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

Affidavit of Sheriff Mumford S. Poore: Mitchell County, 1868 Sept. 23

author: Byrd, William A.; Cameron, M.; Pearce, Joseph
date: September 23, 1868
extent: 7p
summary: This affidavit, given to and witnessed by William A. Byrd, M. Cameron, and Joseph Pierce, is Mitchell County Sheriff Mumford S. Poore's version of the events of September 19, 1868, the day Camilla Georgia was to be the site of a Republican Party political rally, but instead became the site where townspeople who opposed the rally clashed with freedmen and Republicans in the historical event that came to be known as the Camilla Massacre or the Camilla Riot. Poore's account differs from many of the others on several points. First, he mentions a letter he received from a man named Broadnax, a member of the Colored Democratic Club of Dougherty County, informing him of the party coming to Camilla. Poore details his encounter on the outskirts of Camilla with John Murphy and William P. Pierce which lead him to return to Camilla to form a posse against them. As the group entered Camilla, Poore, also differing here from other accounts, recalls James Johns' firing his gun into the ground as Johns threw it down, rather than Johns intentionally firing the shots that began the violence. Poore states that his posse continued to pursue the freedmen until night.
repository: DeSoto Trail Regional Library (Camilla, Ga.)
collection: Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868

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Georgia State
Mitchell County

Personally appeared before me, Mumford S. Poore, Sheriff of Mitchell County who being duly sworn deposes and says, that he received information between 10 & 11 o'clock on Saturday morning the 19th of September 1868, by a young man who had been at the Steam Mill, a few miles from Camilla, that negroes were collecting there around, and were coming to Camilla on that day, that he received a letter addressed to the citizens of Camilla about the same time or a little afterward in town, signed by a colored man of Albany named Broadinax, informing the citizens that a party was coming to Camilla on that day and that they had left Albany on the night of the 18th of Septbr [September]. Deponent does not recollect whether or not the names of the white men who were coming were stated in the note, and does not recollect that it was stated that they were coming armed. The citizens having learned, in the mean time that this party was coming armed had appointed a Committee, to accompany deponent to meet the approaching crowd and learn what they proposed to do

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and what their intentions were, and to notify them that the citizens of Camilla protested under the laws of the State, and the late proclamation of the Governor, against their coming in as an armed body. Deponent met the crowd about one mile & a half from town, and questioned two white men who he learned to be Mr Murphy & Pierce after telling them that he was the Sheriff of the County in the following manner. Gentlemen what does all this warlike demonstration mean in time of Peace, we are not engaged in a war with any people. Murphy answered it did not mean anything, that they proposed to go to Camilla to have a political meeting. Deponent replied it did mean something, and that it meant war, revolution, insurrection, or riot of some sort, and that they were responsible for the actions of those armed men, Murphy, perhaps Pierce replied they had nothing to do with those armed men that the arms were their own, & that they were in the habit of carrying them wherever they went, and that they proposed to go peaceably to Camilla and hold a political meeting. Deponent then told them that the citizens were perfectly willing

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for them to go there and hold their meeting peaceably and unmolested, if they would leave their arms behind, but as peaceable citizens, they protested against their coming in in arms, as it was a violation, not only of the Laws of the State but a a late proclamation of the Governor. Murphy and Pierce then called on deponent for the proclamation, deponent produced it, and read it as long as they would listen. Pierce proposed to move on, but Murphy offered the proposition that not being particular about going to Camilla himself they would stop & speak at Dr Dashers, if he Dasher would permit them to do so, to which proposition deponent replied that they could speak there peaceable & unmolested, by anybody, and that anybody who wished to hear them, might come out of Camilla, and do so and that deponent would notify the people of Camilla to that effect. Pierce said it was their right, to speak at the Courthouse and he proposed to go there and speak, several of the negroes sanctioning his [illegible text] Murphy's proposition Deponent told them that they the citizens of Camilla, protested against their going into Camilla armed, and if they went in there, armed they, and

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not the citizens of Camilla, would be responsible for the consequences. They moved on and deponent left them, and came on to town, summoned a posse, of every man in town, about twenty he thinks, to arm themselves, but put their arms away and be ready if called on; but be quiet in the meantime. Soon afterwards the crowd came in sight, drums & fifes going, some commanding them in military order, they marching four deep making a good deal of loud noise as it seemed to deponent principally by the commands of some, making them close up and keep order Mr Pierce and Mr Putney came in first in a buggy and drove to the court house passing the Sheriff's posse at Maples Store a small number of armed men were in front of the band wagon, the principal number behind it, about twenty mounted negroes seemed to act as out riders, the column was met near Mr Coxes store by James Johns and he got into conversation with them and was walking along & talking loud & so were they, deponent not being able to hear what either party said

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Deponent seeing him and fearing that a difficulty would take place started to ride toward him, just as deponent started, James Johns who was intoxicated started to Maples Store, about 20 steps and saw Johns turn his gun toward the ground and as he threw it round it fired off, the contents of the gun striking the ground about twelve feet from him & not in a direction to hit any one in the column.

At the fire of his gun a volley was fired from the column of Negroes from behind and about the wagon rather promiscuously; but some shots aimed toward Johns, some toward the unarmed crowd, on the piazza of Maples store, When Johns was fired on he turned and fired into the wagon, instantly a number of citizens dashed into the house where arms could be got and a general firing commenced, It was not two minutes until the square was cleared if that long: but the colored people remained in the thick "timber" close to town a little while a portion of the Citizens mounted horses & pursued the fugitives. The pursuit was continued

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by some until night: deponent keeping men from killing the colored people, all that he could, but with orders to assist the white men & colored men, but not to kill them. Deponent saw one colored man who did not halt when ordered to do so, shot in the lane close to Camilla by one of his posse, deponent pursued about one mile and captured one colored man who however got wounded before he stopped, Deponent further states that only seven have been found either dead or mortally wounded so that seven were buried in all diligent search having been made all thro [through] the woods by a committee for the purpose of taking up the dead & wounded, Deponent has not heard of any dead bodies having been found outside of Camilla since, Three men were killed about one mile from town, Deponent further states that no blood-hounds or any other dogs were used in the pursuit of the fugitives, Deponent says he does not know of any arms having been sent from Albany to this place & is certain there were none sent or he would have heard of it. Deponent says that he heard one citizen James Jones

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of Camilla say that the Radicals should not make a speech at Camilla repeatedly when he was drinking, but has heard no such determination expressed on the part of the Citizens generally, Deponent in correction of our statement made in relation to the Broadnax letter says that it was not addressed to the Citizens of Camilla but to Mr Livingston in Newton, Who afterward dispatched it to him.

Signed M S Poore Sworn & Subscribed before me this Sept 25" 1868 Signed M Cameron [illegible text] I as one of the committee approve & endorse the above statement as being correct & true Signed Joseph Pearce I am personally acquainted with M S Poore & Jos [Joseph] Pearce they are reliable and responsible citizens Poore as Sheriff Signed Wm A Byrd

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