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

Report of Colonel O.H. Howard: [Albany, Georgia], 1868 Sept. 19

author: Howard, O. H.
date: September 19, 1868
extent: 8p
summary: Freedman's Bureau subassistant commissioner O.H. Howard writes this report at 7P.M. on September 19, 1868, a day notable in Georgia history as the date of the event that came to be known as the Camilla Massacre, or the Camilla Riot, an incident that occurred in Camilla, Georgia when Republicans and freedemen came to the town to hold a political rally and met violent opposition from the townspeople. Howard's report gives details of the day as they became known to him that evening when witnesses, among them Ishmael Lonon, a freedman who was to be elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1880, began gathering at his office in Albany, Georgia. Howard reports that Lonon gave his account of the group's several encounters on the outskirts Camilla prior to the initial violence in town, between both a mounted white man who advised Lonon not to go into town and Mitchell County Sheriff Mumford S. Poore. Lonon rode ahead of the group of Republicans and freedmen, which included Republican party candidate for elector John Murphy, Republican congressional candidate William P. Pierce, Republican plantation owner Francis Flagg Putney, and ousted Republican Georgia state legislator Philip Joiner. They were accompanied by a bandwagon carrying bandleader Peter Hines and other musicians. As the group entered Camilla they encountered a "mounted man", who began firing into the wagon. Most of the freedmen, "Being unarmed" fled. Howard's report also includes details of the escape of Joiner and Murphy as given to him by Lonon, as well as a list of those known to be wounded or killed at that time. Howard states that a number of freedmen have gathered at his office and that he has advised them to remain peaceful, as the matter will be investigated and the guilty parties brought to justice. At the conclusion of his report, Howard makes mention of J.W. Armstrong Jr.'s recent purchase of a number of weapons for the Young Men's Democratic Club. Howard thinks that they were taken to Camilla and used there.

repository: DeSoto Trail Regional Library (Camilla, Ga.)
collection: Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868

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Sept, 19th 1868, 7. P, M,

At 6 P,M, Ishmael Sunnon, freed. reported himself directly from Camilla, Mitchell Co, that he left there at 2. P,M, That in the forenoon of this day he approached Camilla with John Murphy Wm P Pierce (candidate for Congress 2nd District) and F F Putney, whites and about seventy five colored persons, all enroute to Camilla, where Messers Pierce and Murphy were to deliver a political address --

Upon approaching Camilla, the relator being in the advance was accosted by an armed and mounted white man who at first stated that he was in search of a "Doctor" to attend a Freedman who had been injured by the falling of a tree, but who subsequently stated that he was a " [deleted text: Courior] Courrior [Courier] " and advised the relator and others of the party who had overtaken him, not to go to Town, that the people there were determined that the Radicals should not speak in

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Camilla -- That not withstanding the warning the party moved on towards Camilla when they were met by the Sheriff and a posse who accosted Capt. Pierce and who was assured by Capt, Pierce that he desired and intended to speak in Camilla on political subjects, the Sheriff endeavored to dissuade him from doing so, telling him that the people would not permit it -- That the Sheriff then went back into Camilla and again returned saying that he had done all in his power to dissuade the people from violence, but with no avail -- That the party moved on to the Town, that Pierce and Putney entered the Town, dismounted from their Buggy and hitched their horse at the Court House -- That as the wagon containing the music of the party entered the Town it was fired upon by the mounted man who had first accosted him, and by several other white men, that the freedmen then started to escape to the woods, that Pierce attempted to rally them

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calling on them not to fly, that the Colored men being unarmed would not stop. The relator being mounted dashed out of the Town past the freedmen on foot and past the musicians who had abandoned their wagon --

That Murphy and Phil Young [Joiner] came in a Buggy, also, drove rapidly away towards Albany, that the relator kept ahead of them, that when about seven miles from Camilla the Buggy containing Murphy and Phil Young [Joiner] was overtaken by five or six or eight white men mounted and armed, that the Buggy was stopped, that one horse riderless dashed up the road towards relator, that he saw the pursuers around the Buggy some of them dismounted, that he then came as rapidly as possible to Albany --

