Life and Bloody Career of the Executed Criminal, James Copeland, the Great Souther Land Pirate (2024)

Table of Contents


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Changes to the text are noted at the end of the book.









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Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1874, by


In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

All rights reserved.

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The author of the ensuing publication was born in Effinghamcounty, Georgia. His grandfather, Dr. Soda, was a nativeof Cologne, an ancient city on the Rhine, in Prussia. Hereeducated to the science of physic, he afterwards became apracticing physician. Rather early in life, he came to theUnited States of America, and settled in the city of Savannah,Georgia, where the remainder of his life, some thirty years,was spent. Here, and during this time, he practiced in themedical profession with success and distinction. He marriedan American lady, the issue from which consisted in only oneson and one daughter, Robert and Jane Rosettah.

About the year 1830, the latter, with J. G. W. Pitts, weremarried in the city of Savannah, Georgia. The result fromthis nuptial union is the existence of the “author.” With him,in 1834, his parents removed from Georgia to Rankin county,near Brandon, Mississippi; but the wife and mother did notlong survive afterward, as will be seen from the followingrecord found in the family Bible:

“Mrs. Jane Rosettah Pitts, wife of J. G. W. Pitts, departedthis life the 7th day of January, A. D., 1835, in the 21st yearof her age, after severely suffering under a complicated diseaseof two years’ standing, which battled the skill of the bestphysicians.”

The author was left an orphan at a very early age—only twoyears old. He was consigned over to the guardian care of an[Pg 4]affectionate grandmother, who performed the charge bothcreditably to herself and in perfect accord with the welfare ofthe infant entrusted to her charge.

He was sent to school as early as convenience would permit,and, at intervals, continued until the age of twenty-one, whenhis friends brought him out for Sheriff of Perry county. Atthis period he left the school-room, and forthwith entered onthe canvass, which resulted in his successful election by ahandsome majority.

For some four years he continued in this office, duringwhich time the painful duty devolved on him of executingJames Copeland, the subject of the present work. Next camehis memorable trial in the city of Mobile, Alabama, to answeran inveterate prosecution for libel—a trial which involved thebest talent of the bar, and resulted in the conviction of theauthor by such means as truly gave only the shadows of victoryto the straining prosecution, and triumph in real substanceto the defence.

At a very early age, the author manifested a preference forthe study of medicine, and in his capacity of Sheriff, hisleisure hours, apart from the requirements of his office, werespent in making proficiency in his favorite science; and stillmore so after his trial—immediately following which he attendeda medical college with ardor and assiduity, and eversince has been engaged in the practice of his profession.

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There is, perhaps, nothing within the sphere of human operationswhich more affect the present and future generations,either for good or evil, than a faithful narration of history andbiography. But the effects, either for better or worse, dependpretty much on the comments and conclusions of the historianand biographer themselves. He may have an unprejudicedmind, he may chronicle the events of a nation faithfully andcorrectly, and he may be capable of delineating the mightystrokes and nicer shades of individual character with all theforce and brilliancy which extraordinary genius can command;but if his deductions or inferences be unsound or erroneous,the effects will extend to all parts of society, both the presentand the future.

For instance, and as an illustration, the poet said of LordBacon:

“The greatest, the wisest, and the meanest of mankind.”

This is a forcible declaration, and one that belongs to thetrue philosophy which others must adopt before they can bethe real benefactors of mankind. Had the poet gone further,and particularized the conduct of this great man, in what consistedhis exalted virtues, and wherein he has contributed somuch to the benefit of after ages—giving him credit for allthis, and stamping it with true glory, admiration and immortality—holdingup the same as worthy of imitation foraspiring youth; and then followed by a painful portrayal of[Pg 6]his enormous vices which have had their share in producing somuch corruption and misery on society at large—making manifest,according to the declaration of another poet, that “anhonest man is the noblest work of God;” and that it is farbetter to be honest, though humble, than to have a combinationof character of all which is great and all which is mean;let it be repeated, had the poet drawn his lines in some suchmanner, far happier might have been the result.

Again, war is the scourge of humanity. Of all woes, thereare none which can be compared to the horrors of protractedwarfare. Neither tongue nor pen can adequately depict themiseries which flow in the train of consequences. The rust,disease, exposure and pestilence of camp life; the crowdedhospitals of accumulated wretchedness; the sweat and smoke—theblood and groans of the red battle-field; these form buta very small part of the dire afflictions which flow from hostilecollisions of this nature—to say nothing of the burdens entailedon posterity by waste of treasure—leaving an interminabledebt to oppress generations yet unborn!

Here the fashionable historian has a fine field to work in.In dazzling colors he gilds and paints in profusion. He largelyexpatiates on the stratagems, the manœuvering, and the masterstrokes of policy displayed by the commanding General. Inmatchless grandeur he draws his lines, made conspicuous bygleaming swords and bristling bayonets. He plants his thunderingbatteries on every eminence within the scope of vision.Now open the scenes of death and carnage. Red flashes, blacksmoke and leaden hail extend from every spot of falling conflict.Hand to hand, foot to foot, breast to breast. First oneand then another of distinguished officers dropping, “coveredall over with immortal glory.” Grounds taken and retaken.One wing giving away, another pressing victoriously onwardover heaps of the slain. Here stubbornly contested, thenriding on the fiery wings of battle overpowering all opposition—producingrout, defeat and dreadful slaughter on every road[Pg 7]of retreat. Such animating descriptions animate other armiesand other Generals. Not only is the impetuous enthusiasm ofthe common soldier excited, but also the ardor and emulationof the General himself. The young, the old—all seem to desiremore opportunities to occur for the exercise of prowess, aswell as for further demonstrations of martial glory. But it isquite possible to conceive how the historian could have producedquite a contrary effect. By degrading all that appertainsto warfare, and by holding up to public scorn andindignation the brutal and hellish scenes involved for purposesof rapine, plunder or false notions of honor; by descriptionsof this sort war might be held in a very different estimation towhat it now is.

But is the present course of the historian’s pen altogethererroneous? Perhaps not. The inordinate rapacity and selfishnessof human nature must be taken into account. The overpoweringpropensity for conquest, might against right, mustbe considered. A nation extremely rich in agricultural productions,in manufacturing commodities, and in everythingelse pertaining to wealth, yet effeminately weak in spirit andincompetent for physical protection, will stand a poor chanceagainst the trained hordes who prefer plunder and conquest toany other pursuit. So far, then, the historian’s pen is notmisapplied in keeping alive and active the bravery and martialspirit of a nation to secure its own against the unscrupulousencroachments of other nations, or against the wild infatuationsof parts of the same nation.

In this department the true and correct province of the penis to encourage, by all honorable means, bravery, magnanimity,and all other generous traits of a great nation, consistent withsafety or security in the future, determined to maintain theright, and equally so not to yield anything to wrong throughabject fear of consequences; at the same time favoring forbearanceand exhausting all honorable means before the last resortof warfare be put in execution; while not forgetting to impress[Pg 8]that external warfare or internal rebellion generally leavebehind worse evils than those intended to be removed. Alittle reflection, then, must convince all of the vast and mightyinfluences which the historian and biographer exercise onsociety and nations at large, either for good or evil, accordingto the range or sphere occupied.

The life of the condemned criminal, James Copeland, whoexpiated his blood-stained career on the scaffold, together withthe history of the alarming and extensive clan, which, formany long years, produced a perfect reign of terror over sucha broad expanse of territory in this nation, and of which saidJames Copeland formed one of the principal leaders in the clan—clearlyshowing the causes which favored the progress, aswell as the causes which produced dismemberment and finaldissolution—such a life and history cannot fail, even at thislate date, after so long an interval of unavoidable interruption,of materially interesting and benefitting the public at large.

James Copeland was executed in 1857. His life and thehistory of the clan were published in 1858. The sale of thework was progressing wonderfully when a ruinous prosecutioncommenced against the author in Mobile, in another State,Alabama, for libel on several parties by the names of Messrs.Overall, Moulton and Cleaveland; the former being the principalactor in this prosecution, at least overtly so. This circ*mstance,in connection with the crippling of the author’s pecuniaryresources, together with the all-absorbing questionsinvolved in the late internal war, through which we have justpassed, prevented any but the first edition from appearing,which only circulated in a very limited extent of territory.

The obstacles here referred to are now pretty much out ofthe way. Opportunity is offered for republication on a farbroader basis than before. Time is the corrector of errorsand excesses. Heated passions give way to sober reason. Inthe enlarged edition which will shortly appear, impartial mindswill at once discover that the principal object is to do justice[Pg 9]to all—injury to no one; but this course will not exclude theguilty from exposure, yet it will endeavor to exonerate theinnocent who may have been accused through misnomer or byinadvertent mistake.

Great and influential men league together, sometimes forworthy purposes, but often for unworthy ones. It is veryeasy to entertain the idea that a young man just setting out inthe public walks of life without the prestige of the distinguished,can easily be broken down, no matter how foully the meansresorted to for accomplishment. It is strange that GovernorMcWillie, of the State of Mississippi, should have so tamelyand willingly given up the author to the laws of another State,and more especially to the particular locality where the designinginfluence of the prosecutors so widely extended, while wellknowing that the author could have had no motive or interestin accusing or misrepresenting any—not previously knowinganything, either of name or person, in relation to the prosecutingparties, either of good or bad—only publishing in substancethe unaltered revelations as made by the convict himself,the truth of which he sealed with his last dying breath on thescaffold; and while Governor McWillie, with hundreds ofothers, have known from previous experience the truth of theprincipal particulars as related by Copeland himself. Thisnotorious clan was not only a terror to almost every part ofthis State, but also of many others. But all this belongs tothe past, and is only now alluded to in order to give a rightunderstanding of all the facts and circ*mstances connectedwith the whole affair from beginning to end.

Truth and justice, by oppression and by forces foul, may beheld down for awhile, but the increasing and progressive powerof the springs will break and throw off the impediments—againbursting forth in vigor and strength not to be crushednor repressed by sophistry nor by the influences of money anddistinguished officials.

G. Y. Overall was the principal open prosecutor of the three.[Pg 10]It was clearly evinced on trial that there were other Overalls,and, to the satisfaction of the jury, it was to one of thesewhom Copeland referred to in his confessions; consequently,the public sentiment was in no way changed or weakened bythe proceedings of the trial; but, on the contrary, was largelystrengthened in favor of the substantial truths of the confessions.

Hon. P. Walker, the counsel for defense, maintained the same;and, further, that G. Y. Overall had not a shadow of right onhis side for instituting the prosecution.

The author is frank to confess, from the testimony producedon trial, that G. Y. Overall established his innocence so far ashe was concerned in point of time as specified in Copeland’sconfessions. But if this had been his only object, why nothave rested satisfied with a verdict in his favor which couldnot have failed to have been rendered without any injury toeither the author or the “confessions?” Why did he, in combinationwith others, resort to means so disreputable, as willafterwards be shown, to crush the author or publisher, who beforedid not know him, and could not have had any enmity orsordid motive against him, as well as for the purpose of destroyingthe “confessions,” the major parts of which were wellknown to be strictly true? Why one part of the witnesses soinfamous and in every way so suspicious? Why the strangeand oscillating conduct of the Judge in varying his charges tothe Jury at different stages of progress? Why, contrary toall modern usage, hold confined the jury for six long days andnights with an express and determined resolve not to releasewhen there appeared to be no prospect of an agreement on averdict? Why so many cunning inlets to and tampering withparts of the jury? Why, when it was worn out by fatigueand loss of rest, was the last stratagem resorted to for delusionto the effect that it was hardly worth while holding outwhen the penalty, if any at all, would be nothing more thana slight fine? Why the low, the despicable, and the underground[Pg 11]agencies set at work to poison the mind of a then intendedwife, and to sever the agreement of marriage whichhad been made in good faith on both sides? If G. Y. Overallhad meant nothing more than the establishing of his own innocenceas regards the confessions made, and which he unwarrantedlyapplied to himself, why so many mysterious forcesat work and so much of corruption put in play? By endeavoringto establish too much, reaction often follows whichsometimes satisfies that too little has been effected to produceany benefit to the complainer.

Public disapproval of the verdict, universal sympathy whichfollowed the author everywhere, even within the confines ofhis prison—a stranger in Mobile, yet on every hand met withkind treatment both in this city and elsewhere from afar, allgiving testimony against this uncalled for and malignantprosecution. Mr. Overall and company’s victory was dearlybought, and left them in a far worse condition than before theycommenced.

For proving too much, a miserable subterfuge was tried tomake appear that Copeland was deranged, was a maniac, andhis statements entirely unworthy of credit. A more signalfailure could not have been attempted. If he was non composmentis, the law grievously erred in causing his execution.Those who knew him well, those who visited him long andoften in his prison, can testify to his extraordinary strength ofmind. Brave and undaunted, affable in deportment, a tenaciousmemory, with all other indications of mental vigor, the chancesare very small of making impressions touching his insanity.And all this in the face of those localities which suffered somuch from the depredations of the clan, which localities canvouch for the truth of his confessions. But the jury of inquest,on an artful plea raised at the time of his trial settlesthis question. A man with certain death before his eyes,with not even the remotest hope of any possibility of escape,is not governed as other men are under ordinary circ*mstances[Pg 12]of business and duplicity. If, to the double-dealers and thereserved, his conduct appears strange in the exposure of hisassociates, how much more so in the reflections on his ownmother? The testimony of a dying man, given freely andwithout any deceptive or compulsory force, is generally consideredreliable. The circ*mstances under which he made hisconfessions, having in view his fast approaching end to allearthly scenes, the internal evidences of truth which theybear, the numerous localities which can confirm the facts as inthem contained, all tend to produce convictions as to the substantialaccuracy of his narrations. In his last moments beforethe fatal drop launched him into an endless eternity, inreference, read the following certificate, correctly transcribed,as given by an eye witness in reply to an application from theauthor:

Mobile, Ala., July 31st. 1873.

This is to certify that I was present at the execution ofJames Copeland, who was executed at Augusta, Perry county,Miss., the 30th day of October, 1857; and heard the Sheriff, J.R. S. Pitts, ask him, the said James Copeland, if the detailedhistory and list of names given as members of the Wages andCopeland clan were correct, and he answered the Sheriff in theaffirmative that they were.

T. C. Carter.
Office 58, North Commerce st., Mobile, Ala.

Other equally reliable certificates could be given to the sameeffect, but the one here transcribed will suffice. The personwhose signature is above given, is respectfully known prettymuch throughout the City of Mobile, as well as over thegreater part of Mississippi, and whose veracity none willattempt to dispute.

Let it be borne in mind that the existence of this clan continuedfor a great number of years, its fields of operationsextended from State to State—from shore to shore. Heremurder and prodigious rapine; there burning wrecks, withhurried flights from place to place to avoid capture and the[Pg 13]pursuits of retributive vengeance—frequently succeeding, butnow and then failing for short periods of time until the reservesin men, in money, and in officials or leagued members of thebar could be brought to bear for rescue or for jail delivery byprocess of law. Amid all these chequered scenes of successand adversity, it would not be impossible for some unintentionalerrors of date to have intervened; yet, intrinsically, sucherrors may be of a character as not, to the smallest extent, toaffect the validity or value of the “confessions” made; butstill, errors of this sort, may furnish fine capital for indirectsore-headed associates to rave and foam. As a simple illustrationon this point, one man saw another commit a crime onthe 15th, but, on investigation, it turned out to have beendone on the 16th. Now, had he stated “on or about the15th,” all would have been complete; but will any one contendbecause of the omission of this “or about,” the wholevalue of the statement is destroyed?

Again, typographical errors will occur in almost all printedproductions, to a greater or less extent. Such errors aresometimes insignificant and sometimes material. In the originalwork, as first published, some few typographical errorshave been discovered. For instance, “Shonesmack” shouldhave been Shoemake or Scheumake; but the idea of raising afuming warfare because of such sort of errors as these, issublimely ridiculous.

After some hesitation about propriety, the author has decidedto re-publish the same as appeared in the first edition,with such few appended explanations and corrections as arenecessary for distinct comprehension by the reader.

Filial acknowledgements and a tribute of respect for thefather, but mother, brothers, and associates, Copeland sparednone. Without reserve—without restraint—simple and withoutany object of complication, truth fell fast and spontaneouslyduring the short time he had to live. The philosopher, thestatesman, and the moralist—all may deduce lessons of value[Pg 14]to the future from his confessions. Reflections on his mothershow the mighty force and influence which the female parentexercises on youth and maturity. “The rule is bad that willnot work both ways.” If in this case the mother producedso much of evil fruit, a contrary or an opposite one must producecontrary results—hence, the vast importance of mothersboth to the present and rising generations.

The Murrell clan first, then the Wages and Copeland next.Both organizations came to a tragic end. Astounding as thefact may be, there are some who prefer a life of blood andplunder and terror, to peaceful industry and the blessings oforderly society. If the life and history now under considerationshould fall into the hands of some of this class, let themnot indulge in the flattering unction that but for this or theother error committed, the career of the clan might have continuedindefinitely. Let no such fatal delusions be cherishedfor a moment. Under a system of semi-civilization, wherelaws are only a mock farce, where amount of money is the measureof guilt or innocence; where judges on the bench, executiveofficials, rings, cliques, lawyers, demagogues, and even anumber of the clerical order—Mr. McGrath as an instance—alloperate, not according to the principles of right in consonancewith the benign influences which tend towards a rule ofnatural order and justice, but in conformity with corrupt andsordid motives for political considerations to secure wealthand power, no matter how foul the means; under such an unhealthycondition of circ*mstances, organizations like theMurrell, the Wages and Copeland, however assiduously andindirectly supported by men of wealth and distinction, howeverbold and able the actors, cannot permanently continue.Such combinations of lawlessness for murder and plunder, incendiarismand all the other darker crimes which belong todepraved natures, must terminate in death and dissolution;but it so generally happens that the less guilty end their careeron the scaffold or in some other way by the hands of an outraged[Pg 15]community; while the higher grades of participantcriminals, of larger calibre of brain, are left to revel on thespoils for which the less fortunate have had to suffer the painsof an ignominious death.

Organizations of such vast and gigantic magnitude, are incidentsof a rude and transition state of society, where populationis sparse, where means of protection are sadly at fault,and where so many hardened criminals make their escapethrough the mock forms of trials in courts, not of justice, butof ignorance and corruption under the name of liberty and ascrupulous tenderness in behalf of a spurious or false sentimentalcolor of humanity; but in proportion as population increases,so also must detection and protection, with a betteradministration of law and justice increase in the same ratio,even if the forms of government have to be changed for theaccomplishment of the same. Wealth cannot accumulate longwithout chaos and anarchy, unless protection of life andproperty be commensurate.

But often the closing era of such terrible organizations forbold and daring depredations on the better portions of society,then begin other organizations of less dimensions, but moredangerous, because more subtle and refined, and in every wayharder of detection.

There is something terrible, or, at least, alarming in conceptionawakened by the names of clans and bands; but differentas regards rings and cliques. These last control legislationthe executives and cabinets, and nearly the whole of the judicialrings. They are the arbiters of aspirants of every description—generallyaccording to the price or considerationoffered. But there is yet another lower grade of rings andcliques, composed of subordinate officers, picayune membersof the bar, and low-down reckless strikers. When money orother sorts of gain is to be made, these strikers are set to work,and if they become involved in law difficulties, the cheaplawyers, with the assistance of the officials, are always at hand[Pg 16]to liberate the offending culprits. Former methods of murder,conflagration and high-handed robbery have been exchangedfor more intricate forms of conquest and gain.

Whoever ventures an exposure of the fashionable vices ofinfluential circles—whoever assails the citadels and strongholdsof crime and corruption, must not expect to eludenumerous and deep-laid conspiracies for the sacrifice of life,which, if he escape falling a victim, he will be more than fortunate.Even so far, the author has bitterly experienced allthis. The marvel is that he is yet alive and determined tocontinue in stronger terms than before exhibited—relying oninvincible truth and the better portions of society to bear himup through the ordeal which he has to encounter. Althoughhe has suffered much, and has had many “hair-breadthescapes” from the plots and snares laid for his destruction.

The subsequent part of the Appendix will inform the readerof several infernal concoctions for assassination when attemptsat intimidation failed. The first of these will embrace particularsin the period betwixt the publication and the author’sarrest, and the other about three years after the trial hadterminated. The period betwixt publication and arrest cannotbe devoid of interest to the reader—it is a prelude to the importanttrial which followed. The incidents involved duringthe time here referred to have ponderous bearings, in a circ*mstantialpoint of view, toward establishing the substantial correctnessof Copeland’s confessions, although intended to invalidatethem and make a nullity of the whole.

During imprisonment Copeland seemed to fully comprehendthe profound plans and commanding power of one by the nameof Shoemake. This is the man who played so conspicuous apart before and on trial in combination with the three prosecutingparties of Mobile. The arch-enemy of all mankindcannot surpass him in perfidious deception.

“With smooth dissimulation well skilled to grace,

A devil’s purpose with an angel’s face.”

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He who it was who first addressed a letter of almost matchlessduplicity to the author, while residing in Perry county, undera forged or fictitious signature. He who it was who nextvisited the author in person, first to try the arts of persuasion,and then the designing influences of intimidation, but in eithercase without the desired effect. After this, he it was whoentered into compact with the prosecuting three, of Mobile,bore the requisition from the Governor of Alabama to theGovernor of Mississippi for the rendition of the author, and,in the circ*mstances connected with the arrest, acted in such amysterious and suspicious manner as could leave no doubt thathe contemplated the life of the author under a plausible pretextof resistance to lawful authority. But this object was signallydefeated. A considerable number of good citizens quicklycollected together, well armed for protection, and volunteeredto accompany the author under arrest to Mobile, which theyaccordingly did, and effectually secured his safety.

The trial followed next. By careful attention to the circ*mstancesconnected with it much information may be gathered,showing the force of political considerations, and how hard thetask for truth and justice, in the first efforts, to gain a triumphover a combination of wealth and intellect leagued together forbad purposes. For instance, the presiding Judge, McKinstry,could have had no personal prejudice or enmity against theauthor, and in his heart might have rejoiced over the dissolutionof the clan, but his palpably reprehensible conduct ontrial furnishes convincing evidence that he was influenced byother considerations than those of law and justice. To thisfact Dr. Bevell, one of the impaneled jurymen on the case,had his eye turned in the references to the Judge’s conductand political considerations, which references will be found inhis letter published in another part of the work.

On the days of trial the notorious character of this saidShoemake was made public and manifest. He was the principalwitness relied on in the prosecution. Another, equallyinfamous, as demonstrated by the most satisfactory of testimony,[Pg 18]by the name of Bentonville Taylor, was brought fromafar in rags and poverty, and sent back in costly attire withmoney in profusion. Does the impartial judgment requireanything more to produce conviction of the shameful featuresof the prosecution? If so, he will find much more before hegets through the particulars of the trial. Added to this, thealmost universal outburst of sympathy in behalf of the author,with letters of condolence from distant parts, all of which willbe found in the proper places of the work.

Under circ*mstances so adverse it is not to be expected thatCopeland, in his confession, could give more than a small fractionalpart of the transactions of the whole clan. Since thena number and variety of interesting matters have been collectedfrom the most authentic of sources, and will be found in theappropriate place of this pamphlet.

The subject of crime opens an almost inexhaustible expansefor expatiation. An elaborate treatise on its causes and remediesis too prolix for a work of this nature—only a few passingobservations on this theme will be found interspersed, whichare relevant and have a direct bearing on the main topicsdiscussed.

And now, in closing this introductory part, the author wishesthe public to understand that he has no personal animosityagainst those who so wrongfully deprived him of his liberty,ruined him with expenses, and encompassed his life in so manyintricate ways. He has not indulged in any revengeful passions,but has endeavored to strictly confine himself to theunprejudiced and impartial province of the historian and biographer—accordingmerit where due, and with propriety denouncingcrimes, corruptions and unhealthy conspiracies wheneverthey come in the way. And, if in so doing, he is to endure arepetition of persecutions and prosecutions, with fresh dangersadded, he will try to bear them with all the fortitude he cancommand, with the hope that the peaceably and honestly disposedparts of the community will rally for the pulling downthe edifices of vice, and for establishing a better, a purer and ahealthier condition of society.

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The number of years during which the Copeland and WagesGang of Land Pirates pursued a successful career of robbery,incendiarism and murder in the United States; their final dismemberment,disgrace and violent end at the hand of retributivejustice; and the stern moral lesson taught by theirhistory and fate, have induced the undersigned to publish theconfession of one of the leaders of the gang, as made by himself,in anticipation of his death at the hands of the hangman.Its accuracy may be relied on; and indeed it is hardly possibleto doubt the truth of its statements, so minutely, consecutivelyand clearly are they related, and so consonant are they withthe various localities and the characters of the men.

This confession was given to me, principally by the aid ofcopious memoranda which Copeland had kept for years in hisdiary, and which materially refreshed his memory.

James Copeland, the subject of this memoir, was born nearPascagoula river, in Jackson county, Miss., on the 18th day ofJanuary, 1823. He was the son of Isham Copeland andRebecca Copeland, his wife—formerly Rebecca Wells. Theparents had resided for many years near Pascagoula river.

Isham Copeland was a farmer in easy circ*mstances, with agood farm, several negroes, plenty of horses and mules and[Pg 20]other live stock; and, in fact, he might be said to have everythingabout him that a family in moderate circ*mstances couldrequire to enable him to live comfortably. He was the fatherof several sons; but, alas! this, which is by most men deemeda blessing, proved to him a curse; and after encountering manytrials in youth and manhood, just when he thought to enjoythe peace and repose of old age, his son’s misconduct drew onhim many severe reverses of fortune, and finally drove him tothe grave broken hearted.


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When I was about ten or eleven years of age, my father sentme to school, and I went at intervals from time to time, to severalgood teachers. I might, with proper training and management,have received a liberal education. My father ofteninsisted, and urged it upon me to study and try to obtain agood education, and he told me that he would send me toschool as long as I wished to go. But being misled by my associationswith bad company, I was engaged, instead, in studyingmischief, and other things no way profitable to myself oradvantageous to youths. It was my misfortune, that my dispositionled me on to study how to cheat, defraud and swindlemy comrades and school-mates, out of their pocket-knives,their money or anything they might have, which I wanted, andI was generally successful in my undertaking. If I could noteffect my object in one way, I would resort to some other, andfinally obtain it before I stopped. Indulging in this rude andmischievous disposition, I naturally became more hardened,[Pg 22]and when at school, it was my delight to see the scholarswhipped or otherwise punished, and I would often tell lies onany of them that would displease me, so as to cause them toget a flogging; and very often I would tell a lie on an innocentscholar, so as to clear a favorite and guilty one, and have theinnocent one punished. It most generally happened, that Imanaged my villainy so as to get clear; it sometimes happened,however, that I got punished. This I did not care forany longer than the punishment lasted. So soon as I was released,I would commit a worse misdeed than the one I waschastised for, and any of my school-mates that were the causeof my punishment, I was certain to wreak my vengeance on,by having them punished in some way. From my bad conductin school there was no teacher that would permit me to go tohis school long at a time, and whenever I had any difficultywith my teachers, my mother would always protect and indulgeme in what I would do; and being so indulged and protected,this excited me to commit crimes of greater magnitude. AndI am frank, here to say, that my mother has been the principaland great cause of all my crimes and misfortunes, by stimulatingme to the commission of those deeds that have broughtme to what I am.

When I was about the age of twelve years, my mother oneday sent me with a sack to a neighbor’s house (Mr. Helverson’s),to procure some vegetables or greens. I communicatedmy errand to Mrs. H., who told me to go to the garden andtake what I wanted. I had no knife with me. I asked Mrs. loan me a knife, which I knew she had, and she pulled out avery pretty little knife from her work-pocket, and told me notto lose or break it, for it was a present made to her by a friend.This I listened to and promised her that I would be careful.Now, while I was in the garden procuring vegetables or greens,my whole mind and wits were employed in devising some modeby which I could cheat the lady out of her knife. Finally,after I had procured my vegetables and placed them in the[Pg 23]sack, I put the knife in the bottom of the sack; I then returnedto the house, and told the lady that I laid the knife down in thegarden, and had forgot the place and could not find it; I askedher to go with me and help me hunt for it, which she accordinglydid, and we both hunted diligently, but to no effect. Thelady was very anxious about her knife and much regretted itsloss, while I was all the time laughing in my sleeve, to knowhow completely I had swindled her. This trick of mine passedoff very well for a time. It was, however, found out that I hadthe knife, and that created some noise and trouble. I was accusedof stealing the knife. But I denied all accusations andstated that I had bought the knife I had, in Mobile, and provedit by my mother, who always upheld me in my rascality. Thismay be said to have been my first successful feat in stealing,although I was in the habit of stealing little frivolous thingsfrom the school boys, before that time.

My father living a very close neighbor to Mr. Helverson,whose family is related to ours, their stock run together in thesame range. My next onset in stealing was from Mr. H.again; he had a lot of very fine fat pigs, and these were at thattime selling at a high price in Mobile. My brother Isham(nicknamed Whinn) and myself geared up a horse in a cartand started, pretendingly for a camp hunt to kill deer and haulto Mobile. We went a short distance that night and camped.During the night we went to Helverson’s hog bed, and stole acart load of his finest pigs, fifteen in number, hauled them toMobile and sold them at two dollars each. Although Mr. H.was satisfied in his own mind that we had stolen his pigs, yethe could not prove it; and I escaped again. So I was stimulatedwith my success, and being still more encouraged andupheld by my mother, and not exceeding fourteen years of age,I believed that I could make an independent fortune by thieving,and became insensible of the danger which awaited me.A short time after the incident just related had transpired, Imade a second rake upon Mr. H.’s pigs. But in my second[Pg 24]adventure, I was not so fortunate as I was in the first, for Mr.H. rather got me that time. The proof was sufficientlystrong, and I was prosecuted, for the first time, for pig stealing.Well knowing my guilt as I did, and the evidence againstme, I thought my case extremely doubtful. I was arrested bythe sheriff of Jackson county, and had to give bond to appearat the Circuit Court of Jackson county, to answer an indictmentpreferred against me by the State of Mississippi, for thecrime of larceny. The bond required me to attend the Courtfrom term to term, and from day to day, until discharged bydue course of law. My poor old father employed the bestcounsel to defend me, that could be obtained in all the country.This cost the poor old man a large sum of money. My counsel,after learning the facts of the case, advised me that my onlychance of acquittal, was to put off the trial as long as possible.This he did from term to term, in hopes that something mightoccur to get me acquitted. I well knew if my case should bebrought to a hearing, I would be convicted, and I dreaded theconsequences; for I knew that there would then be no chanceon earth to prevent my being sent to the penitentiary.

Fully sensible of my situation, young as I was at that time,it became necessary for me to devise some plan to get out ofthe scrape, and I reflected for weeks how to manage this matter.One day, in a conversation with my mother and someother confidential friends, she and they advised me to consultGale H. Wages; and my mother said she would send forWages and see him herself, as he was a particular friend ofhers. This she accordingly did, and he came to our house.There were several of the clan at our house then, though I didnot know them at that time as such; but my mother did, as Iafterward found out when I joined them. Among the manyplans proposed by the clan, none seemed to suit my mother orWages. Some were for waylaying and killing the witnesses;some for one thing, and some for another. Finally Wagesmade his proposition, which was seconded by my mother. This[Pg 25]was the proposition I had been waiting to hear, for my mothertold me that whatever plan Wages would pursue, he would becertain to get me clear. His plan was, that we should, insome way or other, endeavor to have the Court house and allthe records destroyed, and so destroy the indictment againstme. By that means there would be nothing against me, andI should be acquitted, as no charge would rest against me.

With this plan I was highly pleased, and much elated withthe idea that I had a friend fully able and competent to bearme out, and who would stand up to me at any and all hazards,and bring me out clear. Wages pledged himself to me in privateto do this, and he was as good as his word. We set atime for the accomplishment of our design, and we accordinglymet. The precise date I cannot recollect, but it was adry time, and a dark night, with a strong breeze from theNorth. After procuring sufficient dry combustibles, we enteredthe Court-house, went up stairs, and placed our combustiblesin the roof, on the windward side of the house. Wageswent down stairs to patrol around. After reconnoiteringaround sufficiently, he gave me the signal, by a rap or knockon the wall; I immediately sprung open the door of my dark-lantern,applied the match, and made my escape down stairs,and Wages and myself left the place in double quick time.We halted on an eminence some five or six hundred yards tothe southeast of the Court house, to watch the conflagration.Such a sight I never had before beheld. The flames seemedto ascend as high, if not higher than the tops of the tallestpine trees; they made everything perfectly light for over twohundred yards around. After the Court-house, records and allwere completely consumed, and the flames had abated anddied away, we took our departure for home, rejoicing at oursuccess in the accomplishment of our design. There was agreat deal of talk and conjecture about the burning of theCourt-house, and we were accused—at least, I was stronglycensured, but there never was any discovery made, nor any[Pg 26]proof sufficient to get hold of either Wages or myself; so Iagain got clear of a crime of which I was guilty and for whichI ought to have been punished.

The assistance, advice and protection I had received fromWages, gave me the utmost confidence in him, and he had unboundedinfluence over me; I looked on him as my warmestand most confidential friend, and I eventually pinned my wholefaith on him and relied upon him for advice and directions ineverything. Although a villain, as I must now acknowledgeWages was, yet he had some redeeming traits in his character.At his own home he was friendly, kind and hospitable; incompany, he was affable and polite; and no person at first acquaintance,would have believed for one moment, that he wasthe out lawed brigand that he finally proved himself to be;and I firmly believe he would have spilt the last drop of bloodin his veins to protect me; yet I must say that he was theprincipal author of my misfortunes, and has brought me whereI am.

After the burning of the Court House, the intercourse betweenWages and myself became more frequent. We becamestrongly allied to each other, and confidence was fully establishedbetween us. Wages one day made a proposition to me; tojoin him, and go with him, alleging that we could make moneywithout work, and live in ease and genteel style; that therewere a great many persons concerned with him, in differentparts of the country, some of them men of wealth and in goodstanding in the community in which they lived; that they hadan organized Band that would stand up to each other at allhazard; that they had a Wigwam in the city of Mobile, wherethey held occasional meetings; and that they had many confederatesthere whom the public little suspected. To this propositionI readily acceded; it corresponded with my dispositionand idea of things, and then, being the age I was, and stimulatedby my past success, I feared nothing.

I went to Mobile with Wages, and there he introduced me to[Pg 27]some of his comrades, who were members of his Clan. Theyaccordingly held a meeting at their Wig-wam, and I was thereintroduced by Wages, (who was their president,) as a candidatefor membership, I should have been rejected, had Wagesnot interceded for me. I was finally passed and admitted tomembership. Wages then administered to me the oath, whichevery member had to take. I was then instructed and giventhe signs and pass-words of the Clan; and above all was cautionedto keep a watchful eye, and not to let any person entrapme; nor let any person, under pretence of belonging to theClan, or wishing to join, obtain in any way information fromme in relation to the existence of the Clan, or their plan ormode of operation. The oath was administered on the HolyBible. (Oh! what a profanation of that good book!) Theform of the oath was: “You solemnly swear upon the HolyEvangelist of Almighty God, that you will never divulge, andalways conceal and never reveal any of the signs or pass-wordsof our order; that you will not invent any sign, token or deviceby which the secret mysteries of our order may be madeknown; that you will not in any way betray or cause to be betrayedany member of this order—the whole under pain ofhaving your head severed from your body—so help you God.”

Wages was President and Chief of the Clan. All importantbusiness of the Clan was entrusted to his care. He calledmeetings, gave all notices to the Clan for their gatherings, andwhen assembled he presided in the chair. In all matters, hehad the preferred right to introduce resolutions for the benefitof the Clan.

There were present at this meeting, Charles McGrath, Vice-President;McClain, Secretary; John Eelva, Henry Sanford,Richard Cabel and Sampson Teapark, Vigilant Committee;William Brown, of Mobile, Tyler.

After I was thus initiated, and invested with all the signs,words and tokens, and fully instructed in the mysteries of theClan, I was taught their mode of secret correspondence, by[Pg 28]means of an alphabet or key, invented by the notorious Murrell,of Tennessee. I was furnished with the alphabet andkey, and in that same mystic writing I was furnished with alist of all the names that belonged to our Clan, and a list ofseveral other Clans, that ours was in correspondence with,their several places of residence, and the locations of theirWig-wams; so that when we stole a horse, a mule, or a negro,we knew precisely where to carry them, to have them concealedand sold.

After I had been thus fully initiated and had become identifiedwith the Clan, Wages and McGrath, knowing my ability,and that I was a keen shrewd and cunning lad, took me undertheir immediate special charge. We had a rendezvous at oldWages’ about twelve miles from Mobile, and another at DogRiver, about the same distance in a different direction. Weranged that season from one place to the other, and sometimesin town, stealing any and everything we could. Sometimeskilling beef, hogs and sheep, hauling them to town and sellingthem; sometimes stealing a fine horse or mule and conveyingit to some of our comrades to conceal; and occasionally a negrowould disappear. All this while, we pretended to be engagedin making shingles, burning charcoal, and getting lathsand pickets, each for himself. We always managed to furnishthe family with all the meat they could use.

We worked on in this way until late in the summer or earlyin the fall of 1839, when most of the inhabitants had left thecity; and we having six of our Clan then employed as CityGuards, we rallied our forces and Wages ordered a meeting.It was there resolved that we should prepare ourselves withboats and teams—the boats to be stationed at a particularwharf in Mobile, on a certain night, and the teams at a landingnamed, on Dog River the next night. It was also orderedthat we should assemble at our Wig-wam on the first night atseven o’clock. The meeting then adjourned.

The promised evening came, and every member was punctual[Pg 29]in his attendance. It was a full meeting of the Clan. Weall rigged ourselves out with false moustaches, some with falsewhiskers, some with a green patch over one eye, and many ofthem dressed like sailors, and thus fitted out and disguised,we were ready for action, with all kinds of false keys, skeletonkeys, lock picks, crow bars, &c. At nine o’clock the CityGuards turned out, and by a previous arrangement, those ofour comrades who mounted guard, were on the first watch.They immediately sent two of their number to inform us whereto make the first break. They had reconnoitered previouslyand knew what places had the richest and most valuable goods,and they had also procured false keys for several stores. Thusarmed, each man with his revolver, bowie knife and dark lantern,about ten o’clock we started out. Our first break wasa fancy dry-goods store which we opened with one of our keys.We took over $5,000 worth of goods from that store, fine silks,muslins, &c. We next entered a rich jewelry store, and madea clean sweep there. There were no fine watches; we gotsome silver watches and two or three gold watches, left, wesupposed, to be repaired. Our raise there was about four tofive thousand dollars. Our next break was on a large clothingstore. There we took $3000 worth of the finest and bestclothing. While we were at this, some of the clan were packingoff and storing in their boats. We had procured two butchercarts, which would stand a short distance off and our menpacked and loaded the carts, which they hauled to our boats.About half-past eleven o’clock, knowing that there would be anew guard out at twelve o’clock, we dispersed and set fire toeach of the stores we had robbed. Soon there was the cry offire; the wind commenced blowing, and the fire spread rapidly.Our Clan now commenced operations anew; we seized andcarried out goods from any and every store we came to, stillretaining the carts. We kept them constantly employed; andbefore daylight we had loaded two large, swift boats, and hada large quantity of merchandise in a “wood flat.” A little before[Pg 30]daylight, we left with our boats for Dog River. We arrivedthere about eight o’clock, ten miles from the city, andwent up the river to our landing place, where we secreted ourgoods until that night, when we had our teams at work, haulingoff and concealing goods, which we finally accomplishedthe second night. Wages then ordered a meeting of the clan,and punctual attendance was required. The object of thismeeting was for a report from each member of the amount ofgoods he had obtained, so that an equal distribution might bemade. From the report then made, we had procured overtwenty-five thousand dollars worth of goods of almost everydescription. We had an abundant supply of groceries andliquors. Our friends in the city had a bountiful supply ofalmost everything. We made a division of our plunder, andWages, McGrath and myself got for our share about six thousanddollars worth. We were permitted to select the finestand most costly goods, such as the jewelry, fine silks, muslinsetc., which we could carry in our trunks.

Having properly stowed away our effects, we took a tripfrom Mobile to Florida by way of Pensacola, carrying with ussome of the jewelry, watches and dry goods. We traveledfrom Pensacola through Florida, with our pack of goods, aspedlars, each taking a different route, and all to meet at Apalachicolaon a certain day. Wages went the middle route,McGrath the southern route, and I went the northern route.I traveled some distance, occasionally selling some of myplunder. I eventually arrived at a very rich neighborhood,near the Chatochooca river, not far from the Alabama line.There I soon disposed of most of my goods.

I fell in with a house where a very rich old widow lady lived.She bought a good deal of my jewelry and other goods for hertwo young daughters. I pretended to be sick, for an excuseto stay there. This lady had a very nice mulatto girl aboutseventeen years old. During the time I was there pretendingto be sick, I made an arrangement with this girl to run away[Pg 31]with me; I promised to take her for a wife, and carry her to afree State. She was to meet me on a certain night at thelanding on the river, about one mile from that place. I leftthe house pretending to go to Columbus, Ga., and traveled upthe river some thirty miles, where I stole a canoe. I procuredsome meat and bread and started down the river. On thenight appointed I was at the landing, and about ten o’clockthe mulatto girl came. She had provided bed clothing andprovisions in plenty. I then started down the river with mygirl. We went about thirty miles that night, and lay by inthe river swamp all next day. The next night we made aboutfifty miles down the river. The third night we reached Apalachicola,two days previous to the time appointed to meetWages and McGrath. I landed a short distance above town,and left my girl in a swamp just after daylight, and then wentto the city. In looking around I fell in with John Harden, hebeing one of our clan. He soon gave me an introduction to aplace where I could conceal my girl, and stay myself. Thenext day McGrath arrived; I met him in the street, and gavehim a sign to follow me to our rendezvous. I showed him mygirl and told him the way I had got her; he then told me thathe had stolen a likely negro fellow, and had him concealed ina swamp about four miles from town. After dinner, and alittle before night, McGrath and I went out to the swamp,brought in his fellow, and concealed him at the same placewhere my girl was.

