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Mississippi in 1875. Report of the Select committee to inquire into the Mississippi election of 1875 (Volume 2) online

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MISSISSIPPI IN 1875.



y



RETORT



SELECT COMMITTEE



TO INQUIRE INTO THE



MISSISSIPPI ELECTION OF 1875,



WITH THE



TESTIMONY AND DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE.



in two volumes.
Vol. IL-



WASHINGTON;-; :. ^

GOVERNMENT PRINTIN'G OFFICE.

Cheeked i876.

Mf.v 1918






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TESTIMONY OF J. W. LEE. 1021

J. W. LEE— MOiTEOE COUNTY.

EVENTS OF THE CANVASS.

Jackson, Miss., June 9, 1876.
J. W. Lee sworn and examined. "'"P'

PERSONAL record.

By the Chairman :

Question. What is your residence ? — Answer. Aberdeen, Miss.

Q. How long have you resided in Aberdeen ? — A. Since October,
1865.

Q. Previous to that time where did you reside ? — A. From 1841 to
1861, in Texas.

Q. Of what State are you a native"? — A. Alabama.

Q. Did you take any part in the late war, and, if so, what? — A. I did.
I served four years in the Third Texas Regiment in the confederate
army.

Q. Did you hold a commission f — A. All the time.

Q. What was it? — A. Lieutenant first, and captain after 1862.

Q. Aberdeen is in Monroe County, is it not ? — A. Monroe County.

Q. What means of forming an acquaintance with the people of Aber-
deen and Monroe County have you had since you have been there i — A.
I have had a very good opportunity of forming the acquaintance of the
people there, generally, having been engaged in mercantile business
from 1865 to 1871, and having held official positions from that time
until the 1st of January, 1876.

Q. What oflicial positions have you held ? — A. I was mayor of Aber-
deen about three years, and two and a half years sheriff of the county.

Q. Have you been active in ijolitics, and, if so, with what party have
you been identified f — A. Since 1871 I have been in politics as a repub-
lican, with the republican party.

Q. If you have any knowledge of what took place in Monroe County
previous to the election of 1875 and connected with the election, you
may state to the committee what jonv knowledge is. — A. Yes, sir. I
have knowledge of all the leading occurrences, directly or otherwise,
during the campaign of 1875 in Moi^roe County.

THE COLOR-LINE POLICY ADOPTED BY THE DEMOCRATS.

Q. You can ^o ahead and state what took place. — A. Well, sir, the
statement which I have to make will be rather lengthy, as it will cover
a good deal of ground. The campaign opened there pretty early in the
season. The course pursued by the opposition was more aggressive
decidedly than it had been on former occasions. It was of a different
character. There was more feeling and more bitterness in the campaign
of 1875 than in any campaign we have had since reconstruction. First,
they adopted, by action of their convention, the color-line policy, as it
is known, and that resulted in bitter ostracism and denunciation on gen-
eral principles of republicans and all opposed to them politically, and
continued that way until finally it culminated at the election. But be-
fore the campaign was over we came very near having a great deal of
trouble, and it was all we could do to avoid it.

A SPECIMEN EVENT AT COTTON GIN.

I will just commence b\^ stating some of the troubles we had there that
I know of of my own knowledge. For instance, we made certain an-
nouncements that we would have speaking at certain places on certain



1022 MISSISSIPPI ELECTION MONROE COUNTY.

days. The republican uominees had their printed announcements, and
they started out.

On the first occasion, I was one of the number that was to speak at
Cotton Gin, iu our county. I do not remember exactly the date, but I
think it was about the middle of October. There were, however, in
advance of that a good many things that were aggressive and calcu-
lated to get up a great deal of difficulty ; but this little town that I speak
of I was in, and know all about what occurred there.

We went to Cotton Gin to fill the appointment, and when I got there
I found the republicans strongly represented for the precinct, which was
a small one. They were mostly colored people ; in fact, nearly all.

I found a large number of democrats there too, not only from the pre-
cinct there but from other parts of the county; in addition, I found quite
a number from Aberdeen who had gone up in advance of me.

AN ARTILLERY COMPANY WITH GUN, KEGS OF POVV^DER, AND BAGS

OF BUCKSHOT.

I also found an artillery company that had been recently organized iu
Aberdeen. They had a 24- pound cannon, a caisson, and several kegs
of powder, and several bags of buckshot.

THE DEMOCRATS DEMAND A DIVISION OF TIME.