At 6,30. P.M. a large body of freedmen much excited, came to me for advice, expressing their desire to proceed at once on foot to Camilla to the rescue of the Republicans there -- I counselled [counseled] perfect quiet

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and order and directed them to say to all colored men from me that the affair at Camilla should be thoroughly investigated, and if any great wrong had been done the proper legal remedy should be applied --

They departed in peace apparently satisfied -- I have sent to the stable for a horse -- I have secured the services of George Ponder a reliable freedman, to proceed to Camilla or in that direction and bring me news from Pierce or Murphy, and a correct account of the difficulty --

At 8, P.M. F E Welch a leading Citizen visited the office with Dr. Raushenberg, Mr. Welch states that should I desire to go to Camilla he will give me the names of reliable men there -- and [deleted text: give] gave me the following names.

Robert G. Bacon (on direct road to Camilla)
Troupe Butler ( """"" )
Mr. Butler (in Camilla )
O. F. Bacon ( Green Pond )

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Dr. Charles C Cox ( Camilla ) doubtful
Dr. Twittin ( WW ) (near Camilla )

[added text: 5.] George Ponder freedman left for Mitchell County at about 8,45 P,M,

At 1, [deleted text: P.M.] A.M. Charles Rose (freed) from Field & Flaggs plantation -- He reports Sewis Davis ( f. [freed] ) wounded & shot -- Howard Bruce ( f. [freed] ) shot in the head -- Mr. Murphy wounded in the head by the butt of a musket -- The man that plays the bass drum William [deleted text: [illegible text]] Durand shot -- Squire Acre ( f. [freed] ) shot off his horse supposed to be killed --

[added text: One woman with child killed -- ]
Ten miles from Camilla the mob still pursuing and shooting Fugitives -- J.W. Armstrong Jr. went from Albany to Camilla the previous night and returned on the day of the difficulty --

Wesley Chatman (freed) one of the drummers was shot in the back, is now in Albany --

Wm P Pierce (white) candidate for Congress 2d Dist [Second District],

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shot in the leg and is at Fish & Flagg plantation -- F F Putney (white) serious gun shot wounds in arm and shoulders --

John Murphy (white) struck over the head with butt of Gun, head badly cut --

Howard Bruce (freed) serious gun shot wounds (five) in arms side & head --

William Dessand (freed) badly wounded supposed to be killed. gun shot wound in back & shoulder --

A B Collins (freed) supposed to be mortally wounded --

Severel [Several] men (freed) names unknown gun Shot wounds --

Six (6) men (freed) reported to be left dead at the roadside --

One woman with a child in her arms Shot (freed) Four white men of the attacking party seen to fall Shot --

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James Johns (White) of Camilla properly known as Jemmy John, who fired the first shot into the Band Wagon was cheered by the Mob of White men in the Town, who hurrahed for Johns, He was shot by parties in the rear of the Band Wagon and fell over his gun to the ground in a heap,

The wounded Whites were conveyed or rather dragged into the houses of Camilla by their friends --

It is beleived [believed] that the arms brought to Albany recently, consigned to Rusl Johnson & Co were sent to Camilla --

It is said that J W Armstrong Jr of the Young Men's Democratic Club went to Camilla for the purpose of instigating the people there to prevent the speaking, He certainly went there --

I am confident that the preceding pages numbered
contain a correct account of the affair

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at Camilla, and subsequent events so far as known

[Signed] O H Howard

Bt. [Brevet] Major USA [United States Army]
S A [Sub Assistant] Com [Commissioner], BRF & AL [Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands] .
a true copy

[Signed] M Frank Gallagher

Bvt. Capt. [Brevet Captain] USA [United States Army] AAAG,

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