The next day about eight o’clock Wages came up; we wereall on the lookout for him. We gave him a hint to come toour place. We showed Wages what a raise we had made; hethen told us that he had stolen two negroes and two finehorses, and that they were concealed in the swamp about fivemiles from town. In fear of pursuit he said we must leaveinstanter. We made an arrangement with Harden and ourlandlord to take the horses. They gave Wages twenty-fivedollars a piece for the horses, and our board bill. That night[Pg 32]Wages and Harden went out to the swamp; Harden took thehorses and left, and Wages brought in his negroes and placedthem with ours. That night while Wages was gone after hisnegroes McGrath and I went to a coffee house, and while therewe met some Spaniards that had a little schooner there, andwhich was then loaded for New Orleans. We made the arrangementwith them to carry us and our negroes to New Orleans,returned to our place, and had everything prepared. Aboutten o’clock Wages came in with his negroes, and we all wenton board the vessel, which weighed anchor and sailed down thebar. Next morning the captain cleared his vessel, and by teno’clock we were over the bar and under way, with a good breeze.On the second night, a little before day, we landed at thePontchartrain railroad, and left in the first cars for the city.We went into one of our places in the city, got breakfast forourselves and negroes, and at nine o’clock we left in a steamboatfor Bayou Sara. We landed there, crossed the river andwent to one of our clan—a rich planter—where we sold ournegroes. I got one thousand dollars for my mulatto girl;McGrath sold his fellow for eleven hundred dollars, and Wagessold each of his boys for nine hundred dollars. We took ourmoney and left for Mobile. My girl made considerable fusswhen I was about to leave, but I told her I would return in amonth, and rather pacified her. I must here acknowledge thatmy conscience did that time feel mortified, after the girl hadcome with me, and I had lived with her as a wife, and she hadsuch implicit confidence in me. My conscience still feelsmortified when I reflect how much better it would have beenfor me to have kept her and lived with her than to come towhat I have.

On our way to Mobile we stopped in New Orleans three orfour days. During our stay there was one fire. We made asmall raise on that of about one hundred dollars each. McGrathcame very near being caught by attempting to make a secondhaul. We left next day for Mobile; landed at Pascagoula, and[Pg 33]walked home by land, with our money and the small amountof goods we had stolen in New Orleans.

We then deposited our money, and gathered all the balanceof our fine goods that we had stolen in Mobile at the greatfire, and what we had stolen in New Orleans, and prepared ourselvesfor a second tour. We had realized about four thousandfive hundred dollars, which we hid in the ground, and we tookeach of us about one hundred and fifty dollars for our expenses,and an equal share of the goods.

On the 25th day of March, 1843, Wages, McGrath andmyself left Mobile bound to Texas; we went to New Orleans,where we landed the next day. We remained there about threedays and sold a great quantity of our goods, such as were tooheavy to carry. While we were in the city Wages won aboutseven hundred dollars from a Tennessee corn dealer by thename of Murphy. McGrath and myself had lost about onehundred and fifty dollars each. We left New Orleans, went upthe Mississippi, and landed at the house of an old friend thatbelonged to our clan. His name was Welter. We spent oneday and night with him; we had seen him in the city a fewdays before, and were invited to call, but when we approachedhis residence we all pretended to be entire strangers. Thiswas a strict injunction upon our clan—when traveling never tomeet any of our comrades as acquaintances, but always treatthem as entire strangers, that we had never seen in our life.

Wages pretended to have some business with the old gentleman,and introduced himself, McGrath and myself under fictitiousnames. The old gentleman had two very nice genteeldaughters. They were sociable and refined, well educated, andhighly accomplished every way; he was wealthy, and had agood reputation in his neighborhood, and no one would forone moment have suspected him of belonging to our clan. ButI afterward learned from Wages that this old gentleman hadbelonged to the Murrell Clan for many years; and that waswhat carried Wages there, to get some information relative to[Pg 34]some negroes that had been stolen and carried to Louisiananear the Texas line. Wages also informed me that this sameman made all his property by stealing and kidnapping negroesfrom Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.Having obtained the information we wanted, we made preparationto leave. We offered to pay our fare, but this waspromptly refused. We were well entertained; the old gentlemanfurnished us each with a flask of good brandy, and, afterthanking him and his family for their kind, hospitable treatment,we bid adieu, and took our departure for Texas.

We got on a steamboat and went up the Mississippi to themouth of Red river, and up that river to a landing called theNew Springs. There we paid our passage and went on shore,each with his pack and his double-barrel gun. We stopped ata house about one mile from the river, where we called for ourdinner, which we got, and we all remained there until next day,during which time we sold a considerable amount of our goodsat that house and in the neighborhood, which made our packsmuch lighter. We left next day, stopping at all houses, andselling our goods, which we did at a rapid rate, as we hadstolen them and were not sufficient judges of their value toknow what price to ask, and in consequence we often sold themat one-half their value, and so soon got rid of them.

Having disposed of the principal part of our goods, aboutthe fourth day after we left the New Spring landing, we wereapproaching the prairie county on the Texas border. We providedourselves with bread and salt; we had ammunition. Shortlybefore night, we came to a small piece of woodland, by aravine. There was a large drove of cattle of all sizes there;McGrath shot a very fat two-year old heifer; we skinned thehind quarters and tenderloin; we built up a fire, salted some ofour meat and roasted it by the fire and feasted sumptuously.The wolves came near our camp and made a dreadful noise, butat daybreak we shot and killed three and the balance ran off.They had devoured all the heifer’s meat, but we had provided[Pg 35]sufficient for our journey that day. We set out and traveledin a direction to find a settlement, then made about twenty-fivemiles south of Shreveport. That was the place where Welterhad told Wages that the negroes were, that we were after. Wetraveled about thirty miles that day, and suffered very muchfor water. We reached a settlement a little before night, onsome of the waters of the Sabine River. It was the residenceof some stock keepers; there were some three or four families,and some fifteen or twenty Mexican drovers, and horse thieves;they had just been to Natchitoches, and had a full supply ofrum; a few of them could speak English. We quartered withthem, and that night we opened the little remnant of our goodsand jewelry, and had a general raffle. By the next day we hadrealized from our raffle, sufficient to purchase each of us a goodSpanish saddle and bridle, and a good Texas horse. We learnedfrom one of these Mexicans the residence of the man whoowned the negroes that we were after, and we also learned thathe and his family were strict members of the Methodist Church.Now it was that one of us had to turn preacher, so as to reconnoiteraround the place. Wages and I put that on McGrath.We all mounted our horses and started, having procured plentyof lassoes, &c., McGrath being an Irishman and his tonguetipped with plenty of blarney.

We traveled for two days very moderately, and, our chief employmentwas drilling McGrath, how to pray and sing, andgive that long Methodist groan, and “Amen.” He havingmade considerable progress, we went to Natchitoches. McGrathentered that town by one road, and Wages and myself by another.McGrath went among a few of his brethren thatevening.

To our astonishment it was posted at every corner, that the“Rev. Mr. McGrath, from Charleston, South Carolina, wouldpreach at the Methodist Church that evening, at half-pastseven.” We attended church. McGrath took his stand in thepulpit. He made a very genteel apology to his audience, saying[Pg 36]he was much fatigued from his travel; that he had caughtcold and was very hoarse and could not sing; but he read outthe hymn. It was: “Hark from the tombs a doleful sound.”One old brother pitched the tune to Old Hundred, and they allchimed in, Wages and myself among the rest; Wages sang bassand I tenor, and we all made that old church sound like distantthunder. After singing, McGrath made a very good but shortprayer; he then took his text in the 16th chapter of St. Mark,at the verse where Mary the mother, and Mary Magdalenefound the stone rolled from the door of the sepulchre. “Andhe said unto them, Be not affrighted; ye seek Jesus of Nazareth,who was crucified; he has risen; he is not here; behold theplace where they laid him.” He read several verses in thatchapter, and then made some very good explanations relativeto the parables, and prophesies on the coming of the Messiah,and the mysterious way in which he disappeared, and woundup his discourse by telling the audience that he had been agreat sinner in his young days, that it had been but a fewyears since the Lord had called him to preach, and he thankedhis God that he was now able and willing to lay down his lifeupon the altar of God; he then raved, and exhorted all to repentand turn to God; and after raving about half an hourcalled all his hearers that wished to be prayed for to comeforward. The whole congregation kneeled down; he prayedfor them all, and finally finished, sang another hymn and dismissedhis congregation, and we all retired, Wages and myselfto a gaming table, and McGrath with some of his brethren.Next day the members of the church there waited on McGrathto know what was his pecuniary situation. He told them thathe was very poor, was on his way to see a rich relation of his,about two hundred miles from there; that he carried his gunto keep off wild beasts, etc. They made up money to buy hima fine suit of black, a new saddle and saddle-bags and fiftydollars in cash. We remained there two days, when McGrathleft. Wages and I left by another road. We all met a short[Pg 37]distance from town and made the proper arrangement for ouroperations. McGrath was to go on to the house of this manthat had the negroes, and there make what discoveries werenecessary. He was to join Wages and myself at San Antonioon the first day of September following. Wages and I left inthe direction for the Red Land on the Irish bayou.


A few days after we passed the residence of an old bachelorwho had a large number of negroes; he was absent at Natchitochesand had left his overseer in charge. We stopped there,and remained two days; we procured some whisky from agrocery store a short distance off; prepared some of it withpoison, and induced the overseer to drink freely. We gavehim a full dose of the poison, and before day on the thirdmorning he was dead.

Meanwhile Wages and I had made arrangements to steal alikely negro woman and two young negroes, a boy and girl,about ten years of age, besides two of the finest horses on theplace. We sent out runners to let one or two of the neighborsknow that the overseer was dead; we had our negroes andhorses concealed about five miles distant, and about sunrise weoffered to pay our bills and left, pretending to go to NewOrleans. After we had got out of sight of the plantation wemade a circuit and went to the place where the negroes andhorses were concealed. Having provided ourselves with provisions,we remained secreted at that place all that day. Thatnight we started with our negroes and horses. Wages tookthe lead; our horses and negroes were all refreshed. Wetraveled a brisk gait all that night and till next day at nine orten o’clock. We suffered greatly for water, having met withnone after midnight, until we stopped at a small creek. Wehad passed no houses after daylight. After we stopped westripped our horses, gave them water and hampered them tograze; we got water for ourselves and negroes, and took a[Pg 38]little spirits we had, and eat the balance of our provisions.After we had rested a little while, Wages took his gun andwent up the creek in search of game; I took mine and went tothe road we had just left, and went on rather down the creek.At the distance of about two miles I came to a plantation. Itwas an old stock place, inhabited by some of the old creolesettlers that had lived there in Spanish times. I inquired thedistances and courses of the country. They told me it wasabout forty miles to the first river, and that there was but onesettlement on the road where we could get water for ourselvesand horses, at about twenty-five miles. After I had got thisinformation I purchased some bread and potatoes and a smallpiece of dried beef, and returned to our camp. Wages hadkilled a fine deer, and he and the negro woman were roasting afine piece. We fared well that day. That night about darkwe left our camp, provided with provisions for two days. Alittle after midnight we reached the first water. A little beforedaylight we reached some settlements and woodland; wetraveled a short distance and came to a small, deep river. Wethere found a ferry flat and some small boats. We took theflat and carried our horses and negroes over; took the flatback, and took a small boat, and Wages and I crossed to ourhorses and negroes. By this time we could discern the appearanceof day. We mounted and traveled on; we could perceivewe were passing several large plantations; by sunrise wehad traveled four or five miles. We could see at a distanceseveral clusters of woodland in the prairies. We made for oneof them some distance from the road, which we found affordedsufficient shelter for that day. We found some water, but notplenty, and very bad; our horses would drink but little of it.We stripped and hampered our horses to graze, took ourbreakfast and told the negroes to go to sleep. I went to sleep,and Wages kept watch. About twelve o’clock I was awakenedby the report of a gun. I rose up and found that Wages hadshot a fat yearling beef. We skinned and saved the hind[Pg 39]quarters and loin, and salted it a little and barbecued it. WhileWages lay down and took a nap the negro woman and I attendedto the meat. About an hour before sunset Wagesawoke, and we all eat heartily. We eat the last of our breadand potatoes; our horses had finished grazing and were resting,and about sunset we began to pack up for traveling, withplenty of meat and no bread. About dark we left our shelteredwoods and started on the road again. We were then aboutone hundred and twenty miles from the place where we hadstolen the negroes. We traveled on that night about thirtymiles, and reached a large creek between midnight and day.We passed one or two plantations, and very little woodland.When Wages came to the creek he examined the ford andfound horse tracks; he rode in first, went over and came back,and took the bridle of the horse that had the two little negroesand led him safely across, and the negro woman and myselffollowed. We went on some seven or eight miles, and came towoodland and plantations again. Some of the plantations werevery large. We continued traveling till daylight; after day wepassed several fine, large plantations. The sun was about onehour high when we came to a ferry on a large river. We called,and the ferryman was a negro; we inquired the distance fromthe last river we had crossed; he said sixty-three miles. Thenegro was a very intelligent fellow; we inquired particularlyfor San Antonio, and told him there was where we were going.We inquired for several other places, and left; at a short distancewe found a place where we could rest, not far from aplantation. There Wages and myself procured some corn forour horses, the first they had eaten for several days. We alsoprocured some bread; after we had fed and rested our horsesand slept some ourselves, a little before night we started again.We traveled that night about thirty-five miles, and stopped at asmall creek and camped till daylight. We then started, crossedthe creek, went out a short distance and turned our coursemore to the east. We took a trail that led us down the creek.[Pg 40]We halted about noon to rest our horses, which by this timewere much fatigued. Here we procured something for ourselvesto eat.

We were now over two hundred miles from the place wherewe had stolen the negroes; we here enquired for several placesand where was the best place to locate. We wanted to finda rich neighborhood where there was good society, etc. Wegot directions for several places, among the rest the lowersettlement on the Brasos river. After we had rested, late inthe afternoon, we set out, pretending to be bound for SanAntonio, but we steered our course for the Brasos river, wherewe arrived the second day after. We quartered our negroeswith a planter there and traveled around. We at length founda purchaser, some twenty miles from the place where the negroeswere. We delivered them to him and received the pay forthem—sixteen hundred dollars. We took the horses aboutforty miles and sold one, and about thirty miles further wesold the other. We then went some distance and sold our ownhorses.

We had realized from all our sales a little short of twothousand dollars. This was about the tenth of May. Themoney was principally in New Orleans Bank bills, and we hadsome gold and silver to pay our little expenses. We nowsteered our course for San Antonio, on foot, and reached therein about five days. We traveled leisurely, and procured sometwo-headed Texas gourds to carry our water through theprairies. After resting a day or two, we looked around to seehow the land lay. We went into a store and bought two lightSpanish saddles, with bridles and all the apparatus for riding.We put them up in a genteel package, and provided ourselveswith provisions for two days. Each shouldered his pack, andwe left San Antonio in the night, and steered our course west.We had traveled some ten or fifteen miles, when we stoppedat a small creek and camped. Next morning we traveled onsome twenty-five miles farther, when we came to a ranche,[Pg 41]where there was a great stock of horses, mules, jacks, jenniesand horned cattle. We hid our saddles before we approachedthe place, and went up with our bundles of clothes and gunsand asked for something to eat, which was given us—plentymilk and bread. Only one or two of the people could speakEnglish, and that very indifferently. An old man, the headof the place, and his drover and herdsman, spoke the bestEnglish. We asked the old man to let us have a couple ofhorses and saddles, and we would go with him a hunting andtake our guns; we told him we wished to see the country; hetold us “yes,” and furnished us with horses. We spent a weekor more with him. We killed plenty of venison to supply thewhole ranche.


One day Wages told him that we wanted to go and camp outthat night about twenty-five miles off; we would be back nextnight, and wanted one of his gentle mules to pack; he told usto take the mule and any horses we pleased, and helped us topack up, with water, provisions and whatever we wanted. Westarted and remained out that night and the next, and returnedthe third day. We had seven fine deer in all; he asked whatkept us so long—had we been lost? We told him we had, andthat while we were out we had met with an acquaintance ofours, buying horses and mules, and that he had furnished usmoney to buy thirty good horses and thirty mules, if we couldget them delivered at a certain place named, about one hundredmiles from there. We showed him the gold we had, andsatisfied him as to the money, which was to be paid on deliveryof the horses and mules at the place mentioned. The horsesand mules were selected, and the price agreed upon. Gentlelead and pack mules were selected, and every preparation wasmade for our departure. We were to go with him and returnwith him, so as to see that the contract was complied with.The day arrived and we set out with five mules packed, and[Pg 42]five gentle lead mules, with bells on, and a young half-breedIndian to assist in driving, and all of us mounted on the bestof horses. We had managed to procure our new saddles andput them in their packs, on a mule that was set apart for us.Thus equipped, with plenty of water and provisions, we setout a little after daylight. Our travel that day was upwards ofthirty miles, on account of having water. The next day wasfarther. We however made the two points. The next dayour only stopping place was about twenty miles, and the nextwas thirty miles.

This twenty-mile place appeared to be a dead lake or spring,with an underground discharge, with a few small groves oftimber near by, and several lakes or sinks in the ground, in thedirection the water was supposed to run under ground. Weleft our second night’s camp on the third morning, and arrivedat the twenty-mile place in the forenoon. We, as usual,stripped and hampered our horses to graze, eat dinner, andthe old Mexican and his man lay down to sleep. Wages andI took our guns and went off, pretending to hunt. We killeda turkey and a prairie hen and a small deer. We cleaned ourguns, wiped them out, loaded them with the largest buck-shot,took our game and went to the camp. While loading our guns,we made the arrangement in what way to dispatch our travelingcompanions, for that was the way we intended to pay forthe horses and mules. So it was agreed that the next morning,before day, we were to prepare some dry grass and haveour guns ready; Wages was to get up, wake me, and we wereto set the straw on fire, to make a light to see the position inwhich the two men lay.

All that night I did not sleep one minute of sound sleep.The most awful and frightful dreams infested my mind allnight, and Wages told me the next day that his sleep was disturbedin the same way, and he then regretted the act andwished he had not done it.

[Pg 43]

Wages rose in the morning and easily waked me, for I wasnot in a sound sleep. We took our guns; I crawled close towhere the young man lay, and got my gun ready. Wages wasto fire first. He put his light against a small brush, and theold man partly waked and turned his face toward Wages, whofired the contents of one barrel in the old man’s forehead.

The young man was lying with his back to me; I placed themuzzle of my gun to the back of his head, where the neckjoined it. My finger was on the trigger. At the report ofWages’ gun, I pulled the trigger, and there was but little distinctionin the report of the two guns.

Both men gave a suppressed, struggling scream, and expired.

Our next work was to dispose of them, which we did byslinging them with ropes, swinging them on a pole, carryingthem to one of the sink holes close to the camp, and buryingthem there. We deposited with them all the clothes that hadany blood on them; and with the hatchet they had, we sharpeneda short pole and partially covered them with dirt. We nextwent to the camp and raked out with sticks and brush all thesigns of blood, and took brush and dry leaves and built fires onthe ground where we had killed them. All of this we had accomplishedby a little before sunrise.

Our next work was to prepare to leave the place. We tookthe old man’s fine massive silver spurs, his silver stirrups andsilver bridle bits, his gold rings, sleeve buttons, etc. We tookour new saddle and bridles, and concealed all the old ones inthe prairie, about five miles from the camp. After we had arrangedeverything to our liking, we gathered our pack mulesand packed them; herded up the lead mule and the drove;Wages mounted the old man’s horse, and I the young man’s,we tied our other two horses together and turned them in thedrove, and all things being now completed, we set out abouteight o’clock in the morning.

We now had the sixty horses and mules and the ten lead andpack mules, the two fine horses of the old man and his servant,[Pg 44]and the two horses he had loaned us to ride, which madeseventy-four head in all, and a better selected drove of horsesnever left Texas. We pursued our journey that day very silent.Wages had but little to say and I had less. We had in ourhurry and confusion forgotten to supply ourselves with water,and had but little victuals to eat that were cooked. About aquart of water in our gourds, was all we had for the day. Wecame to the water late in the evening. We suffered very muchfor water that day, as did our horses. We stripped and hamperedthem to graze, after they had got water, and then preparedsome thing for ourselves. We had our turkey and partof the deer; we built a fire and barbecued the game. Afterwe had eat, Wages said he could not sleep, and told me to liedown and take a nap.

I laid down, but could not sleep. Every time I would fall intoa doze, the vision of the young man I had killed the nightbefore, would appear before my eyes, and I would start up in afright. After several ineffectual attempts, I finally got up, andtold Wages I could not sleep, and told him to try it. He laiddown and was quite still for some time. All at once he screamedout “Oh! my God!” and jumped upon his feet. I called andasked what was the matter, and he declared that he saw the oldman he had killed, standing over him, and that he plainly sawthe shot holes in his head, and the blood running down hisface. So we both set up the balance of the night.

The next morning we started very early. About noon wecame to a large creek where we procured plenty of water forourselves and the drove; we halted and rested awhile, and thenpursued our journey with little delay, making the route as directas possible for the mouth of Red River. We did not passthe settlement on Irish Bayou, nor Natchitoches. We arrivedat the mouth of Red River and went down the river until wecame opposite Bayou Sara, where we had our horses and mulesferried over.

We went to a man living out from the river, and effected a[Pg 45]sale of all the horses, except the four saddle horses. We wentup into Wilkinson County, Mississippi, where we sold all themules, getting fifty dollars for each of the horses and an averageof seventy-five dollars for each of the mules. We sold thetwo saddle horses that Wages and myself rode before we killedthe two Mexicans, for one hundred dollars each. We thenshaped our course for Natchez, and when within about twentymiles of it, we effected sale of the two horses we were riding,to one man; he gave Wages one hundred and fifty dollars forthe horse the old Mexican had, and he gave me one hundredand twenty-five dollars for the one I rode, and sent us in acarriage to Natchez, where we arrived about the last of June.We had realized on our trip that time about six thousand sixhundred and seventy-five dollars.

We had not been in Natchez long before a steamboat passeddown and we went on board. We had preserved our saddles,bridles and all our traveling equipage. We landed at NewOrleans, went to the bank and deposited all our money, but afew hundred dollars, which we retained in gold coin—two anda half and five dollar pieces. We remained in New Orleans tospend the fourth of July with our associates there.

On the 5th of July, 1841, Wages and I left New Orleansand embarked on a small steamboat bound to Shreveport onRed River, taking with us our saddles, bridles and travelingequipage. In consequence of very dry weather Red Riverwas very low. We had some delay in getting to Shreveport.We, however, reached there, and found some wagons travelingout to the interior of Texas. We made arrangements withthem to haul our baggage, and we traveled with them part ofthe time, some times before them and some times behind. Wekept with us our bridles and ropes or lassoes. About thefourth day after we left Shreveport, we started on before thewagons, and traveled some fifteen to twenty miles. By noonwe came to a settlement on the border of a small river, onebranch of the Trinity, we supposed, and there rested and eat[Pg 46]some bread and meat. In the evening we reconnoitered anddiscovered in the vicinity a large, newly settled plantation, agood number of horses and mules grazing around, and a largenumber of negroes about the place. Wages sent me to watchon the main road for the wagons, while he watched the horsesand mules. About sunset a negro came to drive the horsesand mules to their lot. Wages asked what his master’s namewas and what State he moved from. He told Wages his master’sname was Smith; and he moved from South Carolina.Wages asked if he was a good master. The negro said no;that he did not feed well nor clothe well, and that he drovehard and whipped hard. Wages then told the negro, if hewould come down that night to the ferry, which was abouttwo miles off, he would give him a shirt and pantaloons and adram. Wages then came to where I was stationed on theroad, but the wagons had passed about one hour before. Wehurried on and got to the ferry a little after dark. The wagonshad just got over and were camped on the other bank. Wecalled, and the ferryman let us over, and went to his housesome distance off. We took supper with the wagons. Aftersupper, Wages and I feigned an excuse to cross the river tobathe. We took with us a flask of whiskey and the shirt andpantaloons Wages had promised the negro, and crossed in theferry flat. We made fast the flat, went up the bank and therewe found the negro, true to his promise. Wages gave him thedram and the shirt and pantaloons. Wages then asked thenegro if he did not want to leave his master and go to a freeState. The negro said he did; that he had runaway threetimes in South Carolina and started to Ohio, but was caughtevery time. Wages then gave him another dram and askedhim if he could steal three of the best horses on his master’splantation, and bring them to that ferry the next night or thenight after. The negro said he could. Wages then told him,if he would bring the three horses and one bridle and saddleand go with us, that he would take him to a free State. The[Pg 47]negro promised to do so, and said he could do it next night aswell as any other time and said he had two halters to leadwith, and an old wagon saddle. We told him we had saddlesand bridles. We gave him another dram and let him go, andwe wet our heads and crossed over to the camp.

Next morning we told the wagoners that we would stop a fewdays in the vicinity, and rest awhile and hunt. We went ontwo or three miles, to the border of the prairie, and took outour baggage, among which we had two small three-gallon kegsof whiskey, one full, and the other with about one gallon in.We paid for hauling our things, bid the wagoners adieu, andthey drove on. We shouldered our baggage, as much as wecould carry; went a short distance from the road and concealedit; and went back and took the rest to the same place. Wethen took our flasks full of whiskey, our two gourds full ofwater, and some salt, and went about a mile on the edge of theprairie, where we built a small fire. We next turned out tohunt meat. We could find plenty of cattle, but were afraid toshoot them so near the settlement, for fear of discovery beforewe had accomplished our purpose. We hunted some time andfinally came in view of a small grove of trees, about a halfmile distant. Wages and I separated; I went on one side andhe on the other of the grove, and we found a few deer there.We killed one small buck, which we took back to our campand skinned and barbecued him, and eat, and prepared therest to take with us. We laid down for a nap and awoke aboutan hour by sun; and took our things to where we had theothers concealed. About sunset we eat our supper, took ourbridles, lassoes, guns, and flasks of whiskey, and started backto the ferry, which we reached about half an hour after dark.We concealed ourselves near the landing, until about nineo’clock. Wages then took the ferry flat and went over theriver; I remained on the same side to watch. If we discoveredany person we were to make the noise of the swamp owl.

Wages had been across about an hour when up came the[Pg 48]negro, with the three horses; Wages immediately took the negroand horses in the flat and crossed over. We soon put bridleson the horses and Wages mounted one and I mounted the other—barebacked. Wages took the lead, the negro next; and Iin behind; we both had our guns well loaded and both co*cked,for fear the negro had betrayed us, and we were determined tokill with every load in our guns, if attacked. We soon arrivedat the place of our baggage. Wages and I very soon saddledour horses and divided our baggage and gave a part to thenegro. We then divided the whiskey and had about onegallon and a half in each keg; I took one and the negro one,and we tied them to our saddles with the ropes. We filled ourtwo flasks; Wages took our meat, and about eleven o’clockthat night we all set out, Wages ahead, the negro next and I inthe rear, and I assure you we pushed from the word go, allthat night, mostly through prairies.

Some time before day we came to a settlement, and a littlefarther on we came to a small river. Knowing it must be verylow, we determined to ford or swim. We started in; it wasvery deep. About the middle, we came to a gravelly bar.Wages halted, and said to us that he could see a ferry flat; hebelieved the water was very deep near the shore, and we mustswim and try and land above the ferry flat. He told me totake care of my gun and ammunition and to wait until he andthe negro got through and out. They started, and got to thebank. Such splashing you never did hear. Wages got out;the negro’s horse bogged; he jumped off and took the bridle,and the horse got out. Wages then told me to bear up, whichI did, and got through. We then got water, filled our gourdsand took each a dram, mounted our horses and pushed onagain till daylight appeared.

Wages and I then consulted, whether to keep on or lay bythrough the day. We concluded it was safer to stop, concealthe negro and horses, and watch the road. We began to lookout for some woodland, and about half an hour after sunrise[Pg 49]we descried woodland to the west, at some distance. We madefor it, stripped our horses and hampered them to graze;took our dram, some water, and eat our breakfast on venisonwithout bread, and Wages took his gun and went to watch theroad, I took my gun and went west to hunt water. We leftthe negro to mind the horses; we took our flasks; each wenthis own way. I walked about a mile and came to some prairieland, and a short distance further I saw woodland and plentyof cattle and horses; I knew there must be water there. Ihunted and found plenty, but it was very bad. In searchingaround, I found a flock of turkeys and killed two and cleanedand washed them there and went back to the camp. The negrohad been tasting the contents of his keg, as he said, to makeit lighter, and he was pretty tight; I told him he must stopthat until we got further off; he said he would. We made afire and roasted our turkeys. I told the negro to go to sleep,which he did. After he had slept his nap out, I laid down andtold him to watch and wake me about two hours before sunset.We then put saddles on two horses and led one, and went withour gourds to the water. Our horses drank some; the negrodrank powerfully—the whiskey he had taken down made hiscoppers a little hot. We filled the gourds and returned tocamp, where we had dried all the traveling equipage, and wethen packed and arranged everything, ready to travel whenWages should return.

About sunset he came in and informed us that no person hadpassed the road in pursuit of us; but that two men had passedthe other way, and if we had kept on that day we should in allprobability have got ourselves in trouble, for these men saidthey were in pursuit of two thieves who had stolen two horsesand three negroes on the Irish Bayou, in April last, and thatthe same thieves were suspected of having poisoned the overseeron the same plantation. They told Wages they had travelednearly all Texas; they had been to San Antonio, and allwestern Texas, and could get no news of the fellows. Wages[Pg 50]then told them that he had a family and resided about twentymiles from that place, on the next river they would come to,about ten miles below the ferry; he was looking for his horses;that he had removed from South Carolina; that he crossed theMississippi river about the first of May, and had met two menwith two very good horses and three negroes, and they werenear the river. He described the horses and negroes, and theydeclared they were the same that had been stolen. Wagesthen inquired if they had seen his horses. They said theyhad not. He then said to them: “Gentlemen, I have a littlewhiskey in my flask; will you take some?” They replied theywould, if it did not disfurnish him. He told them he shouldreturn to a camp he had, about five miles off, where he hadsome comrades helping him to hunt his horses, and they had alittle more there in a small jug. They drank. Wages theninquired of them about the country south and west of there,and about the roads and the water, etc. They told him it wasfifteen miles to the first water—a large creek, but fordable; andthat it was twenty-five miles to the next, and that was to ferry.Wages having obtained the information he required, offeredthem his flask again. The sun then was about one hour anda half high. He saw three men come riding from the sameway we had come; they were riding very fast; they rode upand inquired which way we were traveling. Wages told themhe lived east of that about twenty miles; was hunting hishorse. The other two men stated they were on the hunt ofsome stolen horses and negroes, that were taken from the settlementon Irish Bayou, in April; that they had been throughwestern Texas, and were now direct from San Antonio. Thethree men enquired how far they had traveled that day. Theysaid from the last ferry, about forty miles. They then inquiredif the two men had met any person on the road. They repliedno. One of the three then said that some person had stolen anegro and three horses from them the night before, and theywere in pursuit of them, and they had seen signs where they[Pg 51]had swam the river, ten miles back. Wages then told themthat just after daylight that morning his dog had awakenedhim, and he looked some distance off and saw a white man anda negro on horseback, traveling a new road, in a southeastdirection, and about twenty miles southeast from that place.The negro had a lead horse. Then Wages described to themthe horses (which were the same we had). They said theywere the same, and immediately turned their course. Wagesgave them some directions and they all left. Wages thenhurried to our camp as fast as he possibly could.

On his arrival I could see that something was wrong; thathe was irritated, and, I thought, alarmed. He was much exhaustedfor want of water; he took a little and a dram, eat afew mouthfuls of turkey and sat down. He told the negro tocatch the horses, put the bridles on and hitch them, saddle hisown horse, and have everything ready as quick as possible.The negro started. Wages then said to me: “James, I ammore alarmed now than I ever have been since you and I firststarted out in Alabama. Our situation is truly a critical anddangerous one, and I am at a loss what to do.” He then toldme what information he had that day received, and then askedme what I thought it best to do. I reflected for a few moments,and this idea immediately occurred to me, and I said toWages: “We must cross that forty-mile ferry before daylightto-morrow morning.” Wages studied a few moments and said“agreed!” and we were not long in saddling up and packingall things, ready to travel. We filled our flasks with whiskey,gave our negro a good horn, and drilled him as to the mode oftravel. About dark we left our place of concealment.

Wages took the lead, the negro about thirty-five yards behind,and I about thirty-five yards behind him, so as to evadeany sudden surprise. We soon reached the main road, andWages pushed on at a fast gait. In about three hours wereached the fifteen-mile creek; here we stopped about three-quartersof an hour, let our horses drink and blow; we got[Pg 52]water, eat some of our turkey, took a dram, and gave the negroone, filled our gourds with water, and about eleven o’clock westarted again, Wages in the lead, and traveled until about threeo’clock in the morning. We saw a light near the road; Wagesstopped and came back to me to know if he should ride upand inquire how far it was to the ferry. I told him no; thatthe best way would be to go round the fire and push on, whichwe did, and about two or three miles further we came towoodland and a plantation. We quickened our pace, andabout one mile further, a little before four o’clock, we reachedthe ferry. Wages told me to strip off my clothes and hewould do the same. We stripped, and placed the negro in thebushes with the horses. We swam over and were not manyminutes getting the flat over. We put on our clothes, took thehorses and negro, and crossed over. Our horses drank, andthe negro filled our gourds while we were crossing. Welanded, made the flat fast, as we had found it, mounted thehorses and left in a hurry.

As we got out from the river we could see the appearance ofday. Our horses we could discover were getting very muchfa*gged. There was a farm at the ferry, and so we went outthrough a lane. We did not travel far before day, and wesoon reached the outskirts of the woodland and came again tothe open prairie. Wages then stopped and said we had betterleave the road and lay-by again. We left the road, and wentin a westerly direction, up the river, on the border of the woodlandand prairie, about two miles, and then stopped. Westripped our horses and hampered them, as usual, to graze.Wages complained of being sick; was low spirited; I told himand the negro to lie down and take a nap. They eat some ofmy turkey, laid down, and soon went to sleep. I took a gooddram and eat as much turkey as I wanted, and there was butlittle left. I then took my gun and hunted around a short distance;I found we were not more than one mile from a plantation;I saw plenty of stock, hogs and cattle, but was afraid[Pg 53]to shoot one so early in the day; I hunted around for water,and above the plantation I came to the river, about one mileand a half from where our horses were. I went back to thecamp; Wages and the negro were still asleep; the horses hadfilled themselves and were lying down under the shade of atree. I took another dram, a little water and laid down to rest.In about an hour Wages awoke and got up; said he felt better.I then related to him my discovery; he said we must be verycautious, and told me to lie down and take a nap. I showedhim the direction where the water was, and he rode one of thehorses at a time, until he gave them all water; he then took thenegro and they went and killed a small beef, and about sunsetbrought in the hind quarters. We soon had a fire of woodthat did not make much smoke; roasted as much beef as wecould eat; cut up the balance and dried it; took with us whatwe could conveniently carry, and about dark set out again, notknowing where we would get the next water. Our salt, too,had given out.

We traveled that night about twenty miles before we cameto water, and that was a small creek that scarcely run, and hadvery little timber land about it. Wages said our safest coursewould be to conceal ourselves there until he could reconnoitre.We remained there until near daylight, gave our horses waterand started. We soon struck the prairie, and again turned tothe west and went some two miles along a trail to a piece ofwoodland, where we again stripped our horses and hamperedthem to graze. We built a fire and barbecued our meat. Wagesthen told me and the negro to lie down and sleep, and he wouldtake a look around. I went to sleep, and about twelve or oneo’clock Wages awoke me, and when I opened my eyes therewas another man with him—a large, dark-skinned, coarse-lookingfellow. Wages introduced me to Mr. James; Wages hadknown Ben James for many years. James then told me thathe was settled there for the same business we were in, and thatwe would be safer with him than by going on; by remaining[Pg 54]with him we could rest and refresh ourselves and horses, andthat he would go with us to another of our clan, about onehundred miles from San Antonio, where our negro and horseswould be safe until we left again for the Mississippi river.This other man’s name was Scott, from Mississippi. Jamesadvised us not to sell the negro or horses in Texas; that therewere plenty of men in Texas who followed hunting and trailingthieves and robbers, and that they had dogs of the bloodhoundbreed that would be certain to overtake us if they gotafter us.

We went to James’ place; concealed our horses and negro,and remained with him five days, during which time Wagesand I watched the road closely to see if any person passed inpursuit of us, particularly at the ford of the creek.

James provided his family with meat and bread for the twoweeks trip he intended to make with us. He advised us toleave the main road and go with him to the house of the manScott. He piloted us through. We traveled the most of theway by night, and arrived at Scott’s the fourth night. Aftermaking the proper arrangement with Scott, we sent our horsesout in the mountains and the negro to take care of them, witha man that Scott had employed for that purpose, for we understoodafterward from James that they always had from one totwo hundred head of stolen horses there, which it was thebusiness of this man James to steal and drive and sell. Wepaid him fifty dollars for piloting us through.

After we had rested and all things were arranged, Wages andI took our bridles and lassoes, with a few clothes in a smallbundle, and left in a direction for San Antonio. It was nowabout the first of August. We traveled about twenty miles thefirst day; the weather was very hot, water was scarce, and wesuffered a great deal. We changed our course so as to passthrough a section of country where water was more plentiful,and on the evening of the second day we reached a settlementwhere there was plenty of water and the inhabitants were[Pg 55]thickly settled. At the house of a very respectable farmer westopped and inquired if we could rest two or three days, andwere told we could. A great many questions were asked usabout our journey, where we were from, where we were going,and the object of our journey; to which we answered them wewere South Carolina planters looking for good land; that wewere large slave holders, etc., and that we came in summerand took it on foot leisurely to ascertain the health of thecountry. We inquired if there were any churches in the vicinity,and were told there were none, but that traveling preacherssometimes preached at private houses. We were then informedthat there was to be a large camp meeting about themiddle of August about twenty miles from there. We at onceagreed to attend, because we were almost certain we shouldmeet McGrath there.

We accordingly attended, and sure enough we met thatreverend gentleman. Through some of the brethren we obtainedan introduction to the Rev. Mr. McGrath, and after thepreliminary conversation we became very strict members of thechurch. We obtained a short private interview with McGrath,and made an appointment for a private conference that night;and accordingly that night, after supper, preaching and prayermeeting were over and the patrol was out and stationed, and allthings were still, McGrath, Wages and I went outside of thepatrol lines to hold private prayer. No one suspected anything.After we were alone McGrath inquired what success we hadmet with, and we related to him all we had done, in a condensedform, which seemed to astonish him when we told himwe had a negro and three line horses yet concealed and not disposedof. We then inquired his success. He had made a raiseout of the religious brethren of about one thousand dollars, bybegging, and they had paid for four fine horses for him, whichwas equivalent to about five hundred dollars more. He wouldsell his horse, saddle and bridle, and go to his congregationand tell them he had been robbed of his horse and all his money[Pg 56]and clothes. The people would throw into the “hat,” and buyanother horse, and fit him out with new clothes and money.The horse he then had was given him about fifty miles fromthere, and if we would steal his horse and hide him the brethrenwould soon give him another. Wages did this the nextnight, and concealed the horse in the woods not far from aplantation, where he procured green corn to feed him, aboutfive miles from the camp ground. Next day there was founda piece of broken rope to the tree, and the preacher’s horse wasgone. There was a great noise about it. McGrath told thebrethren he thought he knew the place the horse would go to,and that he could obtain him if he had another horse. Theyfurnished him with one, which he was to return if he obtainedhis own. The one furnished was a splendid young horse.Wages, about an hour before sunset, would stroll off and go towhere the horse was, and water and feed him about dark, andback to supper and then to prayer.

The meeting lasted four days. The night before the meetingbroke up, there was another preacher’s horse that went thesame way. He was a remarkable fine horse, and belonged toan old preacher who lived about seventy miles from the campground. We now had ourselves again on horseback. It wasthen understood between Wages, McGrath and myself that itwould not be safe for us to go to San Antonio, and that we hadbetter leave Texas as soon as possible. We arranged withMcGrath to meet us at Scott’s in three days. Wages and Icalled on some of the preachers to pray for us, announcing tothem our departure on our exploring expedition on foot.Many of the brothers and sisters joined in this prayer. Afterreceiving the benedictions of the elders of the church, Wagesand I left about three o’clock. We had left our guns at ahouse about two miles distant from the camp ground. Wetook them, procured some bread and meat, and a bottle tocarry some water, and then went to the place where Wages hadconcealed the horses, found them safe, and more green cornaround them than they could have eaten in two days. We[Pg 57]then took out our bridles from our bundles and fitted them on.Wages had stolen blankets with the horses, and two bedquilts. We arranged these to ride on, and with our ropes orlassoes, we made substitutes for stirrups. By this time it wassundown. We took our guns and looked around to see if therewere any spies out. We saw no one except the people on thefarm, driving in their stock. We returned to the horses, andabout dark set out. Wages took the lead on McGrath’s horse,a fine traveler, and I, on the other, just walked right up tohim. We traveled about six miles an hour and did not push.Before day sometime, we had traveled some forty-five miles toa creek, and knew we were within twenty or twenty-five milesof Scott’s. We laid by all next day. About sundown, weagain started, and reached Scott’s before that night.

