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Testimony of Edwin A. Hull, June 26, 1871.


Testimony of Edwin A. Hull, June 26, 1871.


This testimony comes from the Report of the Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States, specifically a congressional hearing from 1871. The two houses of Congress questioned a foreman named Edwin A. Hull. This primary source comes from a collection of records specifically looking at the state of affairs in the South after Reconstruction ended. Congress asked Mr. Hull about conditions and circumstances for himself and other African Americans who worked for Mr. Howle, a prominent white railroad owner in Chatham County. He was asked to relay an incident in which men in disguises burned down the house of an African American, and other incidents involving whippings and violations of black women in Chatham. He is also asked about disenfranchisement and whippings that go on in the county on a regular basis. The perspective is solely from Mr. Hull, but multiple people question him in different ways on different subjects.




Testimony of Edwin A. Hull, June 26, 1871, in Report of the Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States, 1872, Internet Archive, (accessed February 10, 2013).




Hampton, Rachel




Chatham County, North Carolina

Original Format

Government Document


EDWIN A. HULL—sworn and examined by the CHAIRMAN:

Question: Are you the foreman employed by Mr. Howle, on the railroad in North Carolina, in April last?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: State what knowledge you have of a visit by men in disguise; what they said and did.

Answer: On the night of the 29th of April last a body of disguised men came there, about three o'clock in the morning, which would be the 30th. I heard them coming and suspected what they were. I stepped aside into the bushes, saw them pass, and heard some conversation between them as they passed. A portion of the conversation was that they intended to drive the damned Yankees out of the State, all of them—or words to that effect; that they intended to drive these damned railroad contractors off the road, having reference, I suppose, to Mr. Howle and myself. Some few days previous to that they had visited the premises.

Question: How long before?

Answer: About a week.

Question: How many of them?

Answer: I did not see more than four or five of them.

Question. How many went there there at the time, according to your best information?

Answer: I presume that was all that were right there.

Question: How were they disguised?

Answer: I was not close enough to state how, but I could see their faces were hidden by some mask or disguise.

Question: Were they on foot or horseback?

Answer: On foot.

Question. What did they do?

Answer: They came around the premises, apparently acting like spies, to see if they could find any of us there. They appeared to be looking for Mr. Howle, myself, or some of the hands.

Question: Did they say anything?

Answer: I was not close enough to hear what thev said. I was some little distance off.

Question: Go on and state what occurred on the 29th of April.

Answer: I could state some facts as told to me by others, but not of my personal knowledge.

Question: Did you see the persons yourself?

Answer: Yes, sir; I saw the persons who said they were outraged—saw them on the same day, Sunday morning.

Question: Go on and state what you saw and heard.

Answer: I saw the company of disguised men on horseback. I heard the firing and supposed it was something of that kind. In the morning Mr. Howle and myself went and got the statement of facts. The old widow lady, about 60 years of age, stated that they took her out of bed, threw her on the floor, and whipped her. I saw the marks where she said she had been beaten, and had been shot by a pistol ball in her right limb. While prostrate on the floor she said one of them kicked her in the head, and I saw blood on the floor that she said came from the wound. They also took her daughter and served her pretty much in the same manner. Another young widow lady there was whipped, and also some colored men on the premises. Two of them were whipped, and one, I understood, was mortally wounded. I saw him, and afterward heard he died from the effects of the wound.

Question: What kind of a wound?

Answer: A shot in about the center of the back. The ball appeared to have come nearly through his body. I asked them if they knew any of the parties, and they said they recognized a few that they could positively swear to. Her son, about eighteen or nineteen, was also whipped. He went to Raleigh and swore out a warrant against those parties that the different members of the family said they could positively identify. I assisted to make the arrest of three of them. They were brought before the United States commissioner at Raleigh and sent to the circuit court or held to bail in the sum of $2,000 or $3,000 each. Since then I have understood that the balance whose names were on the warrant have been arrested.

Question: Did you state what you heard them say that night?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: Did they make any threats against you?

Answer: They said they intended to drive these damned Yankee contractors off the railroad. That I supposed had reference to Mr. Howle and myself.

Question: How were they disguised ?

