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Daniel Sickles, Confirmation of sentences in the case of the whipping of Phillis Ruffin, Charleston, South Carolina, August 17, 1867,

Daniel Sickles, detail

On February 14, 1867, in the north-eastern North Carolina hamlet of Harmon's Crossroads in Bertie County, a crowd of white male residents dragged a young African-American woman in her twenties named Phillis Ruffin out of the school she was attending, took her into the woods, stripped her, and beat her unmercifully for some minutes.  Her offense was that she had resisted blows from a white girl during an argument several days before.  As rumors about the attack spread, reaction set in and the local superior court indicted  six men in connection with the incident on April 13, 1867.  More significantly, as publicity about the case spread beyond North Carolina and the South, the local military jurisdiction became involved and ten men from among the mob, including the local justice of the peace, Abram Jenkins, who had been present at the beating, were tried on June 16, 1867 in a military court in Plymouth, North Carolina. Seven of the ten were found guilty of various offenses and sentenced to between one and two months at hard labor.  Jenkins was removed from his position, given two months at hard labor, and fined.  In this military order, an enraged Major General David Sickles, commander in Charleston, South Carolina of the Second District, upholds the sentences with only the complaint that they were too lenient, and orders that incarceration be carried out immediately at the the military prison in Plymouth.  Soon after, Sickles was recalled and replaced by General Edward Canby and elements of the press that had made the Ruffin case notorious across the country were swift to connect Sickles' firm actions in the district with his removal, and President Johnson was blamed.  (By John Osborne)