Long before daylight next morning, our horses were sent offto the mountains with the others. The next day up rolledthe Rev. Mr. McGrath. We introduced him as the Rev. Mr.McGrath, whom we had seen in South Carolina. Mr. Scottand family invited him to spend two or three days, duringwhich time Wages, McGrath and I had a full consultation.

Having been with Wages so long, I knew his judgment tobe superior to mine, and I knew that McGrath was wanting instability; that he was too wild and uncertain in his actions; Itherefore proposed to let Wages plan out our future course,which McGrath agreed to. Wages then said: “Boys, it istime some of us were leaving Texas—particularly James andI. Mac, you can remain here as a striker for us, until we getthose negroes you have described to us. You say there areseven of them—two men and their wives, one of them withone and the other with two children, and the youngest child isabout four years old. They will have to be carried away bywater. We never can get them away by land, and the Christmasholidays will be the only time that we can effect that withsafety.”

“Now,” said Wages, “my plan is this: You leave here before[Pg 58]we do, one or two days, and wait for us at some point andpilot us through to Red river, above Shreveport, where we cancross with our negro and horses and land in the Indian Nation.You can then remain and preach around until Christmas;you appoint a two or three days’ meeting for the negroesnear Red River; pretend to prevent frolic and drunkenness,and about that time James and I will be on hand, with a boatto effect our object; and it will be policy,” said Wages toMcGrath, “for you to remain some weeks after we are off withthe negroes, and meet us at Natchez or Vicksburg.”

McGrath agreed to this; directed us what route to take;promised that he would meet us at a river, about sixty milesfrom Scott’s, on the fifth night from that time, and that hewould wait there for us. On the morning of the fourth dayMcGrath bid farewell to Mr. Scott and family, promising tocall and see them again, God willing. We remained two dayslonger; prepared ourselves with some packs and provisions,and went to the mountains where our horses were. We paidScott fifty dollars for his trouble. We packed our horses andled them; Scott sent a pilot with us, to conduct us throughthe mountains, a by-way, about forty miles, which we traveledin two days; he then put us in the road to go to where wewere to meet McGrath, and we met him on the night appointed.He had all things in readiness. We crossed the river and laidby in daytime and traveled by night, McGrath with us.

He would go ahead to houses, lay by and sleep, and pray forthe people; and tell them that he traveled of a night fromchoice, on account of the heat. On the third morning afterMcGrath joined us, we arrived at a good place, where therewas plenty of water, about thirty-five miles from Red river.There we told McGrath to ride on ahead, get his horse fed,and breakfast, and then go on to the ferry. This he did; hecrossed over and stopped near the landing. The ferrymanwas a negro; McGrath procured a bottle of whiskey, to whichhe had added plenty of opium, and treated the ferryman liberally.[Pg 59]He tied his horse up, got corn from the ferryman, andby eleven o’clock he had the ferryman as limber as a cottonrag. He then took the ferry flat and crossed over to meet us.We got to the ferry about two o’clock, crossed over and traveleduntil daylight, McGrath with us. After day we turnedoff from the road to a place where some Indian families lived,and there bought some corn, meat and bread, and fed ourhorses and ourselves, and rested that day, and started againthat night, McGrath with us. That night we traveled aboutforty miles; next morning we traveled until we found a placeoff the main road where we could rest secure. Here we stoppedagain with Indians. We procured plenty for ourselves andhorses, and rested that day. Here we made our arrangementspermanent, and reduced them to black and white, in our usualmystic character. We were to meet above Shreveport a fewmiles, on the 20th of December coming, with a proper skiff,prepared with provisions, etc.

All matters thus arranged, McGrath took off his travelinghunting shirt and straw hat; put on his long, straight-breastedbombazine coat and his broad-brimmed black beaver, and gaveus a sound of his colloquial benediction of, “Hark from thetombs, gentlemen,” and steered his course southeast, intoLouisiana towards Alexandria; whilst we steered our course tothe northeast in the direction for the Wash*ta below Monroe,some fifty miles.

We soon got into the settlements and began to feed and rubour horses and blanket them. It was now September; cottonwas to pick out, plenty; we persuaded our negro he had betterpick out cotton a while, until we could sell the horses and getmoney to carry us to Cincinnati; he agreed. We cautioned himabout answering questions, which he had his instructions howto answer. We hired him to a man in an obscure place onBlack River or Bayou; we traveled out through the countryand soon sold our fine horses and for a fine price. We got fromone hundred and seventy-five to two hundred and thirty dollars[Pg 60]apiece. We sold all the horses before the first of October;they averaged us a little short of a thousand dollars. Whileselling, we met with a man by the name of Harden; he saidhe was a distant relation of John Harden. He had been sellingnegroes from Tennessee; he soon made us know, and wesoon made him know, that we were all of the same family; wethen conversed freely. He told us that he was clear—that hehad sold out, and was overrun with money. We told him wehad one darkey on hand; he said he would go with us and lookat our negro; and did go. He told the negro that he lived inCincinnati; was agent for an Abolition society, and that hewould like to take him there. The negro agreed, and was veryanxious. Harden then told Wages and myself that if wewould deliver him the negro at Napoleon, Arkansas, he wouldgive us one thousand dollars for him. We agreed, and theday was set to deliver him. Harden then told the negro thathe had to go to Natchez, and would meet us at the mouth ofthe Arkansas river. We now disposed of our saddles andbridles, and took our negro and packs, and made for the Mississippiriver at Vicksburg, where we got on a steamboat forNapoleon. We landed, and again set our darkey to pickingout cotton. Harden came in a few days, paid the thousanddollars, and took the negro. He requested us to remain therea few days. We made him a bill of sale in the name of thenegro’s master—Smith, by which name I passed. Wagespassed as Mr. Jones and Harden by the name of John Newton.He was the same man that afterward, in 1843, murderedold Robert Lott. Harden then went with me to take his negro.I told the negro that his master had just landed in pursuit ofhim, and that he must go with Mr. Newton; it was his onlychance to escape; that if he was found we should all be hanged,and he carried back to Texas. He agreed, and Harden wentup the Arkansas river about twenty-five miles and sold thenegro for twelve hundred and fifty dollars; got a draft on NewOrleans for his money, payable in ninety days; was gone onlyfour days, and returned to Napoleon.

[Pg 61]

Wages and I then informed him of our contemplated trip toLouisiana, about Christmas, and consulted with him as to themode of operation. He and Wages both agreed in opinion,and Harden suggested to us that the best plan would be to goto Cincinnati and procure a good skiff, large enough to carrytwenty persons, and fit her out with six row-locks and sixgood oars; pretend her for a peddling boat on Redriver; lay in some whiskey, bacon, flour and other articles totrade upon; and have the boat towed down to the mouth ofRed river or Bayou Sara; land the freight; take the first Redriver boat up to Shreveport; there fit out the skiff and go upthe river trading, until the opportunity to steal the negroes isoffered.

This arrangement understood, Harden proposed to join us;go to Cincinnati with us, and take chances. We all took thefirst boat that passed, the “Tribune,” bound to Pittsburg, andpassed Louisville and landed in Cincinnati the ninth day. Weimmediately made a contract to have the skiff built; it was tobe ready in two weeks, and was to be large enough to carrytwenty-five barrels of freight, and to be long and narrow, soas to row swift. During the time the boat was building, wemade some purchases of whiskey, flour, bacon and other produce,and during our stay in Cincinnati we all pretended to bestrong Abolitionists, attended several private meetings, andformed acquaintance with several free negroes, to whom wecommunicated our intention to steal the seven negroes nearShreveport, and bring them to Cincinnati. They very muchapproved the idea. We then proposed for two of them to gowith us and assist in bringing the negroes away. There weretwo of them, that had been employed as stewards on board ofsteamboats, that agreed to go, and they took situations on asteamboat for that purpose.

Our skiff being finished and all accounts settled, we contractedwith the captain of a steamboat on which our two freedarkies were employed, to take our freight and tow our skiff[Pg 62]to Bayou Sara. The passage was long, on account of lowwater. We arrived at Bayou Sara about the tenth of November,and landed our freight and skiff. Wages and I stopped;Harden and the two free negroes went on. Harden to get hisdraft accepted, and the free darkies to get on a Red river boat;and they were all to make an arrangement for a boat bound toShreveport, to call and take us and our freight.

After they left, Wages went to see our old friend, Mr. Welter,relative to the arrangement and disposal of our two freedarkies. An arrangement was soon made, for our old friendW., knew the ropes too well to hesitate long.

About the twentieth of November a small steamboat landed(on board were Harden and our two darkies,) which had beenspecially employed to take our freight. We shipped our freightand took the skiff in tow and put off. On the way up, Wages,Harden and I made the necessary arrangement for our futureplan of action. Harden was to go with us to Shreveport, andthere feign himself sick; and let Wages and I take our twodarkies in the skiff and our freight, and start up the river.Accordingly, we reached Shreveport about the fifth of December,and Harden was taken sick; Wages and I hurried ourdarkies, loaded our skiff and left for up the river. We went upthe river to the ferry we had crossed with McGrath, and therewe stopped. I went to selling, sometimes to Indians, sometimeto whites, and very often to negroes. Wages procureda horse and saddle and put out in pursuit of McGrath, andfound him at the house of the old Methodist that owned theseven negroes we were after. McGrath was sick; had beenvery sick; but was then able to walk about and take occasionalrides. Wages and McGrath got an opportunity to have aprivate interview for a few minutes. They were to meet thenext day on the road, five miles from that place. Wagesstaid all night, paid his bill next morning and left after breakfast,enquiring for some stray mules. McGrath started forthe residence of a brother Methodist, some ten miles distant—and[Pg 63]they both met at the place appointed and held their consultation.

The negro camp meeting had been already appointed, aboutten or twelve miles above Shreveport and about two miles fromthe river. Wages and McGrath having fully understood howto act, Wages told him where the boat could be found, tendays before Christmas, and they parted, and Wages returned.

Accordingly, at the time appointed, McGrath was at theboat. We had him and his horse provided for; he was madeacquainted with our two free darkies, and all things were arrangedand understood well that night. McGrath left nextmorning to prepare for the camp meeting, which was to commencein eight days. We loitered away our time; and twodays before the commencement of the camp meeting, we droppedour skiff to a landing opposite the camp ground, where welay trading. We had sold almost everything we had.

On the morning of the commencement of the meeting, weset our two free darkies over the river, and they went to theplace early in the day. Wages and I cleared out our skiff ofall barrels, boxes and dunnage of every description, and hadeverything in complete trim, row locks, oars and all ready. Themeeting commenced. We had instructed our free darkies towhat landing place to conduct these seven negroes we werestealing; and on the first night of the meeting, sure enoughthey all came to us. Their master had furnished them withtwo mules and a wagon, to haul their bedding, etc., to the campground, and they had brought all their clothing, bedding, andeverything they had. They informed us that they had soldall their poultry and crop, and had got money to support themfor the year. They had procured another negro to drive themules and wagon back to the camp ground; and by nineo’clock that night we were under way down stream.

[Pg 64]


We rigged all six of the oars; one of the women pulled oneoar and I pulled one; Wages sometimes spelled me, and I wouldsteer the boat, and the women would sometimes spell eachother, and we run at the rate of about ten miles an hour.About eleven o’clock that night we passed Shreveport, andbefore day sometime, we passed Natchitoches, the point wewere striving to make, for we knew there was a bayou aboutfive miles below, where we could hide ourselves and skiffthrough the day. We put into the bayou a little before day,and at daylight we landed our skiff in some bushes and highgrass, and we all went on shore in a thick palmetto swamp,built a good fire, cooked and eat, and drank good whiskeyand every one slept what they wanted; and about sunset weleft and rowed into the river again. By this time they all hadgot themselves more accustomed to rowing, and made betterheadway and with more ease. We run on in the night andlay-by in the day; and the third night we reached the mouthof Red River and lay in the swamp that day; and the fourthnight, about midnight, we reached Tunica, and run our skiffin a creek just above; made a fire in the swamp and remainedtill daylight. After daylight sometime, we eat breakfast andWages and I made an excuse to go to the village of Tunica tobuy some cigars, and to get some eggs, etc. The negroes setus over with the skiff; we went down to the village and wentto the tavern. There we found our old friend, Welter, andHarden, and three other men whom Welter introduced us to ashis friends and acquaintances, but they were in fact his “strikers.”Harden immediately after we left him at Shreveporthad gone down the river to Welter’s and informed him whereto meet us.

We held a consultation as to the best plan to pursue, andwe all finally agreed that the safest and best plan was to let[Pg 65]Welter take all the negroes and pay us for them. He was topay Harden for the two free fellows one thousand dollars incash and his note for one thousand payable in six months. Hewas to pay Wages and I for our seven negroes and the skiffwith all the apparatus, eight hundred dollars in cash and hisnote for four thousand dollars, payable in six months. Afterthis arrangement was concluded Wages and I went to the skiff,took our guns to go a hunting, and then returned to the village.About two hours before sunset Welter took Harden and histhree men, got a small boat and went up to the creek where allthe negroes were. But before they got to the place they tiedHarden’s hands behind him to make the negroes believe thathe was a prisoner for negro stealing. Welter and his men surroundedthe camp and took all the negroes prisoners, and thenbrought up Harden tied. Welter then informed the two freenegroes that he was the United States Marshal, and that itwas his duty to take them and Harden back to Shreveport,where they would be tried for the crime of negro stealing, andthat the punishment would be death or the penitentiary forlife; but that he did not know that he could prove Hardenguilty, and then asked them if Harden had been with them.They declared he had not. Welter then told the negroes thathe knew them; that they had been stolen once before and soldin Louisiana, and that he knew all about them, and made themconfess the truth. He then told the free negroes that theircase was a desperate one; that it would be impossible for themto escape; and then asked them which they would prefer, tostand their trial or be sold as slaves for life. They said theyhad rather be sold as slaves; so he tied their feet, after puttingthem in the boat, and took in all their dunnage, and the otherseven negroes. Upon their positive declaration that Hardenwas not concerned he was released, and a little after dark theyrowed down to the village. Welter placed his three “strikers”to guard the boat and negroes, while he and Harden went onshore, and we all went into a private room in the tavern, where[Pg 66]we executed bills of sale for the negroes, dated them in Buncombecounty, N. C., and signed fictitious names and witnesses.Welter paid us our money according to contract and executedthe notes, after which we took a good supper together anddrank three or four bottles of wine, and Welter left us. Wewent with him nearly to his boat and bid him good-by andgood luck, and he rowed off down the river for home. Wages,Harden and I returned to the tavern, went to our room and tobed and slept very sound. Next morning we arose much refreshed,and greatly relieved in mind. We went very early toa coffee house, took a cup of coffee and our bitters, and returnedto our room to consult as to the best course to pursue.We concluded to leave in the first boat for Natchez. We accordinglygot breakfast, paid our bills and placed our guns andbaggage at the nearest depot to the landing. We had to waittill late in the day before we could get a boat. We at last sawone coming, and procured a skiff to put us on board. At asignal the boat rounded to, and we went on board, registeredour names (all fictitious) and paid our passage to Natchez.


When we landed at Natchez we all stopped at different hotels,but while there, some ten days, we had interviews and consultationsevery day. It was then that Wages and Harden madethe plot to kill old Thomas Sumrall and old Robert Lott, andfor that purpose Wages furnished Harden a map of all theroads in Perry county, Miss. Harden then informed us thathe had a partner in Tennessee by the name of Goodwin, andthat he expected Goodwin had, in a cave in the Cumberlandmountains, several negroes then waiting for him to run off andsell, and that he must go up with the first rise of water so asto come down with the spring freshet. We all then made anarrangement to meet in New Orleans at a certain place on theFourth of July coming, so as to collect our money from Welter,[Pg 67]and for Harden to get the money on his draft for the negrosold on the Arkansas river, which he had deposited in bank forcollection.

Our ten days in Natchez having expired, Harden and I tookpassage on a steamboat, Harden for Tennessee, and I for Vicksburgto await the arrival of McGrath. Wages was to be atVicksburg in three or four days. I landed at Vicksburg; Hardenwent on. I went to one of the hotels, put up and waitedfor McGrath. On the sixth day Wages came, and went toanother hotel, and we both waited there another week and stillno McGrath. We began to get uneasy. However, three orfour days after, I was standing on the bank of the river, when Isaw a man dressed in coarse negro clothing, black and ragged,an old flapped hat, a pair of old saddle-bags on his arm and abig stick in his hand. He came up to me to inquire the roadto Jackson. I did not know him at first, but he soon made meknow him. It was McGrath. He inquired for Wages; I toldhim Wages was there; I told him to go to the cheapest boardinghouse, which he did, and his appearance caused him to haveto pay his dollar in advance. That night we all got together,Wages, McGrath and myself; we went below the city and had along consultation. We told McGrath what we had done, andgave him a full history of Harden and his two free negroes, andwhere Harden had gone, etc. He next gave us a detail of hisvoyage through the camp meeting and since, up to that time.

He said the next day after the seven negroes had left thecamp ground he saw their mules and wagon, and no person appearedto be about them. A very likely young negro wateredand sometimes fed the mules, and on the second day he went tothe negro and asked what had become of the negroes that camewith that wagon and mules. The boy answered first he did notknow, and looked confused. He then said to the negro to tellhim the truth and he would keep the secret and not expose him;the negro then told him the whole truth about the matter, andthen asked McGrath’s advice. He told him to take care of[Pg 68]the mules and wagon until the meeting broke up, and thentake them to their owner, and inquire of him why his negroeswent off and left their mules and wagon so long, and not returnat all, and give him the trouble to bring them home; andif any person attempted to whip him to make him tell anythingabout the matter he was to run away, and on the next Sundaynight to meet him, McGrath, at a certain place and he wouldtell him what to do, and to be sure and keep everything a profoundsecret.


With this understanding the meeting went on until the sixthday; the meeting broke up; the negro geared up his mules tothe wagon and rolled off; drove them to the house of the ownerand reported himself. It was late in the night. The old gentlemantold him to feed the mules, get his supper and come tohim in the morning and tell him more about it. The nextmorning the boy told the old man that he did not know but oneof his negroes, and that was the fellow that asked him to feedand water the mules a day or two, and on the third day thenegro did not return, and he asked the advice of one of thepreachers, who told him to take them home. The old manasked the boy where that preacher was, and the negro said hewas sick at a house about six miles from there. He then askedthe boy who he belonged to, and the negro showed him his“pass,” which told the truth. He then dismissed the boy andsent him home, and about ten o’clock, McGrath said, “herecomes the old man.” He rode up to the gate and hailed, andinquired if Brother McGrath was there. They told him he was.He alighted from his horse, came into the house and said goodmorning, very short. “Well, Brother McGrath, how do youdo?”

“Oh, I am very sick, Brother Moore.”

“What seems to be the matter?”

“Oh, I have caught a cold, and have a very severe pain inmy side; I think it is side pleurisy.”

[Pg 69]

“Well,” said he, “did you see anything of my negroes atyour meeting?”

McGrath told him: “I saw them there the first day withyou when we went. After you left, Brother Moore, I don’trecollect seeing them, and I thought you had ordered themhome until I was asked by a strange negro what he should dowith the mules and wagon. When I examined them I saw theywere yours, and I told the negro to drive them to you and reporthimself. I would have gone with him, but was too unwelland had to stop here.”

“Well,” says the old man, “your great meeting has causedme to lose seven negroes, I fear.”

McGrath said: “Oh, I hope not, Brother Moore.”

“Yes it has!” said he very short, “and I wish there neverhad been a camp meeting in the world; and I know,” said he,“they are stolen, and they went by water. Some of thempicayune steamboat captains have stolen them, and they arenow in Florida or Georgia. I will go and make some inquiryin Shreveport, and along the river, to find out what boats leftabout that time, and,” said he, “I will go to the owner of thatnegro that brought the wagon home and have him tied up andwhipped till he tells the truth about it, for I believe he knowsall about the matter.” McGrath said he tried to pacify the oldgentleman, but it was all no go, so the old gentleman left.

McGrath said the times then were beginning to be ratherequally. He pretended to improve very fast; was able to ridein two days, and set out to help Brother Moore hunt and trackhis negroes. On the next Sunday night he was at the placewhere he was to meet the negro, and the negro was there also.McGrath told of the threats against him, and asked him if hewished to run away and go with him, if he did he would findhim a good master, or take him to a free State. The negrosaid he would go. McGrath asked him if he could steal a goodhorse, saddle and bridle. The negro said he could. McGraththen asked him if he could get over Red river and meet him at[Pg 70]a certain place on a certain day. He said he could, three orfour days after.

McGrath then went to the house of Brother Moore to inquireif he had got any tidings of, or from his negroes. The old manwas very mad and talked very short, and said “no,” adding:“Mr. McGrath, I want you to leave my house, and never againset your foot in it.” McGrath tried to reason with the old man,but all would not do, so he left. He had collected among thebrethren some five hundred dollars or upward and a considerablesum from the negroes at the camp meeting. He thenwent to Shreveport and procured some articles he wanted (andamong them two half gallon jugs, one full of brandy and theother of whiskey), some bread and cheese, and crossed theriver.

After he got across he saw three men come down to the ferryand wait for the ferryman; he watched them; they conversedwith the ferryman awhile and rode back. McGrath rode onthree or four miles, came to an inn and stopped. It was notnight, but he had come to the conclusion now, that it wasnecessary for him to watch as well as pray. A little after darkup rode three men, and inquired if a traveler had passed thatevening, and what time—how long before dark? They wereinformed none had passed; one had put up, a little before dark.They alighted and came in; enquired from McGrath his name,where he was traveling, his occupation, etc. He told hisname, and said he was going to a quarterly meeting, someseventy-five miles from that place. They listened to him withkeen, shrewd looks and very doubting air, and McGrath sawfrom their manœuvres that they were after him in particular,and he well knew it would require his best skill and ingenuityto evade their vigilance. They bid him good night and started on.McGrath pretended to walk out carelessly and watch them;they turned back.

He started next morning and traveled about thirty-five milesand stopped for the night. Just before night, the same three[Pg 71]men passed the house. Next morning, after breakfast, hestarted again, and in a few miles came to their camp. “Well,”said one, “we have met again.” McGrath said “yes,” andasked them which way they were going. They said to purchasebeef cattle, and asked him how much further he wasgoing that route? He told them he was going to a missionarystation to see the preacher there; that it was about forty milesthere, and he wanted to get there that night. He bid themgood morning, rode off, and traveled slow until he got out oftheir sight, and then pushed and rode about twelve miles. Hecame to a cross road that passed near where the negro was;here he left the road in a direction opposite to where the negrolay; tied his horse in a thicket some distance from the road,and concealed himself to watch. The men soon came to theplace and examined for the track of his horse; they finallytook the road which the horse’s track had followed andpushed on. He went to where his horse was, stripped him,held him to graze some cane, and took a little of his goodbrandy; stripped his Methodist coat off and rolled up hisbroad-brimmed beaver in it and tied them on his saddle; andput on a common oiled cap, and another coat. Night came on;he saddled his horse and rode through the woods, near theroad, to the distance of about two miles from where the negrowas to meet him, and tied his horse about two hundred yardsfrom the road. After it was fully dark, he started on the roadon foot and left his horse, for the place appointed to meet thenegro; and his only fear then was that the negro might havebeen bribed to betray him. He had two good single-barrelledpistols, and would be certain to save two of his assailants andtake chances with the balance. He went on, got within a veryshort distance of the place appointed, crept up very close andstopped to listen. All was still. He discovered, a short distancefrom him, a large tree and a thick bunch of bushesaround it. He crept easily to that, and squatted down at theroot of the tree to listen. He thought he heard a stick crack[Pg 72]or break close to him. He then gave a low whistle like that ofa bird; it was answered immediately, within twenty feet ofhim. He then gave another, which was as promptly answered.He then gave a slap of his hands, which was answered, and thenegro advanced to him. He asked the negro if there was anyperson about, and where was his horse? The negro told himabout two hundred yards from there.

They started and went about half way, and McGrath stoppedand told the negro to go and bring his horse there. The negrowent and brought his horse. McGrath said he then becamebetter satisfied that the negro was no traitor, and told him togo with him to the road and ride about thirty yards behind,until they got opposite where his horse was, which he did.They were not long in getting there. When we got to theplace, he made a signal, and the negro rode up, and McGrathturned square off from the road and told the negro to followhim. He went about one hundred yards and told the negroto tie his horse and go back and watch the road, until hesaddled and brought his horse. When McGrath had saddledhis horse and returned, he found the negro at his horse, witheverything ready to mount and be off. He asked what wasthe matter? “My God, master! we have had good luck; justas I went up close to the road I heard horses’ feet, and hid inthe bushes; I saw by starlight three persons pass the road;two of them I could see had guns, and if we had been tenminutes later we should have met them.” McGrath pulled outhis little jug of whiskey and gave the negro two drams andtook one himself; they mounted their horses and started. Heinstructed the negro to travel about thirty yards behind incase of surprise, so as to make his escape and save them both.

They traveled hard that night, and by daylight they hadmade near sixty miles. At daylight they left the road andlay-by that day. It happened that the negro had near a halfbushel of corn, and some meat and bread, and McGrath somebread and cheese, so they made out pretty well that day. Night[Pg 73]came on and they set out again, and traveled until near day.They arrived close to a ferry on the Wash*ta. Before gettingthere, they left the road a short distance, and McGrath left thenegro with the horses and went towards the ferry. As he gotnear the ferry house, which he intended to go round, someperson hailed—“who is that?” He turned his course andmade back for the negro and horses. He had not time to getaway before they passed in pursuit, and he heard them say,“that damned preacher is here somewhere, and we will havehim yet.” They halted a moment, and he heard their horses’feet, some going back and some the other way. McGrathmounted his horse and told the negro to follow him, and hetook to the woods and steered a west course, which he knewwas up the river, and traveled till he reached high land, andcontinued after day until near twelve o’clock, sometimes insight of plantations, which he would go round.

By and by he came to a road that had the appearance of beingmuch traveled, and leading north. Here, some distancefrom the road, he halted, stripped their horses and let themgraze in a cane-brake, and remained there till dark withoutanything to eat. At dark they started and traveled ten ortwelve miles, passed several houses, and came to a house andpassed down a hill into a lane, and at a short distance came tohigh timber land, which he knew was near the river. Hestopped and left the negro with the two horses, giving himinstructions if any alarm was heard, to turn and run back to alittle branch and stop till he came. He went on to the river,and luckily there was no spy there, and the ferry-flat was onhis side. He hurried back, took his horse and the negro andhis horse, and got into the ferry-flat and went over. Theymounted their horses and traveled until daylight; passed severalhouses and plantations. At daylight he found himselfbordering on the Mississippi swamp. He turned off the roadand stripped their horses to graze in a cane-brake.

Nothing to eat now for two nights and one day, with plenty[Pg 74]of money, but was afraid to go to a house, for fear of discovery.

He went to waylay the road, saw no person pass except emigrants,from whom we obtained a little bread, some salt and asmall piece of meat. He inquired of them the road and distanceto Vicksburg. They told him from seventy-five to onehundred miles. He inquired if they had met any person onhorseback. They said no. He then left them and returned tohis negro and horses; found the negro had killed a large, fatpossum, and had it cleaned and was roasting it; the salt hehad got then came in play. They cooked and eat, drank theirliquor, and rested that day. A little before night McGrathwent to the road to examine if any horses’ tracks passingtoward Vicksburg could be seen. There were none. He returnedand saddled his horses, and a little before sunset theystarted and traveled all night, and until next day at ten o’clock.They came to the Tensas Bayou, crossed at a ferry, and inquiredof the ferryman, who was a negro, how far it was toVicksburg? The negro said about thirty miles. McGraththen inquired if there were many settlers on the bayou. Thenegro said there were plenty up and down the bayou on bothsides. They left the ferry and went on a few miles, andturned to the west from the main road, up the bayou, along anew road that carriages had traveled, and went about tenmiles—passed several large plantations. About twelve o’clockhe came to the house of a small farmer; his horses were verytired, and he asked if he could get his horses fed and somedinner for himself and boy. The man told him to alight; thehorses were soon attended to, and dinner was soon preparedand they eat.

McGrath then told the man he was from Mississippi; thenegro he had with him was all he had; that they were about tosell him for a security debt; that he had to run him to savehim; and that he had to travel a long distance and was muchfatigued, both himself and horses, and that he would like to[Pg 75]rest himself and horses a few days. This was agreed to. Hethen told the landlord that he was fearful they might followhim and that he did not wish to let many people know that hewas there. He also told him that he would like to sell hisnegro, if he could get a good master for him, and that he wouldlike to sell his two horses and go home by water, by way ofNew Orleans, Mobile and up the Tombigbee river. He alsopromised his landlord, if he would help him, and effect a goodsale of his negro and horse, that he would make him a presentof one hundred dollars, and that the negro might work in hisfarm while they were looking around. This was also agreed to,and it was concluded to rest the horses a week.

McGrath and the landlord (Mr. Chance was his name) rodeup the bayou to see a blacksmith that wanted to purchase anegro. They traveled about thirty miles; saw the man andmade a conditional trade with him, to sell him the negro forthirteen hundred and fifty dollars, if the negro could “blow andstrike” in the shop, which the negro said he could. They thenreturned to Chance’s, took the negro and the two horses andreturned to the blacksmith. He tried the negro one day andsaid he was satisfied, and paid McGrath his money. Thenegro then told his new master to buy the horse that he hadridden; there was no better horse in the world. The masterinquired the price; McGrath told him two hundred dollars; butas he had bought the negro he might have the horse for onehundred and seventy-five dollars. The blacksmith told himhe would have to borrow one hundred and twenty-five dollars,but he knew where he could get it if they would wait untilthe next day; and he thought he knew a man that would givetwo hundred dollars for McGrath’s horse. They consentedto wait, and sure enough the next morning quite early theblacksmith returned with the money and a man with him, whosoon closed the trade with McGrath for his horse, and theypaid him the money for the two horses, saddles and bridles,three hundred and seventy five dollars, making the whole sum[Pg 76]seventeen hundred and twenty-five dollars. McGrath gave thenegro one hundred dollars as a present, and asked him if hewas satisfied. He said he was well satisfied. McGrath andMr. Chance they left for Chance’s residence, which they reachedthat night.


On their way down McGrath made a bargain with Chance tocarry him in his little wagon to the ferry opposite Vicksburg,for fifteen dollars. The next day he paid Chance one hundredand fifteen dollars; made the landlady, Mrs. Chance, a presentof ten dollars for her trouble; and after dinner they startedfor Vicksburg landing. He told Chance he wished to travelin disguise for fear he might be followed, and for that purposeChance procured for him a negro’s old jacket and trowsers,and an old flapped hat and Chance’s old saddle bags; “and inthis garb,” said McGrath, “I landed on the other side of theriver last night and camped there with my friend Mr. Chance.We parted early this morning, he for home, and I for thisplace; and here I am this 25th day of January, 1841, and”said he, “I have kept a regular diary of my travels ever sincewe parted on Red River, before the camp meeting,” and heshowed us his memorandum book.

Now, Wages, McGrath and I had all got together again.We had realized over twenty-five thousand dollars by our hypocrisy,stealing, burning and murdering. We advisedMcGrath to change his clothes and put on a genteel suit, andprocure a pair of green goggles, so as to disguise himself, andwe repaired each to our hotels. The next day McGrath cameout in a new suit, with his green goggles, and we should nothave known him ourselves, had we not been on the look outfor him. He came to the same hotel where I boarded. Weadvised McGrath to leave in the first boat for St. Louis, wherewe were to meet him on a certain day; but each of us was nowto travel in separate boats. McGrath set out the next day;[Pg 77]two days after Wages left; and one day after that I took aboat, and we all met at the time appointed. We remained inSt. Louis a few days, and changed our clothing to that of commonlaborers.


We all took passage on a steamboat bound from St. Louis toPittsburg; landed at the mouth of the Wabash, and traveledup that river to the town of ——, where we fell inwith an old Irishman by the name of O’Connor. He was awestern trader, and had two large flat boats loaded with flour,bulk pork, onions, potatoes, butter, some whiskey, and a varietyof other articles, to the amount of over five thousanddollars.

With him McGrath soon formed acquaintance, and camethe “country” over him. His brother Irishman, McGrath,represented to him that our occupation was that of workingflatboats; and that we had made many trips from Missouri,Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. We were not long in making acontract with him, to help him down with his boats. He hadcontracted for one hundred barrels of whiskey, which he couldhave if he could pay five hundred dollars. We advanced himsome money and he made the purchase and gave his note forthe balance. We put the whiskey on board the boats, and allthings being ready we set off down the river.

He employed two extra hands to help us down to the mouthof the river, where he discharged them. We went on down,two hands on each boat, until we passed the shoal at Smithland,the mouth of the Cumberland river, when we lashed thetwo boats together and took our watches by turns, two at atime. We floated all one day and part of a night, and came tothe mouth of the Ohio, between midnight and daylight.

It was the turn for Wages and I to take the watch that morning.Now, on the Mississippi River, all we had to do was tokeep the boats in the middle of the stream, with a light on[Pg 78]deck to guard against steamboats. The old Irishman, theowner of the boats, went down into a small cabin in one of theboats, which he had prepared for himself, and laid down in hisberth to sleep. He was much fatigued, but before he went tosleep, Wages proposed to him to take a dram of stewed whiskeypunch, hot, which he knew to be a favorite beverage withthe Irish. The old man consented, and Wages went to workto prepare it. We being on the alert for any and everything,had the opium ready, and gave his bowl a full charge.He drank it down and praised it as very nice, and retired. Wethen prepared some punch for ourselves and drank it. Wethen went to an opposite end of the boats and held a consultation,as to who was to make way with the old man, and itfell to my lot to strike the fatal blow!

Oh, God! when I look back, it makes me shudder. Evennow it chills the blood in my veins.

It was understood that the deed was to be committed atsunrise, precisely, provided there were no boats of any kindnear. By the time we had accomplished our consultation,daylight was making its appearance in the east, and I cannothere describe my feelings. Wages and McGrath discoveredmy embarrassment, and resorted to another potion of hotwhiskey punch, which I drank freely. After I had drank, Iwent into the old man’s cabin, armed with a small hatchet orlathing axe. The old man was fast asleep, lying on his back;I went up on deck and looked to the east, and saw that thesun was just making his appearance; I returned to the littlecabin, raised the hatchet and struck the fatal blow in the centreof the forehead, a little above the eyes. It made a fulldent in the skull the size of the hammer of the axe. He uttereda kind of suppressed and strangled shriek and in a very fewminutes O’Connor was numbered among the dead.

Now the next business was to dispose of him. This, howeverdid not take us long, for we had some old cast iron grates,that had belonged to a steamboat and which we used to set our[Pg 79]cooking pots on. We took two of them and lashed them welltogether, stripped off his clothing and left his body naked, andtied a strong rope around his neck, and attached that to thecast iron grates.

And oh! the awful scene that ensued! To see a fellow-beingwho had been one of us so recently; to see his body cast to oblivion,and his soul, then departed, to that “bourne from whenceno traveler returns.” Well, or not well it was, I may say.Poor old O’Connor went down with about three hundred poundsof iron attached to him—a little below Wolf Island, not far fromMills’ Point.

We very soon passed New Madrid. On our way down theMississippi we had several calls of “What boat is that?”“Where are you from?” to which we replied the “Non Such,”and “Red Rover,” from “Independence, Mo.”

Our next business was to dispose of his clothing, his papers,and to so disfigure the boats that they could not be identified.So we took the same “hatchet,” and rubbed off “Non Such”and “Red Rover,” and wrote in their place “Tip,” and “Tyler,”which in those days took well. Thus rigged out, we glided ongently and steadily; we had nothing to fear; we had two flatboats,and they well loaded with produce, worth over five thousanddollars.

To dispose of the boats and cargo was our next business, wewell knowing that other boats would be down from the sameriver inquiring for O’Connor’s boats. We therefore lost notime. We never stopped till we came to the mouth of Redriver, where we halted and warped into the mouth and tied up.McGrath mounted his green goggles, blacked his hair and face,so that I could not have known him, only that I was with him.Wages took one of our skiffs and went to Tunica, where he tooka steamboat down to Welter’s. In a few days he and Welterreturned, and we were not long in closing a trade with him.He gave us four thousand five hundred dollars in his note payablethe Fourth of July ensuing for our boats and cargo. One[Pg 80]boat was sent down the Atchafalya bayou, and the other downthe Mississippi to his residence.

Wages and Welter returned to Welter’s, and McGrath and Iremained to take care of the boats. A day or two after Weltersent four of his “strikers” to take charge of the boats; andafter dividing the cargoes, one of them left down the river forWelter’s with two of his men on board. We remained on theother until we got an opportunity to have it towed into theAtchafalya bayou, and we then made the best of our way downthe river to Welter’s, where we again joined Wages.

We there held a full consultation, and concluded to return tothe vicinity of Mobile, lie still for a while, collect and gatherup our money and secure it all at one place, where it could beeasily got if we should stand in need of it at any time. Thisbrought about the last of May, 1843. We went up to Natchez,landed there, and steered our course through the country byLiberty, Holmesville, Columbia, and on to Allen Brown’s, onRed creek, in the southwest corner of Perry county, Miss.,where Wages and I rested until about the last of June, whenwe started on foot and walked to Pass Christian.

There we took a steamboat to New Orleans; from there upthe Mississippi to our old friend Welter’s to fulfill ourengagement with Harden on the Fourth of July. We arrivedthere on the 2d of July, at night. Harden had been there someday or two before us, dodging about rather concealed.

McGrath was either sick, or so feigned himself. We lefthim at Brown’s, and in the neighborhood. Wages and I oftentalked about the matter, and we came to the conclusion that hewas fearful of meeting some of his brother Methodists on someof the steamboats, and had concluded to keep out of the way.So Wages, Harden and I had a full conference relative to ourfuture course of operations, and came to a final conclusion, andeach made a short memorandum in his “diary” in our mysticcharacters on the evening of the 3d of July.

On the morning of the fourth, Welter informed us that he[Pg 81]and his family had an invitation to partake of a “public dinnerand ball,” and that he would like to invite us, but wasafraid of the enquiries that would be made, of “who we were,”“where we were from,” and “what was our occupation,” &c. Hesaid, “there have been some enquiries about boat loads ofproduce, and where I purchased so many negroes, and I thinkwe had better be more cautious for some time to come.” Hetold us that he would furnish us a good dinner at his houseand plenty of wine and liquors of the best, and we might enjoyourselves until he returned next day. We accordinglylived well that day and night. The old gentleman returnedwith his family next day, about ten in the forenoon, and as hesaid, much fatigued.

“Now, gentlemen,” said he, “the fourth of July is over; wewill to business, if you are ready;” to which we replied, “wewere like old souse, always ready!” “Now, your money isready for you in New Orleans,” says Welter, “and I will godown on the first boat that passes. You must all take separateboats; for,” said he, “the times are squally in this region; thepapers are full of rewards for those seven negroes, and thereis also a reward for three men, who are supposed to have killeda flatboat man by the name of O’Connor; and if you threetravel together you will be sure to be arrested; I will go firstand have your money ready. Disguise yourselves as muchas possible, and meet me in our rendezvous in four nightsafter to-night; and tell me what kind of money you want.”

Harden told him “Tennessee bank notes would suit him;”Wages and I told him either Mobile Bank or Bank of Louisianawould do us.

Just at this moment his waiter came to tell him there was aboat in sight. He left immediately for the city. I tied up myhead, rubbed some ink around one eye, and put a green silkpatch over it, and took a boat the same evening; Harden thenext morning; and Wages the evening after. We had our appointed[Pg 82]boarding house, where we eat and slept in a privateroom, where no person but our landlord ever saw us.

At the appointed time Welter met us, and paid us our money.Harden his one thousand dollars and Wages and myself eighthundred dollars in Mobile and New Orleans money. After payingus all, he said: “Now, young men, let me advise you alittle. You have done a storming business in your line. Youhave met with extreme success in everything you have undertaken,and I do assure you that the glass pitcher, in going tothe fountain too often, will come back broken eventually; nowlet me advise you each to return to your homes and friends,collect and realise all your money and exchange it into goldor silver coin, and have it ready for any emergency; keep yourselvessecluded as much as possible from the criticisms of thecommunity in which you reside, and the time will wear aroundwhen you may turn loose again; but rest assured that I shallhave to withdraw all connection with you for the present; myproperty is ample for the support of myself and family now,and a liberal division among them after I am dead; I wish youwell, and hope you will act prudently for the future and notrun too great risks.” So saying he gave us each a heartyshake of the hand, and bid us a final adieu. This was our lastinterview with Welter. Since then we have not seen or heardfrom him.

Our understanding with Harden was that he was to return tothe vicinity of Mobile in the fall or early in the winter. Thenext morning early Harden, Wages and I paid our landlord andleft; Harden up the river to Tennessee, and Wages and I wentto the New Basin, took passage on a wood freighting schoonerto the Bay of St. Louis, and up Wolf river to a landing in thepiney woods. We had provided ourselves with some biscuit,cheese and meat. We landed and walked to Allen Brown’sagain, where we landed the second night, very tired. McGrath,when we returned, was over on Black creek at Daniel Smith’s,hard up courting his daughter, Mary Smith, whom he married[Pg 83]the next June following. He soon got the word that Wages andI had returned, and came over to Brown’s.