I saw from the temper of the crowd that they were not in a very good
humor about something, and one of their speakers who lived in Aber-
deen came to me and said, " We want a division of time here today."

By Mr. McMillan :

Q. What crowd do you speak of I — .A. The democrats.

Q. And when you speak of one of their speakers, whom do you mean ? —
A. Capt. E. O. Sykes came to me and said they wanted a division of
time. I told him to make his application in writing and I would submit
it to my friends. He did so, and 1 submitted it to my friends, and we
discussed the matter. They were opposed to any division of time, because
the democrats had canvassed the county there before us, and we had
never asked them for any division of time.

NEGROES NOT ALLOWED TO SPEAK TO SPEAKERS UNLESS DEMOCRATS

COULD HEAR.

To show something of the temper of the crowd : some colored men
would, perhaps, come up and want to talk to me, and as soon as three
or four of them would assemble around me quite a number of young
men who belonged to the artillery organization would come right up and
stand around, and would not permit us to say anything unless they could
hear what was said.

They continued to follow us around that way, and I became satisfied
from their actions and everything of the kind, and I told my friends —
there were only two of them— no colored speakers were with us ; they
knew it would not do, that it was not safe, in other words, for any of the
colored speakers to go with us on the east side of the Tombigbee River ;
and there were but three of us — all white men and republicans.

THE CANNON RAPIDLY FIRED, THE NEGROES SCARED NEARLY TO DEATH.

When 1 submitted the proposition to them in regard to a division of
time they opposed it. I told them there was one thing about it, there
were a great many men armed with double-barreled shot-guns and pis
tols. They openly and grossly insulted one of my friends, a Mr. Coleman ;
and I said "I see very clearly that we will not be permitted to leave here
without speaking, and we cannot speak here without a division of time,



TESTIMONY OP J. W. LEE. 1023

that \yill not be permitted, and our only way is to grant the desired
division, and make the best of it we can." In the mean time the cannon
was being fired just as fast as they could load it up and shoot. They
scared the colored people nearly to death. I told them to keep quiet,
and not have any trouble or difficulty with any one, and perhaps things
would come out all right.

A DEMOCRAT DENOUNCED FOR HOSPITALITY TO WITNESS.

Well, there was a gentleman in the neighborhood — to show something
of the feeling there — who, several days before, seeing the announcement,
came to me and said : " When you go over to Cotton Gin I would like
you to come out and stay with me. I would take pleasure in taking
care of you." For this act of kindness he was very bitterly denounced
by the democrats there.

Mr. Bayard. Who was he — a democrat ?

The Witness. Yea, sir.

Fiualiy the thing ])assed off quietly by our submitting to their de-
mands.

SIMILAR TREATMENT OF REPUBLICANS AT SMITHVILLE.

Our next appointment was at Smithville. I told the gentleman who
had invited me out to stop with him that he had been abused because
of the invitation, and that we would go on to Smithville and stop at
the hotel. We went there, and after a considerable persuasion we got
in and staid all night. The next day we had speaking in Smithville,
and we got a few republicans — only a few — and the few that came out
said they were afraid, but they did come. We met there very nearly
the same crowd that we had spoken to the day before at Gotton Gin.

By Mr. Cameron :
Q. A crowd of democrats ? — A. Yes, sir ; pretty much the same crowd
of democrats, for I know every one, having been a merchant and sheriff
of the county. And we had to submit to much the same thing next
day. When we were speaking they did not hesitate to interrupt us, and
occasionally they would call one of our speakers a liar or something of
that kind. We'were subject to all manner of insults and indignities.

By the Chairman :
Q. Can you state any of them ? — A. I do not remember the names
now.

republican speakers called " DAMN SCOUNDRELS," " DAMN

RASCALS," ETC.

Q. But the indignities and insults — what was done : state any of them
you can recall. — A. They would insult them and tell them they were
damned scoundrels and damned rascals, and while speaking they would
get up there and pronounce any statement a lie.

The next place we went to was Quincy. The white men were so in-
sulting that we just withdrew; we did not attempt to speak at all. I
did get up and talked a few minutes, and one man came up and was
so insulting that I said to the audience we did not come there to raise
any disturbance, didn't come to be insulted, or to insult any one, and
"we would withdraw; and we did withdraw from the meeting.

Q. When you say one man came up, whom do you mean, a democrat
or republican ? — A. He was a democrat, and came into the audience
while I was speaking, and seemed to have been drinking.

