Some of the citizens pursued them, but none were overtaken except Murphy, who was captured, and in the excitement struck over the head with a gun barrel, but not seriously hurt. His wound was dressed and he allowed to leave for home.

The casualties, as far as known, are nine negroes, who were in the band-wagon, killed, and some thirty or forty others slightly wounded.

There is considerable excitement here among the negroes, many of whom had friends and relatives who went to Camilla and have not yet returned.

At the request of some of the citizens R. Hobbs, Esq. and Mr. C. M. Clark went to Camilla to learn all the facts they could about the fight. Towards evening the excitement here increasing Col. O. Howard, of the Freedman's Bureau [Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands], requested Judge D. A. Vason and Capt. T. H. Johnston to go to Camilla and gather all the particulars, with the necessary papers, and the names of those killed and wounded.

These gentlemen are now on their way, and on their return we shall have a full and reliable report of the whole matter.

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