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

Letter: Albany, Georgia, to Brevet Brigadier-General R.C. Drum, Assistant Adjutant General Department of the South, McPherson Barracks, Atlanta, Georgia 1868 Sept. 29

author: Mills, William, fl. 1868
date: September 29, 1868
extent: 6p
summary: In his letter written September 29, 1868 to Brevet Brigadier-General R.C. Drum, Assistant Adjutant General of the Department of the South headquartered at McPherson Barracks in Atlanta, Georgia, Captain William Mills reports on his investigation into the violence in Camilla, Georgia that began on September 19, 1868 before a Republican political rally that was supposed to take place there. Mills describes the events leading up to the violence including Sheriff Mumford S. Poore's attempts to bar the rally-goers from approaching Camilla and the role of James Johns, an intoxicated Camilla citizen who shot into the crowd, as well as those of Republican Party members and rally organizers, W.P. Pierce, John Murphy, and F.F. Putney. Mills also notes that approximately half of the freedmen involved in the rally were said to be armed. According to Mills, nine freedmen were killed and twenty-five to thirty were wounded, and as of yet, no action had been taken on the matter. Lastly, Mills promises to send the proceedings from an open meeting held in Albany, Georgia, September 26, 1868 regarding the Camilla incident .
repository: DeSoto Trail Regional Library (Camilla, Ga.)
collection: Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868

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McPherson Barracks .
Atlanta Ga. [Georgia] Sept. 29'' 1868,
Bvt. Brig. Genl. [Brevet Brigadier General] R. C. Drum.
Asst. Adjt. Genl. [Assistant Adjutant General] Dept. [Department] of the South
Atlanta Ga. [Georgia]

I have the honor to report that in compliance with Par. [Part] VII of S. C. no. [number] 44. C. S. from Headquarters, Dept. [Department] of the South, I proceeded to Camilla Mitchell County, Ga. [Georgia] on the 23'' inst [instant], to investigate the occurrences at that place on the 19' inst [instant] I respectfully report as follows. A few days previous to the 19'' inst [instant] notices were circulated in Dougherty and Mitchell counties, that a Republican meeting would be held at Camilla Ga. [Georgia] on that day, and that W. P. Pierce (a candidate for Congress for that district) John Murphy (candidate as Elector for the District) F. F. Putney and others, would address the meeting: that pursuant to [unclear text: these] notices a number of colored people from the plantations between Albany Ga. [Georgia] and the neighborhood of Camilla proceeded in a body to that place, accompanied by musicians in a Wagon. This crowd numbered from two to three hundred colored people, about one half of whom may have carried fire arms of different descriptions: that when within from two to three miles of Camilla they were [unclear text: met] by M. S. Poore the Sheriff of Mitchell County accompanied by 4 or 5.

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Citizens of Camilla, who protested against their entering the town with arms, claiming that in accordance with a late proclamation of the Governor, he was empowered to demand that they do not enter the town with arms. This demand of the Sheriff's was replied to by Messrs. [Messieurs] Pierce and Murphy in behalf of the crowd, by their stating that they were not an organized body and in no way under the control of any one leader, that the persons with arms carried them of their own accord, and assured the Sheriff and the citizens of Camilla with him, that they were going to Camilla for the purpose of attending a political meeting, and that their intentions were peaceable, and without interest to disturb the peace of the place. I would respectfully call your attention to the enclosed affidavits of W. P. Pierce, John Murphy, F. F. Putney and M. S. Poore Sheriff of Mitchell County, for a full understanding of what took place between the Sheriff and the freedmen at this time, From the affidavit it will be seen that he considered the attitude of the crowd approaching the town, of such a character as to induce him to return to town and prepare the citizens against attack, by directing them as a possee [posse] to have their arms ready in case he should call upon them to assist him in preserving the peace. I have been unable to obtain any evidence that these colored people going to Camilla on that day were either instructed or advised by any one to carry arms with them, either for purposes of defence or violence, or that they seriously expected