Q. Did he come near you? — A.. He came right up to me.



1024 MISSISSIPPI ELECTION MONROE COUNTY.

REPUBLICAN SPEAKERS COMPELLED TO WITHDRAW.

Q. Was he armed ? — A. I did not see an^' arms. However, there was
no effort to quiet him at all, and I withdrew. Those who seemed to be
kindly disi)osed followed me and begged me to come back ; but I told
them I did not want to have anything further to say. Mr. Coleman,
who was with me, got up to speak, but they were so insulting that he
withdrew, aud we got in our buggy and went home.

It was a long ways home, sixteen miles, but we had no place to stay
that night. We had another appointment also down for the next day.

APPOINTMENTS ABANDONED RATHER THAN HAVE TROUBLE.

There was one day we had an appointment where there was no meet-
ing; they did not meet; and then the day following we had a meeting
at Sulphur Springs. Four of us went down there, and I think one col-
ored man went with us. It was rather a strong republican precinct — the
strongest on the east side of our river. Notwithstanding all these were
republican meetings, we had to give them the organization, and we
yielded rather than to have any trouble.

Q. You say you had to give them the organization ; what was said
or done that led you to give them the organization ? — A. The temper
of the crowd that made the demand. I saw very clearly that it was a
demand. We would dissent from their views, but it did no good. They
insisted, and said they were going to have it that way, and we just
yielded without any trouble. We saw it was impossible to organize
our own meeting and attempt to have speaking.

DEMOCRATS ORGANIZE THE MEETING AT SULPHUR SPRINGS.

Q. Do you mean to say that they chose the chairman ! — A. Yes, sir.
When we came to this place, Sulphur Springs, a gentleman from the
southern part of the county, an old citizen, formerly sheriff of the county,
Col. J. H. Anderson — I suggested to some of the democratic speakers
that we take him for chairman of the meeting, and they said, " No."

By Mr. Cameron :

Q. Is he a democrat ? — A. A republican ; a moderate man. They
said " no;" that they proposed to organize that meeting themselves.

There was a very large crowd there ; about one hundred and sixty re-
publicans, and there must have been three hundred democrats. There
was a large church there where we held the meeting, aud it was a large
crowd for country speaking.

We delayed for a long time any effort at organization. We saw there
was no hope after we had submitted the proposition that we had ; and
after considerable delay they organized the meeting, and notified us that
we could have a chance to speak.

A democrat the first speaker.

I was the first speaker — no, the first speaker was theirs. Captain Sykes.
He spoke an hour, and then they allowed me an hour ; I had the floor,
and they had the chairman, the sergeant-at-arms, and everything.

TWO COLORED CLUBS PRESENT WITH DRUMS.

The colored people organized themselves in clubs, and they had a
fife and drum, generally, to call their members together, aud to use in
marching. They had, I remember, two clubs there on that day, and two
drums — two sets of drums. When they came in aud took their seats,
very often they took their drums in with them. They had done it on
that occasion.

I got up to speak, and soon after I did so there were four men who



TESTIMONY OF J. W. LEE. 1025

marclied right up the aisle in front of me, and I saw cue of them put his
hand behind him and take out a pistol and slip it into the inside pocket
of his coat, and they stood there.

I stopped, and told them that I did not propose to speak while men
were standing blocking up the aisle.

Finally, some one asked them to sit down, and they sat down; but
only sat down for a few minutes and then got up again ; and I stopped
again and asked them if they would be seated ; and they took their
seats.

When I would say anything that would bring the colored men down
by way of applause, it seemed to arouse the democrats fearfully.

" THIS IS WHITE man's COUNTRY."

The colored people when attending these meetings with their drums
had the habit of tapping their drums when they wanted to applaud the
speaker. On several occasions when this was done, I saw a man rise
up in front of me, and pull out his revolver and level it at the man who
tapped the drum, and say, '' Stop that ; you cannot beat that drum
here. This is a white man's country, and we don't allow that."

The demonstration was so hostile that I stopped speaking.

SPEAKERS INSULTED.

I was followed by another of the republican speakers, and he by a
third, who was so insulted that he asked them to excuse him, and said
that he wonld take his hat and go ; and he started out.

In the mean time I had gone to one of their speakers to see if they
could not stop the thing. I had seen boys go off that morning, and in
a few minutes we would see the same boys return with shot-guns on
their shoulders — white boys, the sons of democrats.