Now we were all easy, with plenty of time to feast and frolic.We soon sent off to Pass Christian for flour, sugar, coffee, andwhiskey, too, tobacco, cigars, and other little nicknacks. Wefirst tried our hand at hunting deer and fishing in Red creek,and did kill a few deer and caught some fish, but we foundthat too fatiguing in that hot season, and we resorted to othermeans to procure our fresh meat. And the way we slung oldBill Griffin’s fine fat heifers and yearlings was a caution. Theirmeat was very fat and remarkably fine flavored.

We remained at Brown’s and in the vicinity until after themiddle of August, and I don’t believe that old Brown and hisfamily had ever lived so well in his or their lives before. Itwas then that Wages commenced courting old Brown’s daughter,whom he afterward married; and it was then that Brown madethe proposition to Wages to go into the “counterfeiting business;”and I am here compelled to say that the association ofAllen Brown with us was the main cause of our exposure, thedeath of Wages and McGrath, and the annihilation of our clan,and the prime cause of my fate.

Well, we rusticated at Brown’s our time out, and all of uswere fully satiated to our heart’s content, and now the time hadarrived for us to leave for our places near Mobile. A smallconsultation as to the way of our departure was necessary, andas McGrath was a member of the church, and had made frequentvisits to Brother Smith’s and Brother Bounds, he couldgo publicly any way, and was to go by way of the back Bay ofBiloxi to visit the brethren about Evans’, while Wages and Iprepared ourselves with three days provisions, and started onemoonlight night—Brown with us, and two of his horses. Hewent with us about thirty miles that night, and left us in themorning and returned home. We lay-by that day near theroad, and started a little before sunset and crossed Pascagoulaat Fairley’s ferry before daylight next morning. We were[Pg 84]then on our own native hills. We again laid by. The nextnight we crossed Dog river at Ward’s bridge, and reached homeearly in the morning. McGrath arrived about ten days afterus. Our first business was, after resting awhile, to gather allour money and have a correct settlement and distribution ofour funds.

Now it was honor among thieves! I disgorged all into thehands of Wages; he said to McGrath that he knew I had givenup all. “Now, McGrath,” said Wages, “shell out.” So McGrathdid turn out the seventeen hundred and twenty-five dollars.Wages said to him “where is that gospel money?” towhich McGrath replied that the amount was small, and that hethought he ought to retain that for pocket and spending money.Wages then came out upon him in plain terms, and said: “McGrath,you came in with us upon equal terms, and if you wishto bulk or fly back, take your seventeen hundred dollars andleave, but look out for the consequences!” McGrath soonforked over about thirteen hundred dollars more. We had,when properly estimated, thirty-one thousand eight hundredand seventy-five dollars. This money was in joint stock betweenus three, and a proper appropriation and distribution ofthat sum was what we had next to look to.

“Now,” said Wages, “boys, we have this amount of money,part in possession, and the balance at command. Let us devisesome plan to save it; this, however, you may reflect upon. Ournext business is to get the whole in possession; when we havedone that, our next business is to make the proper dispositionof it. So now we have buried at one place four thousand fivehundred dollars, and our deposits in bank in New Orleans sixthousand six hundred and seventy-five dollars, and what wenow have makes our account tally; our next business is to getit altogether. When we have done that we must reflect well;and,” said Wages to me, “James, I would rather that you andMcGrath would lie down and sleep until I have all that matteraccomplished, for I am fearful of your youthful imprudence,[Pg 85]and McGrath’s imprudent Irish brogue to go in blind right orwrong, and always come out at the little end of the horn, asthey did at Vinegar Hill, or as Mitchell, Meagher and othersdid in their recent effort in Ireland to obtain their liberty.” Ithen proposed to McGrath to give Wages the whole and solecontrol, to which he finally consented, though, I discovered,with some reluctance.

“Now, boys,” said Wages, “I wish you to consider yourselvesupon the world until I return; and I enjoin on you notto commit any unlawful act during the time it may take to realizeand gather together our money. For the certainty anduncertainty of life we cannot account; we will therefore depositwhat money we have.” So we did—in the ground—andeach took fifty dollars for pocket money.

As the whole matter was now understood, McGrath returnedto the back Bay of Biloxi, to preaching and stealing, and I remainedin the vicinity of Mobile, pretending to burn and sellcharcoal; but in fact stealing and feeding a parcel of our loafingand starving clan in Mobile, such as G. Cleveland, andsome others of less importance that I could name, but whosenames are not worth the pen, ink and paper it would take towrite them.

But I will now tell you all about this man G. Cleveland, sofar as I know him. When Wages, McGrath and I were in St.Louis, we fell in with this fellow Cleveland. We had seenhim before in Cincinnati, but not to form an acquaintance. InSt. Louis he was all the time around us—he may have smeltus out. He was then selling spurious money of “New YorkNorth River Bank, Schommerhorn, president,” and several otherbanks of this same stripe. He traveled then in considerablestyle, with two large leather trunks, and they mostly packedwith this spurious money. His portmanteau contained a greatvariety of “dickeys” and “collars,” and his natural appearanceand address always imposed upon a person unacquaintedwith him. Wages then advised me not to have anything to do[Pg 86]with him, as he was a dangerous tool; and he so advised meuntil the day of his death, but not taking Wages’ advice, Clevelandand his concern got out of me some three hundred dollars,with a faithful promise that I should be defended andprotected; that jail doors, grates or bars should not hold me;but that they and their friends would burst asunder everythingfor me. Now see where his pledge falls. He and his wholeconcern will not flourish long. I have to suffer death solelyfor the want of a proper effort being made by them. I nowleave Cleveland and the others to the mercy of their own conscienceand the censure of the world.

Now to our affairs. Wages had returned to New Orleans,with all our money, and had purchased five barrels of whiskey,in one of which he had placed all the money. He had procuredthe whole of it in gold, and made a long, slim canvassbag, which he could pass through the bung-hole of the barrel,and in this bag he had placed his gold, mostly sovereigns, andfive and ten dollar pieces of American coin. After placing themoney in the barrel he put in the bung tight, and nailed onthe tin; shipped it as an ordinary barrel of whiskey, andhauled it out to one of our camps, where we opened it, andtook out the gold. We had on hand a considerable amount ofbank notes of New Orleans and Mobile Banks. We thenagreed that Wages should take it all, and exchange it for gold,under pretense of entering land for some company in Mississippi.Wages took his little two-horse wagon, loaded withpickets, and went to Mobile. The first trip he brought homenear eight thousand dollars in gold, which was deposited withthe rest. I then proposed to Wages and McGrath to make theamount in gold, thirty thousand dollars even, and bury it insome safe place, secure, so that we might have it for anyemergency; and in case of the death of one of us, the othertwo were to share it; and if two died, one had all. So thenext trip Wages made to Mobile, he brought the balance tomake up the amount. We had three strong kegs made in[Pg 87]Mobile, well iron-hooped, and we placed in each ten thousanddollars; filled all the crevices with clean, white sand, headedthe kegs up, gave them three coats of paint, and after theywere thoroughly dry, we buried them in a thick swamp onHamilton’s Creek. The balance of our money we then dividedbetween us equally, which gave each share about six hundredand twenty-five dollars.

To accomplish our settlement of affairs, brought about themiddle of November, 1843. McGrath left for the back Bay ofBiloxi, and I saw nothing more of him until after his marriage.

About two weeks after, Harden arrived at Wages’ riding avery fine horse, and had with him a likely mulatto fellow, ridingon a very fine horse also, both of which he told me he soldto a man by the name of Jenkins. The first object to beeffected was to kill and rob old man Sumrall. Mr. Newtonwas to turn preacher and go to Mr. Sumrall’s house, and bysome means effect the object; but by some misstep his intentionwas discovered through one of the house servants, thealarm was given, and brother Newton was ordered to leavebrother Sumrall’s premises. Wages and I lay in ambush, andhad our appointed places to meet. We soon learned the resultof Harden’s adventure at Sumrall’s. I returned to Mobile,Harden went to Louisiana, and Wages, by Jasper county, toMobile. We were all to meet again about the last of February,on Black Creek, at the Pearlington road. We did meet, and avery few days after old Robert Lott was killed and all hismoney taken. This was sometime early in March, 1844.Wages was with Harden that night, and helped; I did nothappen there. I met Wages next morning, at our camp, andhe told me what was done, and turned me back. Harden andWages had divided a little over two thousand dollars. Hardenleft a few nights after for the Mississippi swamp in Louisiana,and Wages and I for Mobile, and traveled altogether inthe night, to avoid discovery.

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After we got to Mobile and had rested ourselves, there wereseveral complaints made to Wages and I, about the derangementof the affairs of the clan. They had, during our absence,elected a president pro tem. Wages went round and called ameeting at the Wigwam. There was a crowded meeting, butthey were mostly new members, who were very noisy. Wagesthen told them the object of the meeting; that it was to inquireinto the situation of the clan; that his long absence had preventedhim from attending any meeting for over two years; itwas necessary to inquire into the affairs, and a system of actionmust be preserved in all institutions. Some of the newmembers were very clamorous and wanted to make a breakand a raise at something; they had no money and must havesome, and all such stuff. Wages then reminded them that wehad a Vigilant Committee, who at all times had the control andpower to report, and upon their report the clan would act. Healso reminded them of their obligation and the terms uponwhich they came into the clan, and for any breach or exposuretheir life would pay the forfeit. He then announced to themeeting that he would hold an adjourned meeting that nighttwo weeks, for the purpose of having the minutes made up,and a full report from the Vigilant Committee; but, before thetime arrived, Wages was informed that four of these membershad come in as spies, and that we had traitors in the ranks.He then advised me of the fact, and we agreed to withdraw.We never visited the Wigwam again; but we formed a new andselect one among a few of us, and among the new clan werefour of my brothers—Isham, nicknamed Whin, Henry, Johnand Thomas Copeland, Jefferson Baker and Joshua Walters, allmen of bravery.

Our next business was to dispose of all spies and traitors,and it was not long before four of them butted their headsagainst a slung-shot hung to a man’s arm, and they went floating[Pg 89]from Mobile wharf down the channel of the river. OldPalmer, one of our clan, near Springhill, met up with mybrother Whin and I: he had made some exposures of ouraffairs. Our two rifles made clear fire, and we left him in asituation where he told no more tales. Sometime after, TomPowell, another of the clan, made some threats that he intendedto drive the Copelands out of the country. McGrathand I waylaid him and fed him with the contents of two double-barrelshot-guns, about forty-eight buck-shot, and put him ina swamp near Eslaya’s old mill. Another of the clan, JimHarper, attempted to betray us by decoying us into the handsof some of our enemies; Wages, McGrath and I managed tocatch him. We took him into an old house near the old StageStand. We then put a rope around his neck, and we very soonsqueezed the breath out of him. We stripped off his clothes,and left him in the old house, a prey to the buzzards; took allthe clothes some distance off and piled lightwood knots onthem, and burnt them.

Sometime after McGrath was married, Wages went over intoMississippi, about old Brown’s, and sometimes down aboutHoney Island, near Gainesville, and remained there from thesummer of 1843 until the fall of 1844, during which time Ihad seen him but twice, when he came over to his father’s on avisit, in the fall of 1844. Wages and McGrath came over tothe vicinity of Mobile and sent for me, and then informed meof the plan they were about to pursue. That they were goingto commence making counterfeit money: that they had procureda man who could engrave their dies, and another whowas a professed chemist and could prepare the metal so wellthat it would take a very acute judge to detect it. I toldWages that whatever he went at I was in; “but,” said I, “Ifeel somewhat fearful.” “Oh,” said they, “we have made alarge acquisition to our clan, we now have Jim McArthur,Jack McArthur, Allen Brown, Daniel Brown, Jim Bilbo andWash Bilbo. We are to settle McGrath at Honey Island;[Pg 90]Wages at Catahoula; Allen Brown at Red Breek, and the Bilbosand McArthurs are to range from Pearl River to Pascagoula;and,” said they, “your party can range from Mobile to Pascagoula,and you can pass horses or negroes from Georgia toFlorida on this route through to Louisiana, without discovery,and so from Louisiana in the same way.” I then told Wagesand McGrath both, that I was still afraid of their new acquisition.I then proposed to them to remove our money fromHamilton’s Creek, and place it somewhere near where Wageswas going to settle. I made this proposition because I believedthat this counterfeiting business would be the means ofgetting us into trouble, and that we could procure our moneymore easily from that vicinity than we could where it was.

I had then arrived at the age of majority and began to havea more reflecting mind, and I never did have any reliance orconfidence in that money arrangement. Wages then informedme that he was engaged to marry Allen Brown’s daughter, butdid not know what time; it might be a year before he did so.“McGrath,” said he, “is now married, and will move to HoneyIsland shortly; I shall be engaged in preparing our shop andarranging the materials, and making preparations for the settlementof my home.”

They then told me that Niel McIntosh, would also be one ofour clan, and that he would travel to and from Mobile to ourother places, as a spy, and look out for us. They left the nextday for Mississippi, and I saw nothing more of either of themfor over twelve months. Niel McIntosh made several tripsover and back, and always had plenty of their money, but I wasalways afraid of it. He passed a considerable amount in thevicinity of Mobile, and made something by it.

John Harden brought three or four fine horses, one, he said,from Florida and the others from Georgia; I advanced him themoney and passed them on to Wages, who sold them for me.S. Harden made two trips to the vicinity of Mobile that year,one from North Alabama, and one from western North Carolina:[Pg 91]The first trip he brought two good horses and a likelynegro boy. I assisted him to sell the horses near Fort Stoddart,for a fine price, to some men going to Texas. I thenfurnished him two ponies and sent McIntosh to pilot himthrough to Wages, who paid him for his negro and sent him toPearlington, where he again embarked for Tennessee, by wayof New Orleans.

About four months afterwards Harden returned again. Hehad two splendid horses, fine traveling equipage, and a likelymulatto girl about sixteen years old, dressed in boys clothes,traveling with him as his waiter. He said he had traveledthrough Georgia and Eastern Alabama to Blakely, and crossedthe Bay over to Mobile, and came out to our place. He toldus he feared no pursuit; that he had traveled too far, thatthere was no danger. I assisted him in selling the two horses,in Mobile, and saw them often afterwards. They were finebuggy horses. The girl he sold to a man in Mobile, who kepther as a wife, and she now passes for free. He had stolen herfrom a rich old widow lady in North Carolina, who had sentthe girl on an errand, on a Saturday morning, some twenty-fivemiles on the same fine horse, to return on Sunday evening,and she never did return.

In these two trips of Harden’s he gave me five hundred dollarsfor my assistance. I then assisted him to steal a very finehorse on the Tombigbee River, for which he gave me fifty dollarsmore, and left for Tennessee. This had pretty well consumedthe fall of 1845.

In December, Wages came home to his father’s; sent for me;told me that he was going to get married shortly, and invitedme to his wedding; I promised him I would go if my businessdid not prevent me; but it so turned out that he did marry ashort time after, and I was not present. After his marriage,he brought his wife to see his father and mother, and spentsome weeks with them. He had with him plenty of counterfeitcoin, and wanted me to take some and pass for him. That[Pg 92]I refused to do, and I then advised him that it would be betterfor us all to let that alone; and then reminded him that whenthere was none but him, McGrath and I together, that wecould get along to better advantage, do a more profitable businessand had a wider field to operate in. But he seemed tothink that they could manage to get along; and I found fromhis conversation that old Allen Brown had got control of him,and I said no more on the subject. I told him frankly thattheir money I would have nothing to do with; but in othermatters of stealing and selling horses, negroes and cattle, Iwould take a hand as heretofore, to which he assented, andhere we dropped the subject for the present. I again urgedupon him the removal of our money. I dreaded an outbreak,for I then believed that old Brown would blow the whole matter;and sure enough he afterwards did.

So Wages and his wife left, and went back to Mississippi, toold Brown, and he went to work building his house on Catahoula,in Hanco*ck County. He got it completed; movedinto it; took his horse; came again to Mobile; procured hisfather’s two horse wagon to haul some articles for house-keepingfrom Mobile, and on his way back I went with him, thefirst night, and we camped near where our money was buried.We went and got the three kegs; placed them in the bottom ofhis wagon, covered them with hay and placed the balance ofhis load on them. He hauled them out to Hanco*ck county,and deposited them in Catahoula Swamp, about a mile and ahalf or two miles from his house, and designated the place by alarge pine tree that grew at the margin of the swamp, to thenorth-east, and about thirty-five yards from where the kegswere deposited, and a magnolia tree that grew about ten yardsto the south-west. He gave me a diagram of the place, thecourses, and distances which he had measured accurately,marked in lines and explained in our mystic key. That paperI somehow lost in the famous Harvey battle.

So it was Wages left and went to his place. Now he and[Pg 93]his crowd were for themselves, and me and my crowd for ourselves.My crowd consisted of myself, and four brothers, JoshWalters, Jef. Baker and old McIntosh, our outside striker, torun stolen horses or a negro, when required. Our range wasfrom Mobile to Pascagoula, and from the Sea Coast to St.Stephen’s. We fed ourselves and families upon pork, beefand mutton, in abundance, and we sold enough in the marketto pay us from fifty to one hundred dollars per month—sometimesready butchered and sometimes on foot, during the summerand fall season. Those we sold the meat of, we generallystole in the vicinity of Mobile. Old man Wages had a farmon Big Creek Swamp, about twenty-five miles from Mobile, inrather an obscure place. That was our place of resort and deposit,and many a stolen beef and horse has been concealedthere until we could dispose of them.

We continued that business during 1845, 1846, and until thesummer of 1847. We had stolen a small drove of cattle outnear Chickasahay, and in driving them we gathered a fewhead near Mobile, belonging to old Moses Copeland. We soldthe cattle to Bedo Baptiste, who paid my brother Henry and Ifor them. We claimed them; Whinn, or Isham and Johnhelped to drive, but received none of the money. My brothersHenry and John, and Isham or Whinn, were arrested and tried.Henry was convicted of the larceny and served two years inthe penitentiary of Alabama. Whinn and John were acquitted;I took to the bushes. They did not catch me that hunt, and Ilay in the woods and was concealed among my clan the balanceof that summer, most of the time at old Wages’, on BigCreek, waiting for Gale Wages to come so as to make a settlementwith him, and to close my business and leave the country.

The time passed on slowly. I stopped all further operationsuntil I could hear from Wages and McGrath, and, lo! sometime late in the fall up rolled Wages and old Brown, and sureenough old Brown, as I had anticipated and expected, hadblown the whole concern. He had gone into the little town of[Pg 94]Gainesville and passed a few dollars of their money for somesmall articles of trade, where the old fool might have known hewould be detected; and sure enough he was. Now the nextstep was for him to get out of the difficulty, and when askedwhere he got the money, he said “from Bilbos.” They werearrested and brought up, and he swore it on to them, and theyhad to give bail to answer the charge of passing counterfeitmoney.

Bilbos then swore vengeance against Brown and Wages, whohad pulled up stakes and were leaving Hanco*ck county, andMississippi, too. The Bilbos pursued them, and passed themsome way; turned back, and the parties met suddenly on a smallhill. While one party ascended on one side the other partyascended on the other side, and both parties were within a fewpaces of each other at first view. Wages had the advantage ofthem; he had his double barrel gun well loaded and fresh capson; Bilbos had their rifles well loaded and fresh primed, butthey had a rag over the powder in the pan to keep it dry. Theserags they had to remove before they could fire. Wages immediatelyfired and killed one of them dead, and then fired atthe other before he could get ready to shoot and broke histhigh. From some cause Bilbo’s horse got scared and threwhim to the ground, and he immediately begged for his life. Atfirst sight of the Bilbos old Brown ran, so Wages said.

Now it was that Wages and Brown both had to make theirescape the best way they could. They came to Mobile, andthere they were on the scout, as well as myself. McGrath wasso well identified with them that he was watched very closelyabout Gainesville. He got into some corn stealing scrape, andbroke into Hanco*ck jail, and nothing but the gold or silverkey ever turned him out. He and Wages happened to havea little of that, and he and his wife then left Honey Island, andwere at Daniel Smith’s, on Black creek, in Perry county. Soit was Brown and Wages managed to get their families, andMcGrath and his wife back into the vicinity of Mobile sometime in November, 1847.

[Pg 95]

Wages and McGrath had very near got through with alltheir money. McGrath, in particular, had none, only as heborrowed. Wages had some, but had spent a large amount infeeding and clothing old Brown and his gang. Wages and hiswife remained on Big creek at the old man’s place, and I thegreater part of the time with him. Brown and McGrath moveddown on Dog river, near Stage Stand, pretending to burn coaland cut wood to sell, but they were in fact stealing, for theyhad nothing to eat and but little money. Brown had sold hispossessions in Perry county to Harvey, and had received all hispay but forty dollars. He had represented his land to be savedor entered land, when it was public land, and Harvey refusedto pay the forty dollar note, and that same pitiful note, andBrown’s rascality and falsehood cost Wages and McGrath theirlives, and Harvey and Pool their lives, and have placed mewhere I am.

Wages and I while on Big creek held a consultation as to ourfuture course. Wages then sorely repented any connection thathe ever had with old Brown, “and,” said he, “I intend to getaway from him, for I am fearful the old fool will get drunk andtell everything he does know.” We then concluded our bestway was for Wages to take his horse and cart, take old NielMcIntosh with him, and his wife and child, and start west andtravel in the vicinity of Pearl river; there leave his wife; takethe cart and horse and he and McIntosh to travel down Pearlriver till they came opposite Catahoula; then turn in and getour money, and cross the Mississippi river; send McIntoshback to let McGrath and I know where to find him, and for usto slip off and go slyly, and not let Brown know where we weregoing, “and,” said Wages, “if I can manage to rob old TomSumrall on my route and make a raise, so much the better.And you and your crowd may manage to make a raise here beforeyou leave.”

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The same day Wages and I were consulting thus, my brotherJohn Copeland came to bring me some clothes, and he informedme that it was reported that old Eli Maffitt held a large amountof money, and that there was a project on foot to rob him andburn his house the first good opportunity; that Maffitt hadtaken a contract to build a bridge in Perry county, and wouldshortly leave home, and that Eli Myrick was to let the partyknow what time Maffitt commenced the bridge and would beabsent from home. I then told Wages what was on foot. Hethen said “let me leave home about three days before, and Iwill try on the some night to rob old Sumrall and burn hishouse.” In a few days Myrick came down and told us thatMaffitt was up in Perry county, and would not be home in twoweeks. Wages immediately geared up, and started with hiscart, his wife and McIntosh. Three nights after that AllenBrown, McGrath, John Copeland and I went to Maffitt’s justafter dark, about seven o’clock, on the night of the 15th of December,1847. Eli Myrick did not go with us, because he saidMrs. Maffitt would know him too well, but he was in the secretand shared his part of the money.

On getting near, we stopped to consult as to the safest wayto get the money. Some were for robbing the house and notinjuring any of the family. That I opposed, for I never believedin leaving any living witness behind to tell what I had done, ifthere was any way to prevent it. I always thought that twopersons were enough to keep a secret, and it was safest if oneof them were dead, for dead witnesses give no evidence. Itwas agreed that we should go into the house and demand themoney, and if given up, to leave the inmates peaceably and unharmed.

John and I went in with a very stern look, thinking we couldfrighten the old lady, and make her give up every dollar that[Pg 97]was in the house. But we were as sternly and peremptorilyrefused. The old lady said that she knew nothing about themoney, and if she did, that we would not get it; we then toldher that we had come after money and that money we wouldhave before we left that house, or her life; and she still bravelydefied us. John Copeland had in his hand a large hickorystick and I had another. Perceiving that she was determined,and our only chance to get the money was to kill her, whilethe old lady and I were quarreling about the money, I gave mybrother John the wink, and he struck her a blow on the headwhich felled her to the floor. He repeated the blows, and Ihit her several blows. We were then certain that we had killedher. We then commenced plundering the house, in search ofthe money; and we ransacked the whole house from top tobottom, but the amount we did find was small. I do not rememberthe precise amount we got, but it did not exceed twohundred dollars, and to our great displeasure we afterwardsfound out, that there was a large amount of gold and silver inthe house at the time, that we did not find.

After we had plundered the house to our satisfaction, of allthe money we could find, and each one of us had his load ofthe most valuable articles about, we set the house on fire andburnt everything up, together as we thought with Mrs. Maffittwho we thought was dead, and we left with a full convictionin our own minds that she would be burnt in the house. WhenI afterwards learned that she was not dead, I often wonderedat her providential escape.

The gold and silver we had overlooked, was all melted, andI understood that Maffitt afterwards took it to Mobile anddisposed of it.

Wages, in his adventure, was not so successful as we were.On the same night, he and McIntosh camped near Tallahala,not far from old Sumrall’s and in the vicinity of Bryant Barlow’s.Barlow happened to pass their camp early in the nightand discovered Wages. He raised a company and got after[Pg 98]Wages, themselves and dogs, and Wages had to leave and takethe woods for home again. McIntosh and Wages’ wife turnedback for Mobile on the Big Creek place, where they all landedabout five days after. There we were all in the vicinity of Mobileagain; Wages had made a water haul and we had doneworse. Wages was laying out, Brown and myself were in thesame situation. It became necessary for Wages, McGrathand I to hold a private consultation, relative to our futureoperations, and to devise some plan to get rid of old Brown.We could see no way to do that, unless it would be to lie to himand frighten him to leave, which we did. Our next plan was tomanage to get our money from Catahoula, and deposit it about theBay of St. Louis, near the sea coast, where we could get it on aboat. Wages and McGrath were to attend to that matter, andI was to assist Brown over the Mississippi. So Wages went toBrown and told him that there was a reward for both of them,and said he, “I am going to leave, and you had better do thesame, for Maffitt has a crowd now on the look out for us.”Brown had but little money. He then enjoined it upon Wagesto take Harvey’s note and give him the money for it. Said he,“if he won’t pay the note you and McGrath kill the d——drascal.” So saying, Wages gave him the money for the note,and loaned him sixty dollars more, and then told Brown thatJames Copeland would go with him and assist his family totravel, while he, Brown, could dodge before and behind. Sothe matter was understood, and in a few nights Brown rolledoff and crossed Dog River at Ward’s bridge, where Wages, McGrathand I joined him; I took charge of the teams and family,and Brown took his rifle and to the woods, mostly in the daytime.We did not want for fresh meat; Wages and McGrathleft for Catahoula by way of Harvey’s, and crossed at Fairley’s;we crossed at Robert’s and old Green court house, andup Black Creek, on by Columbia, Holmesville and so on to themouth of Red River. After crossing the Mississippi, I loanedold Brown twenty-five dollars more, bid him good-by and returnedto the vicinity of Mobile. I was gone over four weeks.

[Pg 99]


On my way back I learned at Black Creek, of the death ofWages and McGrath. They had got into some difficulty withHarvey about the forty dollar note, and he shot and killed themboth. This news sounded in my ears like thunder; and so astoundedwas I that I lost for the time all my senses. However,after a little reflection, I began to think over my situation,and a thousand thoughts hurled through my brain. Almostinstantly, it seemed that every crime I had ever committedin my life was then pictured before my eyes and the awfulconsequences attending them. The object, for which I committedthem, was money; and it was now doubtful whether Ishould ever obtain that, or not. Upon further reflection, Irecollected that Wages had given me a diagram or map of theplace where our, now my money was hidden, and a directionof the course so that I certainly could find it. Stimulated withthe idea of being worth thirty thousand dollars, I began tocheer up and returned home.


The first thing was to procure my map or diagram, which Idid. I found all my friends grieving. The first word askedme by old man Wages and the old lady was: “What are yougoing to do, James? Are you not going to seek vengeance onthat Harvey?” Both then said to me, “James we will give youone thousand dollars for Harvey’s scalp, if you will kill therascal or have it done.” I then told them I would see someof my friends, and let them know in a short time.

A short time after that I received a notice to attend a meetingof the clan, at our Wigwam in the city, on a certain night.So I disguised myself and went into the city and attended, andin that meeting I met several officers of the city, such as constables,deputy sheriff, etc., who all told me not to be afraid;[Pg 100]that there would be no exertion to arrest me. There were anumber of resolutions passed commemorative of the demise ofour departed friends and brothers Gale H. Wages and CharlesMcGrath. After the adoption of these resolutions, I then raisedthe question before the meeting as to the propriety of takingup with old Wages’ offer; and after explaining that offer tothe meeting, it was unanimously approved; and I was nominatedto head and lead the band on that expedition, with powerto select as many, and just such men of our clan as I thoughtnecessary. So I selected Jackson Pool, Sam. Stoughton, JohnCopeland and Thomas Copeland. I selected them becausethey were good woodsmen, and I knew that Pool and Stoughtonwere brave.

After I had made the selection, I called them all togetherand we held a consultation. It was agreed that we would goand make the trial on Harvey; but that we must have five hundreddollars from old Wages in advance. I went to old Wages,and told him what was our conclusion. He hesitated at first,and offered to give us security that the money should be paidwhen we had done the job; I told him, “no! it was a dangerousundertaking, and we must be paid something to start with.”Finally, after consulting with his wife, he agreed to give us thefive hundred dollars. Our only business then was to prepareourselves with the best of double-barrel guns and pistols andbowie knives, with plenty of ammunition and percussion capsof the best quality, and thus armed and equipped we wereready for our journey.

Now I had a two fold object in view; that was, to go on toCatahoula, and search for my money, and for that purpose Itook with me my diagram or map. The old man forked overthe five hundred dollars, and we made ready for the start.

On Sunday morning the 8th day of July, 1848, we all set outfrom Wages’ place on Big Creek, where we had assembled forthat purpose. We had not traveled far before Thomas Copelandwas taken sick and turned back, at Dog River. We then[Pg 101]traveled on by Fairley’s ferry, the O’Neal settlement and byJames Batson’s to Harvey’s place. We traveled leisurely andcamped out every night. We did not stop at any house afterwe left Pascagoula, and we reached Harvey’s place early in theday on the Saturday following. I was well acquainted withthe place for I had been there with Wages and McGrath whenAllen Brown lived there.

We found the house empty, but from appearances we judgedthat the farm was cultivated. We saw signs of foot stepsabout the house and yard, from which we inferred that Harveywas in the habit of coming about there daily. Our nextbusiness was to prepare for action. We went into the houseand made many port holes on every side, so that we couldshoot Harvey, let him approach which ever side he would.Our next business was to examine around the premises for hispath, and place a sentinel there in ambush for his arrival.This sentinel was cautiously relieved every two or three hours,whilst the balance of us remained close inside or about thehouse, eating figs, peaches and water melons and destroyingmore than we eat.

In the afternoon we began to get hungry; I proposed to thebalance to go over to Daniel Brown’s, about a mile and getsome bread and meat for us all. Pool and Stoughton objected,and said, “there is plenty of green corn in the field; let usmake a fire and roast some of the ears and eat here.” I thenobjected, and told them that if Harvey discovered a smoke inthe house he would take the hint, and give the alarm, and thatwe should have the whole of Black and Red Creek down uponus. They still persisted, and Stoughton went into the field,gathered about twenty ears of the best and greenest corn andbrought them into the house. Pool went out and brought ina load of wood and made a large fire and they roasted theircorn.

That was precisely what betrayed us—the smoke issuingfrom the chimney of the house.

[Pg 102]

After the corn was roasted, we all eat heartily; John Copelandwas on guard; Pool took his place, and John came in and eat.A little before sunset it was Stoughton’s time to relieve Pool.My brother John proposed to Stoughton to let him relievePool, and for Stoughton to take the next watch around thehouse. So it was agreed, and Pool came to the house.


Awhile after sunset, Stoughton, Pool and I were sitting onthe gallery, talking very low, about the way we should have tomanage. We were fearful Harvey was not at home, or had leftthe country. Some of us were eating figs and some eatingpeaches. All of a sudden our attention was arrested by a largewhite fowl, which passed through the yard some fifteen ortwenty yards from us. It was a kind of fowl that I had neverseen before, nor had either of my comrades, as they asserted.It walked some ten or fifteen yards; we rose to get a moreminute view, and it took flight and ascended, until we lostsight of it in the distance. This seemed to strike Pool withterror and amazement, and he reflected a few minutes and said,“Boys, I shall be a dead man before to-morrow night! Thatis an omen of my death!”

Stoughton laughed and said to Pool, that if he was a deadman he would make a very noisy corpse; but Pool still insistedthat it was a signal of his death, and urged hard that weshould leave that place, and retire to one more secluded. “Idid wrong,” said he, “in making fire in the house.” We triedto laugh him out of his predictions, but all to no purpose; andsure enough, as he had conjectured, before the next night hewas a corpse.

Life and Bloody Career of the Executed Criminal, James Copeland, the Great Souther Land Pirate (1)

Just before dark, Stoughton went to where brother John wasstationed, and they both remained until after dark; they thencame up to the house, and Stoughton mounted guard. Allthis time Pool appeared to be in a deep study and had nothingto say, appeared dejected and low spirited. We all laid down,[Pg 103]except Stoughton, to try to sleep; I could see Pool and John;they could not sleep. The moon rose two or three hours beforeday, and I got into a doze several times and each time the mosthuge serpents would be after me, that I ever beheld. Thiswould waken me, and finally I got up and walked about; Ifound Pool was up. Stoughton said he could not sleep, andbrother John got up and said he could not sleep. We then consultedtogether and Pool was for leaving the place beforeday. Stoughton objected, and said, “Let’s wait until eight ornine o’clock in the morning; after Harvey gets his breakfast hemay come to the orchard for fruit. If he does not come bythis time, we may leave.”

Daylight made its appearance not long after that, and shortlyafter the sun rose, and poor Pool said after the sun hadrisen above the horizon: “How beautiful the sun looks thismorning; the sky looks so pure, clear and serene!” Poorfellow! It was the last sun that he ever beheld encircling thisearth.


The time passed on until between eight or nine o’clock.We were all out in the yard, eating figs and peaches; JohnCopeland all at once cried out: “Boys, there comes a youngarmy of Black Creek men!” We all dodged into the house.Pool seized his gun, and says, “boys take your guns!” I said tohim, “they will not trouble us; they are a company out hunting,and are coming in here for figs and water melons and otherfruit; they are not in pursuit of us!” “Yes they are,” saidPool, “and I will sell my life as dear as I can!” So saying heco*cked both barrels of his gun and pistol and eased his bowieknife in the sheath.

We had given no instructions, only to be silent and remainstill. They seemed to separate and go in different directions.On coming near the house, some one of their company hailedto the balance, “come on, boys, here they are!” “There!”[Pg 104]said Pool, “I told you so.” So soon as we heard this, we knewthat we had been discovered, and that it was to kill or bekilled.

I made my escape out of the house the first opportunity Isaw, dodged around a big fig tree, and looked back a momentat the house. Pool was standing in the door with his gun ata poise. Harvey came round the corner of the house, onPool’s right, and jumped into the gallery; Pool immediatelyfired, and struck Harvey in the left side. Harvey immediatelysquared himself and shot the contents of his whole load inPool’s side, and fell on the gallery. Pool stepped into theyard, and another man shot him in the breast, and he immediatelyfell dead.

At this moment Stoughton and John Copeland jumped outof the door and ran; I wheeled immediately as the crowdrushed around the house, and ran. At the report of the nextgun, the shot whistled all around my head, I then heard severalguns. It appeared to me there must have been five hundredat that moment; and I have no doubt that I made thebest running there that I ever made in my life before. In fact,it seemed to me that it was no trouble, that I never touchedthe ground, but flew over it.

After I had got a sufficient distance from the place, and foundI was not pursued by any of their party, I stopped to reflect tomyself, and wondered what had become of Stoughton and mybother John. Pool, I knew, must be dead, for I saw him fall,and the blood gush from the wound. I felt almost certain thatStoughton and my brother John were both killed also, from thenumber of guns I heard fired, as I thought.

It was then that I more seriously meditated on my situationthan I ever had done before, and wondered to myself what Ishould do for the best. I felt very sad, and thanked my Godfor my providential escape, believing that all the rest of mycomrades were in eternity. But after I had thus meditatedand reflected upon the past, I felt that I deserved death, when[Pg 105]all my crimes again stared me full in the face. I then formeda stern resolution within my own breast, that if God wouldpermit me ever again to reach my home, that I would refrainfrom all my evil ways, and become a Christian, believing thatGod had been merciful to me, in preserving me, and hurlingmy comrades and associates into another world.

After a while I became more collected and concluded I wouldgo over to Daniel Brown’s, who, I knew, did not live far fromthat place. I had been there but a short time when my brotherJohn came up, bare-headed, and mud above his knees, where hehad run through a muddy reed-brake. He called me to oneside, and in a few words he told me that Stoughton was notkilled, but Pool was, and that our enemies had left there. Hesaw them carrying Harvey away, and he thought Harvey wasdead; that we had better go over and do something with Pooland get Stoughton, and leave.

This was on Sunday, the 15th of July, 1848. Several personshad accidently happened in at Brown’s that day. I wentinto the house and told the company what had happened overto the other house, since I left; that there had been someshooting done, and that Pool was killed, and I expected Harveywas; that we were on our way to Honey Island, andstopped there for the night; and that I had come over toBrown’s to get some bread baked, and that it had all occurredsince I left; and that I would like to go over and do somethingwith Pool, and see if Stoughton was killed. A number of personswent with us to the place, some ladies among the rest.When we got there we found Pool lying dead. We laid himstraight on his back. I recollected that he had some money,and I soon sounded his pockets, and obtained one hundredand twenty dollars of the money I had given him. There wasa five dollar gold piece missing. I took all he had. As hehad other means, I knew that the money would do him nogood then. I went into the house and got John Copeland’shat, and went down to the side of the swamp and called[Pg 106]Stoughton, and he came out. We were then all together again,except Pool.

We gathered our guns, returned to Brown’s, eat dinner, andleft for home. But in the affray I had lost my memorandumbook, and in that book was the diagram or map and directionswhere to find the money which belonged to Wages, McGrathand myself; I hunted for it diligently, but could not find it.It certainly went in a very mysterious way, and I have oftensince thought that the decree of Justice forbid me enjoyingthat money.

After we left Brown’s that day, we traveled on the sameroute we had come. We slept in the woods that night, andnext day we got something to eat at Peter Fairley’s, and socontinued our journey on home, where we arrived on Sunday,the 22d of July, having been gone just fourteen days. Whenwe arrived, old Wages was highly pleased that Harvey waskilled, and he and the old lady very promptly settled with us.He paid us off with his place on Big Creek, in part, and thebalance in hogs, cattle, pony horses, carts and farming toolsand utensils. My father and mother, with the family, removedto the place.

In a very little while after that, the times began to be verysqually. Old Wages and his wife had to pull up stakes, taketheir negroes and leave the country, at a great sacrifice of theirproperty. I was already an outlaw; my brother John now becameone with me. Stoughton, like a fool, as he was, took ayoke of oxen, or some cattle, which he had received from Wagesin part pay for his services, to Mobile for sale. While there,he was arrested and put in jail, under the requisition of theGovernor of Mississippi, and conveyed from Mobile to Perrycounty, where he was tried and convicted twice. The firstconviction was reversed by the Appellate Court, and while inprison, waiting a second hearing, he died. So went anotherof our clan to eternity.

I still continued laying out and hiding myself from place to[Pg 107]place, fully intending to leave the country just as soon as Icould settle my business; and I even made several appointmentsof times that I would go, but some way, or somehow,there appeared to be a supernatural power which controlled myevery action, and I could not leave the vicinity of Mobile.

During that fall and winter my brother John and I madetwo trips from Big Creek to Catahoula to hunt for that money,and the last trip we made I was prepared to leave. BrotherJohn had left the principal part of his money at home, and hadto go back after it, and he prevailed on me to go with him. Wereturned to the vicinity of Mobile, where I loitered away mytime for some month or two, and it seemed that my mind insome way became confused and impaired, and I took to drinkingtoo much spiritous liquors. One day, some time in thespring of 1849, my brothers John, Thomas, Isham or Whinn,and I were at a little grocery store near Dog river, about twelvemiles from Mobile. I drank too much spirits and became intoxicated,and in that situation I imagined every man I sawwas trying to arrest me. I fell in with a man by the name ofSmith, an Irishman, and a difficulty occurred between us; Iconcluded that he intended to arrest me. I drew my double-barrelshot gun upon him and intended to kill him. He wastoo quick for me; he threw up my gun, drew his dirk andstabbed me just above the collar bone. The wound did notquite penetrate the cavity of the chest, or it would have killedme; I threw down my gun and ran about two hundred yards andfainted. My brothers then carried me about two miles, and oneof them went home and got a carriage and took me home. Smithwent to Mobile and told the news. A party came out andtracked me up by the blood, and arrested and carried me toMobile jail.

I was now in the worst situation I ever was in in my life.One indictment against me in Alabama for larceny, and anotheragainst me in Mississippi for murder, and the requisition ofthe Governor of Mississippi then in the hands of the officer to[Pg 108]carry me there to be tried. The question was which trial toavoid; if found guilty, as I felt certain I would be, in bothcases, one would be the penitentiary for not less than fouryears, and the other would be hanging. I employed the bestcounsel that could be procured in Mobile, and on consultingwith him and making him fully acquainted with all the facts, headvised me to plead guilty of the larceny and go to the penitentiaryof Alabama; “for,” said he, “you may stand somechance after your four years are out to make your escape fromthe clutches of the law in Mississippi. They may not think tofile their requisition with the Governor of Alabama in time,and in that event, when your time expires, you will be letloose.”