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interruption in holding their meeting: altho [although] from some of the enclosed affidavits it is alleged [alledged] that one James Johns a white citizen of Camilla had frequently said that no republican meeting should be held in Camilla, and that on this day, this man Johns, armed with a gun, met the crowd some three miles from town, and told them that they should have no meeting or speak at Camilla, and that if they came into the town they would be hurt, Upon the crowd entering the town en-route to the Court House, they are met by this man Johns who is intoxicated and armed with a gun, he is boisterous and angry in his manner, and orders the musicians in the wagon to cease playing, his orders are not obeyed; in some of the enclosed affidavits it is stated that he then fired his gun at the people in the wagon, by others, that his gun was discharged accidentally and not in the direction of the wagon. However this may be, the result of the discharge of this man's gun was immediate fire from both Colored people and citizens of the place. It is admitted by all persons that this man's gun was the first one fired, that it was discharged without provocation; In conversation with citizens of Camilla, this man Johns was described to me as a drunken and dangerous man and frequently in difficulties, and one whose acts they depucated, and that on that day he was intoxicated, Under these circumstances it cannot but be considered neglectful on the part of

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the Sheriff in not seeing that this man Johns was kept out of the way on that day, particularly as he was drunk, and as he the Sheriff appears to have apprehended so much trouble from the approaching crowd, and the excitment [excitement] existing among the citizens of the place. For a full understanding of the occurences [occurrences] from the time the Sheriff met the crowd advancing on the road to town until the firing commenced and its results. I respectfully call attention to the enclosed affidavits of both citizens of Camilla and persons who went there to attend the meeting, As far as it was possible to learn the Casualties on that day were as follows -- 9 killed ( Cold [colored] ) from 25 to 30. wounded ( Cold [colored] ) several slightly -- 6 citizens of Camilla (White) wounded more severely, From the enclosed statement of parties present, it will be seen that the firing in town did not continue many minutes, but that the colored people fled to the adjoining woods, and that they were pursued by the citizens as a possee [posse] of the Sheriff's, some of them mounted and some on foot, and that the firing of guns was heard through the woods during the balance of the day. The Sheriff in his affidavit states that three colored men were killed one mile from the town,

I have been unable to find any proof that the colored people who went that day to Camilla, were advised by any of the white men who accompanied them, and who were to address them, either to go armed for defence or violence, but that on the contrary the enclosed affidavits

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show that Messrs. [Messieurs] Pierce, Murphy and Putney, all advised and impressed upon them, that they should be peaceable and law abiding in all their acts., as they were meeting at this place, Camilla, in the exercise of their rights as citizens of the United States .

That the citizens of the Town of Albany were in any way implicated or connected with the occurences [occurrences] at Camilla on the 19 inst. [instant] is in no way proven; it is explained in the affidavit of the Sheriff of Mitchell County, that notice of some colored people having left Albany on the evening of the 19' inst. [instant] for Camilla, was received by him thro [through] a person living in the adjoining town of Newton . This is in no way denied as by reference to the affidavit of Peter Hines the leader of the band, it will be seen that the Musicians with the freedmen left Albany on the evening of the 18' inst. [instant] I herewith transmit the proceedings of a meeting of the citizens of Albany Ga. [Georgia] held on the 26' inst [instant] and would state that the information was free to the colored [unclear text: men] by all parties. I was accompanied by Bvt. [Brevet] Major O. H. Howard, Sub. Asst. Com. [Sub Assistant Commissioner] B. R. F. & A. L. [Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands] from Ablany [Albany] Ga. [Georgia] to Camilla Ga. [Georgia] and from what I could learn the colored people and whites were peaceably disposed towards each other.

In my investigation of this matter I was [illegible text] assisted by Major Howard, and upon [illegible text] Camilla the citizens of that place, appeared desirous that the occurences of the 19' inst. [instant] should be investigated, up to the date of my [unclear text: visit] there,

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no action had been taken in the matter by the civil authorites of the county, nor had any inquest been held on the bodies of those killed.

Very respectfully
Your obdt. Servt [obedient Servant],
[Signed] Wm. Mills

Capt. [Captain] 16'' [illegible text] Infantry,

Official copy,

[Signed] R. C. [illegible text]

Assistant Adjutant General,

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