A large body of the democrats had assembled from different parts of
the county, many of them armed with guns and pistols. I did not like
the demonstration, and really felt very uneasy all the time. I was afraid
something would be done that would cause a riot.

DEMOCRATS ENDEAVOR TO PREVENT NEftROES FROM LEAVING THE

MEETING-.

When this man — a colored man — withdrew, the colored people at-
tempted to withdraw ; and as they attempted to come out of the doors,
armed democrats flew to the doors and blocked each of the three or four
doors to the house.

They told the negroes tliat they should not leave ; that they should
sit down and hear the truth ; and struck several on the head with re-
volvers and sticks.

"SHOOT them! shoot them!"

Then the colored people, becoming frightened, commenced leaping
out of the windows; and some one in the crowd — I don't know who —
shouted, " Shoot them ; shoot them ! "

I was then in the outskirts of the crowd. I had gone out to eat some-
thing — I had my dinner with me — after leaving Captain Sykes, and ap-
pealing to him to quiet the democrats or to do something to prevent
the difficulty that appeared inevitable.

The colored people came running out ; men, women, and children,
closely i)ursued by the democrats.

They overtook them, and just took a knife and cut the head out
of their drum, and they stamped on the kettle-drum and burst it all to
pieces.

65 MISS



1026 MISSISSIPPI ELECTION MONKOE COUNTY.

KEGEOES KNOCKED AROUND.

There was a great deal of trouble and coufusion. You would see the
crowd running after a negro, and I Avould expect to see him killed, as
soon as they overtook him. They did not kill him, but after knocking
him around, would turn him loose and go after another ; the leading-
negroes, I suppose, they were generally after.

This condition of things continued for about half an hour or more ; and
as soon as we could conveniently do so, we got into our hack and went
away, abandoning the whole thing.

DE^rOCRATS DENY THE WHOLE THING.

This was just after the agreement between Governor Ames and the
chairman of the democratic State executive committee here, General
George. We submitted the whole matter to Governor Ames, who re-
ported it to General George, and they, of course, denied the whole thing.

APPOINTMENTS REVOKED.

We had other appointments then announced for the west side of the
river. The first after that was on Saturday, at Paine's Chapel. As we
came back from Sulphur Springs, I said to my friends, " If you are dis-
posed to keep up this speaking and submit to this abuse, lam not;
I am going to stop my part of it." We held a little caucus that night,
and we decided to revoke our announcements that had been made to
speak.

We employed some couriers and sent them to notify the people not
to go to any more of our appointments ; that there was not going to be
any more speaking, as it would result in the killing of a great many
people, &c.

DEMOCRATS IN FORCE GO 'i O PAINE'S CHAPEL, BUT FIND NO MEETING.

But the democrats, the next day after that occurred, went out to
Paine's Chapel in grand style, with their cannon, and ammunition, and
speakers, and with a big /orce to the place we were to have had our
meeting. When they got there, however, and found no one there, they
came back in the afternoon ; and it would not have been safe for any
leading republican to have been seen by them, I assure you.

NEGROES THREATENED AND FIRED AT.

There was a colored policeman, New Williams, on the street, and one
of them ran up to him with a pistol, and told him that he was the cause
of all this thing, and they were going to kill him.

Another colored man, Osborn Ward, was shot at on the streets of
Aberdeen that evening, and the condition of things was perfectly fear-
ful, so far as I could learn. I was not on the streets at all, as 1 knew
it would not do for me to be seen ; but I was receiving messages con-
stantly, first from one way and then from another, about certain
threats that certain parties had made that I should be killed, and that
others should be killed ; and of course I had to just keep out of the
way of the crowd.

By Mr. Bayard :

Q. Give the names of those who made these threats. — A. I can give
the names of those who were said to have made these threats. But
there were so many at that time, and there have been so many since,
that I have paid no attention to them.

I was determined, however, not to have any difliculty or trouble, if 1
co-dd prevent it. We revoked all the announcements we had made up
to the dav of election.



TESTIMONY OF J. W. LEE. 1027

DE3I0CEATIC THREATS — ARMED MEN TO COME FROM ALABAMA.

The feeling displayed was perfectly fearful daring the campaign.
The democrat speakers in advance of the election did not hesitate to
say openly that there was a revolution; that they intended to overturn
the State government of Mississippi.

