Headq'rs Second Military District., Charleston (S.C.),
Aug. 17, 1867.
General Orders No. 75.
I. Before the Post Court of Plymouth (N. C), organized pursuant to orders from headquarters, dated June 18, 1867, of which Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bentzoni, Captain Fortieth Infantry, was President, were arraigned and tried : Abram Jenkins, Justice of the Peace; and William Dunning, James M. Early, Arnold (alias Dick) Cook, John R. Earley, Andrew J. Dunning, Wiley Dunning, John Rice, William C. (alias Cherry) Lunning, George H. Mitchell and Henry D. Sanders, citizens of Bertie and Hertford counties, North Carolina.
Charge 1 : "Riotous conduct." (One specification.)
Charge 2: " Assault and battery."
Specification— The following is a copy of the specification, common in substance to all the cases except that of Sanders.— "In this, that the said defendants, citizens of Hertford and Bertie counties, North Carolina did, in accordance with the decision of an unlawful assemblage of persons at or near Harmon's Cross Roads, Bertie county, North Carolina, take one Phillis Ruffin (colored) from a school house to some woods near by, where one hundred and forty-six lashes, more or less, were inflicted upon her person, and that the said [defendants] did inflict a portion of said blows or lashes. All this at or near Harmon's Cross Roads, Bertie county, North Carolina, on or about the 14th of February, 1867."
II. The defendant Sanders was found guilty of an assault and battery in whipping a negro girl and boy, called Ellen and Robert, and sentenced to be confined at hard labor for one month, at such place as the Commanding General may direct, and to pay a fine of $20. Abram Jenkins was found guilty of the first charge, the specification to the second charge, and the second charge, and sentenced to be confined at hard labor for one month, and fined $20. Wiley Dunning and John Rice were acquitted. George H. Mitchell was found guilty of the specification to the second charge and the second charge, and sentenced to be confined at hard labor for three months, and fined $75.
III. The evidence in the foregoing cases discloses a deed of lawless and inhuman violence. It appears that a daughter of one of the prisoners, having attempted to beat a young colored girl, met with resistance, which became successful and resulted in the chastisement of the white by the black. This unlooked for reversal of a long accustomed relation filled the neighborhood with consternation and rage. Couriers passed to and fro, from farm to farm, inflaming the temper of the people, and concerting measures to produce terror among the negroes. A meeting of citizens was convened at a school house, near the residences of the parties. The accused were among those assembled. The magistrate Jenkins was invited to lend the sanction of his presence, and did so. Phillis, the young freedwoman, was sent for. Dragged before this self-constituted conclave of angry men, whom she had been accustom from infancy to call masters, some of whom she now heard urging her incarceration, while one swore she would be hung, and all agreed that she must be imprisoned or whipped, the frightened girl exclaimed that she had rather be whipped than go to jail. This was taken as the expression of the assent, which they desired. Some sort of writing was drawn up, called an indenture, by which Phillis, having signed it, was made to bind herself as an apprentice to one Mrs. Harmon, who thereupon consented that her so-called ward should be flogged. Quite enough was thought to have been thus conceded to the mockery of legal formalities, and the impatient assemblage, consisting of all the prisoners who have been convicted, except the magistrate, hastened to execute the penalty awarded. Phillis was conducted into an adjacent wood, where, at a spot some sixty yards remote from any road, she was halted, and told to take down her dress. She not obeying with alacrity, one of the prisoners snatched it off her shoulders. Stripped to her waist, except of her chemise, she was then whipped by five of these men in succession, by whom, according to the testimony of one of them, 126 lashes were inflicted upon her half-naked body, with rods three feet long and one-half to three-eighths of an inch thick. Her garmment was cut through and through ; blood ran from the wales raised on her lacerated back; one gash in her flesh, three days after, showed four inches in length; the heavy blows fell upon her person at random; she was pushed; she was pulled; she was kicked in the abdomen; till, at last, it seems that one of the accused, an applauding bystander, not utterly insensible to the sufferings and sex of the wretched victim, was so far touched by the spectacle of her torture, that the cry was wrung from him, "Boys, don't hurt her breast!" Having satiated their savage vengeance, her tormentors, fatigued by their exertions, withdrew; not, however, without considering the proposal of one of the number to return and give her ten more lashes each, to stop her screaming. Finally, the poor child, wounded and groaning, was permitted to make her way to the house of her mistress, where for days she suffered, scarcely able to crawl to her unremitted task, or even to wear her clothes without pain. In the revolting crime thus briefly outlined, all of those prisoners are shown to be eager participants. In the interest of outraged justice, it is to be deplored that the perpetrators have been adjudged to undergo punishments so inadequate to the enormity of the offense. The proceedings and findings are approved; and, in view of the delay which would result from revision, the sentences are approved, and the common jail at Plymouth is designated as the place of confinement. The commander at the post of Plymouth; will see that the sentences are executed.
By command of Major General D. E. Sickles.
J. W. Clous, Captain Thirty-eighth United States Infantry, A. D. C, and A. A. A.G.