The Late Troubles in Tuscaloosa

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: Alabama State Journal
Place of publication: Montgomery, Alabama
Date of publication: May 14, 1869 11:50 pm

Messrs. Charles A. Miller and D.L. Dalton have returned from Tuscaloosa, to which place they were sent by Gov. Smith, to ascertain the facts in relation to recent lawlessness there. From those gentlemen we learn the following general facts:
Something over three weeks ago, two men left the city of Tuskaloosa for their homes in the country. Both of them were under the influence of liquor. Going along the road, they overtook a small negro boy, who was driving a cart. One of the men made to his companion a remark to this effect: “Suppose we take this boy along with us.” The other man responded: “Yes, I think we had better carry him him home with us.” These were about the words used. The men may or may not have been jesting in what they said. Be that as it may, they boy was so alarmed that he left his team, ran home, and told his father. The father and another freedman armed themselves, went in pursuit of the white men, and overtook them. But nothing passed between them except a volley of angry words–the whites threatening what they could and would do, and the blacks defying them to attempt it. This war of words, (not accompanied by a display of weapons,) ended the first day’s performance, leaving both sides exasperated, and the whites vowing that the matter should not be allowed to rest where it was.
All of this becoming known, it very naturally produced great excitement. It appears, also, that it was a kind of excitement that was greatly relished by the lawless desperadoes of “Sipsey Swamp.” These men rallied in considerable numbers, and went to the house of the father of the negro boy above referred to. There they found several negroes prepared for defence. They defended themselves vigorously, and one of their assailants were killed. The death of this man ended all belligerent proceedings for that day.
After this, the freedmen seem to have attempted nothing like organized defence. They appear rather to have sought safety by dispersing and avoiding their pursuers. In the meanwhile the hot blood of the Sipseyites grew still hotter. Their numbers increased. They were regularly armed, went on horse-back, and numbered from twenty-five to forty. Their avowed purpose was to avenge the death of their companion by taking the lives of all those they could find, who formed the defensive party in the fight.
Without going into minute particulars, it is sufficient to say that in the course of two or three days, two negro men were murder. This particular word “murdered” is deliberately employed as the only one that accurately describes the horrible deeds that were perpetrated. In the course of the movements which resulted in these two murders, one of the assailing party was shot in the leg. It is known that this wound was accidentally inflicted by one of his own party. The leg was amputated; and soon after the operation was completed the patient died.
Up to this time, therefore, the deaths arising from this particular difficulty were two white men and two negroes.
In the meanwhile, a freedman had been arrested and put in jail. He was regularly apprehended under a warrant which charged participation in some of the riotous proceedings to which we are referring. It may be mentioned, however, that this prisoner know many of the Sipsey men engaged in this mob, and might be an important witness to identify them. In view of this fact, his imprisonment was partly the result of a desire to shield him against the fury of the mob that was thirsting for his blood. This however, did not save him. On the first night after the Sipsey roughs learned of the imprisonment they went to the jail, broke it open, took the negro out, carried him a few yards from the building, directly in front of the old State House and murdered him in cold blood.
Words are wholly inadequate to describe the horrible character of the fiendish deed. The bare contemplation of it makes humanity shudder. In beastly atrocity it surpasses the savage butchery of the most brutal of the Sepoys.
The account this given will furnish some idea of the deeds of blood recently perpetrated in and near Tuskaloosa. Within the last few months the same class of men have committed many violent outrages, such as the killing of Mr. Crossland, burning and sacking houses, &e. These men are known as the denizens of “Sipsey swamp” near the city of Tuskaloosa. They number, perhaps, all told, not exceeding fifty. They are reckless tools in the hand of Ryland Randolph, of the Independent Monitor. It is to these men that Randolphs’s murderous appeals are addressed. The Monitor has contained numerous paragraphs directly advising assassination and house burning. Many of the persons pointed out by that paper to be slaughtered, have been deliberately murdered in accordance with its promptings. In like manner many houses indicated by Randolph destruction, have had the incendiary’s torch immediately applied to them. Randolph is the head devil of all the lawlessness that has afflicted and brought disgrace upon the city and county of Tuskaloosa.
People will very naturally want to know how such a man is esteemed in the community where he resides, or, in fact, why he is permitted to remain there at all. Messrs. Miller and Dalton met and conferred fully with all classes of citizens in Tuskaloosa; whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans, county officers, merchants, lawyers, mechanics, hotel keepers, planters, and, in a word, men of every calling. They all tell the same story about Randolph. Not a human being was heard to speak of the man except in terms of the most unmeasured denunciation. If it had been the will of the infernal demon that held the high carnival of blood in Tuskaloosa, that Ryland Randolph should be slain, it would have caused shouts of joy to ascend from nine-tenths of the community. This seems to be the publicity expressed sentiment of the Tuskaloosa people in regard to Randolph. We must confess this it is difficult to reconcile these professions with the support, negative ___ passive though it be, which keeps ___ Monitor afloat.
While Messrs. Miller and Dalton were in Tuskaloosa, the sheriff and county solicitor resigned. It was palpable that a change in these officers was indispensably necessary to the establishment of the desired condition of things. The people of Tuskaloosa, with entire unanimity, recommended Josiah J. Pegues for sheriff, and he has been appointed by the Governor. Mr. Pegues ___ a gentlemen of the very highest character. he says that law and order shall be maintained at all hazards, and that the reckless desperadoes of Sipsey swamp ___ be put down. All the leading citizens pledge the Sheriff their moral and ___ need be, their physical support, in eyes way that may be necessary to enable him to re-establish law. In fact, a ___ was circulated for signatures to a pledge of this character. It was headed by prominent lawyers and merchants ___ it is probably that it received as many as five hundred names. The vacancy of the office of solicitor is to be filled by the circuit judge, A gentleman has been recommended to Judge Mudd who was no doubt be appointed. He has a character in the community which is a ___ guarantee for vigilance in ferreting ___ and prosecuting those who have committed crimes. Proper affidavits have been made, upon which warrants ___ be issued for the arrest of several of the persons engaged in the recent outrages. As soon as a new solicitor is appointed these affidavits will be places in his possession. While the recent troubles were progressing in Tuskaloosa, a statement ____ published in the Monitor that a ____ came up to the office and sought to ____ the editor. The facts in the case ____ that a large body of Sipseyites, a ____ mob, which for the time held the city and terror, rode up to the Monitor office. These men were Randolph’s particular pets. Some of them held a conference with Randolph, and then the whole crowd left. Soon thereafter the prisoner was taken out of jail and murderously shot, as above stated. These are the simple facts. Our readers can ___ their own inference. Certain it is ___ was no mob at any time, of any sort, for any purpose, except the the mob composed of Randolph’s murderous Sipseyites.
Upon the whole, there is reason to believed that there will be no further lawlessness at Tuskaloosa. The two gentlemen sent by the Governor to ascertain the conditions of things, were received with the utmost kindness by all classes of the people. They were formally consulted by the leading and most influential citizens of the county, and every assurance was given which, honorable men can give, that for the future the law should be enforced, and good order maintained in Tuskaloosa county.