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6th Vermont Infantry

Kimball Collection

Postwar Material

Copperhead Calumnies Exposed.

The calumnious falsehoods exposed and refuted in the following letter are a fair specimen of the kind of means resorted to by rebels and Copperheads to excite prejudice against the Freedmen's Bureau and every other agency designed to secure justice to the freedmen and other Union men of the South:

To the Editor of the Chronicle :

Please permit me space in the columns of the CHRONICLE to reply to an article published in the Tri-Weekly National Intelligencer, of date November 21st instant, under the head of "The disarming of whites and the arming of negroes," and signed by Messrs. Wm H. E. Merritt, E. R. Turnbull, and D. S. Hicks, all of Brunswick county, Va., which article reflects seriously upon my character and official conduct, and without refutation is calculated to do me injury and injustice. I have abundant evidence to prove that those charges are false and without foundation of fact. The first charges brought against me, which were originally published in the Petersburg Index, and reported there by one Augustus Potter, alleging that, just previous to the election, (October 22) I seized guns from the county, had them cleaned and distributed, with ammunition, to the negroes, who used them upon the day of election to keep white men from the polls and allow no negro to cast a Conservative ticket, &c., were proven by the investigation, which was held by Lieutenant Thos. E. Lawson, U. S. A., who was ordered here for the purpose, to be infamous falsehoods and utterly groundless. As to these charges, I have to say that I never seized guns of any description from the county; and I never distributed muskets or guns of any kind, or ammunition, at any time, before or since the election, to the freedmen.

Nowhere in the county were guns displayed or used by the freedmen at the polls upon the day of election, and no man, white or black, was deterred from voting or from voting as he saw fit, and the investigation held by Lieutenant Lawson proved these facts, the allegations of these gentlemen to the contrary notwithstanding.

The statements made by Messrs. Merritt, Turnbull, and Hicks, are equally untrue. The guns which I have had in my possession, to the number of twenty-five in all, were abandoned United States muskets left by the armies when they passed through this section,, and picked up chiefly by the freedmen, and were wholly unserviceable. They have now been forwarded to the Ordance Department. These guns were collected from the citizens, white and colored, (and not from the whites alone as represented by Messrs. Merritt, Turnbull, and Hicks,) under the requirements of General Orders No. 26, Headquarters District of the Nottoway, of date September 10, 1865, issued by Major General John Gibbon. Most of them I received from the officer whom I relieved when taking charge of bureau affairs in Brunswick county. All that I have since collected myself were taken from freedmen alone. While these muskets were in my possession, I loaned out of my office three of them to colored men, and three only. One I loaned to a miller last spring, at the request of his employer, to guard the mill, who soon returned it, as he found it of no account. Another I lent to a colored man who is living in my yard, simply to kill hawks (if he could) that were troubling his chickens. The third I let a freedman take last August who is settled by himself, for the same purpose, with the understanding that he was to return it in a few days. Two of these guns were returned before the election. The other was not. This is all and nothing more, out of which these men have to base their charges, and these accusations also against Lieutenant Lawson for holding an unfair investigation.

These worthies, however, further state that "we introduced before him (Lt. Lawson) gentlemen of known veracity, who testified that they had seen negroes with army guns in their hands; that they had inquired of the negroes how they obtained them, and they said that Lt. Kimball had given the guns to them. The facts upon this point are these to wit: Dr. Smith stated at the investigation that last August he met a freedman in the road with a gun in his hand, who told him that he got it at my office. This was all, and no more. Observe, however, that they use the plural number in every instance, conveying the idea of multitudes. They further state, "The guns thus disposed of, he (Lt Kimball) admitted had been taken from the citizens of the county," &c. I admit that the guns that I had in my possession were taken from the colored citizens of the county.

They again add, "We proved farther to the officer that the negroes in the county were very generally in possession of United States guns." They did not prove any such thing. They made such assertion, but did not produce evidence.

It is true, however, that many of the freedmen in the county have guns of one kind or another. Some of them are United States muskets, which they picked up in the path of the armies and upon the battle-fields; others are shot-guns that they have purchased. It is by or through no act or agency of mine that they have these guns.

They further add: "It is not for us to say what orders are given to Lieutenant Kimball, or whether he be acting the part of a faithful officer." Observe the subtlety.

As to the freedmen carrying guns to their political gatherings, the facts are these; In some instances some of the freedmen have carried guns to meetings of this character held in different parts of the county, for the reason, as they afterward informed me, that threats had been made by the whites to break up their meetings. Whenever such facts were reported to my office, I at once sent for the leaders of such meeting, and informed them that they must not permit guns to be brought to their meetings under any circumstances, or do anything to give them a military appearance; that no one had any right or authority to interfere with the civil character of their meetings, but that they would be held responsible if they did not discontinue carrying guns. I have not known of an instance where they have taken guns to these meeting since they have received these instructions.

The summary of the whole matter is this: That the accusations brought by Messrs. Merritt, Turnbull, and Hicks are actuated by nothing but a prejudice toward myself, a hatred for the Freedmen's Bureau, because its object is to secure justice to the freedmen, and a manifest spirit of opposition to the laws of reconstruction. They are, however, without contradiction, calculated to do me injury; hence my reasons for replying, which I have done at too great a length; yet by giving this letter a place in the DAILY and WEEKLY CHRONICLE you will confer a great favor, and do me an act of justice, as I wish to be placed right before the public. Very respectfully,

F. M. Kimball,
First Lieut. V. R. Corps, and A. S Asst. Com. Freedmen's Bureau.



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