My trial came on before my wound was near well, and I wasbrought into court and arraigned, and the indictment read tome in open court. When asked “are you guilty or not guilty?”I plead guilty, after which my counsel addressed the court andprayed its indulgence in passing sentence, and that the termof punishment be made as short as the law would permit, whichwas accordingly done, and sentence of four years at hard laborin the penitentiary of Alabama was passed upon me.

I accordingly served out my four years at Wetumpka, Ala.,and all to avoid going to Mississippi to be tried for the murderof Harvey.

However, I did not evade the rigor of the laws of Mississippi.The vigilance of the Sheriff of Perry county threw a guardaround me, that secured to him the possession of my person atthe expiration of my time in the penitentiary of Alabama, and heimmediately transferred me to the county jail of Perry county,Mississippi.

I remained in the jail of Perry and Covington counties upwardof two years before I had a trial. I was found guilty ofmurder; and the sentence of death was passed upon me, andthe day appointed for my execution. Within eight days ofthe time the Sheriff informed me that my time was only eight[Pg 109]days, and that my rope, shroud and burial clothes were all ready.He then read to me the death warrant! My tongue nor pencannot express my feelings on that occasion during that dayand night. However, to my great joy, the next morning hebrought me the glorious news that the clerk of the court hadreceived a supersedeas and order to respite my execution, andcarry my case to the High Court of Errors and Appeals.

I cannot express my joyful feelings on receiving this intelligence.It removed that cloud of horror and despair, which waslowering upon and around me, and renovated anew my wholesoul. It was to me as a refulgent light from the sun of heavencast upon the dark and gloomy vale; but, alas, how ephemeralthat sunshine of joy and bliss! That fickle dame, Fortune,upon whose wheel I had so successfully floated in former days,finally brought me to the same point where I started.

I was, therefore, conveyed from the Perry county jail to theState penitentiary at Jackson, to await there a hearing of mycase in the High Court of Errors and Appeals, and remainedthere about two years. In the meanwhile my case was arguedbefore this Court, and the judgment reversed, and the causeremanded for further proceedings in the Circuit Court of Perrycounty.

[Pg 110]



At the September term of said Court, in the year A. D. 1857,on Wednesday of the term, it being the 16th day of the month,James Copeland was taken to the Bar of the Court and arraignedupon an indictment, found by the following Grand Jury at theMarch term, 1857, to-wit: John McCallum, Lemuel Strahan,John W. Carter, Allen Travis, Lewis H. Watts, James Chappell,G. W. Rawls, Wm. Jenkins, Peter McDonald, Malachi Odom,Joseph G. Young, James M. Bradler, Sr., Stephen Smith, Wm.Hinton, Edmund Merritt, Sidney Hinton, Joseph T. Breeland,Henry Dearman, Lorenzo Batson and John Fairley, Foreman—whichindictment was as follows:

Perry County.

In the Circuit Court of Perry County—At March Term, 1857.

The Grand Jurors for the State of Mississippi, summoned,empanneled, sworn, and charged to inquire in and for the Stateof Mississippi, and in and for the body of the county of Perry,upon their oath, present, that James Copeland, late of saidcounty, on the 15th day of July, Anno Domini, one thousandeight hundred and fifty-eight, with force and arms in thecounty of Perry aforesaid, in upon one James A. Harvey, thenand there being in the peace of God and the said State of Mississippi,feloniously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought,[Pg 111]did make an assault; and that the said James Copeland, a certainshot gun, then and there loaded and charged with gunpowder and divers leaden shot, which shot gun, so loaded andcharged he, the said James Copeland, in both his hands, thenand there, had and held, to, at, against and upon the saidJames A. Harvey, then and there feloniously, wilfully and ofthe malice aforethought of him, the said James Copeland, didshoot off, and discharge; and that the said James Copeland,with the leaden aforesaid, out of the shot gun aforesaid, thenand there by force of the gun powder, shot and sent forth asaforesaid, the said James A. Harvey, in and upon the left sideof him the said James A. Harvey, then and there feloniously,wilfully and of the malice aforethought of him, the said JamesCopeland, did strike, penetrate and wound, giving to the saidJames A. Harvey, then and there, with the leaden shot so asaforesaid, discharged and sent forth, out of the shot gun aforesaid,by the said James Copeland, in and upon the left side ofhim, the said James A. Harvey, a little below the left shoulderof him the said James A. Harvey, divers mortal wounds of thedepth of three inches, and of the breadth of one quarter of aninch, of which the said mortal wounds, the said James A.Harvey, from the fifteenth day of July in the year aforesaid,until the twenty-fifth day of July in the year aforesaid, languished,and languishing did live; on which said twenty-fifthday of July in the year aforesaid, the said James A. Harvey inthe county of Perry aforesaid, of the mortal wounds aforesaid,died; and the jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, dofurther present, that John Copeland, late of the county aforesaid,on the day and year first aforesaid, in the county of Perryaforesaid, feloniously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought,was present, aiding, abetting and assisting the said JamesCopeland the felony and murder aforesaid to do and commit;and the jurors aforesaid upon their oath aforesaid do say, thatthe said James Copeland and John Copeland him the saidJames A. Harvey, in manner and form aforesaid, feloniously,[Pg 112]wilfully and of their malice aforethought did kill and murder,against the peace and dignity of the State of Mississippi.

George Wood, District Attorney.

Upon this indictment was indorsed “A true bill signed, JohnFairley, foreman.”

At the September Term the following proceedings were hadin the case: “Be it remembered that there was begun and helda regular Term of the Circuit Court in and for the county ofPerry and State of Mississippi, at the Court House of saidcounty, in the town of Augusta, the place designated by lawfor holding said court, on the second Monday of September, inthe year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-seven,it being the 14th day of said month, present the Hon.W. M. Hanco*ck, presiding Judge of the 8th Judicial Districtof Mississippi, George Wood, Esq., District Attorney for thesaid 8th Judicial District, James R. S. Pitts, Sheriff of Perrycounty and James Carpenter, Clerk of said Court.”

State of Mississippi,}Murder.
James Copeland.

This day comes George Wood, District Attorney, who prosecutesfor the State of Mississippi, and the prisoner is broughtto the bar in custody of the Sheriff, and upon notice of theDistrict Attorney, a special venue for thirty-six free-holders, orhouse holders, of Perry county, and liable to jury servicetherein, ordered returnable to-morrow morning, at 8 o’clock;the prisoner, in his own proper person, waiving two days’service of a list thereof and a copy of the indictment, consentingthat it be returned at said time; and upon suggestion thatthe prisoner is insane, it is ordered that the Sheriff of Perrycounty summons twelve good and lawful men of said county,to be and appear before said Court on Tuesday morning at 8o’clock A.M., to take inquisition as to the case of lunacy, andtry whether the prisoner be of sound mind and understanding.

[Pg 113]

Tuesday Morning, 8 o’clock.

Court met pursuant to adjournment. Present as on yesterday.

State of Mississippi,}Murder.
James Copeland.

This day comes George Wood, the District Attorney, whoprosecutes for the State of Mississippi, and the prisoner isbrought to the bar, in custody of the Sheriff, whereupon comesa jury of good and lawful men, to wit: Porter J. Myers,Malachi Odom, Sr., J. M. Bradley, Jr., Darling Lott, MalcolmMcCallum, Angus McSwain, Q. A. Bradley, J. M. Bradley, Sr.,Wm. H. Nicols, W. C. Griffin, D. S. Sapp and James Edwards,who are regularly summoned, elected and sworn, and well andtruly to try an issue joined, ore tenus, whether or not the prisonerbe of sound mind, and whether he possesses sufficient intellectto comprehend the cause of the proceedings on thetrial, so as to be able to make a proper defense; or whether theappearance of insanity, if any such be proven, is feigned ornot; and the evidence having been submitted to them in thepresence of the prisoner, they retired to consider of their verdict,and in his presence returned the following, to-wit: “We,the jury, on our oaths, find the prisoner sane; that he possessessufficient intellect to comprehend the cause of the prosecutionon the trial, so as to be able to make a proper defense, andthat the appearance of insanity which he has exhibited, isfeigned.”

And thereupon the prisoner is arraigned on the charge ofmurder, as preferred by the bill of indictment; and upon saidarraignment, says that he is not guilty in manner and form astherein and thereby charged, and for the truth of said plea heputs himself upon the country; and the District Attorney inbehalf of the State of Mississippi doeth the like.

And thereon come the following good and lawful men ofPerry county, to-wit: Zebulon Hollingsworth, J. J. Bradley,John A. Carnes, Francis A. Allen, Wm. W. Dunn, Adam Laird,[Pg 114]who were regularly summoned on the special venue returnedin this case, and who in the presence of the prisoner are regularlytried and chosen between the prisoner and the State; andthe special venue being exhausted the Sheriff proceeded to callthe regular jurors in attendance at this term, and Daniel S.Sapp, Seaborne Hollingsworth and Francis Martin were in thepresence of the prisoner tried, and chosen between the Stateand the prisoner; and the regular jury being exhausted, theSheriff is directed to summon thirteen bystanders as jurors,and from the number so summoned as last aforesaid, Milton J.Albritton was in presence of the prisoner duly tried and chosenbetween the State and the prisoner; and the said thirteen personsso last summoned being exhausted, it is ordered that avenue issue, commanding the Sheriff to summon twenty goodand lawful men of Perry county, to be and appear before thecourt to-morrow morning at 8 o’clock, A. M., to serve as jurorsin the trial of the issue aforesaid, and the prisoner is remandedto jail, and John W. Carter is sworn as bailiff to take charge ofthe jury.

Wednesday Morning, 8 o’clock, September 16, 1857.

State of Mississippi,}Murder.
James Copeland.

This day comes George Wood, District Attorney, and theprisoner is again brought to the bar, in custody of the Sheriff,and also comes the jury whom yesterday were duly tried, chosenand taken between the parties; and thereupon comes James M.Pitts and John H. Holder, who were this day returned asjurors in the case, in obedience to the command of the venue,last issued on yesterday; who in presence of the prisoner areregularly tried, chosen and taken between the parties; and thejury so chosen, as aforesaid, are empaneled and sworn, in thepresence of the prisoner, well and truly to try the traverse uponthe issue joined between the State and the prisoner aforesaid,[Pg 115]and a true deliverance make according to the evidence; and theevidence is submitted to them in the presence of the prisoner,and the opening argument is heard, on the part of the DistrictAttorney and the further consideration of the cause is continueduntil to-morrow morning, and the prisoner is remandedto jail.

Thursday Morning, 8 o’clock, September 17, 1857.

State of Mississippi,}Murder.
James Copeland.

This day comes the District Attorney, and the prisoner isagain brought to the bar in the custody of the Sheriff, and theargument is resumed and concluded; and the jury are instructedby the Court at the request of the counsel, in writing, and thejury retire to consider their verdict. And in the presence ofthe prisoner return the following, to-wit: “We, the jury, onour oaths, find the prisoner guilty in manner and form ascharged in the bill of indictment;” and the prisoner is remandedto jail to await his sentence.


Friday Morning, 8 o’clock, September 18, 1857.

State of Mississippi,}Murder.
James Copeland.

This day comes the District Attorney, and the prisoner, whowas on yesterday convicted of the crime of murder, is againbrought to the bar. And thereupon the prisoner by his counselmoves the Court for a new trial, which motion was fullyheard and understood by the Court; and is by the Court here[Pg 116]overruled. And to the opinion of the Court in overruling saidmotion, the prisoner by his counsel here excepts:

State vs. James Copeland.}Murder.
Motion for New Trial of the Collateral.

Issue joined as to the sanity of the defendant, and his capacityto make defense in the charge of murder.

1st. Because the Court erred in refusing instructions askedby defendant and in granting those asked by the State.

2d. Because said verdict is contrary to law and evidence.

Taylor & Wilborn, for Motion.

And the prisoner being asked what further he had to saywhy the sentence of death should not be passed upon him, saysnothing in bar or preclusion. “It is therefore considered bythe Court, here, and is so ordered and decreed, that the prisonerbe taken hence to the jail from whence he came, and theresafely kept until the thirtieth day of October, in the year ofour Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-seven; and thatthe Sheriff take him thence on the said day, between the hoursof ten o’clock in the forenoon and four o’clock in the afternoonof said day, to the place appointed by law, for execution; andthat he, the said James Copeland, on the said day, between thehours aforesaid, be hung by the neck until he be dead.”

[Pg 117]



To the Sheriff of Perry CountyGreeting:

Whereas, at the September term, A. D. 1857, of the CircuitCourt of said county, on the fourth day of said term, JamesCopeland was duly convicted of the murder of James A.Harvey, by a verdict of a Jury chosen and sworn between theparties; and whereas, on Friday, the fifth day of said term, bythe order and decree of said Court, the said Copeland wassentenced to be hung by the neck until he be dead, on thethirtieth day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousandeight hundred and fifty seven, between the hours of ten o’clock,A. M., and four o’clock, P. M., at the place appointed by law.

These are therefore to command you, in the name, and bythe authority of the State of Mississippi, to take the body ofthe said James Copeland, and him commit to the jail of saidcounty, and him there safely keep, until the said thirtieth dayof October, and that on the said thirtieth day of October, betweenthe hours of ten o’clock, A. M., and four o’clock, P. M., ofsaid day, at the place appointed by law, you hang him by theneck until he be dead, dead, dead.

Given under my hand and seal, this, the 18th day of September,A. D. 1857.

[Seal.] W. M. Hanco*ck, Judge.

[Pg 118]


The day arose clear and beautiful on which the sentence ofthe law and of outraged humanity was to be executed on theman who had so often violated their most sacred behests. Thesky was blue and serene; the atmosphere genial; all naturewas calm and peaceful; man alone was agitated by the variousstrong emotions which the execution of the fatal sentence ofretributive justice on a fellow-man could not but create.

The place of execution was distant from the city of Augustaone-quarter of a mile. The gallows was erected on a beautifulelevation that was surrounded by the verdure of shrubby oakand the tall, long-leaf pine. The ground was everywhereoccupied by thousands of spectators, gathered from Perry andthe surrounding counties, to witness the solemn scene. It wasindeed one that they will long remember.

About the hour of noon, the prisoner, after being neatlyclad, was led from the jail by the officers of the law, placed inthe ranks of the guard formed for the occasion, and the processionmoved slowly toward the fatal spot.

Soon the doomed man appeared on the gallows. The deathwarrant was then read to him, and he was informed that hehad but a short time to live.

He proceeded to address the awe-struck and silent multitude.He especially urged the young men present to take warningfrom his career and fate, and to avoid bad company. His misfortunehe attributed principally to having been misled whileyoung.

When he had concluded, a number of questions were askedby the immediate spectators, in relation to crimes which had[Pg 119]transpired within their knowledge; but he would give no directanswer—shrewdly eluding the inquiries.

Life and Bloody Career of the Executed Criminal, James Copeland, the Great Souther Land Pirate (2)

The Sheriff then asked him, in hearing of many lookers-on,if the details of his confession, previously made to that officer,were true. He replied that they were.

His hands were then tied and the cap pulled over his face,and he was told that he had but a few moments to live. Heexclaimed, “Lord, have mercy on me!” and he was prayingwhen the drop fell, and a brief struggle ended his blood-stainedcareer.


John McCullum,
Lemuel Strahan,
John W. Carter,
Allen Travis,
Lewis H. Watts,
James Chappell,
G. W. Rawls,
Wm. Jenkins,
Peter McDonald,
Malachi Odom,
Joseph G. Young,
Jas. M. Bradley, Sr.,
Stephen Smith,
Wm. Hinton,
Edmund Merritt,
Sidney Hinton,
Jos. T. Breeland,
Henry Dearman,
Lorenzo Batson,
John Fairley, Foreman.


Wm. Johnson,
Chancey B. Stevens,
Wm. Laudman,
Gibson Waley,
John Anderson,
Wm. C. Griffin,
Moses Fullingam,
Laoma Batson,
Jas. Batson,
David Dubusk, Sr.,
Jefferson Williams,
David Dubusk, Jr.,
Wm. Griffin,
Peter Fairley, Sr.,
Peter Fairley, Jr.,
Alexander Fairley,
Sampson Spikes,
Westley Spikes,
W. H. Nicols,
John Fairley, Prosecutor.

[Pg 120]


J. Baker,
C. W. Moore,
W. W. Ratlief,
G. Buskings,
J. Harper,
J. Bowings,
J. W. Westly,
J. Whitfield,
J. Whitlom,
J. Porter,
J. Butler,
J. Hopkins,
J. Harper,
W. P. Hobs,
W. C. Whelps,
Jasper Whitlow,
E. Sharper,
T. Powell,
J. Doty,
D. Doty,
S. S. Shoemake,
J. Gillet,
W. Brown,
J. Taylor,
S. Teapark,
J. Pool,
John Copeland,
T. Copeland,
Henry Copeland,
Wm. Copeland,
J. Elva,
H. Sanford,
R. Cable,
J. Hevard,
G. Daniels,
G. H. Wages,
C. H. McGraffin,
Chas. McGrath,
J. Welter,
G. Welter,
A. Brown,
D. Brown,
N. McIntosh,
E. Myrick,
J. F. Wright,
J. Dewit,
W. Ross,
W. Sanferd,
J. McClain,
S. Harden,
J. Harden,
J. Waters, Jr.,
G. Clealand,
— Moulton,
— Overall,
G. Young,
Thos. Hix,
J. Alfred,
J. Kelly,
A. Watson.

Note.—If the guilty should not, by any means be screened,yet if positive doubts exist, the suspected should have thebenefit of such doubts. Accordingly the initials to the namesof Moulton and Overall have been omitted; as the jury on“trial” expressed doubts as to what particular parties Copelandreferred to in the names given. There are many by thesame name, and even part of the same initials, yet have noaffinity in anything else. It is said that “public sentiment isseldom wrong, and never wrong long;” therefore with all thecirc*mstances before it, it is requested that the public will approachthe subject with an unprejudiced mind, and decidefaithfully and justly to all parties concerned.

[Pg 121]


(Written the night before his Execution.)

Augusta, Mississippi, October 29th, 1857.

Mrs. Rebecca Copeland:

My dear Mother—It is with painful feelings indeed, that Iattempt writing to you on the present occasion. I take thisopportunity, knowing at the same time, that it is the last oneof the kind which I shall ever be permitted to enjoy while hereon earth. It is long and much that I have suffered while inprison since my first confinement in Mobile county, and yet itseems as though nothing will pay the debt but my life. I havehad my trial and was convicted upon a charge of murder, andI have received the awful sentence of death. The sheriff toldme to-day, that to-morrow at 2 o’clock I will be hanged, accordingto the order of court. Oh, my dear mother, what anawful sound is this to reach your ear. Oh, would it could beotherwise; but you are aware that I justly merit the sentence.You are knowing to my being a bad man; and dear mother, hadyou given me the proper advice when young, I would now perhapsbe doing well. It is often I have meditated on this subjectsince my confinement in prison, and often have I recollectedmy good old father’s advice when I was young, and repented athousand times over, with sorrow and regret, that I have failedto receive it as good, benevolent advice. If such a course I hadtaken, I have no doubt, but what I would be doing well at thistime. But it is too late now to talk of things past and gone.The time has come when I shall have to take my departurefrom this world, and it pains my heart, to know that I have toleave you and my brothers and sisters; and much am I mortifiedto think how distantly you have treated me while here inprison. Not the first time have you been to see me; but I canfreely excuse you for all this, and I do hope you will prepare tomeet Jesus in Heaven.

Dear Mother, long has the time been that life was not any[Pg 122]satisfaction to me. I am now in the dungeon with the coldand icy bands clasped around me, and cold as clay. Muchhave I suffered, but after two o’clock to-morrow, my troubleswill all be over, or worse than they are at present. This I amnot able to tell. I have been preparing to meet my God, prayingdiligently for mercy and for the pardon of my sins, but Ido not know whether my prayers have been heard or not.—TheScriptures say “that the spirit of the Lord shall not alwaysstrive with man,” and again say: “he that calls upon the Lordin the last hours shall be saved.” If so, I feel some spark ofhope, but I tell you this hope is hanging upon a slender thread.

Dear Mother, it makes the tears trickle down my cold checksto have to pen this statement to you. Dear Mother, I have toclose this letter. My heart is overflowed already, so when youreceive this, you can keep it as a memorial, and remember thatpoor Jim is no more on earth; that he has bid you a longfarewell.

Dear Mother, it appears as though my heart will break at thevery thought of this. Oh, could I but see you once more beforemy death, it would give my aching heart some relief; butwe have to part without this pleasure.

Now my good old Mother, I bid you a long farewell, foreverand forever.



Used by the Copeland and Wages Clan, in their secret correspondenceand documents.

Life and Bloody Career of the Executed Criminal, James Copeland, the Great Souther Land Pirate (3)

[Pg 123]




The organization of the Wages and Copeland Clan embraceda diversified talent of an extraordinary grade in different departmentsof operations. It commanded some of the ablestability belonging to the bar and the medical profession, withother agents who could be hired or engaged for temporaryassistance. It requires more than a cursory contemplation toanything like a full comprehension of the lengths, and breadths,and depths of its vast theaters of operations. Many, perhaps,not admitted to the council and secret conclaves of theorganization, could be engaged for a stipulated sum to performimportant services in defense and protection of its active members,who might inwardly condemn its pernicious fields of operationsagainst the best interests of society. Whether suchconduct can stand the test of reason and argument it is forothers, with the reader, to determine. The worse the case thericher the fees for the lawyer, and so of the medical profession.As frequently happens, the lawyer scruples at nothing to wina victory for his client. In some places this course is fashionable[Pg 124]and not at all odious. As long as the attorney keepshis defense within legitimate bounds, and avails himself ofevery lawful opportunity for the advantage of his client, no well-balancedmind can be disposed to censure, because on the otherside, the prosecution will do the same. But when foul andcorrupt means are resorted to; when the most vicious and depravedof actions are brought in play to screen the guilty andmake crime respectable, then it is that public sentiment shouldbe loud against such abominations, no matter whether againstthe medical or legal profession, or against any other class whocan be brought to perform the services of infamy.

The period betwixt the imprisonment and execution of JamesCopeland, three parties from Alabama came and settled in Perrycounty, Miss., one in, and the other two about Augusta. Thesethree performed their part so well—so concealed and reservedas to pass for gentlemen in the highest degree respectable. Butfew, if any, had suspicion until afterward of their object toassist the captured in escaping the last penalties of outragedlaw.

One of the three, who settled in Augusta; a skilled doctor andsurgeon, behaved himself so well in every respect—on all occasionsexhibiting a winning and an affable deportment—everybody’sfriend with the most lavish of generosity—sparing noexertions to gain the confidence and admiration of those inpower and of influence; this is the man who proposed to thesheriff the plan to save the life of James Copeland. Thisproposition was made betwixt the time of his conviction andexecution. The particulars are as follows:—The doctor to thesheriff: “There is now a fine opportunity of making one thousanddollars in gold, providing that you will act in concert with mein permitting certain things to be done before the execution ofCopeland.” There was something so bland, so expert, and sograceful in the conduct of the strange doctor as to make himfriends wherever he went. He insinuated himself into theconfidence of the sheriff; and when the proposition was made[Pg 125]for certain things to be done before execution, for and in considerationof a thousand dollars, the curiosity of the sheriffcould not be otherwise than powerfully excited to learn allparticulars of the plan in contemplation, and, accordingly, sofar indulged or humored the beginning so as to obtain thewhole of what was then behind. The doctor continued, andgave the name of him who had a thousand dollars to pay forthe preservation of the life of Copeland; and to be done in thefollowing manner, secure from exciting any suspicion whatever.The doctor to the sheriff: “Allow me about half an hour beforethe time arrives for your taking him out of jail to the place ofexecution, to go in under the pretence of shaving and dressinghim suitably to the solemnity of the occasion, during whichtime I will perform an operation in tracheotomy by insertinginto the trachea, or wind-pipe, a small silver tube sufficient forthe admission of air into the lungs to keep up some degree ofrespiration, so that when he shall have hung the allotted time,he can be cut down and by an extension of the tube, he canbe so buried as to prevent the extinction of life; which, as soonas convenient, he can be disinterred and so cared for by artfulmeans until the recovery so far progress as will enable him tosuccessfully escape.”

The sheriff listened to all this with a smile, and treated thewhole as rather a plausible romance than a possible reality;but firm to the duties of his office, he yielded not to the temptation;yet to maintain good faith as to what transpired beforethe proposition was fully made, and for prudent considerationsin regard to his own safety, he has refrained from publishingthis narrative at an earlier date, because conscious that thepublic interests, though delayed, would best be served by sodoing in the long run.

Shortly after the execution of James, John Copeland, thebrother of the former, was arrested, brought to the same jail,and tried in the same case, and for the same crime of murder.

The State was represented by George Wood, Esq., and the[Pg 126]defence by Wirt Adams as principal. Both sides labored hardand wonderfully skillful. The argument of the latter occupiedabout three or four hours in delivery. The evidenceagainst John Copeland was quite as strong as against his convictedbrother, but the juries were of different material. Thethree strange immigrants from Alabama, who then had recentlysettled in and about Augusta, managed to get on the jury.This was not hard to do, as the county had pretty much beenexhausted before to get an acceptable jury not disqualified bysome objections brought forth. When the jury retired, thethree here referred to, having the most ingenuity, lead the otherremaining part, the consequence of which was a verdict ofacquittal. This verdict aroused the indignation of the publicboth far and near—murmurs everywhere, and satisfaction nowhere.So irritated were the populace that, in all probability,the life of Copeland would have been taken by violence thenight after his liberation, but for the timely notice given himfor immediate escape.

The following morning he was heard from as being seen onthe opposite side of Leaf river, about thirty miles belowAugusta, in the direction for Pascagoula river. It is supposedhe went almost direct to Angelina county, Texas, where hismother and family settled after leaving Mississippi.

But little time had elapsed after this before the Sheriff ofPerry received a letter from Col. Pickering, of this (Angelina)county, warning him of the necessity of being on his guard—thatThomas, another brother of the Copeland family, had leftthat vicinity for Mississippi; and, according to the general beliefthere, with a design on the life of the Sheriff; but althoughhe passed through the county of Perry, by the way of BlackCreek, to Mobile, Alabama, yet if he made any secret movementfor the assassination, he never knew it.

The Copeland family, in Angelina county, instituted a formidableprosecution against Col. Pickering, but his receptionof the pamphlet containing the confession, caused the District[Pg 127]Attorney of that place to dismiss the prosecution, and for thisthe Copeland family was heard to swear vengeance against theSheriff who had published them; therefore, well taken werethe grounds of fear entertained by Col. Pickering. Immediatelyafter the acquittal of John Copeland, the three strangeimmigrants left for parts unknown.


An organization may soon come to naught, even thoughfounded on principles in every respect sound, healthy and legitimate,if the individuals composing it are defective in brainsand energy, the exercise of which are essentially necessary forcontinued existence. But an organization, based on the contraryof such principles, may continue for years to perpetratethe darkest of human atrocities—spreading terror or devastationboth far and wide, if its members, or the leaders, possessthe mental force requisite to plan, to command and to executeaccording to the proper definitions of skill, disguised treachery,and firm intrepidity brought to bear against the less suspecting,but the more honest members of society.

The unfolding of the character of S. S. Shoemake will revealall the traits of vice, of meanness, of guilt, and of all whichcontributes to the perfection of human treason and perfidy.

Some of the most masterly strokes of guile and consummatedeception are to be found in his John R. Garland letter andthe subsequent circ*mstances with it connected. The ancientJudas fell very far short in comparison with this modern specimenof cruelty, of plunder, and of hypocritical imposture.A marauder, a being destitute of honor, pride or principle,and the very incarnation of all that is vile and abhorrent. Thisis the man whose character, to some extent, will next be unveiledin detail.

But a short time elapsed after the publication of Copeland’sconfessions until a letter, signed John R. Garland, was received[Pg 128]by the Sheriff of Perry county, making inquiry aboutS. S. Shoemake and two others by the names of J. and D.Doty—all implicated in Copeland’s confessions. This letter,as will afterward be shown, was written by Shoemake himself,and was mailed at DeKalb, Kemper county, Mississippi, thesubstance of which will next be given:

DeKalb, Miss., October —, 1858.

J. R. S. Pitts, Sheriff Perry County, Miss.:

Dear Sir—As I feel very much interested in the future welfareof this immediate section of our country, and am desirousof ascertaining the names of all men of degraded character,so far as practicable, who might chance to live among us, andmore especially those characters as represented to you byCopeland, in his recent confessions as a united band of landpirates, which fact has been apparent with me for some yearspast of the existence of such a clan throughout our entirecountry. And believing that we have some of the same charactersresiding within our midst, I thus communicate in confidenceto you, trusting that you will be kind enough, on thereception of this, to answer the same, and inform me whetheror not the names of S. S. Shoemake, and two other men here,J. Doty and D. Doty, are the same persons as implicated byCopeland in his confessions to you.

So far as the former character is concerned, there is no doubtexisting in the minds of the people here but that he belongs tosome secret clan. His conduct, and every action through life,go to establish this conclusion. He spends the greater portionof his time away from home, and at times is absentfrom home for months, none knowing here anythingof his whereabouts. And in this way, to the mysteryof every one, he makes his peregrinations throughout thecountry, but whether near or distant is unknown to us. Frequentlyafter having been absent until the community wouldbegin to wonder and ask the question as to the cause of suchcontinued detention, as well as the actuating motives for so[Pg 129]much of absence, but none can give any solution—none anyintelligence in reference to him. To say the least, there isgreat suspicion mingled with much curiosity.

Generally when he returns home from making those protractedjourneys, he manages so as to arrive some time during thenight, bringing with him droves of horses, mules, and sometimesmore or less negroes. After his return, the first thing that isknown of him, he is seen in the grog-shop bright and early inthe morning, waiting the arrival of the bar-keeper for his morningbitters. In this way he seems to be continually whilingaway his time—claiming to be acting in behalf of a State committee.On meeting this person, S. S. Shoemake, one that isnot personally acquainted with him would not for a momentsuspect anything wrong, for he is calculated by his affable deportment,on first acquaintance to make a very favorable impressionon the mind.

As we feel much interested in this vicinity relative to thismatter, I trust that you will, on receipt of this, give us the desiredinformation above asked for, as there is no favor withinyour power that you could at this time extend to us that wouldbe received with so much gratitude.

When addressing your communication, you will please remembernot to direct to me, but simply address your letter tobox, No. 27, DeKalb, Kemper County, Mississippi.

I make the above request in order that my designs may notbe frustrated—also, you will please suffer no person to see thiscommunication.

Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain,

Very respectfully,

John R. Garland.

This extraordinary letter elicited the following reply:

Augusta, Mississippi, ——, 1858.

John R. Garland, DeKalb, Miss.:

Dear Sir—I am in receipt of yours bearing a recent date,[Pg 130]asking me for information relative to certain characters withinyour vicinity. Giving three names, you wish to know if theyare the same persons who were implicated by Copeland in hisconfession to me.

In answer, at the time of writing the confession, I could havelocated all the parties given me as members belonging to theWages and Copeland clan, but did not at the time deem it expedientto do so, because believing that the people in the differentsections of the country wherever they might live would bevery apt to know them from their general character. Butfrom the description you give of S. S. Shoemake, and fromone memorable remark that Copeland made at the time he gaveme this name, I am constrained to favor the opinion that he isthe same person as both he and yourself have pointed out.

Very respectfully,

J. R. S. Pitts.


But a short time intervened after the correspondence untilShoemake himself suddenly made his appearance in person atthe door of the parlor in which the sheriff at the time was engagedin reading. In reaching so far, Shoemake hadpassed the outer gate, fronting the street, unnoticedby the watch-dog, or by any of Hon. Drewry Bynum’s familywith whom the sheriff was boarding. Shoemake boldly openedthe parlor door, and, after a graceful and dignified salutation,next inquired if the sheriff was present. Being answered inthe affirmative, he was then invited to walk in and take a seat,for which he returned the usual compliments of civility. Hisnext expressed wish was to retire to the sheriff’s office, whichwas situated within a few paces of the dwelling-house—all enclosedwithin the same yard, as he had communications to makeon official business. Both retired accordingly, when, as soon[Pg 131]as properly seated, Shoemake drew from his breast-pocket alarge document, written in a beautiful style and evidently preparedwith great care and taste. This instrument of writingwas produced to show his authority from the Probate Judgeof Kemper county to pursue and apprehend a certain personnamed and described, for stealing eleven negroes belonging tominor heirs of said county. This instrument of authority wassoon detected as counterfeit—not having the legal impress—thecourt seal of the county from which it pretended to have emanated.This fact, in connection with the introduction of hisown name, very properly put the Sheriff on his guard as tosubsequent movements which were to follow. Shoemake continuedto the effect that the thief, from the direction in whichhe had been traveling, would be more than likely to cross atthe junction of Bowie creek with Leaf river, which is situatedabout twenty miles above Augusta. Shoemake further addedhis belief that the thief was making for some point on the seashoreat or near Mississippi City, and that he had called on theSheriff to accompany and assist him in the capture. To thisapplication the Sheriff peremptorily refused, remarking at thesame time that the Probate Court was then in session, and thathe could not be absent for the period of time necessarily requiredin a task of this sort without material injury to businesstransactions and the duties of his office. To this unqualifiedrefusal Shoemake sat for a moment in a silent pause. If theSheriff himself could not accompany him, he had no desire tohave any of the deputies with him.

Appearing very much disappointed in this object to decoy offthe Sheriff, and feeling satisfied that all further attempts in thisdirection would prove abortive, he all at once exhibited a differentphase of countenance, and in a jocular manner slapped theSheriff on the knee, remarking at the same time, “How orwhere did you get my name associated with the CopelandClan?” The Sheriff answered, “Why, my dear sir, do youacknowledge the name as recorded in Copeland’s confessions as[Pg 132]belonging to you?” Shoemake made no direct reply, but observedthat the people about where he lived were endeavoringto saddle the reflections on him, and that the same was havinga very deleterious effect against him. This being so, he requestedof the Sheriff, as an act of favor or kindness, to havehis name erased, or disposed of in some other way, such aswould remove the odium attached, and that he believed theSheriff to have the power to do all this with propriety. TheSheriff was a little startled as well as excited at such an absurdproposition, and quickly replied to the following effect: “Yourrequested favor cannot be performed. The matter has altogetherpassed out of my hands, and it is utterly beyond mycontrol to make any changes. I have only given publicity tothe confessions of Copeland, and if he has wrongfully implicatedany one the remedy is by an action of law, or better still, by acounter statement supported by the testimony of those whoseveracity cannot be doubted.”

Shoemake, discomfitted in his own case on this point, thenreferred to a correspondence betwixt himself, George A. Cleavelandand others, all of whom were implicated in the pamphletcomplained of, and said, from all the information he couldgather, unless something was done to relieve the complainantsthe Sheriff would be sure to have more or less trouble fromthat quarter. The reply made was pretty much to the sameeffect as in his own individual case—no hope of success as faras the Sheriff was concerned.

The next question brought forward was an inquiry about acommunication from some one at DeKalb, Miss., concerninghimself. He was answered in the affirmative to the effect thatsuch a communication had been received. “Very well,” saidhe, “will you be so kind as to let me see it?”

“I cannot,” replied the Sheriff, “and for this reason, thatthe author of it made a special request not to let any personsee it; consequently I cannot without a breach of good faith, doviolence to the request made and involve myself in difficulties,[Pg 133]when all can be so easily avoided.” This reply did not satisfyhim. He again solicitously pressed for inspection, urging thatsome d—d rascal had been writing about him, and that he believedit was one by the name of White. He was informedimmediately that no person by that name had ever sent anycommunication whatever, and that he was certainly laboringunder wrong impressions in this particular.

He utterly failed to get to see the communication in everyeffort made for this purpose. The effects were visibly markedon his countenance. Rage and anger, despair and disappointment,with all other of defeated passions, seemed to flit overhim in rapid succession; but without any representation inwords—only rising with a farewell, such as appeared to theSheriff ominous of something else, and anything but pleasantin his judgment. After leaving the office he remained in Augustabut a very short time, and when about leaving the placealtogether he was heard to say that he would some day meetthe Sheriff “at the hatter’s shop.”


For some five or six weeks after his departure the Sheriffheard nothing more of him; at the expiration of which time hereturned in company with a man by the name of Gilbert, thoughin reality supposed to be one of the Copeland family. Thistime he bore a requisition from the Governor of Alabama tothe Governor of Mississippi for the body of the Sheriff; andstrange, and to this day mysterious as it may appear, the requisitionwas granted.

Some few days previous to the arrival of Shoemake and hisassistant, the Sheriff had left Augusta for the Mississippi Soundon a journey to make arrangements for hymenial considerations.Learning the facts of his absence, they set about gatheringall the information they could from negroes and the lesssuspecting class of others relative to his whereabouts and theanticipated time for his return. Having got the information[Pg 134]wanted, forthwith they started in pursuit—traveling the sameway by which he was compelled to return to Augusta. It iscalled the Mississippi Cut Road—better known by the name ofthe Allsberry and McRae railroad. It runs on range line eight,from Augusta to Mississippi City—all the timber on this linebeing cut and cleared away some thirty-five years ago. Itfailed of completion, it is said, through the dishonesty of oneor more on whom the responsibility devolved; and the onlyrelic now remaining is a good dirt road, for the benefit of thepresent traveling community.

On this road, not a great distance from Red Creek, there isan extensive morass, which has been cross-wayed for publicaccommodation, which otherwise would be impassable on horseback.When Shoemake and his assistant arrived at this placethey remained, according to the statements of persons in theneighborhood, one or two days in ambush, stationing themselvesone on each side of the cross-way, evidently with a designto prevent the Sheriff from seeing either until he had advancedsome distance on it, then to close in upon him from bothdirections, which would have prevented any earthly chance ofescape by any other way—the morass is of such a nature as toswallow up in any other part.

Life and Bloody Career of the Executed Criminal, James Copeland, the Great Souther Land Pirate (4)

At last becoming impatient, they decided to move on towardthe Gulf; and, accordingly, stopped at Red Creek for the nightfollowing. But, let it be borne in mind, that they so arrangedas to remain at different houses, one on the north, and theother on the south side of the creek, so as to be certain not tomiss the Sheriff on his return by that way. The houses wherethey stopped at for the night were near the ferry—kept for theaccommodation of travelers. If the Sheriff had left the coastthat morning, as anticipated by the two, he, according to theday’s ride, would have been almost certain to have reached oneof the houses here referred to, as no other suitable place nearcould have been found, which would have brought him in directcontact with the pursuers. But by being detained that[Pg 135]morning at Mississippi City, he did not leave in time to reacheither place where they were staying, and he of necessitystopped the night in question with an old gentleman by thename of Byrd—about fifteen or twenty miles from the ferry.This old gentleman had been a resident of that section ofcountry for a great number of years, and was well acquaintedwith Wages and McGrath; also with the truth of many of theincidents as related in Copeland’s confessions.

After the usual breakfast hour next morning, the Sheriffavailed himself of the earliest opportunity to resume his traveltoward Augusta. On his way, some ten or fifteen miles distantfrom where he that morning started, to his great surprise, hesuddenly came in contact with Shoemake and his colleague.They were seated within a one-horse buggy, with another veryfine animal fastened to it, and with saddle and other necessariesready for the rider in case any emergency might occur.They all met together on the top of a little hill, quite steep,with such other circ*mstances attending as obstructed sightuntil in quite close contact. The place of meeting was notmore than fifty paces from an occupied dwelling house. Thisfact was, no doubt, the main cause of preventing them frommaking, perhaps, a fatal attack. The meeting was as of perfectstrangers, though, in reality, each side knew the otheragain. The Sheriff well knew Shoemake, and, from his uneasycountenance, as well as the countenance of the other withhim, the Sheriff was satisfied that they knew him.

He having passed, as he thought, a sufficient distance beyondtheir view, he increased the speed of his horse to a rate ofabout eight or nine miles an hour for the remainder of the day,which carried him some fifty miles or more from the spot ofmeeting. He was fully impressed with the idea, at the time ofmeeting, that they were in pursuit of him for evil and dangerouspurposes, which idea was fully confirmed by informationgathered that day on travel as to their very suspicious conductat different points of progress; however, in his heart, he was[Pg 136]thankful that he had so far made his escape. His rapid travelonwards for that day was lonely indeed—passing through awild, desolate region of country, but very sparsely populated—formiles not a human being to be seen; stock in abundance oneither side of the road, with here and there frightened deer atseeing him, as it were, flying through space for safety and repose.Night fast coming on, with exhausted fatigue fromexcessive exercise, and beginning to despair of reaching homethat night, he resolved on going to the house of a well-knownfriend, J. T. Breeland, situated a distance from the highway,and had to be approached with the convenience of a by-path.He succeeded in reaching this house in time for late supper.Here he met with all the accommodations that heart coulddesire. Luxuries plenty, conversation agreeable, with a welcomenesswhich must ever be appreciated, and more than this,consolation afforded when most needed. The next was retirementfor sleep, but little of sound repose was enjoyed; theghastly scenes of the clan were before his eyes, with strugglesfor existence betwixt him and his pursuers.

Early next morning, an ample breakfast having been supplied,he, after having received many kindly admonitions fromhis friend by way of strict caution, left, and reached home,Augusta, about ten o’clock next morning; and about twelveo’clock, only two hours later, Shoemake, with his colleague,also reached the same place.

Immediately on their arrival, he made every preparation forbattle, determined to repel force by force if that was their object.But collision was prevented by a timely notice from Hon.Wm. Simmons, to the effect that they had authority from theGovernor of Mississippi for his arrest, and that he was atliberty to see the same.

