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

Affidavit of Smith Bowen: Albany, Georgia, 1868 Sept. 25

author: Howard, O. H.
date: September 25, 1868
extent: 4p
summary: On September 25, 1868, Smith Bowen, a twenty-three-year-old laborer on the plantation owned by Republican Francis Flagg Putney, gives testimony in this affidavit to Freedmen's Bureau subassistant commissioner O.H. Howard in Albany, Georgia, regarding the events of 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. Smith Bowen states that he began the procession as the wagon driver, but gave up his place to an old man. At Tinsley's Mill, about five miles outside of town, they met up with Republican party candidate for elector John Murphy, Republican congressional candidate William P. Pierce, Republican plantation owner and Bowen's employer Francis Flagg Putney, and ousted Republican Georgia state legislator Philip Joiner. Then the entire group, consisting, according to Bowen, of the politicians, the musicians in the bandwagon and about 300 men, women and children, only a small number of them armed and not all of those with loaded guns, encountered Camilla resident James Johns. Johns approached them on horseback with a double-barrelled shotgun, said something that Bowen found inaudible, and galloped away. They next met James Johns when they proceeded into town and Johns ordered the music to stop. When his order went unheeded, Bowen saw Johns begin firing directly into the bandwagon. Johns's shots were followed immediately by shots from other white men standing in front of the local stores, and most of the freedmen, reminded by Bowen of Puntney's prior intsructions to them "to have no fuss", fled.
repository: DeSoto Trail Regional Library (Camilla, Ga.)
collection: Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868

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Affidavit of Smith Bowen, (Freedman.)
[added text: 8X]
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 Smith Bowen (freedman) who, being duly sworn, deposes and [added text: [] says, that he is 23 years old, that he is by occupation a laborer, that about the 12th of Sept. 1868 he was informed by Mr F. F. Putney that a meeting would be held at Camilla, Mitchell Co. Ga, on Saturday Sept, 19" 1868, to be addressed by Capt Wm. P. Pierce and others, that Mr Putney told deponent and other freedmen, at the same time, & said "now boys we will go down to Camilla, quietly and peacably, make no disturbance, & be perfectly civil and give these people no cause to trouble us" (or words to that effect,) and that Mr Putney also told them to listen to the speaking and return home quietly & not to be impudent in any manner,

That deponent started as driver of the band-wagon, but gave up

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his place to an old man, and walked the rest of the way, That at Tinsley's Mill, five miles from Camilla, Capt Pierce, and Mr Putney, Mr Murphy and Phi [added text: l] lip Joiner, (in buggies) joined the party of freedmen who were on their way to Camilla, that at this time the company, or procession numbered about 300 men, women and children, that only a small portion of the men had guns, and to the personal knowledge of deponent many of these guns were not loaded, Deponent further swears that about 3 miles from Camilla they were met by one James Johns, (white) on horseback, with a double barrelled gun on his shoulder, that Johns made some remark to those near him, & then wheeled his horse & gallopped [galloped], toward town, that when the wagon entered Camilla, deponent was close by it, that this man Johns, walked

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up to the wagon, and [added text: (] ordered the [added text: X] music stopped, [added text: )] and said if the music was not stopped he'd "be God d - d if he didn't make a slaughter of them" (or words to that effect) that as the band continued playing, he Johns, there being a few steps from the wagon, raised his gun & fired into the band of musicians, that deponent was not over 20 steps from him & saw Johns aim deliberately at the musicians, That this shot was instantly followed by a volley from a large number of whites standing in front of a store, that deponent turned to the men around him and said, "boys Mr Putney told us that we must not have a fuss, and we must get away from here," that deponent, with others fled to the woods and lay all night, that the firing was continued at intervals all night long, that

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deponent is employed on the place of Mr F. F. Putney, & deponent positively swears that, Mr Putney charged him, and all the freedmen on his place to go and & come quietly and "to have no fuss",

Smith [added text: his] X [added text: mark] Bowen
Sworn to and subscribed before me, at Albany,
Ga., this 25th day of September, A. D. 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] .
Smith Bowen
freed. [freedman]
[added text: Compared, R]
G341 R F. & A L [Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands] Vol 13/68

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