Friday, May 25, 2012

"The Wildest Excitement Has Prevailed"

On May 29, 1864, Fourth District Provost Marshal Captain Jame Fidler filed a report to Assistant Adjutant General E.D. Townsend on outrages committed against African Americans enlisted or attempting to enlist as soldiers for the Union army.  He opened his report stating, "The citizens of the fourth congressional district have been for some time very much infuriated against the authorities for the enlistment of negroes without the consent of the master."

He itemized a list of "acts" that he saw as "directly contrary to the spirit of the law authorizing enlistments" and General Order 42 issued May 14, 1864.

"1. Before a negro could enlist without his master's consent, one presented himself to the deputy provost marshal at Columbia [Kentucky] for enlistment. The law was explained to the boy and he started home. The citizens were not satisfied with this, but followed him to woods and severely whipped him. I immediately ordered an investigation. The parties could not be found! and it was declared by disinterested parties to be only justice to the negro, since he had "sassed" his owner.

2. Fifteen negroes from Green and Taylor counties applied to my headquarters for the purpose of enlisting; they had not the consent of their owners, and under their existing orders I could not receive them. I explained the law to them; gave them to understand that I would protect and enlist them as soon as they obtained the proper consent. They left my headquarters, were captured in Lebanon by four young men, assisted by a crowd of men and boys, and were severely whipped. I immediately arrested the parties, although I was threatened with a mob if i did it. The case was promptly reported, and the young men, after a time, released until further orders.

3. In the county of Green, serious threats were made against the deputy provost marshal, and men announced that the enlistment should cease.

4. In Taylor county, negroes were whipped, thrown in jail, and in other ways deterred from enlisting.

5. In LaRue county, a special agent was captured and nearly killed by guerrilla citizens.

6. In Hardin, the deputy provost marshal has not been able to enlist or send negroes to these headquarters because of the information of citizens.

7. In Spencer county the deputy provost marshal was beaten and run out of his county. Excitement in Casey county caused the citizens of Casey to tear down posters sent out by the deputy provost marshal.

In truth, in almost every county in the district the wildest excitement has prevailed; only fears have prevented an outbreak. I have acted as carefully as possible, and at the same time have attempted to prevent all outbreaks. In recruiting negroes I have acted in precise accordance with the law and orders, but an intense feeling has ever existed against the law."

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