Answer: I could not say exactly, but I saw none but what were disguised in some way or another. Their heads were covered, and the bodies of some of them, apparently with some dark cloth, calico or something of the kind, and some of them had on tall caps.

Question: Were their faces masked or covered ?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: Were they on horseback or on foot ?

Answer: On horseback.

Question: What was probably the number you saw ?

Answer: I should judge from twenty-five to fifty.

Question: Why were you out at that time of night?

Answer: Because I had heard this firing over at the widow lady's house and I suspected what it was. So Mr. Howie and myself started to see what was the cause of so much firing, howling, and disturbance.

Question: Was it on your way there that you met them ?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: Where were you sleeping that night ?

Answer: ln my railroad shanty.

Question: Had you slept there before that?

Answer: Oh, yes ; I was accustomed to sleep there, but for a few nights previous to that I had not slept there.

Question: For what reason ?

Answer: Because they had continually threatened us from the time we came there, and for about a week before this outrage the threats were so strong that I apprehended trouble and danger.

Question: In what manner did these threats reach you ?

Answer: On one or two occasions some white persons unknown to these parties, who had worked for us before—some of our old hands—told our hands what to tell us ; that we had better leave the railroad ; that they intended to drive the damned Yankees away ; that if we did not leave in such a time they would Ku-Klux us and drive us away. I asked them who it was that sent such word. They said they did not know who they were ; some white men that they did not know.

Question: Had there been any violence inflicted upon persons in the community in that manner before?

Answer: Yes, sir, I had heard of several cases.

Question: Did that lead to an apprehension on your part of danger from them?

Answer: Not particularly until they had sent us word.

Question: When they sent you this word, were you then apprehensive that you would be visited in the manner that others had been?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: What effect had that kind of violence upon the colored people in the neighborhood ; did they feel any sense of security, or were they alarmed ?

Answer: They were alarmed. I have heard them say it was a very dangerous country for either white or black republicans to live in, and they were not going to live any longer than till they could get out of it. I heard a great many make that remark.

Question. Did you hear any word of command given to this company of horsemen?

Answer: Well, sir, I do recollect any ; I heard more than I can recollect.

Question: Have you given us a statement of all the facts as you now remember them?

Answer: Yes, sir ; I believe so.

By Mr. Pool :

Question: State the character of the outrage to the daughter.

Answer: I stated the character of the outrage upon the old lady the others were familiar to that.

Question: What was done to the daughter ?

Answer: She stated—and I even saw the marks— that she had her whipped on her body and limbs. She also stated-which I did not see—that while she was prostrate on the floor, one of them lit a match, and burned the hair off from her private parts.

Question: Was she cut with a knife in any way?

Answer: It appears to me she said she was, but I am not positive.

Question: You said there was a widow there also?

Answer: Yes, sir, a young widow lady.

Question: What was done to her?

Answer: She was taken out of bed, and thrown on the floor and whipped in pretty much the same manner as the others; and she was told by the captain of the party that she must leave there the next night, or in a very short time, and if she was not gone by that time, they would come back and kill her.

By Mr. Beck :

Question: What kind of a place was this; was it a house of ill-fame?

Answer: Not that I know of.

Question: Was not that the reputation the house had ?

Answer: No, sir ; I cannot say that that was the general reputation. If it was I was not aware of it.

By Mr. Van Trump:

Question: If any witnesses have stated that fact they were mistaken ?

Answer: No, sir; I do not say they were mistaken; it may have been so; but, if it was, it must have been so private that I did not know anything about it.

By Mr. Beck:

Question. Whites and colored people were all mixed up that night, were they not, in the house?

Answer: That I could not say ; the three colored men were on the premises.

By Mr. Van Trump:

Question: Have you never heard that fact stated—that there were negroes there that night with these women ?

Answer: No, sir; not that they were there with these women.

By Mr. Beck:

Question: They were at the house?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: Who kept the house?

Answer: The old widow lady.

Question: What ostensible means of support had she outside of what she could make out of her business with the other girls?

Answer: Well, sir, she cultivated small pieces of laud about the house ; had a garden and a small cotton-field.

Question: Sold whisky?

Answer: I believe she did; in fact, I know it.

Question: Had no license?

Answer: That I could not say.

