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

Affidavit of William P. Pierce: Dougherty County, 1868 Sept. 25

author: Howard, O. H.
date: September 25, 1868
extent: 8p
summary: This is the affidavit given to Freedman's Bureau subassistant commissioner O.H. Howard by William P. Pierce, a Republican party congressional candidate from the Georgia district that included Camilla, following Pierce's experience in the outbreak of violence in that town. The violence erupted when Pierce, as one of the leaders of a group of Republicans and freedmen, came to Camilla to hold a political rally, and was met by townspeople who opposed the rally. Pierce's account includes a detailed description of the encounter between himself, the Republican party elector, John Murphy, and Sheriff Mumford S. Poore on the outskirts of Camilla just prior to the incident. Pierce describes the violence that ensued, and includes his own admission that he did not forsee the clash with the townspeople of Camilla. Pierce states finally that had he anticipated anything more than the usual trouble, he would not have gone ahead into Camilla but would have instead returned to Albany.

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

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State of Georgia, -- -- -- Dougherty County ;

Before me, O. H. HOWARD, Brevet Major United States Army,
2nd Lieut. [Lieutenant] 5th Artillery, S. A. [Sub Assistant] Commissioner Bureau R. F. & A. L. [Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands], personally came Wm P Pierce
who, being duly sworn, deposes and says that on the morning of the 19" inst [instant] he & John Murphy left Albany Ga enrout for Camilla Georgia for the purpose of addressing the citizens of the latter place in accordance with notices which had been printed at the office of the Albany News [deleted text: [illegible text]] and circulated over Mitchell County several days before: that he [deleted text: & Murphy] did not tell the "freedmen to go to Camilla armed," or go "prepared for any emergency:" that a band of music, engaged by Murphy, for the occasion, left Albany enrout for Camilla on the evening of the 18" inst [instant] : that he over took this band of music [deleted text: in] about five or six miles from Camilla, [added text: which was] accompanied by a promiscuous crowd of freed -- people, he went along with this music & crowd until

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within about two miles from Camilla where they were met by the Sheriff of Mitchell County & several men who said they were a committee, sent out to meet deponent & co [company], by the citizens of Camilla to protest against their entry into Camilla with an armed body of negroes, this protest was made by them, at the bidding of citizens in Camilla, under the Governers [Governors] proclamation prohibiting armed organizations of men,
Deponent & Murphy contended that these men were alone responsible for having arms, and that they were then not violating the Governor s proclamation since they were not in an organized body; this committee asked deponent & Murphy ( [deleted text: [illegible text]] or rather Murphy as their remarks were principally addressed to him) to have the freedmen stack their arms, this request being unreasonable & foolishly exacting was not complied

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with, Mr Murphy did however to satisfy these men, agree to speak at the plantation of Dr Dasher about one mile from Camilla on the road we were travelling [traveling], this [deleted text: [illegible text]] proposition was agreed to. Deponent however told these men that in the event Dr Dasher objected to speaking on his premises the speaking would then be at the Court house; these men immediately rode back to Camilla; States that when he Murphy & Co [Company] arrived at Dr Dashers, he (deponent) rode up to Dr Dasher & enquired if these men had made arrangements with him for the speaking to take place on his premises, Dasher said they had not, Deponent then asked for the permission, Dasher refused to give it, remarking that under ordinary circumstances he would have no objection, but + he thought [deleted text: we] [added text: Deponent & Company] had as much right to

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speak at The Court house as any body else, that he had just left town a few minuts [minutes] before & he did not think there were more than ten or fifteen men there, Under these circumstances Mr Murphy dispatched a note to the Sheriff notifying him of Dasher [added text: s'] refusal and that the speaking would be at the Court -- house, the bearer of this dispatch had scarcely left us before deponent & Co [Company] were again [deleted text: n] met by the Sheriff, Deponent immediately made [added text: known to the Sheriff their intentions, and ] [deleted text: &] told The Sheriff they were free citizens, they had the right to speak at the Court -- house, and called on the Sheriff as an officer of the law to maintain the peace on the part of the white citizens, then Sheriff unhesitatingly acknowledged their right to speak at the Court -- house and promised to do all he could to [deleted text: [illegible text]] keep peace on the part of the white Citizen's, the Sheriff then galloped back into Cammilla [Camilla] & deponent & Co [Company]

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[added text: A 1/2] proceeded on to the place of speaking.

Deponent & Mr F F Putney in a buggy in Advance about 200 yards, of the Music drove to the Court = house and dismounted, When the music was in about 50 or 75 yards of the Court -- house Deponent saw a white man advance toward the [added text: band] wagon apparently much excited & angry [deleted text: th] quite a crowd of white men near a store - room on the [deleted text: [illegible text]] west side of the square & another crowd on the south side appeared in the same mood,

Deponent then comprehended the general bitterness of feeling on the part of the white Citizens assembled there toward Deponent & Company, Amid the confusion of the scene, a gun was fired, just then deponent was watching the crowd on the south side of the square nearest himself and did not notice which way the gun was pointed, he has

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every reason to believe however that the Gun was in the hands of the man alluded to who advanced toward the wagon and that it was discharged at the band of music, scarcely had the sound of this gun ceased, before the shooting [deleted text: [illegible text]] became general with the crowd [deleted text: at] on the west side of the square & the freedmen, Deponent s position was such that he could not see who next fired after the shot from the man alluded to, [deleted text: the] [added text: one of the] freedmen or [added text: one of] the crowd of whites, Scarcely had the sound of the first volley, discharged into the freedmen died away, before the freedmen were in full flight, The next volley from the whites [deleted text: [illegible text]] was directed at Deponent & Mr Putney who were standing in the portico of the Court - house, Providentially however neither was seriously injured & they followed after the freedmen and [added text: with Mr. Murphy and Joiner] attempted to rally them in the bottom [deleted text: sou] north of the town, hoping thereby to retreat in order, hold back

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the [deleted text: [illegible text]] mob, and there by save the lives of the unarmed & fleeing, freedmen, but this could not be done, the freedmen were not "prepared for the emergency" and were more disposed to trust to their heels than to their empty guns.

Deponent is not prepared to say how many were killed & wounded, since most all the freedmen were killed after they were scattered & fleeing through the woods, Deponent did not apprehend a general resistance on the part of the citizens of Camilla to his speaking, he thought posibly [possibly], he would meet with personal insult from a few rowdies as has been the case at other places and went there prepared himself, for self defence [defense],

Had he believed his right to speak in Camilla would be resisted by any considerable number of armed citizens he would have returned to Albany without entering the town, submitting to accusations of cowardice and lack of

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manhood, rather than have inocent [innocent] men, women, & children (about one half unarmed, and the other half with guns [added text: principally] loaded with [deleted text: bird] [added text: small] shot or not loaded at all) murdered, butchered, in the most cruel & barbarous way.

[Signed] Wm P Pierce

Sworn to and subscribed before me, at Albany,
Ga., this 24th day of September A. D. [Anno Domini] 1868 .

[Signed] O. H. Howard

Brevet Major U. S. Army,
2nd Lieut [Lieutenant] . 5th Artillery, S. A. [Sub Assistant] Commisioner [Commissioner],
Bureau Refugees, Freedmen & Ab'd Lands [Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands] .

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