Testimony of Colonel Whittlesey before
The Joint Committee on Reconstruction.
following excerpt is from Colonel Whittlesey's testimony before the
Joint Committee on Reconstruction in
1866. In this testimony he describes his experiences in the
South regarding the condition of the
Freedmen and in this excerpt, the acts of violence against them by
"The Sunday night following six men, with faces painted black and coats turned wrong side out, entered several negro dwellings by smashing in the doors, frightening the women and injuring the men. In one instance a woman, who started to alarm her neighbors, was shot at: the ball passing through her clothes, grazed her sides. Her son was beaten and bruised because he had been known to have a pistol.
"Another case is that of Charles Everett, late 2d sergeant in the United States colored troops. Mr. Everett, since his discharge, has lived in this town, a quiet, peaceful citizen, has taken to himself a wife, and attended to his own business. He has had no quarrel nor unpleasant controversy with anyone, white or black. Hence his colored neighbors were surprised at the attack upon him, and feel that no one can have any assurance of safety if such an outrage is allowed to be passed over unnoticed. His dwelling was forced open. He was ordered to get up. He came out of his bedroom, when one inquired. 'Is this Sergeant Everett?' He replied, 'Yes'. Then the same man, or one of the others--he is not certain which--lighted a match, that he could make more sure of his aim, and felled him to the floor by striking him over the head with the but of his gun. He knew nothing more, and lay for some time insensible and nearly dead. It was a severe wound, though the skull was not fractured, as first thought. He is still confined to his house from the effect of it. Mr. Everett recognized, disguised as they were, two or three of his assailants, and reported their names to the proper officers in charge here. Yet no action, as we can learn, has been taken to bring them to justice. Neither Mr. Everett nor his neighbors can divine any cause for this unprovoked and uncalled for attack, only that he has been a faithful solider in the Union army, and since his return home has been called by his friends and neighbors by the title he bravely won while in service.
* * *
"Do these acts indicate that magnanimity of which Colonel Worth so boastingly speaks? 'Being vanquished,' says he in his address, 'we submit as becomes a brave people. The President, as commander-in-chief of the military powers of the nation, magnanimously trusts us. I do not believe there is a citizen of the State who is unworthy of this confidence.' "
Sagacious governor! It requires not great keenness of sight to behold, here in eastern North Carolina at least, that the spirit of secession is as rampant as ever in the hearts of a majority of the people. Instead of reciprocating the magnanimous trust of the President, they take advantage of the governor's loose construction of the law to exemplify their patriotism in abusing "the inferior race" and in acts of insult to any and all who labor to elevate and improve them".
From his next letter of the 20th, we quote these additional facts:
"Last Sunday night the rowdies actually shot a colored man about a mile out from town. After disturbing the people on their return form church, they proceeded to the Camden ferry and called for the boat. The man came, and while crossing the narrow river, was asked: Is that William Kinney?' He replied in the affirmative. Pop went a pistol. Some dozen or fifteen shots were fired, and one ball passed through the body near the kidneys. Not much is said about it, and I have not learned whether it is likely to prove fatal or not. What surprises me most is to witness the indifference on the part of the citizens generally. They take no more notice apparently of these outrages and murders than if so many dogs had been bruised and shot at. The persons who commit these acts are seen the next day mingling with the people on the streets and in the shops as though nothing unusual had happened. I could not have believed, without seeing it, that any people who call themselves Christians could exhibit such hardness of heart even for the hard treatment of dumb beasts, much less human creatures. Oh! what has slavery not done? It has perverted the Word of God, and taken away the heart of man to feel for his brother, whose skin is darker than his own.
Source: Joint Committee on Reconstruction. Westport,
Connecticut: Negro Universities Press, Part II, p. 198, 1969.
Asterisks [***] indicate edits of the
original document by Michael O'Malley.