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In Their Own Words

October 05, 1868

Post Civil War Trouble in Jackson County

At the end of the Civil War, the U.S. created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (or Freedmen’s Bureau) to assist and protect former slaves. From Athens, Howell C. Flournoy - who had openly expressed his Union sympathies during the Civil War - wrote to Gen. C.C. Sibley of the Freedmen’s Bureau of his concerns about efforts by white Democrats to keep blacks from voting Republican in neighboring Jackson County:

“I have the honor to call your attention to very great excitement in Jackson County, Georgia. Reports have come to me that both white and colored citizens are arming themselves. The whites say the colored citizens are arming themselves to murder all the whites at a certain time not particularly specified. This, as they pretend, has caused them to arm themselves for self-defence. On the other hand, the colored citizens contend that they are desirous of living in peace with the white people and attend to their daily work, that large bodies of armed white citizens [are] roving through the district of Newtown and Harmony Grove in Jackson County, hatting and hailing every colored man they see and compelling them with threats of violence and drawn weapons upon them to make them sign certain written articles of agreement which they term as an association of peace between them. The articles are nothing more or less than that they, the colored people, solemnly pledge themselves with an oath that they will vote the Democratic ticket in November, 1868! If they sign these, they are let along with warning. If the colored people violate their pledge, death is their doom, and, if they refuse to sign, they are driven out of the county, their lives threatened and many of them have been driven from their homes. Such are the reports that reach me.

“I am daily looking for an outbreak in that section and nothing can prevent it, unless some U.S. troops are sent here. The excitement appears to be intense in these two districts. I am afraid it will extend through the whole of Jackson County and the adjoining counties and this place. These two districts were very strong [for] secession and there a great many reckless and lawless men there from the sign of the times. No white Radicals or colored men will be allowed to vote at the next election for President unless he votes the Democratic ticket. If the government don’t give us protection we will be at the mercy of a lawless band. I have lived here for nearly fifty years. I was here during the rebellion. I was more than forty times reported for arrest for my Union sentiments. But I have never seen such times in my life as a Union man’s life was so insecure as at this time.”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), Georgia: History written by Those who lived It (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1995), pp. 224-225.