Question: Ever hear of any?

Answer: No, sir.

Question: Has she not been indicted for selling whisky illicitly?

Answer: Yes, sir ; so I have understood.

Question: Don't you know she was selling without license and in violation of law?

Answer: I do not know it ; I have heard it.

Question: Didn't you hear that these women were of bad character ?

Answer: I heard so after these parties were arrested and they appeared as witnesses against them.

Question: Was it a common place for whites and blacks who felt like going to go?

Answer: I have seen both races there to get whisky.

Question: The other branch of it you are not familiar with ?

Answer: No, sir.

By Mr. Blair:

Question: What was alleged as their offense?

Answer: In their statement to me they said that these disguised parties told them they would teach them better than to uphold this damned Yankee government ; gave them ten days to leave, and if they didn't leave they would come back and burn the house.

Question: Did you think they were whipped on account of their politics?

Answer: That is the statement they made to me; I could not say further than that.

Question: In what way did they take part in politics? Did you ever hear?

Answer: Well, I believe I have heard that, regardless of any persons, they often stated that they thought a good deal more of the Yankees than they did of the rebels; such conversation as that.

By Mr. Van Trump:

Question: You say when you heard the howling and noise at that woman's house you started to go there and met these disguised men?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: Did they see you ?

Answer: I do not think they did.

Question: Were they in the road?

Answer: Yes, sir ; we heard them coming and stepped out of the road.

Question: Is it not the fact that all the violence they did that night was on these women, and all they did at your shanties was to see what they wanted to see?

Answer: That was previous.

Question: They did not come clear down to your shanties?

Answer: Not clear to them ; they passed by the shanties at some distance.

Question: Those negroes were from Richmond?

Answer: Some of them ; we had a few hands from Virginia, the balance were from North Carolina.

Question: Was there any difficulty about the right of way with this railroad company?

Answer: I am not aware that there was.

Question: Was there any complaint about depredations by negroes upon the people connected with the railroad.

Answer: I cannot say I ever heard of any, particularly.

By Mr. Stevenson:

Question: There was nothing in that neighborhood to depredate upon?

Answer: No, sir, I do not think there was.

By Mr. Van Trump:

Question: This railroad ran through a pretty extensive country?

Answer: Yes, sir; it was to run from Raleigh to Cheraw, South Carolina.

By Mr. Stevenson:

Question: You were right in the pitch-pine woods?

Answer: Yes, sir; some forty miles from Raleigh.

Question: No considerable settlement near you?

Answer: Not nearer than six or seven miles. ,

Question: Where did the Ku-Klux that you arrested come from ?

Answer: Those we arrested were within a space of two or three miles from our works in Chatham County.

Question: Those that your processes were against, where did they belong?

Answer: In the same county ; the same neighborhood.

Question: It was the nearest settlement to your works?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: What class of people did they belong to politically or otherwise ; those that were charged and arrested ?

Answer: As for their reputation any way, I am not acquainted with it.

Question: Do you know whether they were men of property?

Answer: I do not.

Question: Did you see any of them?

Answer: I saw the three that I assisted to arrest.

Question: About what age were they?

Answer: I should judge from twenty to thirty years of age.

Question: Do you know whether they were men of family?

Answer: Two of them I believe were married.

Question: How as to those who were charged?

Answer: They were generally men of families.

Question: Do you know whether others that were charged were men of property?

Answer: I think most of them were men of some little property, but to no great extent.

Question: I mean real property?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: Have you been about there since these arrests were made?

Answer: No, sir.

Question: Have you heard from there?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: ln communication with the people about there?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: What effect has it had?

Answer: I understood from a gentleman who lately came from Chatham County that some of these parties who were charged have since been arrested, and that the old widow lady has been indicted for selling liquor without a license.

Question: What effect has it had on the general public sentiment ; has it made any improvement?

Answer: I understand the generality of the people there have become to some extent embittered against the authorities for causing these arrests to be made.

Question: Do you understand that they are mad because these people have been prosecuted?

Answer: Yes, sir; that is the understanding I have.


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Congress, Testimony of Edwin A. Hull, June 26, 1871. , Civil War Era NC, accessed April 26, 2017,