Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mid-October, 1869

On October 12, Dickinson learned that the dead man on the road was Fleishman, but he was warned not to retrieve the body. Dickinson held an inquest and the jury quickly returned the usual verdict of "killed by unknown." Only the next day was Fleishman's body recovered and his identity confirmed.

After Billy Coker, Jack Myrick, and Edward Alderman disappeared, violence continued only sporadically. A few freedmen's houses were shot at or broken into. A black woman, Lucy Griffen was "attacked three times on the street and frightened." Warnings were circulated that "a crowd had determined to kill" Matt Nickels's surviving daughter. Dickinson remained vigilant. Once, he reported seeing someone at his windows around midnight. Another time, he received a warning that Jack Myrick was on his track.

By mid-October news of the horrific events in Jackson County had begun spread. From Washington, both Congressman Charles M. Hamilton and State Senator William J. Purman reacted to Dickinson's letters reporting the violence. Purman confided to Dickinson that his "remedy" for the "bloody ills" of Jackson County was to dispatch "a battalion of colored militia." Then, he wrote, "the vermin and demons would leave for Texas and Hell" and "all good people would then find safety for their lives and property." Hamilton gave a statement to the press representing "a bad condition of affairs" with "eleven attempted or successful assassinations of prominent men since last spring." He feared going back to Jackson County since, he believed, there was a "strong probability" should he return "that his life will pay the penalty of his politics."

At the same time, an IRS assessor visiting Marianna, who had been threatened by Coker, reported to his supervisor that Jackson and Washington counties were "under the control of an armed mob" that prevented "the execution of the internal revenue laws." This report was printed in newspapers across the country. With a federal official fearing for his life and prevented from carrying out his duty, pressure begin to build for the dispatch of federal troops into Jackson County.

This account is adapted from my forthcoming narrative history, The Jackson County War, to be published shortly.

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