In obedient response to this exhibited authority, Shoemakeand his colleague were informed that if they would wait asufficient length of time to make ready with a number offriends for protection to accompany, he would have no objection[Pg 137]whatever to going with them. Their polite answer cameto the following effect: “That if desired, they would wait anyreasonable length of time to enable him to have all the convenienceswanted.”

The news and circ*mstances connected with his arrest spreadthroughout the country with almost the speed of electricity.In many instances the reports were very much exaggerated—causingmany persons, on the spur of the moment, to becomefuriously incensed, to such an extent as to threaten the mostformidable results of desperation; and but for his appeals fororder and due process of law, the most fatal acts of violencemight have been committed.

Within a period of three or four days, he had so arrangedhis business as to be in entire readiness for departure, and sogave notice accordingly. Punctual to the time, he, with abouttwenty volunteers, mounted and well equipped for protection,when arrangements were made for immediate departure forMobile, Alabama, all leaving merrily, and soon reached theplace of destination. Arriving at the Lafayette House, keptby a Mr. Fulton, in the city of Mobile, all fared while therevery sumptuously.

As early as practicable the next morning, the Sheriff went tothe office of Hon. Percy Walker, to procure his professionalservices. This object being accomplished by a compensatingfee of five hundred dollars. The next thing to be done wasfor his counsel to ascertain the amount of the several bonds tobe given as required by law. This task was quickly over, thebonds satisfactorily given, and he was immediately released.These last incidents transpired about or near the middle ofJanuary, 1859; and the City Court was to open on the 23d ofFebruary, following, allowing thirty or forty days to preparefor defence. But before continuing in the connected order,some comments are necessary on what has preceded already.

[Pg 138]


A character so infamously conspicuous as Shoemake’s is,should not ordinarily be passed over. It should be thoroughlyunderstood so far as his diabolical conduct is known; and this,in all probability, is only a small part of his treacherous andbloody career. Well might James Copeland remark to theSheriff in prison: “This said Shoemake is a big dog amongus.” The foregoing reports of Shoemake’s operations are notall; he will again be introduced as playing a distinguishedpart on the subsequent trial of the Sheriff, and when he willthere be pointed out as the main witness for the prosecution,with his oath invalidated, and the worst features of perjuryattaching; these, in conjunction with the facts established ontrial, sufficiently proved him to be the author of the “John R.Garland letter.”

The human machine, as a whole, because of common appearance,does not strike the attention with that force which isessential to a full comprehension of the grand and mighty workproduced by an invisible and inscrutable agency of an unseenpower. It is dissection, analyzation, and physiological researcheswhich only can reveal the wonderful structure andastounding recovery of the human system. Shoemake’s vastfields of diversified operations—mixed, complicated, and clothedin every external form of delusion, when viewed as a whole,but a very imperfect idea can be reached of this covert andmonster man. Dissection and analyzation are necessary. Themain-springs of his movements must be brought to light. Theveils and curtains must be torn away so that the internal workingsof his soul can be seen.

Let the reader go back to the time of his writing the JohnR. Garland letter. There will be found a master-piece of dissimulation.Under a fictitious signature, he describes himself,in some particulars of crime and lawlessness, with astonishingaccuracy. He gives instructions for the reply to be sent without[Pg 139]name to a numbered box in the post office, at DeKalb, under thepretensions of favoring the spread of the printed “confessions”and of dealing heavy blows against Shoemake—the most desperateof human characters.

Some two or three weeks after, this followed by his visit inperson to the sheriff of Perry county. Here, suddenly andunexpectedly, he reaches the door of the apartment wherethe sheriff was seated, unnoticed by the watch dog or by anymember of the family. Opens the door and puts on the airsof gentlemanly civility. Pretends to have important officialbusiness, so much so as to require secrecy in the sheriff’soffice. There exhibiting high authority, but feigned and spurious,for capturing a renowned thief, who had succeeded in gettingaway with eleven negroes; and wants the sheriff to accompanyhim on such an important expedition over roads wile anddesolate. Failing in this object, he next introduces the subjectof his own, the John R. Garland letter, and said it had beenwritten by a d——d rascal by the name of White—urging withall his powers of solicitation to see the letter, but without success.He furthermore attempts, by all the arts of sophistry,to induce the sheriff to make changes in the “confessions,”and, failing in this, then tries the weapons of intimidation bydeclaring that trouble more or less must fall on the sheriff ifsomething were not done to relieve George A. Cleaveland andothers in Mobile.

The reader perfectly understanding the above, must certainlycome to the following conclusion, that Shoemake had a threefoldobject in view by this visit to the sheriff. First, and themost preferable, was assassination, and, if no opportunity offeredfor this in his office, to get him off, under false pretensions,on solitary and dreary roads for the better accomplishmentof the same. Secondly, to get hold of the John R. Garlandletter, which he knew must be very dangerous in anyother hands but his own. Thirdly, to publicly kill the sheriffand the “confessions” by inducing him to make changes.

[Pg 140]

Shoemake when next he appeared in Augusta, it was on a differentmission. This time, he was armed with real authorityfrom the Governor of Mississippi for the arrest of the sheriff.But finding him absent, he assiduously and very ingeniouslysets to work to gather all possible information as to his whereaboutsand the time for his return. This done, in hot pursuithe makes his departure for the seizure of his object. Hetravels forward with alacrity until he reaches an extensivemorass; then, with his colleague, ambushes both sides of it,for a day or two, so as to close in from both ways, if opportunityafforded, on his object, and make escape impossible—readywith a convenient horse for any emergency which might occur.Despairing of meeting with the sought after prize, onward hegoes until he reaches the ferry—the distance of a day’s ridefrom Mississippi City, where he expected another opportunityfor getting hold of the man he wanted—so arranges as forone to remain on each side of the ferried river—again renderingpassage impossible without discovery. Again disappointed,onwards he proceeds, and in a short time comes in contactwith the person in pursuit of, but in such a situation as to marhis purposes at that point. They pass, both sides knowingeach other. He travels a short distance forward—then turnsback after his object, who has fled at the rate of about eight ornine miles the hour—succeeds in reaching Augusta only twohours behind his object. Then makes known his mission ofarrest—seeing the tremendous public excitement prevailingwhich threatened his existence, politely agrees to wait a reasonablelength of time for his nominal prisoner—four days waitingfor in making preparatory arrangements to have a sufficientprotective force to accompany, when all set out for Mobile—herereached, then, the sheriff in the buggy with him, thendrives rapidly down one street, up another, and round the cornerswith a velocity that kept some three or four of the protectiveforce in a gallop to keep up with the speed.

The reader will once more draw his own inferences. He will[Pg 141]plainly see that the principal aim again was assassination asthe better method among outlaws of disposing of troublesomepersons. The lying in ambush for one or two whole days onboth sides of the morass, on both sides of the next river, thehurried rapidity of the return to overtake the sheriff beforereaching Augusta, and the last effort to get clear of the “protectiveforce” in the city of Mobile by forced speed through complicatedstreets; all these facts in connection are plain to theunprejudiced mind as to the ultimate object in view. Indirectlycorroborative, there is another fact, which will be further noticedin the sequel, to the effect of one by the name of CorneliousMcLamore from Kemper county, an important witness ontrial, who crushingly and effectively broke down the testimonyof the said Shoemake, but in all probability his life paid theforfeit; for McLamore from that time to the present has nevermore been heard of—his remains likely burnt or buried in somedismal swamp—another victim to the vengeance of the “clan.”

Shoemake, the big dog among the band, this is the man,this the agent from the Governor of Alabama, from the Governorof Mississippi, employed to execute the highest of delegatedState authority! If the then Governor of Mississippican reconcile the rectitude of such action to his mind, the publicis very far from approving the same. At the time the pressfrom almost every quarter was loud in its denunciations againstthe conduct of the Governor. He must have known that theextensive ramifications of the Wages and Copeland Clan hadproduced a reign of terror almost everywhere, and he mustalso have known that the “confessions” had done more for itsdismemberment and final dissolution than anything else; thenwhy did he attempt to play into its expiring hands, againstpublic sentiment and justice, when the imputed but misnamedcrime of publication was done in New Orleans, La., and theauthor, who had only committed the “confessions” to paper,residing in Mississippi, and more especially while hundredswere satisfied of the truth of the narrations? However, from[Pg 142]these revelations, the fact is made patent that wealth and a fewdistinguished persons can wield mighty influences against reasonand justice; against common sense and the best interestsof society.


The order of events will now be continued consecutively fromthe time of the Sheriff giving bond and being released. Beforethe opening of the city court he was left with thirty or fortydays to prepare for defense, during which time he visited OceanSprings and a few other watering places on the MississippiSound, remaining a few days at Shieldsboro, now Bay St. Louis,and there made acquaintance with old Mr. Toulme and twoother prominent gentlemen, who informed him that just afterthe publication of Copeland’s confessions they took a copy ofsaid work, and made a visit out to Catahoula swamp, in thatcounty, in quest of the buried treasure referred to in the saidconfessions as having been deposited there by the clan for safekeeping. The map of this depository was lost during thefamous Harvey battle, near Red Creek, in Perry county. Thesegentlemen informed him that they found the place as describedby Copeland, and that every tree and line of demarcation asdelineated in his description of the place could not have beenmore accurately given. They stated that there were threeplaces of deposit, showing that in time there had been threekegs buried, which, from every appearance, indicated as thoughthey might have been removed some eight or ten years prior tothat time. The old keg staves and iron hoops were still remaining,and the perfect impress made by the burial of thesekegs still existed, with a grown lining of moss which time hadbrought forth; on the whole exhibiting quite an antique appearance.

There has been much speculation and curiosity manifestedamong many as to who was the fortunate person who foundthis buried treasure. Let it be remembered that the Harvey[Pg 143]battle occurred in some part of the year 1848. The descriptionand mystic map of the place in connection with this treasurewas lost in the time of this battle. Until the “confessions”were published in 1858 the public knew nothing about theburied money, but when they come out curiosity and opinionran to an extensive height. Now this information was given tothe Sheriff by one living in that section of country when thecollision happened. He told him that a few days after the“battle” he found an instrument of writing which he couldneither read nor in any way understand, and the same with allothers around who saw it. To them it appeared more of awonder and “puzzle fool” than anything else. He kept it byhim for the sake of holding something partaking of mysteryand curiosity. But having business some short time after inthe city of Mobile, Ala., he carried this mystic paper alongwith him to this place. While there one evening on the streetshe met with some of his former acquaintances. Thinking thatthis curiosity would amuse, he exhibited it for common inspection,and while examining and discussing the same, one bythe name of George A. Cleaveland came up to peep, and requestedto examine more minutely, when, after looking for awhile, he folded it up in a very careless manner which thenfound a place in his pocket, remarking at the same time thatit did not amount to much anyway, and walked off.

The person who brought this paper, not being aware of itsvalue, did not care enough about it to make any objections tohis carrying it away with him.

But the new possessor, in all probability, fully understoodthe mystic lines contained in it, and soon turned them to signalaccount. From rather a pecuniary condition of embarrassmentat the time, as the Sheriff has been informed, he very soonafterward made an advertisem*nt through the public journalsof the city, expressing a desire to purchase twenty able-bodiednegroes and the like number of mules and drays, all of whichhe bought accordingly in a short time afterward, and more; andfrom that time to the day of his death remained independent,[Pg 144]all the while increasing rapidly in wealth and external prosperity.




An error—a fault in the working of a machine, or in physicaloperations generally, is soon discovered and admits of verylittle discussion, as to whether all is right or something wrong.Too much friction, a cog broken, or some other mechanical defectin mechanical construction, and the machine will soonstop; and so of physical movements; a disease or some radicaldefect in the constitution is soon discovered by bad painsand bad health; and if no recuperative remedy can be applied,the consequence will soon be a death stoppage. But in themoral world, the difficulties are far greater and more extensive.Immaculate truth and unmixed error are soon acknowledged,but when deeply blended together, ages may elapsebefore any considerable or healthy progress can be made. Inphysical science, and in mechanical discoveries, the progresshas been prodigious; but it is a question very much open todispute, whether the world is now purer, better, and happierthan it was three thousand years ago, notwithstanding thecenturies of statesmanship and legislation. In physical realities,all appear to hail improvement with a welcome satisfaction,and gladly receive truthful discoveries, no matter fromwhere they come, as if immediately experiencing a direct andgeneral interest in all such demonstrations; but it is far morecomplicated in moral phenomena. Effects, either for good orevil, require a longer time for development, and are subject toinfluences from far more numerous and intricate causes, less[Pg 145]capable of demonstration, and less capable of determining theshare each exercises in the production of compound effects.Two persons may be equally honest, equally able, and equallydesirous for the common good of the nation; but they willhotly dispute as to the proper means to be applied for this end;but if the opinions or theories of each could be immediatelyput to the test, and the results at once seen as in mechanicaloperations, a very different state of society would soon exist.If we could have a process of analyzation in moral transactions,so as to make the deformities of separated error at oncemanifest, and so with respect to the beauties of immortaltruth, we might indulge a well grounded hope for rapid conqueststoward the perfection of mankind.

Life and Bloody Career of the Executed Criminal, James Copeland, the Great Souther Land Pirate (5)

Differences in organizations and in education, with vast extensionsof clashing interest; these, when properly directed,may be rather a blessing than otherwise; but when allowed torun into the wildest excesses without any restraint whatever,the evils must be frightful in the train of consequences. Theexcessive philanthropist is on for freedom, and will sacrificeevery other consideration for the success of his ardent object,regardless of the reacting forces of despotism. The creatureof inordinate ambition does not stop to consider who is rightand who wrong—down with every obstacle in his way, that hasa tendency to impede his ultimate design. The theologicaldevotee prefers his own denomination to all others—his ownall right—the rest all mixed up with much objectionable error.The individual who has made so much wealth, and attained toso great a height of pecuniary prosperity by means, no matterwhether fair or foul, desires no change, even though it may befor the benefit of tens of thousands—his own individual orconventional interest will have more value in his estimationthan the interests of united millions in conflict. Generally,those who have risen to honors, distinctions, and emolumentsby the vicious elements in society, will spare no exertionswhich talent and wealth can command for the perpetuation of[Pg 146]the same circ*mstances of public wrongs. But, it is true,where there are freedom of thought and action, public vicescannot accumulate beyond a limited extent before conflictinginterests and passions will bring on the appropriate or temporaryremedy; yet the victors not unfrequently, ere long, runinto as wild excesses as their erring but fallen predecessors!so then it would appear that revolutions only amount to achange from one sort of excesses to another equally as pregnantwith evils. Yet in spite of all these apparently vain andoscillating circ*mstances, there are underlying movements atwork in the nature of occult causes driving on nations to eitherdissolution or a better and more enduring form of government.

If a government is so defective that it cannot sufficientlyprotect life and property; if its conduct is so fickle and uncertainas to destroy confidence and stability in the future,convulsion, decay, and death must inevitably come if the organicabuses are too great to admit of any other remedy.

Untempered liberty is worse than despotism; it is barbarism—mightreigns and not right. All the passions of licentiousnessare let loose, and the many weak are lawful prey forthe few strong.

The idea which commonly prevails as regards frequency ofelections being the effective remedy for all abuses of government,though plausible, is sophistry and the height of fallacyaccording to the lessons which experience have taught. It isall very easy and fine to contend for short terms of elections—allvery captivating to contend that if one officer well performshis duty, he can either retire into private life with all the gratefulhonors of his country, or, for meritorious services, he canbe re-elected for another term, all of which is the most powerfulincentive to do right, and, at the same time, the mostformidable barrier against intentional wrong. But what doesexperience loudly proclaim? “For the short term you will bein office, make all you can, scruple at nothing, laugh justice in[Pg 147]the face, trample on the principles of rectitude, and you will beadmired in the present and immediate future only as a consummatepolitical trickster which may, without shame, be imitatedby other succeeding actors. But if you mean to be honest,and tender of just rights and claims, with a desire for the commongood of your country in rewarding meritorious servicesand encouraging the sources of true national prosperity, youwill only be laughed at for your folly.” These constant elections,as it were, open the store-houses for a general scramble,for a wordy warfare of frothy declamation, for abuse and misrepresentationof all the nobler traits of human nature—makingvirtue a crime and fashionable vices respectable. The mostexpert in business of this sort, are generally the successfulones in the contest. Before the excitement of one election isover, another more intense begins. Under present circ*mstances,no one can calculate with any reasonable probabilityof continuance of the present form of government beyond aperiod of four years while there is no security for keeping wildand inflamed passions within proper bounds.

Correct public sentiment, when free to choose, is apt to havea government of the same nature. Is it public sentiment thatforms the character of government, or government which formsthe character of public sentiment? Both of these considerationsmay be true. It is quite possible to conceive how a fewintelligent and well-meaning persons, commanding a sufficiencyof power, can improve the character of a nation; and underother circ*mstances, vice versa.

We want a government sufficient to restrain the strong andprotect the weak. We want a government competent to makegood laws, and strong enough to execute them. We want agovernment determined to protect life and property, so that industrycan be encouraged, and a confidence in the permanentstability of it maintained. We want a government that willpurify the bar, and give a judiciary of competency and integritysuch as will grace and adorn the bench for “its disposition to[Pg 148]do justice to all.” We want a government resolved to inflictpunishment and stamp with enduring disapprobation any leagueor infamous association for the triumph of crime, no matter howdistinguished or wealthy its members may be.

The particulars of the trial now to be given, is a striking illustrationof the league for the triumph of wrong, in which notonly the executive heads of several States were concerned, butalso other high officials in power, with more of distinguishedpersons in different capacities.

As the caption states, their triumph was only in name. Theretribution of truth and justice is sometimes tardy in execution;but, longer or shorter, it is sure to come. Nearly fifteen yearshave elapsed, since this trial terminated, and the public hasremained uninformed to this day of the more important featuresconnected with it. This long silence has favored the continuanceof wealth, power, and the honors of office for the prosecutors;while the defendant was unjustly brought to the vergeof ruin by the enormous expenses attending the trial. Thephases are now being changed—one side going out and theother coming in—one recovering strength and the other experiencingdecline and fall with reference to the future—consequenceswhich should immediately have followed the trial, forif justice could be forthwith done without so much expenseand delay, the evil perpetrators would soon come to an end;or, at least, would soon become diminished in numbers.

As stated in another place, the interval betwixt the times ofgiving bond and trial amounted to near forty days. Onepart of this interval was devoted to making preparations fortrial; the other part was consumed in visiting on the coast witha view to gather such information as might be of interest afterwards.The information as to the discovery of the place ofdeposited money in Catahoula swamp is one link in the chainof circ*mstances which attest the truth of the “confessions;”another is the finding of the mysterious map in a few daysafter the famous Harvey battle, which is in perfect agreement[Pg 149]with another part of the said confessions, together with thesingular circ*mstances in connection, which were the means ofGeorge A. Cleaveland getting possession of the map, withother subsequent circ*mstances showing the strongest of probabilitythat he not only understood it, but also succeeded ingetting the buried gold from Catahoula swamp.

But the opening of the city court and the time for trialwere near at hand, and the sheriff or defendant, had toleave the coast hurriedly to repair forthwith to Mobile.He arrived there some two or three days prior to the openingof court. He there found considerable anxiety andexcitement prevailing on the subject. A number of collectedfriends from distant parts of Mississippi were there to be presentand hear the trial, which was the general theme of conversationand speculation everywhere. Fortunate for thedefendant, he arrived in time to summon quite a number of importantwitnesses, who were accidently in the city from variouspoints on the line of the Mobile & Ohio railroad attending arailroad meeting. DeKalb, Kemper county, was well representedin this meeting. The delegates from this town all beingmen of moral worth and of superior intelligence; J. H. Gully,P. H. Gully, H. C. Rush, A. B. Campbell, Cornelius McLamore,and the illustrious J. S. Hamm, then presiding judge of hisdistrict, all from the above named place. In DeKalb, S. S.Shoemake had resided for a number of years, and these gentlemenfrom the same place were very valuable as witnesses inthe estimation of the defendant; and, of course, he had themsummoned without delay right on the ground.


The Clerk of the City Court of Mobile has twice been appliedto for particulars, or for a copy of the records of the trial.In his first reply the present Clerk freely confesses the recordsof the case to be misty, suspicious, deranged, and altogetherunsatisfactory, without venturing any further opinion on the[Pg 150]matter. In his second reply he confesses in still stronger terms,if possible, of the confusion of the records; important papersnot on file; much missing; more deranged, and very hard, withany amount of application of labor to make anything of valueintelligible for rigid comprehension—one case, Shoemake’s,entirely disappearing from the docket, and no circ*mstances oraccount left to show the cause for the same.

In substance, here follows an extract from the Clerk’s replies:“I find by the Clerk’s indorsem*nt, that in the November term,1858, the Grand Jury found bills for four cases of libel againstJ. R. S. Pitts, and four indictments were framed accordingly inthe same term. They are found docketed, numbers 61, 62, 63and 64, to be prosecuted severally by G. Y. Overall, C. F.Moulton, G. A. Cleaveland and S. S. Shoemake. There are fourappearance bonds for six hundred dollars each, dated January25, 1859. The writ of arrest is dated January 15, 1859. Butthe indictments are all missing. There is nothing here on fileor on record showing any action of either the Governor ofAlabama or the Governor of Mississippi with respect to theprocesses for arrest. The case number 64 has entirely disappeared,and no trace left to account for the same. In the Februaryterm, 1859, the trial of J. R. S. Pitts commenced on the23d, continued through the 24th, and on the 25th was given tothe jury, who on the 2d day of March rendered a verdict imposinga penalty of fifty dollars, to which finding the Courtfurther ‘ordered that the defendant be imprisoned in the commonjail of the county for the space of three months, and onthe non-payment of the fine and costs that he be further imprisoneduntil discharged according to law.’ The case triedmust have been that of Overall, 61, the papers of which haveentirely disappeared, as I cannot find them on file. The tworemaining cases, numbers 62 and 63, were continued from termto term until February 28, 1863, when a forfeiture of bond wastaken against the defendant and his sureties, Colin McRae andJames H. Daughdrill, and then continued through several terms[Pg 151]to 21st of March, 1864, when judgment final was entered, andexecution issued, which execution was ordered to be returnedby the Commissioners of Revenue on the payment of all costs,the costs being paid by said Daughdrill said execution was returned.The matter remained in this condition until January,1867, when the defendant and his sureties were finally releasedby the Commissioners of Revenue.

“The names of the Petit Jury who tried the case are Wm. B.Hayden, James B. Post, George Mason, George M. Brower,Edward Guesnard, John R. McBurney, W. H. Marchan, HenryT. Eatman, Walter L. Young, Benjamin F. Hunt, John A.Bevell and Wm. H. Vincent. The only witnesses I can findany record of are the prosecutors for themselves. The attorneysfor the prosecution were R. B. Armstead, solicitor, andAnderson & Boyle, while Manning and Walker appeared tohave conducted the defense.

“Imperfect as this history of the case is, it has cost me muchsearch and labor to collect from the disconnected, confusedand garbled materials left me for reference. The whole affairis a myth.”


This communication from the City Clerk of Mobile is valuablein more points than one. In another place he states thatthere is in his office on file an affidavit from Shoemake relativeto the prosecution. The nature and subject of this affidavitwas not inserted in the Clerk’s communication. Why this affidavitof Shoemake’s as one of the prosecutors, and none to befound from any of the other three prosecutors, is a profoundmystery. Again, affidavits before Grand Juries, in connectionwith prosecution for libel, surpasses ordinary comprehension.The missing of so many papers, and the derangement of allothers, might be charged to the neglect or carelessness of thecustodian, the then Clerk, but how can the legerdemain disappearanceof Shoemake’s name from the trial docket be accountedfor? No reasons—no cause for the same can be found![Pg 152]The present Clerk is bewildered, and can give no explanationon the matter. Such being the case, is it not reasonable topresume that the leaders of the prosecution then controlled thefiles and records of the office to suit convenience? Prosecutionfoul in the commencement needs props, subterfuges and mysteryin every stage of progress.

But the most impenetrable darkness of all is, Shoemake’sname being found on the trial docket as one of the prosecutingparties. The order in which they stand on the docket is casesnumber 61, 62, 63 and 64, corresponding with which the prosecutorsare G. Y. Overall, C. F. Moulton, G. A. Cleaveland andS. S. Shoemake; and in agreement with the same, four appearancebonds are found. The question now for solution is, didShoemake really get a bill from the Grand Jury of Mobile atthe November term, 1858, along with the other three? Thefiles and records show that he did. Now let it be borne inmind that this man was the agent to bear the requisition fromthe Governor of Alabama to the Governor of Mississippi forthe arrest of J. R. S. Pitts. Let it also be borne in mind thatJ. R. S. Pitts is positively certain that he never gave any bondto cover the case of Shoemake—only three, Overall, Moultonand Cleaveland’s; and that before receiving the Clerk’s communication,he never knew that Shoemake was one of thedocketed prosecutors; but he did learn during the time of histrial, that Shoemake tried to get a bill in the February term,1859, and signally failed. Choose either end of the dilemmaand the difficulty is not at all obviated. If he did get a bill, therascality is equally manifest. To go to Mobile, Ala., to prosecutewhile he was a resident of Mississippi, and J. R. S. Pittsalso a resident of this State, is utterly incomprehensible in anyother light than a flagrant outrage on every principle of lawand justice. If he did not get a bill, the files and records showforgery of the darkest hues. So, then, from whatever stand-pointthe whole affair is viewed, atrocity and corruption of themost aggravated character stare the impartial inquirer in theface from every direction.

[Pg 153]

As before seen, the trial opened on the 23d of February,1859. The indictments were for libel in three cases as the defendantunderstood the same. The prosecutors, first, G. Y.Overall; second, C. F. Moulton, and the third, G. A. Cleveland.As it had been previously arranged by them on the Statedocket, the defendant had first to answer the charge of G. Y.Overall. Had he been placed the last on the docket, the prosecutionwould have, in all probability, signally failed in everycase; and even this first case, with all the deep-laid designs inconnection, would have been a failure but for the extraordinaryresources for the forcing of a verdict by foul means.

The design here contemplated is only to give a brief abstractof the more momentous features of the trial, because the wholegiven, would be inopportune in a condensed work of thisnature.


As before noticed in another part of this work, S. S. Shoemakewill again be introduced as playing a very conspicuouspart, not only on trial, but also before the Grand Jury, whichwas organized for the then present term of the City Court.

Notwithstanding the “records” to the contrary, the followinginformation was given to the defendant, at the time of histrial, by one of the jurors himself. Shoemake, although anold resident of Mississippi, the defendant also a resident ofthe same State, and the work complained of published in NewOrleans, Louisiana, yet he, with audacity enough, went beforethe said Grand Jury to get another bill for libel in favor ofhimself and against the defendant, but was sadly disappointed.This Grand Jury had had more time for thought and reflectionthan the preceding one, and peremptorily refused his application.Had he been unjustly injured, his redress would havebeen from the juries of Mississippi; but he had penetrationenough not to make any efforts of this nature in Mississippi,well knowing that his character was too well-known here to succeed[Pg 154]in making juries subservient to his dark purposes ofcrime and dissimulation.

On the day of trial, the counsel for the defence availed himselfof the earliest opportunity to make application for furthertime, on the grounds of absence of material testimony, butwithout the desired effect; the Court over-ruled the application,and both sides were ordered to proceed to trial instanter.

While the Sheriff of this court was calling in witnessesfor the prosecution, the name of Bentonville Taylor was particularlynoticed by the defendant. This man, as was afterwardlearnt, had been conveyed by the clan from Williamsburg,Mississippi, and appeared quite unexpected on the part of thedefence. His knowledge about the case then pending, couldhave been but very little or nothing at all, and was evident toall who were more conversant with the facts, that his presencethere was not in behalf of justice, but for sordid objects ofpecuniary gain.

The first witness brought to the stand by the prosecutionwas S. S. Shoemake. He came up with an air of boldness andmajesty not easily described. Calm, deliberate, and with anexternal appearance of the perfect gentleman, he gave his testimonywith elegance and beauty of language, almost sufficient“to deceive the very elect.” His testimony, such as it was,was pretty much confined to a pretended conversation betwixtthe defendant and himself during the journey together whileunder circ*mstances of arrest; to the effect that the defendanthad confessed to him that the names given in the life of Copeland,were not at all reliable, and that the authenticity of thework was entirely valueless. This pretended conversation waswholly a concocted fabrication of his own to serve the ends ofthe prosecution. But the character of this man in a few moreminutes elicited, will satisfy the reader as to what amount ofcredit his testimony was worth.

His then uninterrupted evidence being given, the next ordealwas his cross-examination by the counsel for the defence. The[Pg 155]envelope alone, which at first contained the John R. Garlandletter, was handed to him with this question asked: “Did youaddress this envelope?” After looking at it for a while heanswered: “I believe this to be my hand-writing.” He wasnext asked if he had at any previous time addressed a letter orcommunication of any sort to the Sheriff of Perry county,Mississippi. He answered that he had no recollection whateverof addressing a letter to the Sheriff of Perry county,Mississippi, who was then seated at the bar before the Court.The John R. Garland letter itself was next handed to him,with the request to state to the Court and Jury if he was thewriter of said letter, which had been written and mailed atDeKalb, Mississippi. Here Shoemake hesitated and falteredconsiderably; and, in a moment, seemed to be fully consciousof the complete wreck before him. A transition so suddenfrom the heights of promising success to the most forlorn andabject condition of reverse, was too much for him to surmount.In this instance, he manifested a great reluctance to, or desireto evade giving a direct answer, but being forced by the Courtto give a definite reply, he answered at last with emphaticwords that he was not the writer or author of the John R.Garland letter. Now, for the succeeding and successful conflictingtestimony.

The witnesses who had been previously summoned, werenow called forth to testify to the hand-writing of the John R.Garland letter, as well as to the general character of S. S. Shoemake,as to whether or not his being a man of truth and veracity.After examining the letter, several of them expressed,according to the best of their knowledge, that the hand-writingwas S. S. Shoemake’s; and also, from his general character,they could not believe him on oath. But another witnesscalled for and introduced, Cornelius McLamore, gave stillstronger and more decisive testimony. No man could havehad greater facilities for thoroughly understanding all aboutShoemake than Cornelius McLamore. He, without any doubt[Pg 156]whatever declared the hand-writing to be, undoubtedly, S. S.Shoemake’s, and that he for another could not believe him onoath.


This is the same gentleman treated of in another place, whoso mysteriously disappeared the evening after the trial, and,from that time to the present, has never more been heard of.Whatever fate he met with, no one has ever been able to tell;but from all the circ*mstances connected, it must be almostcertain to the thinking mind of all that he was cruelly murderedby the conspiring clan, who had so long maintained asad career of blood and revenge, with all the practiced modesof concealment.

The following is an extract from a letter dated DeKalb, May21st, 1871, written by a prominent gentleman and ex-Sheriffof the county in which the town of DeKalb is situated:

“There has never been any person living in the county bythe name of John R. Garland. Mr. McLamore has never beenheard of since the time he was a witness in your case, duringthe month of February or March, 1859.”

Two powerful motives predominated for the termination ofhis existence. The first, the unrelenting revenge for the crushingdefeat he gave to others, and particularly to Shoemake whileon the witness-stand. And secondly, to prevent an indictmentfor perjury against Shoemake; for it will be remembered thathe swore positively to the hand writing of Shoemake, who hadimmediately before denied the same on oath in open court.These two considerations, together with having just sold hiscotton, the money for which he had then in his possession, willaccount for his presumptive murder. No one could betterunderstand the hand writing of Shoemake than Cornelius McLamore,for, as the defendant has been authoritatively informed,the former was during some time book-keeping for thelatter.

[Pg 157]


Shoemake, the first witness for the prosecution, had madesuch a wretched failure that no efforts were made to bring inthe other witness from Mississippi of the same character, BentonvilleTaylor. The prosecution next introduced two witnessesfrom Columbus, Miss., and one by the name of G. W.Overall, all to prove an alibi, and that G. Y. Overall was positivelyresiding in another place at the time referred to in Copeland’sconfessions. This testimony was satisfactory and unobjectionable;but, as will be shown in further progress of thetrial, did not in reality invalidate the confessions in any materialpoint whatever.

The examination and cross examination of the different witnesses,with the arguments of the opposing counsel, occupiedthe Court for about two days; and had G. Y. Overall’s objectbeen nothing further than the establishing of his own innocence,he might have succeeded commensurate with his ownunbounded desire; but what was he doing associated with suchmen as S. S. Shoemake and Bentonville Taylor? The completeunmasking of the infamous conduct of the former wasanything but auspicious for the prosecution, and left a veryunfavorable impression on all who heard the proceedings as tothe character of the prosecution.


The closing of the testimony was immediately followed bythe opening arguments of the solicitor for the prosecution,which continued for a considerable length of time. Next theargument of Hon. Percy Walker, for the defense, which occupieda period of two hours and a half in delivery. Distinguishedas he had heretofore been on all occasions, this, aswas said by his friends, was one of the greatest and happiestefforts he ever made. At the time the court-room was crowdedalmost to suffocation, and outside of it thousands were congregated[Pg 158]to catch the utterances from his flowing lips. His witheringtorrents against Shoemake electrified the court; but hismain argument went to show that G. Y. Overall had no rightto prosecute in the name of G. Overall, and that it was anotherperson referred to in Copeland’s confessions.

The prosecution replied; and now the arguments from bothsides being finished, the written notes from each, together withinstructions from the Court were furnished to the jury, and itforthwith retired to its room for the purpose of trying to agreeon a verdict. But it was soon ascertained that there was avery strong probability of it not coming to any agreement atall. After retirement for about twenty-four hours withoutany harmonious result, it reported to the Court the almostcertainty of not being able to render any verdict on the casepending before it.


Upon the reception of said report, the Judge made somechanges in his former charges to the effect that if doubt existed,the Jury must give the defendant the benefit of suchdoubt; further adding, that he should not discharge until therendering of its verdict; and at once ordered it to retire again,with additional information that if it required any explanationon any points of law involved in the case before it, to reportaccordingly to the Court, and it would give the properinstructions sought for. After the Jury had remained someday or two longer in retirement, the Court ordered it to report,on the arrival of which, the Court desired to know the pointsof disagreement. In answer, one of the jurors, W. L. Young,rose and respectfully addressed the Court, stating that a majorityof the Jury entertained doubts; and as for himself, hehad conscientious scruples as to the propriety of confoundingG. Overall and G. Y. Overall together; while, at the same time,the principal part of the Jury did not believe that when Copelandgave the name that he intended it for G. Y. Overall, and[Pg 159]that the latter had no proper authority for accepting the nameof G. Overall, as published in the confessions. The presidingJudge appeared to be well pleased with the manly and intelligentconduct of the young gentleman, but informed him at thesame time that the Jury must be governed according to thelaw and evidence before it. To this declaration, Mr. Youngmade the following reply: “Please your Honor, and supposewe do not believe the evidence in the case before us.” Thisready, but profound reply excited, to all appearance, a pleasantsmile on the Judge’s countenance, and created no little sensationthroughout the court-room among the legal fraternity,some of which were heard to exclaim—“a pretty good lawyerhimself.” The Judge, feeling the weight of such an expression,did not attempt any further remarks in reply for thistime.


The jury once more retired. The court kept furnishing freshcharges in opposition to the first given; the last of which wasso pointedly as to declare in positive terms that according tothe law and evidence it, the jury, was compelled to find a verdictfor the prosecution! Six long days and nights had this juryremained in confinement. Worn out by it and with excessiveloss of rest, together with no hope of immediate relief, as thejudge had declared his intention to keep it in strict confinementfor an indefinite period, unless a verdict could sooner be returned;all these miseries endured, and in prospect to be endured,forced the jury at last to a verdict against its betterjudgment by the understanding or impression artfully made thatit would be better to get liberty by agreeing to a verdict witha small amount of fine in the way of damages for G. Y. Overall,but had not the most distant idea of any imprisonment resulting.But the judge better knew the law which invested himwith power to imprison for six months, but in this instance hesentenced only for three months.

[Pg 160]

In addition to the torturing process resorted to for the purposeof forcing a verdict from the jury in its last hours ofconfinement, other shameful means were made use of by outsidersof a tampering nature—such as the conveyance of notesand packages in bottles to that part of the jury in favor of theprosecution—one end of the string tied to the bottle, and theother end, in the form of a ball, thrown through the window tobe received by the parties intended. The nature of these notesand packages could only be conjectured—the recipients themselvesholding the contents a perfect secret within their ownlittle circles. This information was conveyed to the defendantby eye-witnesses and part of the jury.


After the sentence was announced, Dr. Bevell and others,who formed a part of the jury, openly declared that if they hadbeen aware of the fact that the judge had the power to imprison,suffering as they were, never would they have consentedto a verdict in favor of the prosecution. Another distinguishedjuror, W. L. Young, on the case, on seeing thedefendant coming from the court-room, met him with all thewarmth of genuine friendship and the most sincere of emotion,sympathy, and contrition, which will be best understood in hisown words: “My dear sir, my feelings are deeply wounded, andI feel as though I have committed a very great wrong in givingconsent against my better judgment—a wrong even to fine youso much as one single cent, and were the case to be done overagain, with the light now before me, I would most assuredlyact quite differently, for I now see my great error, though mygreatest grief is that this lesson was taught too late to be of anyservice to you in your present humiliated situation.” Thereply was suitable, and in these words: “Permit me, sir, to acknowledgeyour truly sympathetic manifestations with all thewelcomeness and gratitude which are possible to be expressed;and also to further express to you that notwithstanding this[Pg 161]heavy stroke of adversity, I will endeavor to bear the same withphilosophical fortitude, under the strengthening conviction thatthis is the most memorable epoch of life, and in spite of malignantpersecution, justice will afterwards be done, and time willbring forth its appropriate reward.”


Immediately after the sentence, the citizens of Mobile preparedand sent a petition to His Excellency, Governor Moore,of the State of Alabama, containing the signatures of over sixhundred of the best citizens of Mobile, praying for the releaseof the defendant, but the Governor declined to grant the requestbecause the petition was not signed by the presidingjudge.

But the sheriff of the city, Hon. James T. Shelton, must notbe overlooked. His conduct in behalf of the defendant wasnoble and magnanimous in the extreme. All that one mancould do to alleviate the rust and monotony of confinement,was gracefully and cheerfully done by him. His friendship—hiswhole-souled treatment reached to an extent not to be surpassedby any. Hospitalities at his own mansion in profusion,a separate parlor well furnished with books of every description,and in everything else well fitted up in the utmost orderof elegance and taste; no restraint whatever, beyond what thelaw required—having the whole limits, for exercise and recreation,of the prison boundaries; all such conveniences and comfortswere freely and lavishly bestowed; and for which a lastinggratitude is due to the memory of the departed James T.Shelton.

Numerous other visitors, of both sexes, came to render allthe comfort which humanity could afford. These visits weresincere, friendly, and consoling, indeed; in short, everythingwhich could be done to remove dullness and make the timeglide away agreeably, was done with cheerfulness and with[Pg 162]truly natural fervor of heart. Time did not hang heavily; butpassed away briefly—a time which can now be referred to withpride and satisfaction.


The defendant, at the time of his arrest, was engaged to bemarried on the 22d of March following, to Miss Julia PaulineBowen, daughter of Rev. P. P. Bowen, of Ocean Springs, Miss.,but having become entangled in severe law difficulties, the appointedtime for the consummation of this engagement was,from necessity, indefinitely prolonged. During this time, andmore especially while confined in prison, the fact of such engagementbecame generally known. Malicious propensitiescould not be gratified enough by what had already been done,and by the little persecution then enduring, but the banefulmalignity even extended to private and domestic arrangements.Some one in Mobile, over the signature of Amogene Colfax,addressed quite a lengthy communication to Miss Bowen.This communication pretended to have emanated from a femalefriend, the real object of which was evidently to poison andprejudice the mind to an extent sufficient to mar the existingengagement, and finally to break up all further considerationsof the matter with a view to bring on a reaction of public prejudiceto take the place of public sympathy, which was thenrunning in favor of the defendant. But few have any adequateconception of the heights and depths of infamy which the clancould reach for the accomplishment of its infernal designs.But in this instance all such designs proved signally abortive,as will be satisfactorily understood by reading Miss Bowen’sreply to a communication from the defendant while in prison.

It is very much to be regretted that the letter with the fictitioussignature of Amogene Colfax has been misplaced or lost.Its appearance in this work would be valuable by the way ofgiving some idea of the clan’s complicated machinations; however,Miss Bowen’s reply will afford information enough to[Pg 163]satisfy that she was far beyond the reach of influences whichcontemplated the ruin of both. Piety, firmness and devotedsincerity are conspicuous in every line of the reply. Let thereader now judge for himself:


Ocean Springs, Miss., March 16, 1859.

J. R. S. Pitts, Esq., Mobile, Ala.:

Esteemed Friend—Happy indeed am I to have the pleasureof acknowledging the reception of your kind favor bearing date12th instant, the contents of which are so consoling andinteresting that I feel entirely inadequate to the task of makingthe properly deserving reply.

This is the first intelligence I have had from you by lettersince I heard of the last unfortunate results of your trial. Eversince the reception of this sad news my mind has been a completewreck. Both mental and physical strength have visiblydeclined under the pressure of contemplated burdens which youhad to bear; but the relief which this, your last letter, hasafforded is beyond the powers of description.