Capt. E. O. Sykes said on several occasions that it was a revolution,
and two or three other leading democrat speakers said so. They did
not hesitate about saying it; and they said furthermore that they in-
tended to carry the election in jVEonroe County; that its twelve hundred
republican majority did not amount to anything ; that they intended to
show us how to carry elections; that they would have fifteen hundred
armed men from Alabama to assist them in carrying the election. They
said that in their public speeches.

THE AFFAIR AT UNION GROVE CHURCH.

Well, on another occasion, just before this meeting of which I have
just spoken, we had an announcement to speak at Union Grove Church,
in our county; and it was generally known throughout the county.
When I got near the place of meeting I met a large number of white
men — democrats — and they i^assed me within a short distance of the
place. Some of them took occasion to say to me that they had speaking
that evening at a little church near by, not more than a mile or so.

DEMOCRATS ARMED— BY AGREEMENT THE ARMS ARE DEPOSITED.

Soon after our meeting opened they all came over, and they all or
nearly all had shot-guns. Some one of their number, fearing that there
would be trouble, sent a man in to see me, and to tell me of their com-
ing, and that thej"" were armed ; and to say that they thought it was
best for us to send some men to meet them and let the matter be under-
stood. I think some men were sent out to meet them, and by general
consent, after some persuasion, &c., they agreed to deposit their guns
near the place of speaking and all come in without arms. Some of them
placed their guns under the church.

.They came in in a very large crowd, and said that they had been to
Central Grove, or some such place, to their speaking; that the gentle-
man. General Davis, who was to speak to them failed to come, and then
they had come over to our meeting, which was near by.

ARMS PROCURED FROM NEW Y'ORK.

This condition of things existed throughout the county for a long time
before the election ; and, in addition to what I have already stated,
there were preparations all the time that we did not exactly understand.
There was an infantry force being organized in Aberdeen, with E. O.
Sykes as captain, and a full set of officers. They ordered from New
York, or somewhere else, a lot of guns with which to arm this infantry;
they were " needle" guns ; and they received them. They also received
several boxes of ammunition and cartridge-boxes, &c.

FIXED AMMUNITION AND A CANNON.

By the Chairman :

Q. Fixed ammunition ! — A. Fixed ammunition, as it is called. They
dialled with these guns; and they had a cannon besides, which they had
ordered from New Orleans by express. It was a 24pound cannon ; and
they mounted it, and had a caisson made for it, and took it with them
on many occasions through the county.

This condition of things existed from the time the campaign opened ;
m fact, from 1874 up to the election in November, 1875.

On the morning of the election I had considerable difiQculty in having



1028 MISSISSIPPI ELECTION MONROE COUNTY.

tickets distributed; but I got them distributed, bowever, early tbat
moruing at tbe court-bouse.

COLORED MEN ADVISED TO COME TO THE POLLS UNARMED, AND TO
VOTE AT THEIR OWN PRECINCTS.

Before tlie election I bad advised all tbe colored people to come to tbe
electiou unarmed — to be tbere, and to come unarmed; I did not know
but tbat tbere migbt be trouble if tbey came armed or made any demon-
stration ; and I advised tbem i)articularly to come unarmed ; and also
advised tbem, as far as possible, to vote at tbeir own precincts.

Tbe colored men on tbe east side of tbe river, bowever, bad been told
before the election by tbe democrats tbat tbey would not be permitted
to vote tbere, and tbey were afraid to attempt it; yet I did not think
it would be any better anywhere else. I advised tbem especially to try
and vote at tbeir own precincts.

Under tbe law tbey could vote from any part of the county at tbe
county-seat — the court-bouse; but to avoid a large crowd centering
there I advised them, as far as possible, to vote at tbe voting-places
where they registered.

A LARGE NUMBER OF NEGfROES GATHER AT ABERDEEN.

When I went to the courthouse early in the morning on the day of
the election i found between twelve and fifteen hundred men on the
ground; it was very early.

NO NEGRO TO VOTE UNLESS HE VOTES THE DExMOC RATIO TICKET.

By Mr. Cameron :

Q. Who were these men ? — A. Eepublicaus ; all colored men nearly.
Very soon quite a number of leading democrats came. They seemed to
be very much excited. One of them came to me and said, "I think you
are going to have trouble here to-day." I said, "I don't understand
you." Said he, " Well, I am informed that you have advised tbe colored
people to concentrate here from the different parts of the county and
vote here." Said 1, "You are mistaken ; on tbe contrary, I have advised