In the first stages every effort was made to conceal a woundedheart, but in vain; the countenance of sorrow was too plainlydepicted to be mistaken by those around who are acquaintedwith former cheerfulness. Laboring under pungent afflictionfrom the silent meditation of your melancholy situation, nonebut myself can have any correct idea of the internal struggleswith which I was contending. Under such a compression ofthe vital powers, earthly scenes had no charms for me; but thewings of last night’s mail bore the glad tidings from you thatall is well, leaving you comfortably situated and cared for inevery respect, which affords me the most exquisite relief.From gloom and despair to joy and hope, the transition wasrapid and sudden. The following from your pen affords a satisfactionwhich words are incapable of representing:

“You will please give yourself no uneasiness of mind so far[Pg 164]as regards my comfort and well-being. My friends here havesituated me as agreeably in every respect as I could possiblyhave desired. Perfectly composed and resigned myself, I wantyou to share the same, if possible, in a still higher degree.”

All of us, well knowing your entire innocence, deeply sympathizewith you; and, as for my own part, this ordeal has onlybeen a trial of my devotion—not knowing before the real depthof affection, which is now more strengthened and indeliblyfixed on thee. Fictitious signatures cannot avail, nor indeedany other cunningly devised schemes for the interruption ofthe peaceful concord which has so long been maintained betweenus.

Even a brief narration of little ordinary simplicities maysometimes be enjoyed by minds accustomed to higher rangesof thought, and which frequently soar to loftier spheres of thegrander contemplations of nature’s wonderful works. Accordinglyyou will be disposed to pardon anything which youmay here find apparently of a light and frivolous character.

There is nothing new in our village that could, I presume,be of interest to you, unless accounts of frequent marriageswould have this effect. In affairs of this sort there has beenalmost an epidemic. We have had quite an inclement changein the weather for this season of the year. It is just now verycold, lowering, and quite unpleasant indeed; but the joyouscheerfulness manifested by the little birds indicate the earlydawn of spring.

There is a charming lovely little mocking bird that makesfrequent visits near my window—sings so sweetly, and seemsto enjoy life with the utmost fulness of felicity, so much sothat I am, in a doleful hour, sometimes inclined to envy thehappiness which I cannot at all times share myself. Its warblingmelodies echoing as they are wafted along on the zephyrsof the morning and renewed again toward the evening shades,sometimes excite peculiar reflections, which are very wrong toindulge in. I ought to be content with my lot, though it may[Pg 165]seem rather hard, yet, perhaps, all for the best. The dispensationsof Providence cannot be otherwise; and it is vain to repineagainst what we do not understand sufficiently. It is truemy pathway has been interspersed with many difficulties andheart-rending trials from my earliest childhood; and they seemto still follow me up to the present day. But of what use tomurmur? He who has blessed me with innumerable favors willdo all things well. “He who has been with and comforted inthe sixth trouble, will not forsake in the seventh.”

I fear you will think me enthusiastic on the subject of religion,but hope not. All written has been sincerely felt; and wereit not for the comfort of religion hardly one happy moment wouldI enjoy. Oppressed and fatigued, I can go to Him who hathsaid, “Come unto me and find rest for your wearied soul.”

The family desire a united remembrance to you. Pardonerror, and believe as ever,

Yours, etc., Pauline.


This is, perhaps, the proper place for the insertion of Dr.Bevell’s letter to Miss Bowen. It contains important matter ofa public nature, which will again have to be referred to in thesubsequent comments which are to follow. Let it be carefullyread:

April 12, 1859.

Miss J. P. Bowen, Ocean Springs, Miss.:

Excuse me, an entire stranger to you, for the liberty andfreedom I take in addressing you. Although, personally, weare unacquainted yet my sympathies are with you and yourunfortunate intended. I formed his acquaintance in Augusta,Miss., while he was engaged in writing the confessions of Copeland—thecause of his present unjust imprisonment. Althoughhe is in prison, and redeeming an unjust sentence, his friendshave not deserted him, as is too often the case, but visit himregularly and inquire after his welfare with the greatest anxiety,[Pg 166]and endeavor to administer to his every want and comfort.His friends, though numerous previous to his trial, havegreatly increased in number since. We have made an effortto limit his imprisonment through the pardoning power ofGovernor Moore, by an article addressed to him in the shapeof a petition, with about six hundred signatures of the mostresponsible citizens of Mobile; but in this we have failed, and,to my deepest regret, he will have to serve his time out.

We first drew up a petition to Judge McKinstry, signed bya respectable number of the jury, but hearing of his negativedeclarations on the street, we declined honoring him with therequest.

Although we have failed in these efforts, the conduct of allthe opposing clique strongly indicate to my mind that theprincipal stringent ruling is to gratify, and sustain, and retainpolitical influence. The opposing party have by no meanssustained itself to the world, notwithstanding the obtaining ofa forced verdict and fine in the pitiful sum of fifty dollars,which the jurors are determined shall not come out of ColonelPitts’ pocket. The Colonel has the sympathy of the principalcitizens of Mobile; and, among that number, almost, if notquite, the entire portion of the gentler sex; and as long as hehas those amiable creatures advocating his cause he is freefrom all censure and harm. He was extremely unfortunate innot being able to prove certain facts on his trial that havesince almost revealed themselves. I think myself they haveseriously regretted the past and present daily expositions.Colonel Pitts is as comfortably situated as possible under thecirc*mstances. He has the entire liberty of the prison bounds,with no restraint whatever on his person or actions—sharingfreely the hospitality of our inestimable Sheriff and family. Hehas an excellent little parlor, well fitted up for convenience andcomfort.

I was one of the unfortunate jurors who tried the case, andfrom my observations prior to, and during the progress of the[Pg 167]trial, in my humble opinion he met with strenuous ruling andinjustice. Yet he bore all with that fortitude and patience thatever characterizes a truly good man; and, since his confinement,appears to be composed and resigned to his fate. This has hada tendency to influence a favorable impression in his behalfamong the citizens of Mobile. His friends in Mississippi, whoare very numerous, are very much incensed against the Court,and manifested their indignation by public declarations in theirpublic newspapers. His greatest grief and mortification are inyour behalf. He suffers more on your account than he doeson his own. He has daily the fullest assurance and confirmationof the kindest feelings of our best people. And what morecould he want? It is looked on as one of those misfortunesincident in life that sometimes cannot be avoided honorably,and the only chance is to brave the storm fearlessly until amore congenial sun will burst forth to his advantage, whichwill be better appreciated and enjoyed had he never been inprison. I do hope you have firmness and decision enough tofast adhere in adversity—spurning the advice of those whowould attempt to prejudice you against him. Sympathizingwith him under the clouds of misfortune, rejoicing with him inprosperity, and yet be happy together; and may you both live,not to exult, but witness the repentance of your enemies, isthe desire of your well wisher.

Very respectfully, yours,
John A. Bevell.

Miss Bowen availed herself of the very earliest opportunityto acknowledge and to reply to this valuable communication,in which will be found some statements well worthy of record.


Ocean Springs, Miss., April 16, 1859.

Dr. John A. Bevell, Mobile, Ala.:

Sir:—I am in receipt of yours, bearing date 12th inst., andsensibly feel the loss of suitable language for a correct expression[Pg 168]of what is due for your inestimable favor. It hasbeen read with intense interest. It came at the opportunemoment when most needed, and contains matter which to meis of the highest earthly treasure, and for which the ordinaryreturns of gratitude are but a faint expression of the true estimationentertained in my own mind.

To learn from one so competent to furnish correct informationof the easy and comfortable situation of my much esteemedfriend, Mr. P., is gratifying in the extreme. At first,imagination had drawn pictures too darkly of him being immuredin solitary confinement where the cheering rays of solidfriendship could not penetrate. How agreeably I have beendisappointed. Your communication has completely dispelledfor the future all such illusory apprehensions. Friends numerous,and sympathy not confined to narrow limits, with anabundant plenty of everything else calculated to alleviate themisfortunes of a temporary exile.

But allow me to confess to you that the recent trial, with itsapparently sad results, has with me in no wise made the slightestchange deleterious to the future interest and happiness ofmy friend. Previous to this memorable event in his life, withhim I had pledged for an early approach to the hymenealaltar, and was fully satisfied then that he was, in every respect,worthy of such a pledge of confidence; and if his merit weredeserving the same in that day, they are certainly, in my opinion,more so to day.

As yet I have not heard a single word uttered that does notfully justify Mr. P’s action in giving publicity to the history ofCopeland. The public good of his country demanded such actionfrom him. Bearing in mind such circ*mstances, I could not,with any degree of consistency, suffer myself for a moment tobe biased or influenced by out-siders, and, more especially, bythose who are violently antagonist against the author for doingthat which ought to be received by the public generally as agreat blessing to society.

[Pg 169]

You will please do me the kindness at your earliest convenienceto inform Mr. P. not to suffer himself to be in the leasttroubled on my account, nor to entertain any doubt of my unswervingconstancy. In this respect, perhaps I am endowedwith as much stability as any, and as much as he can desire.

Although heretofore strangers, nevertheless, I hold to bemuch indebted for the warm interest you have taken in behalfof my friend, and indeed mutually so of both.

Very respectfully, etc.,
J. P. Bowen.

From every creditable source, profuse attentions had enteredthrough all avenues of the prison wall; and now the defendant’stime for which he had been sentenced was about to expire,preparations were immediately made to honor him with a “receptioncommittee” to greet him from the narrow limits to therealms of liberty, where dwells the broad expanse of earth andsky. Confinement had not corroded the soul’s finer parts; andto show how devoid his mind was of every semblance of prejudiceor malignity, a brief extract from his address delivered onthat occasion when emerging from his sentence bounds, will beread with some degree of interest.


“Gentlemen, at this proud moment, the breath of liberty isrefreshing. From an incarceration so unjust, you welcome meback to freedom with as much joy as I can possibly experiencemyself at this instant of time. Rather as a very much persecutedindividual than a criminal do you this day consider me.For this demonstration of your kindly sentiments, as well as onall other occasions, my gratitude is tendered in profusion.What is it that can not be endured while being surrounded withfriends so devoted and sincere? The reception you have seenproper to give me, removes all doubts as to the manner I will be[Pg 170]met by other circles of my fellow beings. Well do I know howhastily judgment is often pronounced without sufficientlydiscriminating betwixt guilt and innocence. This morningI leave the precincts of prison unconscious of anywrong by me committed, but, on the contrary, am stronglyimpressed with the convictions that I have materially servedmy country by giving publicity to the career of a band of menwho, for years, held whole States in absolute terror. For thisI have suffered, but do not repine, because time, the greatfriend of truth, must eventually triumph. From prisonI come not forth burning with vindictive or revengefulfeelings against any. Notwithstanding the wrongs endured,I have passed in my own heart an act of amnesty so far asprivate considerations are concerned, and whatever course maybe marked out for the future, only the public good will, in thisrespect, afford me any interest for subsequent pursuit. To you,and to other large bodies of respectable citizens of Mobile, forpetitioning the Governor for pardon, although a failure, yetequally do I return thanks for the best of intentions as thoughthey had been perfectly successful.”

Immediately after his release, letters of condolence and congratulations,from distant parts, and almost from every directionpoured in. One in particular from a friend in Gonzales, Texas,will also be read with more than ordinary interest. Its spiritand intention were to impel him forward to higher achievementsof fame and utility.


Gonzales, Texas, Dec. 30, 1859.

Dr. J. R. S. Pitts, Medical College, Ala.:

Dear Sir:—In the sunshine of prosperity, friends willcrowd around like bees on the honey-comb, but when the loweringclouds of adversity appear, there are but few who willnot be found among the ranks of deserters, your case, however,forms an exception to the general rule. You have been favored[Pg 171]by the benign and exhilarating influences of fortune; and youhave also experienced the dark and bitter reverses with whichhumanity is so often saturated. At one time, she has thrownaround you a joyous halo of felicity—at another time she hasforsaken you with a treacherous inconstancy; but amid all hervarious phases of change which you have endured, the sympathyand good-will of every honest heart has beat high in yourbehalf. Your vile prosecutors succeeded by miserable subterfugesof law, which involved you in serious pecuniary embarrassments,and consigned you within the dreary walls of confinement,but time is now doing justice both to you and tothem. You are mounting up into a brighter—a purer atmosphereof public estimation, while they are descending as rapidlyinto the dark abodes of eternal execration.

No one can feel more elated, or more disposed to congratulateyou on anything pertaining to your interest, happiness,and success than myself; and certainly none more willing tocontribute at every opportunity all within the power of oneindividual to your permanent gratification: how could it beotherwise? I have known you long; a chain of unbrokenfriendship has ever continued betwixt us; and more than all,I am proud in the contemplation that I have had some sharein your early education.

Your attention is now directed towards the medical profession;and here I can express a few words of encouragementwithout acting derogatory to the principles of rectitude orsincerity; for if thinking otherwise, most certainly would Iprefer the task of assisting at the risk of displeasing you.

The medical profession affords a fine scope for the developementof every faculty belonging to the human soul. Man,“the image of God,” is the most wonderful and complicatedmachine in the universe. Here is the noblest of all subjects—vast,boundless, and inexhaustible. Here is a theme on whichthe finest geniuses of the world have been engaged: a themein connection with which the accumulation of intellectual[Pg 172]wealth and constant progression have been marching onwardwith giant strides from the commencement of man’s mundaneexistence; yet but little hope—but little prospect of ever reachingperfection; hence the encouragement for onward acquisitionfor further triumphs of science.

Knowledge is valuable only in proportion to its applicabilityfor preventing or alleviating the sufferings of humanity; thenwhere is the avocation more adapted to better accord with thissentiment than the medical profession? Of course, I excludeall consideration in reference to the many quacks, empiricsand murderers, who assume the medical garb without the leastsign of internal qualification.

There is nothing in all the wide diversified forms of creationthat can give you such lofty conceptions of the attributes ofthe Deity as the study of man: Life’s warm stream whichramifies and circulates in processes so wonderful; the numerousheterogeneous fluids which are secreted from it to answerall the astounding purposes of systematical economy with thenicest of all exactness; and all this by a “vital principle”which none can define, but which serves very well to representour ignorance; the almost countless numbers of self-acting—self-propellingpowers, with multitudes of valves, hinges, joints,all working in the grandest of earthly harmony; these are mechanicaloperations which belong to the Deity, and mock theproudest of all efforts in vain imitation. But what are thesein comparison to the human mind—this noble prerogative ofman? It is this which makes him the “lord of creation,” anddraws the broad line of distinction betwixt himself and thelower order of creation. It is to this we are indebted for themanifold wheels, springs and levers which carry society along;in short the moral transactions of this revolving globe owetheir origin and continuance to its agency. The science ofmedicine comprises a considerable knowledge of the whole.To understand any one business well, we must have much informationon the relation of many. The study of causes and[Pg 173]effects of physical phenomena, as well as the faculties, sentiments,and propensities of the human soul, are all within yourprovince. But without enlarging, enough has been written tourge and animate you on in the work you have so well begun.”

The most remarkable action of any executive was that ofthe Governor of Mississippi in giving assistance to the “clan”in its expiring throes, whether intentionally or unintentionally,is not material now to enquire. From this actionalone, but few are incapable of understanding, to some extent,the influence which wealth and distinction can exercise incases, no matter how depraved they may be. This is only oneinstance from incalculable numbers which might be adducedwhere even the highest departments of State can be madesubservient to vitiated purposes.


The following was published in the True Democrat, from thepen of one of the ablest Judges in the eastern part of Mississippi,shortly after the liberation of the defendant:

Mr. Editor—We heartily sympathize with J. R. S. Pitts,Sheriff of Perry county, and are deeply mortified at the yieldingcourse of our Governor in rendering him up a prisoner inobedience to a requisition from the State of Alabama. Welook on this whole affair as being preposterous in the extreme.To have the Sheriff of one of our counties forced to vacate hisoffice, temporarily, and to be taken like a common felon, andcarried to another State, and there be tried as a malefactor,and for what? Why, for simply writing and publishing theconfessions of a notorious “land pirate,” one of a gang ofbanditti that has till recently been a terror to the whole countryfor a great many years. Such a course betrays a feeblenessof nerve on the part of his Excellency perfectly unpardonablein the Executive.

The “Wages and Copeland Clan” have become as notoriousin portions of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas, as[Pg 174]was the pirate and robber, John A. Murrell, and his clan. Itis well for Mr. Pitts that his friends volunteered to guard himand protect him until he reached the city of Mobile in safety.

Talk about rendering him up on a requisition that claimedhim as a “fugitive from justice,” when the offence, if any, wascommitted in this State, when he was a citizen of Perrycounty, and Sheriff of the county at the time, and quietly athome discharging the duties of his office. “Oh! shame, whereis thy blush?”

But we rejoice to learn that his prosecutors have failed tohurt him. They may have forced him to draw heavily on hispurse to fee lawyers, pay tavern expenses, etc., but they havenot hurt his character. He stands to-day proudly vindicatedas a bold and efficient officer before an impartial and unprejudicedpublic. Mr. Pitts is too well known in Mississippifor the tongue of slander or the hand of the bitter persecutorto injure him seriously. He is a native of Georgia—“tothe manner born.” He was reared and principally educated inMississippi. And right in the county where he was principallyraised, he was selected by a large majority of the citizensof the county to serve them and the State in the high and responsibleoffice of Sheriff of the county; and that too when hehad barely reached his majority of years. The intelligentcitizens of Perry county elected him by their spontaneous suffragesolely on account of his great moral worth and his superiorbusiness qualifications.

The most amusing circ*mstance in the whole affair is, thereport industriously circulated that Mr. Pitts did not writethe book—that he is not scholar enough to write such a book.The report refutes itself by its own palpable absurdity. Everybodywho is acquainted with Mr. Pitts knows that he is a fairEnglish scholar, and a very good writer. The book is a valuablebook; and it has done, and will do more to rid the countryof the clan it exposes than even the killing and hanging hasdone.

[Pg 175]

Mr. Pitts may congratulate himself as having done morewith his pen as an author than he did with the rope and gallowsas Sheriff. Much more might be said in vindication of thispersecuted gentleman, but this is deemed sufficient. Mr. Pittsis a young man, and will, if he lives many years, work out acharacter in high social position, and official position, too, if heseeks it. From his beginning, I predict for him a brilliantcareer in the future.

Very respectfully,


The vile character of the prosecution is not yet sufficientlyunderstood. There is yet more to be developed. Enough hasalready been brought to light to give some idea of Shoemake,one of the main witnesses in the struggle to crush truth. Earthwas never trod by a more dangerous and despicable wretchthan this. He was the embodiment of all that was mean, cruel,bloody and horrible. How much superior the other agent andintended witness, Bentonville Taylor is, the reader will judgefor himself from the following authentic testimony.

The statement will be remembered in the commencing partof the proceedings of the trial that no ordinary amount of astonishmentwas experienced by the defendant when BentonvilleTaylor was called into court as one of the principal witnessesfor the prosecution. The defendant well knowing thecharacter of this man, he lost no time for getting the most substantialof testimony touching his notorious reputation. Thistestimony has been held in reserve up to the present period forreasons which will be given presently.

In Shoemake’s evidence, the prosecution sustained such anoverwhelming defeat that it refrained from calling up anotherof the same type for that time. As before stated, BentonvilleTaylor was brought from Williamsburg, Covington county,Miss. The nature of his testimony, intended to be given incourt, was immediately learned afterward by his card published[Pg 176]in one of the Mobile newspapers. The substance of this cardwas to the effect that the names given in the confessions wereforged by the defendant, and that Copeland himself was insaneat the time he made the confessions, and the same entirely unworthyof any credit whatever either in public or private. Itwas thought at the time that Bentonville Taylor was to beused in the other two cases of Moulton and Cleaveland againstthe defendant to be afterward tried. This is one reason whythe documents pertaining to Bentonville Taylor have so longbeen withheld. Another is, it is always painful, in the absenceof imperative necessity, to make public such considerations as,under other circ*mstances, might be better enveloped in silence;but when charges of forgery have been made, and that thewhole confessions are entirely unworthy of credit, then it becomesan absolute necessity to know something of the manwho has had the audacity to make such charges.

First will be given some extracts from a letter which wasintended for publication at the time, but on more maturethought was decided to be suppressed for the same reasons asjust given. This letter is now in the hands of the defendant,the severer parts of which will still be suppressed for humanity’ssake:

“Who is this Bentonville Taylor, where did he come from,and what his character as established by himself? It seemshe came to Ellisville, Jones county, Miss., about the time orshortly after Copeland was brought from the Alabama penitentiaryto Mississippi to be tried for the murder of Harvey—pretendingthen to be a Yankee school master seeking employment—havingwith him a woman whom he introduced to thatcommunity as his sister and assistant teacher. They obtaineda school; he and his sister took board in a respectable familylocated in Ellisville, Mr. Parker’s. They had not been therelong before reports got out in this family of such a nature thatis perhaps improper to publish. However, Mr. Parker orderedthem to leave his house. The trustees of the school forthwith[Pg 177]called a meeting, which resulted in the discharge of both. Theywere promptly paid off; the woman left for parts unknown,while he has been loitering around in the adjoining countiesin a way anything but satisfactory, ever since. He got out alicense to plead law, defended Copeland in his last trial, andthen was brought from Williamsburg, Covington county, bythe Mobile prosecutors, to there serve their purposes, in themost reduced of external condition and centless, but returnedin the finest suit of attire, with plenty of money in his pocket—therewards of his services in Mobile for falsehood and attempteddeception. And this is the respectable lawyer fromMississippi, as represented by one of the prosecutors. Acheaper and more degraded instrument could not have beenfound in all Eastern Mississippi. A poor subterfuge to resortto such a man to lie men out of deserving censure. How readilyit seems the prosecution knew where to place its fingers to subservethe purpose. A few more such licks will nail the truthof Copeland’s confessions to the cross forever.”

But read the documents now in possession, from the bestand most respectable citizens of Jones county, about thisman:

The State of Mississippi,}
Perry County.

This day personally appeared before me, A. L. Fairly, aJustice of the Peace, in and for the said county and Stateaforesaid, Franklin J. Mixon, who makes oath in due form oflaw, and on oath says that Bentonville Taylor stole from thisaffiant a bridle and girth, while this affiant resided in Jonescounty, Mississpipi, at, or near, Hoskin’s ferry in said Jonescounty, in the month of March or April, 1858.

Sworn to, and subscribed before me this twelfth day ofApril, 1859.

A. L. Fairly, J. P., P. C.

Signed, F. J. Mixon.

[Pg 178]

State of Mississippi,}
Perry County.

I, James Carpenter, Clerk of the Probate Court of saidcounty, certify that A. L. Fairly, whose name is signed to theabove affidavit, was at the time of signing the same, a Justiceof the Peace, in and for said county, and that full faith andcredit are due all his official acts as such.

Given under my hand and seal of said court, this sixteenthday of April, 1859.

James Carpenter,
Clerk Probate Court, Perry Co., Miss.

Ellisville, Jones County,}

We, the undersigned citizens of said county and State aforesaid,do hereby certify that we are well acquainted with BentonvilleTaylor, and know him to be a man of no moral worthas a citizen, no character as a lawyer, nor school teacher, anda man to whose word we could not give any credence for truthand veracity.

J. L. Owen, Att’y at Law, Ellisville, Miss.
J. A. Easterling.
Norval Cooper.
S. E. Nettles, Treas. of Jones county.
F. K. Willoughby, Justice of the Peace.
Hiram Mathas.
Isaac Anderson.
M. H. Owen.
Amos J. Spears.
Richmond Anderson.
Thos. D. Dyess.
John H. Walters.
H. D. Dossett, Ex-Sheriff of said county.

[Pg 179]

State of Mississippi,}
Jones County.

I, D. M. Shows, Clerk of the Circuit and Probate Courts ofsaid county, do hereby certify that I believe the men whosenames appear to the foregoing annexed certificate, are men oftruth and veracity.

Given under my hand and seal of office this second day ofApril, 1859.

D. M. Shows, Clerk of C & P. C.

Ellisville, Mississippi,}
Jones County.

I, E. M. Devall, Sheriff of said county and State aforesaid,do certify that I believe that the men whose names appear tothe foregoing annexed certificate are men of truth and veracity.

Given under my hand and seal this 2d day of April, 1859.

E. M. Devall, Sheriff Jones county.

After Bentonville Taylor returned from Mobile, I saw himand told him of the rumor that was in circulation relative tohis going to Mobile as a witness against Col. J. R. S. Pitts,and he denied emphatically to me of having any share in thetransaction, and also stated that the aforesaid rumor was false.

[Signed.] Edward W. Goff.

The next question to be dealt with is the miserable plea ofinsanity, and forged names in the confessions.

First, let the report from the inquisition jury be read, whichwill be found on page 113 of this work. Again, it iswell known by those who visited Copeland in person,that there was a keenness and shrewdness about him whichdistinguished him from ordinary men; and all the promptingsgiven to feign insanity did not amount to anything but deservingfailure. And as to the gratuitous charge of forging names,the defendant did not know anything about them previous to[Pg 180]being given by Copeland. He did not know that such nameswere in existence before, and of course could not forge in theabsence of all knowledge appertaining; but the conduct of theprosecution, with hundreds of living witnesses, go, as quotedfrom the letter just referred to, “to nail to the cross foreverthe truth of Copeland’s confessions.”

So much for the trial in Mobile in the first case, and now forthe necessary comments to further enable the reader to comprehendthe whole.

There were two other cases on the same docket of preciselya similar nature to the first against the defendant. For two orthree years afterward he was in regular attendance, and alwaysready for trial; but the prosecution would not allow either caseto come on until known that his presence was required in thearmy during the war; and then it had the cases called up, andthe bonds declared forfeited. The two cases were ordered dismissed,and, some several years afterward, the bondsmen werefinally released by the “Commissioners of Revenue” withoutinjury.

Nothing is plainer than of the prosecution being glad ofany plausible pretext for dismissing the cases—anything in theshape of a convenient opportunity for relief in the awkwardsituation in which it stood. Why so determined and successfulto bring on instanter the first case in spite of the mostpowerful reasons for a temporary continuance? And why,when this was over, was it equally determined and successfulto ward off the two remaining cases? Is it not evident, notwithstandingall the prostituted forces at command, that it wasunwilling to make a second experiment? But how stands thepresiding Judge affected in this slimy affair? In the first case,in defiance of the most powerful cause assigned in favor, hewould not allow one hour of continuance of the case; but fromterm to term, from year to year, he allowed the prosecution allit wanted, regardless of all the urgent efforts of the defendantfor the remaining trials to be proceeded with to save entire[Pg 181]ruin from excessive and repeated expenses. But when the defendant’sabsence was compelled by demands made from theWar Department, then did this Judge allow the case to bepressed forward by the prosecution, and the bonds declaredforfeited! If this junta, or combination of Judge with theprosecution did not exist, the plainest of all circ*mstantialdemonstrations are not worthy of any notice whatever. Butthis is only one instance out of a number, which will be givenof this Judge’s partiality—of his palpable efforts to do violenceto justice.

Again, mark his conduct in endeavoring to obtain a forcedand unnatural verdict. After twenty-four hours of close confinement,the jury returned with the report that there was noearthly chance of coming to an agreement. The Judge bidthem, contrary to all custom, to again retire, with a declarationthat he would hold it in confinement until the verdictcould be made up, even though an indefinite period were requiredto accomplish the object.

Had he before been in consultation with the prosecution?Did he know the whole arrangement? Did he know that someone or more, perhaps influenced by gold, were resolved to holdout to the bitter end? And that one by one of the opposition,under the tortures of long confinement, must keep falling in toavoid further suffering, and more especially when the cunningdevice was resorted to for the purpose of deceiving the oppositionby inducements to the effect that it was hardly worthwhile holding out when all could be so easily avoided by a fewdollars of fine in the way of damages, which would not at allhurt the defendant? What was the meaning of the sham inhis appearing, in the first part of his instructions, to lean tothe defendant by telling the jury that if there was a doubt existingwith it, the defendant was entitled to the benefit of saiddoubt; and then, in the last hours of worn out confinement,came squarely out in conflict, and positively told the jury thatit was bound to find a verdict of guilty from the law and evidence[Pg 182]before it? What was the meaning of packages andwriting being conveyed to the jury by outsiders during thelatter part of its retirement, or, at least, to that part of it infavor of the prosecution?

Notwithstanding the most justifiable and potent of all reasonsin favor of the petition got up and signed by six hundredof the best and most respectable citizens of Mobile to be forwardedto the Governor for the release of the defendant, theJudge hearing of the same, emphatically declared, before beingasked, that he would not sign it; and the Governor, because ofthis omission, refused to grant the prayer. Did the prosecutioninfluence both Governor and Judge, so that the wholeformed one compact ring to defeat justice? What says thelearned Dr. Bevell on this subject—the very man who sat onthis jury and witnessed all:

“We have made an effort to limit his imprisonment throughthe pardoning power of Governor Moore, by an article addressedhim in the shape of a petition, with about six hundredsignatures of the most respectable citizens of Mobile; but inthis we have failed, and, to my deepest regret, he will have toserve his time out. We first drew up a petition to Judge McKinstry,signed by a respectable number of the jury, but hearingof his negative declarations on the street, we declined honoringhim with the request.

Although we have failed in these efforts, the conduct of allthe opposing clique strongly indicate to my mind that the principalstringent ruling and opposition are to gratify, and sustain,and retain political influence.

But the abuses committed by Judge McKinstry do not closehere. A verbal copy of Shoemake’s affidavit has just been received,the insertion of which cannot be omitted, as it will addnew light on what has already been advanced on this subjectin the commencing part of the trial, and will go still further todemonstrate the deeply sullied conduct of the prosecution andJudge. Let this copy be read with attention:

[Pg 183]


State of Alabama,}
Mobile County.

Before ——, personally came S. S. Sheumack, who onoath saith that one J. R. S. Pitts did, within the last six months,in the county aforesaid, unlawfully, wickedly and maliciously,with intent to injure, defame, villify, and prejudice this deponent,and to bring him into contempt, scandal, and disgrace, publishand circulate in said county a printed pamphlet entitled,“The Life and Career of James Copeland, the Great SouthernLand Pirate, who was executed at Augusta, Mississippi, October30th, 1857; together with the exploits of the Wages’ clanin Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.”

In said pamphlet, said Copeland is described as one of theleaders of a gang of robbers, murderers, highwaymen, and thedeponent is represented therein by the name of “S. S. Shonesmak,”as a member of said clan, or gang of robbers, murderers,and thieves; which pamphlet containing the aforesaidstatement, referring to this deponent, is a defamatory libel, andis utterly and wholly false.

S. S. Sheumack.

Subscribed and sworn to, this 17th day of January, 1859,before me,

Alex. McKinstry, Judge.

To any Sheriff of the State of Alabama:

You are hereby commanded to arrest the body of J. R. S.Pitts, charged by affidavit made with the offense of “Libel,” byone S. S. Sheumack, and hold him in custody until dischargedby due course of law, which may be done by any examiningmagistrate.

Witness my hand and seal,

Mobile, January 17, 1859. Alex. McKinstry, Judge.

[Pg 184]

Received January 17, 1859, and on the same day I executedthe within writ on J. R. S. Pitts, and have now in jail.

James T. Shelton, Sheriff. M. C.

The State of Alabama,}
Mobile County.

I, P. LaVergy, Clerk of the City Court of Mobile, hereby certify,that the foregoing is a true copy of the affidavit signed byS. S. Sheumack, as also of the writ of arrest, and Sheriff’sreturn, in a case of the State vs. J. R. S. Pitts, as the same onfile in my office.

Witness my hand, this 19th day of July, A. D., 1874.

P. LaVergy, Clerk.


Scheumack or Shoemake, all the while a citizen of Mississippi,the defendant a citizen of Mississippi, yet, he goes tothe City of Mobile, in another State, among his friends andbrethren, for process of law. This was changing of venue witha vengeance. With equal propriety, as far as law is concerned,might he not have gone to New York—not one whit more unnatural.

Sheumack, the “big dog” among the clan; the man, aboveall others, steeped the deepest in blood, and crime, and dissimulation;the man who brought counterfeit documents pretendingto come from the Probate Judge of Kemper county; theman who denied writing the John R. Garland letter on the witnessstand, and whose oath was there invalidated to the satisfactionof all; the man who bore the requisition from theGovernor of Alabama to the Governor of Mississippi for thearrest of the defendant; this is the man to whom Judge McKinstrygranted his writ to serve the purposes as specifiedin the affidavit.

[Pg 185]

This affidavit charges with “unlawfully, wickedly, and maliciously,with intent to injury, defame, villify, and prejudice thedeponent:” and again “this deponent is represented by thename of Shonesmak, as a member of a clan or gang of robbers,murderers, and thieves, which statement, referring to the deponent,is a defamatory libel, and utterly and wholly untrue.”

In answer, will any one deny that such a “clan” existed?Will any one deny that its whole object was robbery, murder,and theft? It is presumed that none will have the effrontery tomake such a denial in the face of such overwhelming testimonyalmost everywhere to be found.

The next thing to be considered is, did the defendant publishand circulate, with an intent to defame, villify, and prejudice,etc., one represented by the name of Shouesmack, asbelonging to the said clan?

Is there one disinterested and unprejudiced being in existencewho can believe that the defendant could have anymotive for “wickedly, maliciously.” etc., assailing somebodyhe before knew nothing about, either good or bad—not evenbefore knowing that such a creature was in existence? Up tothat time, unacquainted with a single act of his life, can any onebelieve that the defendant published and circulated with a wickedand malicious intent to defame and prejudice somebody heneither knew by person or reputation before? Maliciousnesscan not exist while unconscious of any cause for the same. Somuch then for the unlawful, wicked and malicious attempt toinjure the fair fame of Scheumack.

The same arguments will apply with equal force to the othernames as published being the same as given by Copeland to thedefendant; for to suppose otherwise would be the height ofabsurdity. The next subject for inquiry is, did Copeland, inhis list of names, include Scheumack rightfully or wrongfully?

Shonesmack, and not Scheumack, was given in the publishedlist in consequence of a typographical error. But Scheumackdeclared that the published name must mean him, and the same[Pg 186]publication was “having a very deleterious effect against him inhis own county, Kemper.” Why was Scheumack so very sensitive?Why did he take on himself the published name ofShonesmack? Why was the publication having a very deleteriouseffect against him in his county, Kemper? An innocentman by the name of Scheumack would hardly have troubledhimself much about Shonesmak. A man living honestly,honorably, and respectfully in his own county would not havetaken any umbrage at all from the publication. Around here, thereare quite a number by the same, or very similar, name, yet noneof these complained against the publication having a very deleteriouseffect against them. Those who foam, and rave, andcurse the hardest, are generally the object on whom suspicionfalls the heaviest.

But this is not all, immediately after the publication of thepamphlet complained of, he wrote his John R. Garland letter,in which he described himself with the most perfect of accuracyas being occasionally absent for some time, and then returningwith horses and mules, and other sorts of property which nobodybesides himself could account for, etc. Let it be bornein mind that he denied writing this letter on oath on the witnessstand, when the conclusive proof came next that he undoubtedlywas the author of it. The counterfeit papers, withfeigned authority from the Probate Judge of Kemper county,his several designs on the life of the defendant, with manyother of his actions which are more than suspicious, all go toestablish the fact that Copeland made no mistake when he gavehis name and designated him as a “big dog” among the clan.

Ye, Governors, Judges and prosecutors, learn from the oldadage: “Tell me the company you keep, and I will tell you whoyou are.”

But there is something left behind of a still darker and moreenigmatical character as to the mockery in processes of lawbelonging to the case.

Scheumack, a resident of another State, goes to Mobile to[Pg 187]prosecute for libel, and Judge McKinstry grants him the writaccordingly. The Sheriff is represented as returning the sameto the effect that the writ had been executed, and the defendantin jail on the 17th of January, 1859. Again, the trial docketand the records show that four bills were got against the defendantfrom the Grand Jury the November term, 1858, markedcases numbers 61, 62, 63, 64, corresponding to which are giventhe names of G. Y. Overall, C. F. Moulton, G. A. Cleaveland,and S. S. Scheumack; and that the name of Scheumack disappearedsubsequently without any order being made or withoutany cause being assigned for the same; and furthermore fourappearance bonds given by the defendant are found on file inthe office. In these cases, there is no record of any action beingtaken by either Governor of Alabama or Mississippi, thereason for which, perhaps, may be accounted for by the innovationand wrong being too great for Governors’ names to beassociated with on record.

Now, it is evident, from the affidavit of Scheumack, that hedid not get a bill at the time the other three did from theGrand Jury of 1858, and it is equally evident that he neverafterward got one; then why was his case associated on thetrial docket with the other three?

The writ executed and returned asserts the defendant to bein jail on the 17th of January, 1859. What a farce! If thedefendant was in jail at that time, it so mysteriously happenedthat he never knew it. A bond is found on file in the officegiven by the defendant to answer the charge preferred byScheumak. What a farce! If the defendant gave such a bond,he never knew it—was never called on to sign it—never wentbefore any examining magistrate, nor never knew, until a fewdays ago, that Scheumack had ever succeeded in any action oflaw against him.

Ye prosecutors, answer, if you can, how the records aremade to show that Scheumack got a bill from the Grand Juryof the November term, 1858, when his affidavit of January 17,[Pg 188]1859, shows conclusively that he never got any such bill at all.Answer, if you can, how his name so mysteriously disappearedfrom the trial docket without any order being made, or withoutany cause being assigned for the same. Answer, if you can,how the appearance bond relative to him and the defendant isfound on file in the office, when no such bond could possiblyhave been given. Answer, if you can, how the defendant cameto be in jail on the 17th of January, 1859, when thousands positivelyknow that such was not the case. If “something rottenin Denmark” is not found here, it is vain to seek from anyother quarter.


Not in populous cities—not in the centres of accumulatedwealth and misdirected intelligence that integrity and the administrationof justice can be found. The highest functionariesof States have to bend to these rings and cliques. Honorscorned, justice mocked, and shame departed, what is there leftto purify the national streams? Clans who live by plunderand murder can, with their ill-gotten gains, find plenty of lawprotection. Above all things, the Bench should be kept pureand independent, so that the criminal, though rich, cannotescape; and the poor and humble, if honest, can receiveprotection. Not as now, when judicial decisions are measuredaccording to political numbers and the varied influences ofwealth. If mercy is shown at all, let it be on the side of theunfortunate and those who have had few opportunities for improvement;and never on the side of those who have had allthe advantages of wealth and education, and who should setan example to the subordinate classes of the community. Letthe lessons cease to be taught and children cease to learn thatbecause a man is rich no crime can hurt him; and if poor,though honest, he can be victimized by a snap of the fingerfrom some influential person at any time. Is it any wonder atthe increasing centralization of power? It is a necessary consequence[Pg 189]under present circ*mstances. The corruptions andabominations have nearly reached the maximum height, andare at present of such a frightful magnitude that some remedy,ere long, must be adopted. Liberty abused must bring on reaction,sometimes for the better, but oftener for evils as greatas those desired to be remedied.

And now, in concluding this sketch of the trial, which wascarried on with so much absorbing interest and excitement, abrief recapitulation of its paramount features may be of someutility in bringing within our immediate view those incidentsof it which are the most pregnant of meaning as to the futureconsequences.

In reviewing the conduct of the then Governor of Mississippi,McWillie, it is not charity, nor warranted by correctinductive reasoning, to suppose that he intended to assist theWages and Copeland Clan by giving his approval for the renditionof the defendant as a “fugitive from justice,” at the timehe was an acting Sheriff for one of the counties of the State.It is, perhaps, better to suspect the Governor’s ignorance orwant of the proper information, than to charge him with evildesigns. Had he known at the time the desperate character ofShoemake, one of the clan, and the authorized agent to makethe arrest; had he known that the defendant knew nothing ofthe names prior to the confessions, and, of course, could havehad no interest nor malicious motive to misrepresent, with thefact of locating the Three Distinguished at the risk of protractedtrouble and a ruinous expense, furnishing a strong inferenceof the truth of all as to the names inserted; had heknown that Copeland himself, on the scaffold in the lastmoments of earthly existence, acknowledged publicly and beforeliving witnesses the truth of the whole of his confessions;had he known and reflected that the full publication of themmust have, not only a direct and powerful tendency to disorganizethe remnant of the clan, but also to prevent future associationsof a similar character; had he known the full extent of[Pg 190]the horrors, for years, perpetrated by this clan, and that numbersstill living, from experience, can vouch for many of thefacts as narrated in the confessions; had he known that anoffense committed in one State or county, and the injury sustainedinflicted in another State or county, the case may betried in either, which gave him the right to use his discretion;had he known and reflected that the conflict must be betweenprosecutors—revengeful and experienced, wealthy and powerful,from another State, against youth—against an humble buthonest citizen of his own State; had he known all these circ*mstancesand maturely considered them, censure could notbe too severely applied for his approving the rendition of thedefendant as “a fugitive from justice.” Who ever before heardof any person being dragged from one State to another as amalefactor on a charge of libel?

However, if he, without design, gave assistance to the clanin the shape of an unmerited expense and injury to the defendant,it is nevertheless true that he also, without design, wasinstrumental in laying the foundation for a more distanttriumph in behalf of justice.

Many of the last observations are strictly applicable to thepresiding Judge, McKinstry. We cannot believe that he hadany affiliation with the clan, nor any sympathy for its continuance;but his reprehensible conduct on the trial can be betteraccounted for in the language of the competent gentleman whosat on the jury, and who had an opportunity of seeing andhearing and witnessing all, thus: “His strenuous ruling,strongly indicated to my mind, was to retain and maintainpolitical influence with powerful cliques.”

The changing of this Judge’s charges, the veering about firstfrom one side to the other, his expressed determination toforce a verdict against the better informed and more respectableof those who formed a great majority of the jury, if it requiredan indefinite period of confinement to do it; and then, inthe last hours of torture, came squarely out and told the jury[Pg 191]it was bound, from the law and evidence before it, to find averdict of guilty; and all this while knowing the awful characterof Shoemake, one of the main witnesses, as proven onthe trial; and while knowing that G. Y. Overall had no rightto prosecute in the name of G. Overall, when there were moreof the same name in the place, and to which the jury believedthe confessions applied as intended by Copeland; and more,after conviction, anticipating something righteously in favorof the defendant, this partial Judge declared his intention beforehand not to sign any petition for the release of the defendantfrom the prison; all these incidents taken together are toostrongly stamped to be explained away. The refusal of thedefendant’s application against the strongest of reasons incontrast with his unreasonable granting the prosecution all itwanted for several years afterwards, is also something whichwill not soon be forgotten.

But it may be said that Judge McKinstry did no more thanis fashionable in the present day—that of consulting politicalinterest in preference to the eternal laws of justice. This isbut too true. It is a deplorable fact that, from the most inferiorto the highest of courts and officers, measures are gaugedaccording to political considerations and wealthy favorites.Truth is sometimes very disagreeable, but it is neverthelessindisputable that when the progress is rapidly onward to idolizevast possessions under a system which rather favors thanchecks the spread of those evils which sap the very foundationsof strength and national vitality, and at the same time, and inthe same ratio, to dishonor the real sources of wealth—honestlabor—the nation’s decline and fall will follow in the wake ofconsequences under excessive government, no matter whetherof Republican or Democratic. The baneful effects from eitherwill be pretty much the same, as long as there are lacking thewill and the power to restrain or repress excesses as theyspring up. When general means of subsistence are easy, withplenty everywhere abounding, there is not much danger of[Pg 192]convulsive change; but a prodigious increase of population withproportionally narrower resources to command, together withextensive disaffection and oppressive burdens from previouswars, then is the time for the exercise of prudence and a strictadministration of justice in every department to maintain thelife of the nation.

Granted that G. Y. Overall proved satisfactorily enough analibi, that is, that he was not present at the time referred to;but it is again asked what was he doing associated with suchmen as Shoemake and Bentonville Taylor? Was he the tool ofmore designing men? What right—what necessity had he toturn prosecutor, when, as plainly elicited on trial, it was anotherOverall that Copeland referred to in his confessions?

The trial succeeded in nothing against the defendant only incrippling his pecuniary resources, and harrassing him in otherways. It rather strengthened than weakened the authenticityof the work. These circ*mstances, with the war, interruptedthe sale for some years; but as might have been reasonably expected,truth can only be temporarily crushed to burst forthagain with renewed vigor. Persecution only adds fuel to theflames.

Sick of the career of life which he had led, it was but naturalfor Copeland to repine against those who had shared hisplunder and goaded him on to crime with ample promises ofprotection, and then deserted him in the last hours of hisaffliction.

The defendant could have had no conceivable motive to forgenames—not knowing before Copeland gave them, that suchpersons were in existence; therefore, where there is no possiblemotive, there can be no crime or intentional wrong. So muchthen for the “wicked and malicious intentions,” as charged inthe affidavit of Shoemake.

The foregoing observations close the narrations of the trialwith the circ*mstances of connection belonging; and now for[Pg 193]particulars, as reasonably presumed, of another attempt on thelife of the defendant in 1862.

Throughout the proceedings of the trial Dr. Pitts has beenproperly referred to as the “defendant.” Hereafter his ownproper name will be given.


In the spring of 1862, when returning from a professionalvisit, he was waylaid by two persons to him entire strangers.Just before the Doctor reached a by-path he was accustomedto travel, because somewhat nearer, he first suddenly discoveredone of them near the main road, in a bunch of bushesby a stump, some fifty or seventy-five yards distant. The Doctormade a quick change of position; the rays of the sun fellon the bright gun in possession, which reflected a dazzlingbrilliancy for the moment. This extraordinary circ*mstanceof itself was sufficient to cause well-grounded apprehensions ofdanger; and, accordingly, the Doctor kept a close watch for anexcited moment. No sooner had he taken the by-path abovealluded to, than he saw one of the two rush out—fast runningthrough the thick woods in order to intercept him. The Doctorinstantly turning his course, he at once beheld anotherperson running in the same direction. There was but oneavailable outlet for the Doctor to make his escape, and thisthrough a long narrow valley with obstructing hills on eachside. Both made a strenuous effort to get ahead of him in thevalley, but fortunately he was mounted on a fine animal veryfast on speed, which successfully enabled him to escapeunhurt.

As before stated, these two parties were entire strangers, andnever spoke a word during the whole transaction. On peaceableterms with every one in the settlement around, so far asknown, there could not be a doubt on his mind as to this movementbeing another attempt on his life from the clan for the sakeof vengeance for the past, and to prevent republication in[Pg 194]the future. The same conclusions must be arrived at by everyimpartial judge of the affair.

The following tragic accounts have recently been carefullycollected from authentic and reliable sources, which, here introduced,will form something like an episode of after transactionsof the parties whose names are also found in Copeland’s confessions—transactionsexactly of a character to correspondwith the dark and bloody operations as given by Copelandhimself.


From whatever stand-point viewed, there is something extraordinaryabout this man. He was particularly distinguishedin the art of sculpture. He built the jail in DeKalb, Kempercounty, Miss., which, when completed, was pronounced amaster-piece of workmanship for substantial security. But insome length of time afterward, the report got out, probablyfrom his own boasting, or some unguarded expression whichhe had made use of, that it was not safe. Inspection of theminutest sort followed, but not a sign of insecurity was discovered.However, when he got ready, he volunteered to show,and did show the defect which all previous search had utterlyfailed to find. He pointed to a place in the wall so perfectlyconcealed, yet with a very little exertion a vent could be madequite large enough for one person to pass out.

He was expert and dexterous in everything he engaged, but,as time developed, with an ultimate object of fraudulent gain inone way or the other. He was a scholar, yet this capacity onlyenabled him to attain greater heights of rascality with less liabilityof detection. Politeness, civility, and the most consummateof gentlemanly airs he could assume when his nefariouspurposes could be best served by so doing. He was cruel, butnot brave. It is said that the sister of his now brother-in-lawreceived cruel treatment from him in youth; and for years thisbrother-in law determinedly bore it in mind, and at maturitybeat Shoemake unmercifully for the same. This is a case withone man that Shoemake childishly dreaded ever afterward.

[Pg 195]

But his wife, formally called Muggy Worbington, was madeof different material. She was brave sure enough, which wassufficiently evidenced on a number of occasions; one of whichwas in making two men, who had before vehemently offendedher, jump precipitately into the river from a flat to avoid thecontents of a revolver which was too resolutely presented to bemistaken.

And again, in the malignant feud between the Shoemake andFisher family, which culminated in a pitched battle with shot-gunsand pistols, near a brickyard, half a mile north of oldMarion, Lauderdale county, Miss., in the fall of 1844, or earlyin 1845. Shoemake and his wife against Fisher and two sons,William and Theophilous. The fire from the Fisher familywas too hot and severe for Shoemake; he left in haste and desertedhis wife, who fought inch by inch with unfaltering fortitudeuntil shot down by the greater opposing force with whichshe was in conflict.

Shoemake, before leaving Kemper county, made intimationsas if disposed to divulge the interesting historical part of hislife; and, at the same time, in reference to the tremendous disasterhe sustained on the trial of Dr. Pitts; made significantremarks of a double meaning, but really of a nature to warrantthe impression that the publisher of the Life and Career ofCopeland would pass off this stage of existence, which wouldbe certain to leave mystery behind for future contemplation.

Shoemake resided in and around Kemper county for a numberof years. His conduct was always suspicious, but his address,his ingenuity, and his whole movements were so profoundlymanaged as to evade penal detection. Years had toelapse to fully develop the man for anything like a commonconsent as to his real Character. It but required time tosatisfy the judgment of all that he tainted everything hetouched. And this is the man who was so sensitive becauseCopeland confessed him to be “a big dog among the clan.”

[Pg 196]


The names of the two Hardens were given by Copeland asforming a part of the clan. More about them has since beencollected, which will now be read with interest.

About the year 1853 John Harden, from the State of Alabama,stole a fine animal, buggy and negro man, and succeededin getting them safely to Marion county, Miss., where hismother resided. The Sheriff, Mr. Smith, from the county inAlabama where said property was stolen from, pursued Harden,and on reaching this State, Mississippi, he employed the servicesof Philip James, of Greene county, to accompany him.Finding Harden in the night at his mother’s, he was by themtaken on surprise, but made a desperate resistance, thoughbeing overpowered, was compelled to surrender. The horse,buggy and negro man were all found. Sheriff Smith had Hardenconfined within the buggy, and the negro man ordered toride the horse. On returning, and when they reached the residenceof Philip James, Sheriff Smith made no further requeston Mr. James, and thought he could then manage without anyfurther assistance. Accordingly they started, but shortly afterthey had crossed Chickasahay river the Sheriff was killed—appearancesindicating that he had been beaten to death by aclub. But whether by Harden or the negro man, none everwere able to ascertain. The buggy was rolled off under a hill.The horses and the two persons made their escape for the timebeing. Nothing positively definite, but the report followedthat in some six or eight months afterward Harden was apprehendedby Smith’s friends, and by lynch operations finished hiscareer by being hung to the limb of a tree.

His brother, also mentioned by Copeland, who married adaughter of Gideon Rustin, was hung in Columbia, Mississippi,about the year 1843, for the murder of his wife. Immediatelyafter the murder, he made his escape, and got into the State ofGeorgia, where he remained for some months; but subsequentlyreturned and gave himself up to the sheriff, but had not been[Pg 197]long in prison till he broke out, and would probably made hisescape, but was captured by some parties in a boat near bywhile he was in the act of swimming Pearl river.

John Harden was a powerful man, not only in physicalstrength, but also in determined energies and resolution. Yearsago, it is said that he and Hampton H. Nichols, of Perry countyMississippi, disagreed—followed by a fight betwixt the two inthe usual manner, and that Harden came out the best; although,for nerve and surpassing strength, it was before thought thatNichols had not a superior. Thus, one by one do the membersof the “clan” drop into eternity by violent and unnatural terminations.


There are others of the “clan” still active and surviving.James McArthur—better known in some places by the appellationof “Calico Dick” still lives. By reference to theoriginal history of the Wages and Copeland clan, page 89, itwill be seen that this man became connected with the organizationin 1844; and, at the time, was acknowledged by theformer members as being directly concerned with others engagedin the business of counterfeiting money. Dr. Pitts hastaken considerable trouble in tracing out the character of thisman, and has received information from the best citizens ofMississippi and Alabama. Let this information be read withcare and attention; and then, who can have the effrontery tocontend that the names given in the “confessions” “are forgedand the entire work unworthy of credit.”

In former years, when the Wages and Copeland organizationwas in full blast, he was then looked on as a suspicious characterand believed to belong to the clan, as well as having moreor less to do with the counterfeiting business which had beenthe means of flooding the country with a spurious circulation.

This organized band of robbers, murderers and counterfeitershad become such a terror to the seashore counties of Mississippi[Pg 198]that the good people of these sections were driven to thenecessity of forming a “Vigilance Committee,” for the betterprotection and preservation of society. By this committee,many suspicious persons were arrested, among whom was JimMcArthur. He, with a rope around his neck, piloted the committeeto the swamp, where he pointed out and dug up thecoining apparatus which was used by the band in coiningcounterfeit money. Here he acknowledged his identity withthe counterfeiters, and was only released on his solemn vow toleave the country—never more to show his face in that regionof society. Accordingly, he did leave, and was not seen thereagain until during the late war between the States, when hereturned and was a great source of trouble again to all theneighboring counties around—committing more crimes of amore shocking and atrocious character.

After the close of the war, he again left that vicinity, andmade his headquarters in Mobile, Alabama, where occasionallyhe was seen very flush of money. Also, after the war, he madea visit to Perry county, Mississippi. While there, he madeinquiry after a woman, who had left her husband while thenational contest was going on. The supposition is that he,made her acquaintance on Honey Island during the war.

He is now well known to all this country as a renownedtraveling gambler; and, among the fraternity of that class, isprobably better known by the name of “Calico Dick,” whichappellation he received many years ago, according to his ownstatement, when but a youth, in the State of Georgia, for stealinga bolt of calico, and for the same received thirty-ninelashes. But particulars on this subject will be best understoodby giving an extract of a letter from one of Mississippi’sgifted sons:

“Calico Dick is the same brigand—the infamous Jim McArthur.He himself states that when he was a youth in Georgia,he stole a bolt of calico—was detected and received thirty-ninelashes, and ever since has been called Calico Dick. He[Pg 199]was suspected of murdering a peddlar in Hanco*ck county yearsago, and acknowledged, with the rope around his neck, to thevigilant committee that he was a counterfeiter, and pointed outthe apparatus for coining—confessed to horse-stealing andnegro-stealing, and had left his wife and children in Hanco*ckcounty to starve or do worse. His nephew, young Frost, whokept a cigar stand in or near the Battle House, Mobile, wasarrested at Bay St. Louis last year on the charge of murder, andcarried to Alabama. I have not heard the result. McArthurwas unquestionably one of the Copeland clan. He committedmany crimes during the war. At any time during the secondyear of the war, when we had no law, if I had met him, I wouldhave shot him from my knowledge of his crimes.”

Jackson County, 1873.

From another friend, in Jackson county, he still furtherexhibits the man in his true colors:

“James McArthur, long known as Calico Dick, has residedmany years in Hanco*ck county, Mississippi. Though absentfrequently for months, sometimes for a year or two. His ownstatement when he first appeared in the county, was, that he stolea piece of calico, from a country store in Georgia, and beingdetected received thirty-nine lashes. So far from beingashamed of this exploit, he boasts of it, and when drinkingoften repeats the story of his filthy life. He soon made himselfknown in Hanco*ck as a gambler; and from his frequentmysterious journeys, and generally returning with a fine horseand plenty of money, he became an object of general suspicion.The Murrell clan, and, subsequently, the Wages and Copelandclan were then operating throughout the country. Negro-stealing,horse-stealing, counterfeiting, highway robbery andmurder had been reduced to a system, and it was rare that anybodywas brought to justice. If any party was arrested, someof the clan was always on hand to prove an alibi. Suspicionvery often pointed to an individual, but people were afraid tohint their suspicions lest they might draw down upon them[Pg 200]some secret vengeance—the burning of their dwellings or assassination.Thus, crime was committed with impunity. Apeddler, known to have considerable money, was found murderedin Hanco*ck, and though there was but one opinion as to whocommitted the deed, no one was arrested. The county wasflooded with spurious coin. McArthur was known to makefrequent journeys towards Mobile and to the Sabine on theTexas line, and when he returned, there was always an influx ofbad money in circulation. He generally brought one or morestrangers. Men of doubtful character, and with no apparentmeans of living, and never known to work, began to multiply,and this class was constantly around McArthur, and looked upto him as their chief. Though known to be personally anabject coward, he became, through these desperate men, anobject of terror to the timid; and even respectable men wereweak enough to court his favor. The late Col. D. C. Glenn wouldoften say, after his attendance on the Hanco*ck Circuit Courts,that he was shocked to see decent men jesting and drinkingwith such a wretch! The secret was that these men dreadedhim and his gang.

Finally, somewhere about 1845, counterfeiting, horse-stealing,stock-stealing, and other crimes became so common; andthe county so swarmed with idle, worthless, and suspiciouscharacters, the citizens of Hanco*ck formed a vigilance committeefor mutual protection. It embraced the best, most responsible,and determined men in the county. They arrested anumber of persons, most of whom confessed to being, or havingbeen, members of the Murrell and Wages clans. Thenames of these men, and what became of them, can be given toyou by some old citizen—such as Col. Claiborne, S. T. Randall,Luther Russ, J. W. Roberts, and others. Those who confessedto belonging to the above named clans, were to a man the booncompanions and associates of the notorious Jim McArthur, aliasCalico Dick. The committee finally arrested him. I havebeen told that nearly the entire committee was for hanging him[Pg 201]instanter. Indeed the rope was around his neck; but someone suggested that if they hung him, many important secretswould die with him; and that it was better to spare his life onthe conditions of full confession and his immediate and perpetualdeparture from the county and State. The cowardlyand treacherous scoundrel clutched at this expedient to savehis life. He acknowledged his crimes, gave the names of hisassociates, and piloted the committee to his camp in the Devil’sswamp, where he fabricated spurious money. The moulds,forge, and a quantity of base metal were found there. Theforger should have been handed over to the U. S. authorities,but he was permitted to leave the county on his oath (whatwas the oath of such a creature worth,) never to return. Heleft immediately for Alabama, where it would be worth whileto track him. When the war broke out, and the vigilancecommittee of Hanco*ck no longer existed—its most prominentmembers having died or removed—this self-confessed felon returnedto the county. He appeared there, I am told, in thecharacter of a bounty jumper or substitute broker, in whichhe swindled a number of confiding people. A band of his oldassociates returned about the same time, and during the warbecame the terror and scourge of the country. Some were desertersfrom the Confederate ranks—some joined the UnitedState army, and deserted their colors came back to their oldhaunts and their old leader. Some were professionalthieves, robbers, and murderers, who never belonged toeither army, but took to bushwacking, and jayhawking for aliving; robbed the old, the widow, and the orphan withoutscruple, and often added arson and murder to their robberies.McArthur was constantly on the wing on the old pattern followedby Wages and Copeland. Since the war, he has passedmuch of his time in Alabama; but I am informed by citizensof Hanco*ck that he has for some months past been dwelling inthat county. His doings in Alabama ought to be traced out.What he is after in his obscure den in Hanco*ck county, will, nodoubt, in due time, crop out.”

[Pg 202]

Calico Dick is described by those who have seen him ashaving the appearance of being deformed from the effect ofdisease. The external appearance indicate considerable curvatureof the spine. Others more intimate and better acquaintedwith him, say that this seeming curvature is caused by the constantwearing of a steel plate, which is used for the purpose ofcarrying cards; and that the plate is so constructed that hecan without detection take from or add to his hand while playing,and with the assistance of his spring plate renders it impossiblefor any one to compete with him in this departmentof gambling.

The report of his death by being shot near St. Stevens isproven to be false. There is now a letter in the possession ofJohn Champenoies, a resident of Shubuta, Clarke county, Mississippi,from Calico Dick, dated at Pensacola Junction, the28th of May, 1873, and mailed at Whiting, Alabama.

There is another incident in his life which is rather amusing,and should not be entirely overlooked. In the year of 1868,he purchased a ticket to Enterprise, on M. & O. R. R., to Quitman,and got on board of a freight train, which carried him tothe next station below, DeSoto, some four or five miles furtherthan he wanted to go, and he had to walk back again. For thishe sued the company, and got judgment against it to the tuneof several thousand dollars; but the case was carried to HighCourt, and judgment reversed for a new trial. However, acompromise was made, and the company only paid him fivehundred dollars, and gave him a free ticket on the road to rideafterwards.

Since writing the above, Dr. Pitts entertained some doubtsof the truths of the whole of this story; and, to be better satisfiedon the matter, wrote to one member of the company inhigh position, and received from him by way of reply thefollowing:

“I know James McArthur, often called ‘Calico Dick,’ butknow little of his antecedents.

[Pg 203]

“He did bring a suit against the railroad for taking him pastQuitman to DeSoto, I think in 1867 or 1868, and Judge Leachmangave judgment on demurrer, not a jury, for, I think,$10,000. Exceptions were taken, and the case sent to theHigh Court, where the error was cause to send it back for anew trial. Before the new trial was had he proposed to compromise,and I did so for $500, he paying costs, but I do notknow that he did pay, as he said he had given security forcosts, and the Clerk might make them.

“I have not seen ‘Calico’ in the last two years, but presumehe lives, and has his ‘Tiger’ yet. The last time I saw himwas at State Line, where he told me he was ‘flat broke,’ andhis ‘Tiger’ in ‘soak,’ and he wanted with his whole soul aticket to Mobile on credit. He got it, and I have not seen himsince.

“June 25, 1874.”

There must be something remarkable about this man, otherwisehe could not so long have escaped the last penalties of thelaw and the vengeance of an outraged population. The lastheard of him, of import, was his visit to Escatawpa, Ala., ashort time before the foul murder of W. C. Stanley, of thisplace, particulars of which the reader will now examine, as relatedto Dr. Pitts by one of the main witnesses involved in thecase; but it should be first remembered that “Calico Dick”made a visit to Escatawpa, then left for Mobile, Ala., and in afew days after his nephew, Frost, came to Escatawpa. Thecurrent belief is that he was induced to do so under the influenceof his uncle.


The masterly description of the terrible clans as they haveheretofore existed, and as given by the natural as well as artisticalpen of the Jackson county correspondent, cannot be overestimated.[Pg 204]It will well pay for perusal and re-perusal againand again. Let the following quotations never be forgotten:

“The worst of human crimes had been reduced to a system,and it was rare that anybody was brought to justice. If anyparty was arrested some of the clan was always on hand toprove an alibi. Suspicions often pointed to an individual, butpeople were afraid to hint their suspicions lest they might drawdown upon them some secret vengeance—the burning of theirdwellings or assassination. Thus crime was committed withimpunity. A peddler, known to have considerable money, wasfound murdered in Hanco*ck, and though there was but oneopinion as to who committed the deed, no one was arrested.McArthur, though personally known to be an abject coward,became, through desperate men which he commanded, an objectof terror to the timid; and even respectable men were weakenough to court his favor. The late Colonel Glenn wouldoften say, after his attendance on the Hanco*ck Circuit Courts,that he was shocked to see decent men jesting and drinkingwith such a wretch! The secret was that these men dreadedhim and his gang.”

The above is a whole volume for contemplation. Decent,respectable, and distinguished persons jesting and drinkingwith renowned and scientific criminals through fear of conflagrationand assassination. No efforts made to bring to justice—crimepassing with respectable impunity.

Honor crime, and numbers will soon increase prodigiously.Make escape easy and almost certain, and the law will carryno terrors with it. Grievances, real or imaginary, and opportunitieswill be sought to bring in play the bowie-knife andrevolver. Let life’s warm stream flow freely, the sight common,and human life will soon be worth no more than the dog’s.Let a callous indifference pervade the community when thetidings of outrage, robbery and murder are brought, and soonwill the great arteries of a State’s wealth and prosperity beginto languish and decay. Under such a system, can civilization[Pg 205]progress? Will capital invest to set the springs of industry atwork? Can wealth and intelligence thrive under such blightinginfluences of desolation? Is not government strong enoughto protect its subjects? If not it should be, and the sooner itcan be accomplished, the better it will be for all classes of society.Even affluent railroad companies have to bend to suchmen as Jim McArthur. To produce wide-spread fear andsocial insecurity, it is not necessary for crime and murder tobe of an every-day occurrence; it is the hopelessness of gettingredress from the courts as they are at present constituted thatis so pernicious in consequences.


W. C. Stanley came to Escatawpa with a small capital, andinvested to the amount of two or three hundred dollars worthof goods. On or about the night of the 6th of June, 1872, hewas brutally murdered, and was not found until one or two daysafterward, when the woods hogs were discovered eating up hislifeless body. An inquest was immediately held, and one onthe jury by the name of Oye, tried to implicate a colored man,William Powe, on a plea of his having made some threats previously,but this insignificant plea was quickly ruled out ofconsideration as unworthy of any credit whatever, and properlyso, for the colored man satisfactory proved himself clear immediatelyafterward. A verdict of murder by some unknownhands was returned. However, one by the name of Frost beganto get very uneasy, and left the place the second or third daysucceeding. The passions of the citizens around became greatlyinflamed by having such a horrid murder committed withintheir midst. And this was not the only one; no less than tenother brutal murders had occurred in and about the placewithin a very limited period of time. Blood and terror reignedto an extent never before experienced. To such a pitch ofatrocity had this neighborhood got that no man could reasonablyfeel safe twenty-four hours.

[Pg 206]

Almost under any plea life was taken with but little hesitationby lawless violence. However, these good citizens heldmeetings to protect themselves against such diabolical outrageswhich then, of late, had been perpetrated in largenumbers. They, well knowing Mr. B. F. Woulard to be a closeobserver, and active and energetic in every other respect, appointedhim as the most suitable and reliable person in thecapacity of detective to ferret out and apprehend the guiltyparties. He obeyed the call, and, after Frost, took the firsttrain to Mobile, Alabama, where, after much trouble, he learnedthat Frost had departed for Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Stillforward, and without delay, he very soon reached that place,where he found him stopping with one of his aunts, andarrested him almost without disturbing the family. Theretaken before the City Marshal, who was acquainted with Frost,and knew him to be of very bad character—knew that he hadsometime before endeavored to induce young men of that cityto engage in the counterfeiting business. Mr. Woulard wellknew that Frost, prior to the murder of Stanley, was withoutmoney, and did not really have respectable clothing to wear,though, when arrested, he had two valises well packed withgood, substantial clothing, which he had purchased when passingthrough Mobile, as learned by detective Woulard on hisreturn to this city, with Frost still under arrest. Then andthere, the firm of Jacobins & Brisk gave information to theeffect that Frost had purchased from seventy to eighty dollarsworth from this firm. It was now plain to detective Woulardthat Frost had received money some where, and was requiredto give an account of the same. He answered by declaring tohave obtained it by registered letter. On further investigation,it was satisfactorily shown that he had received no registeredletter; and now finding it was vain to attempt to concealany further, he was about to make a confession of the wholeaffair; but a person by the name of Cotton, in Mobile, steppedup and learned the cause of arrest, when, to detective Woulard,[Pg 207]he proposed for Frost to be turned over to him for a while,during which time he would be apt to get from him a full confessionof all the facts connected with the case. Accordingly,Frost was placed in Cotton’s custody for something like anhour, when he returned with this report: “You have certainlygot the right man; go now and arrest Oye and his wife, atEscatawpa.” In compliance with such advice, detective Woulardlost no time, but hurried back with Frost, and there didarrest Oye.

But here Frost’s confession should be given, which in substance,was as follows:

“At the time Stanley was absent from home on business,Oye availed himself of the opportunity by going to Mrs.Stanley, and by an attempt at strong reasoning, he persuadedher to leave him—all the while believing that Stanley, in suchan event, would become so dissatisfied to an extent sufficientto cause him to sell his goods, which could be so managed asto give Oye the preference of purchase, when the money paidfor same could be got back by a devised scheme of robbery.But in the interval between the commencement of the plan andStanley’s return, two Irish shoe-peddlers came into the neighborhood.Oye purchased the remnant of goods they had onhand. Forthwith one left—the other remained and boardedwith Oye. Now, Stanley returned home, and found that hiswife had left him, and his store, with all other of his effects,in the hands of Oye. This unexpected conduct of his wifehad, according to Oye’s calculations, the desired effect. Frustratedand discontented to an extent better imagined thandescribed, he at once desired to dispose of his whole interestin the place. This was what Oye wanted, and quickly proposedto buy him out, which proposition, under the circ*mstances,was readily accepted. Oye paid the full value of thegoods without any scruples whatever, and put Frost in chargeof the same. Stanley, during the time he intended to remainin the neighborhood, and Frost now became room mates, and[Pg 208]boarded at the house of Oye. Up to this time, the progresshad been attended with very little trouble, and everythingseemed to promise continued success. The next movementwas a secret consultation among the three—Oye, Frost and theIrish shoe-peddler, the latter of which, from inference, seemedto have before affiliated with such company, and likely his appearanceas an Irish shoe-peddler at the time had all been previouslyarranged to produce the desired effect. This consultationwas for the purpose of decoying Stanley out on a fishingexcursion, so that he could be ambushed, robbed and murdered.Frost was the person agreed on to perform the part of betrayingStanley out, but, on more mature consideration, Oye couldnot repose sufficient confidence in the Irishman—entirely rulinghim out, and broke up the first agreement. The next oneadopted was for Frost to inform Stanley that Mrs. Oye hadbeen receiving letters from his wife, Mrs. Stanley. Frostfurther intimated that he could so manage as to get hold ofone or more of these letters, and would, the first opportunity,do so for Stanley’s satisfaction. Stanley, very much wantingto know the whereabouts of his wife and children, urged Frostto get possession, if possible, of the letters the first convenientopportunity. So far, there was a mutual understandingbetween the two. But little time elapsed before Frost madeknown that sure enough he had succeeded in getting the lettersfrom Mrs. Oye, and was then in possession of the same. Nightbeing present, it was agreed for Stanley to retire with him, forthe purpose of reading the letters, to a place some two hundredyards in the rear of Oye’s drinking saloon, which place is apine thicket or grove. Matches were procured, and forwardthey went to this designated place. Here Frost handed Stanleysome sort of a paper package; and while Stanley was in theact of making a light from a match to a candle, Oye suddenlyrushed up with a loaded revolver, and shot Stanley throughthe head—followed by five more discharges at him. After hehad fallen, Oye was about to put his hand in Stanley’s pocket[Pg 209]for money, when a hollow groan was heard, indicating that thelast sign of life had not departed, to fully effect which, Oye,with his pocket knife stabbed the victim several times in thebreast, and then cut the throat from ear to ear. Oye nowleaves Frost to get the money and drag off the corpse to someold well near by, while Oye would return and see that all wasright outside. In this operation of dragging to the well,Frost became alarmed and left the spot.

The following day, Oye made a proposition to Frost to takean axe and cut the lifeless body to pieces, so that the samecould be sacked and thrown into Dog River. Frost declined todo this from suspicion of a great probability of detection in sodoing. As yet, no disposition having been made of the remains,a young man by the name of William Cooper, thenext evening, found the decomposing body with active and consuminghogs around it. On the bloody grounds of the murdera pistol rammer was found, which was inspected by detectiveWoulard. Oye hearing of this circ*mstance, ordered Frost toimmediately take the pistol to which it belonged, and throw thesame into Dog River without delay, which was done accordingly.In the confession of Frost, he further told where the pocket-bookof Stanley could be found that had been taken away fromhim after death. Agreeable and true to his statement, the pocket-bookwas found, and contained a tooth, which on seeing by Mr.A. O’Donnell, was declared to belong to Mrs. Stanley—shehaving before shown the same to him. With it a piece of poetry,in the hand-writing of Stanley, was also found.”

The fact of Frost and Stanley boarding together at Oye’shouse; the fact of the murdered body having been found; thefact of the sudden departure of Frost—before well-known tohave been in want of both money and respectable clothing, andall at once, found with plenty, and then his falsehoods andfailure to account for the same; and then the fact of his confessionabout the pocket-book having been proven to be perfectlycorrect; these circ*mstances, with others connected, all taken[Pg 210]together, fasten guilt on Frost, and go far to establish thetruth of the other part of his confessions in which Oye is representedas the principal actor of the whole.

Aware of all this when detective Woulard arrested Oye. Heplaced both under a vigilant guard for a short time to be controlledby Mr. A. F. Hooks. Immediately after the arrest wasmade, Mrs. Oye got an opportunity to speak to her husband, andwas overheard to say something about a fuss, which in a few minutesfollowed by her using such language of obscenity and profanityagainst the guard which, perhaps, was never equalledfrom the lips of woman. During the disturbance, the intentionwas for Oye to get away, but the guard kept too sharp a lookoutfor the attempt to succeed.

The prisoners were conveyed as soon as practicable by detectiveWoulard, to St. Stevens, Alabama, where they had apreliminary trial, and evidence sufficiently adduced for committal.But all the while Mrs. Oye had been active. A writ ofHabeas Corpus had been obtained from the Circuit Judge ofthe district, Mr. Elliott, requiring the prisoners forthwith to bebrought before him for a further hearing. In conformity with thewrit, the Sheriff of Washington county, E. L. Collins conveyedthem to Mobile, and the evidence there produced was sufficientlystrong for Judge Elliott to order them back to Washingtoncounty to there await the action of the circuit court.

When the case came up for trial, by motion of counsel, achange of venue was made: Oye’s case being removed to Baldwincounty, and Frost’s to the county of Mobile. Owing to thegreat distance, with proportionate expenses, this change madeit very inconvenient for witnesses to attend, by reason of whichthey were unable to be present in court, and the consequencewas a discharge of Oye for want of evidence; but last reportssay Frost still remains in Mobile jail—perhaps to be liberatedalso when convenience of time will justify: thus defeating theends of justice and demonstrating the almost impossibility ofconvicting any belonging to the worst class of criminals.

[Pg 211]

Since the forgoing was prepared for the press, the followingadditional information has been received through a highly responsiblesource from New Orleans, La.:


“Frost shortly after the murder of W. C. Stanley, in Alabama,made his appearance at Bay St. Louis, with two carpet bagsfilled with fine clothing and his pockets full of money. He displayedthis ostentatiously, and spent it lavishly in the coffeehouses. While splurging in this style, he was arrested andtaken to Alabama, on the charge of murder. When he wasdischarged (to the amazement of everybody) he returned tothe Bay, and by some means was made an assistant light-housekeeper on Chandlier Island: How he got in this position wouldbe well worth finding out. Recently the keeper sent him toNew Orleans to draw his (the keeper’s) money. Frost drew it,and wrote to the keeper that he had deposited it with a certainfirm in the city. On inquiry, such deposit had not beenby him made, and he with the money disappeared some sixweeks ago. He and his uncle are capable of any crime, but arecowards.”

August 13, 1874.


Talk of reform and State improvements, impossible whilethis system of things continue; “as well expect grapes fromthorns or figs from thistles.” Not occasional robberies, notoccasional murders alone that poison the vitals of society.These will sometimes occur under the best government—undergood laws and well administered; it is the ninety-nine chancesfor escape to one for conviction which produces so much evil.When punishment is sure to immediately follow the commissionof crime, then society can repose in security; but otherwise,the honest and peaceable live in fear—the dishonest and disorderlyin defiant lawlessness. Overt crime, regardless of law,[Pg 212]with a determination to remain and risk all consequences fromthe farcical courts; in such cases, arrest sometimes follow, butthe bail is ready, and with a few dollars acquittal will be almostcertain. If the case is too dark and unpopular, time after timethe trial will be put off, until, according to common parlance,the case is worn out, or some material witness got out of theway, and then the answer is “ready for trial”—well knowingthe result which must follow. But oftener, if the criminalleave the county or State, no more notice is taken—no effortmade to reach and bring him back.

It is seldom that redress is ever endeavored to be obtainedby process of law. This reluctance cannot be wondered at inthe face of so many unblushing recommendations and encouragementsfrom unprincipled attorneys in open court to willfulviolations of law; not to be wondered at when the injuredprosecutor experiences nothing but abuse and malicious, orrather mercenary, invective, while the vile criminal is allowedto walk out of court unhurt and plumed with the laurels ofvictory, even in the worst cases which can possibly be conceived.If one person becomes irritated against another, nomatter for what cause, either real or imaginary, he thinks notof investigation in the courts, but either sets in to break uphis antagonist by private and malicious mischief, or he waylays,ambushes or seeks an opportunity to create a quarrel, sothat life can be taken under the plea of justifiable homicide!But sordid, corrupt and sinister motives do not always stop atacquitting the guilty; they occasionally labor as hard to harrassand punish the innocent! The author’s case, in his trialat Mobile, is one instance out of many where everything wasstrained to convict innocence. Sometimes one object in view,and sometimes another. Grand juries are not unfrequentlyacted on in a very disgraceful manner. One person, throughspite, or for getting the property of another in some covertway, will seek an opportunity to get a bill from the grand jury.Another, to avoid paying a just debt, or to screen himself in[Pg 213]some other case, for the purpose of producing intimidation, or,as it is more commonly called, “running him off,” will seek toget a bill from the grand jury. Others, if the truth is tooplainly spoken, will seek to command the grand jury for libel.Under such a system, the worst of men are generally themost expert in law, and always the readiest to fly to it to subservetheir purposes. Alarming abuses in one direction seldomfail to be carried on in the contrary direction pretty muchwith equal proportion.

Lynch law is an unavoidable consequence of a mockery ofcivil law. No nation can long prosper under a reign of courtcorruptions. If the guilty, as a rule, escape, and justice notstrictly administered, the sources of wealth will soon languishand decay. If the fashions of the courts are to favor theworst at the expense of the best members of society, the necessaryresults cannot fail to come shortly afterward. Under sucha deplorable state of things, confidence and security cannotdwell. Suspicion and distrust everywhere; industry, the desireto accumulate, and also productive capital, will all bedefective.

There are but few crimes which a determined and prudentgovernment cannot suppress. Those aggravated offenses underthe name of “Ku Klux” depredations, how soon they were putdown under a vigorous execution of law. If the governmentof this State continues as it has begun, there will be no more ofdueling, or at least so rare as not to be productive of muchinjury. The certainty of punishment, even in rare cases, willrelieve society from serious harm on this account.

States, Empires and Republics search for the first causes oftheir decline and fall, and they will be found to consist in thevitiated customs of the rulers in the various departments ofgovernments, in a reckless trampling on the principles of justicewithout shame, without remorse, and, above all, in overgrowncorruptions practiced with the honors of emolumentsand distinctions.

[Pg 214]

And now it is only necessary to add, in reference to theWages and Copeland Clan, as an organization, it is broken up,though isolated individuals who belonged to it still continue toperpetrate crime whenever anything like a favorable opportunityoffers. For a lengthy duration of time this clan spreadterror and desolation both far and wide. Happily for presentsociety, as an organized body, it is numbered on the dark andbloody pages of the past.

The publication of the confessions by the author was productiveof much good. The high and mighty outside aidersseverely felt the blows. But for the support given by suchauxiliary aiders the organization would have come to dissolutionmuch earlier. It is such influential aiders and abettors,in warding off the chains of law, which give vitality to movementsof this character. The decline began from the death ofthe President and leader, Wages, and also at the same time thedeath of the preaching hypocrite, McGrath. This change wasfurther accelerated by the execution of Copeland, and the narrowescape of another brother, together with the publicationof the confessions, laying open to public gaze the implicatedparties and the principal movement of the whole.

But the expiration of one sort of lawlessness does not precludethe existence of others more dangerous, because moresubtle and more in accordance with the corruptions in the highdepartments of States, and more in harmony with the operationsof those who boldly trample on rectitude and the laws of thenation. Rings and cliques are not confined to political considerationsalone, but descend to many other important affairsof life. A union of an inferior and unprincipled lawyer with asubordinate officer, and these again with a league of recklessand desperate “strikers,” who can make money almost at anytime from the honest earnings of the less expert, and all byforms and processes of law. This is one class of rings complained[Pg 215]of, the evils from which are of a frightful magnitude.They weave the net, goad the honest but unwary into itsmeshes, and revel on the spoils which have been extorted fromlitigation. The former modes of robbery, plunder and murderhave, to a great extent, been superseded by, if possible, worseevils in the form of a science as taught and practiced by theserings and cliques. Crimes which formerly had to encounterhardships and danger, can now be accomplished by other meanswith honors, profits, and a plausible sanction of law. Governmentshould have power sufficient to be able and willing tocrush such proceedings, which, unchecked, must, ere long, produceanother national convulsion.

Copeland’s crimes were huge and many. Before he hadreached the meridian of life he paid the last and highest penaltyof the law. He was cut down anterior to the attainment of theflower of his days—a melancholy example to all who preferrobbery and murder to the honest and peaceful pursuits of industry.With all the weight of crime belonging, he made someatonement by his valuable confessions in the last hours of hisexistence. It is not clear what were the actuating motives;whether smarting under disappointment, and goaded on by aspirit of revenge against those who had promised him safetyand protection, but did not prevent him enduring years of imprisonmentwith the immediate prospect of a violent and ignominiousdeath, or sick of life, with no hope of earthly relief,and oppressed with painful reflections on the past—consciousthat the affairs of this world could not concern him but a fewdays longer—it is more than probable that the task of disclosingthe dreadful operations of his past life in associationswith others, afforded him some repose or satisfaction in theunhappy situation he was then placed. With some, in thecondition of distress and despair, there is perhaps nothingwhich can give a greater temporary relief than for the mind tobe intensely fixed and engaged on something which is to liveafter the body has finished its earthly career.

[Pg 216]

No matter in what way the confessions may be put to thetest, they come out of the ordeal firmer and stronger than before.They cannot be broken down in the severest conflicts inorganized courts for the purpose. A partisan Judge, supportedby a phalanx of talent and wealth, with all other influencesbrought to bear, cannot, as has been tried, destroy nor impairthe invulnerable facts which they contain. Search for internalevidences of truth, and they will be found in ample profusion.Appeal to the last testimony of a dying man on the scaffold,and it fully confirms the correctness of his confessions as madesome short time before. Ask numbers of still living witnessesand they will vouch for the substantial accuracy of the facts asrelated in these confessions. Call in time, the great arbiter ofdisputes, and the revelations since made all go to corroboratethe validity of the work so obnoxious to the guilty implicatedin it.

If there are such occurrences as special acts of Providence,the author of this work has certainly been favored. The numeroussnares set, the manifold plots laid for his life—these consideredand understood, and it is more than marvelous how hehas so far escaped destruction. Many devoted friends haveendeavored to dissuade him from the present object of publication,because of the dangerous elements in high life whichaffect society, but, for life or death, “the die is cast.” Theconfidence in Providence, in prudence, and in the better portionsof society give him hope—conscious that whatever fatethe body may meet, truth will survive.

Long associations, official position, and many other causesmay prevent abler minds from grasping the evils which havebeen only faintly touched on in this humble and unostentatiouswork which is now submitted to the public. The thundersand turbulent billows of criticism may play in wild warfareagainst it, but simplicity and truth will finally prove more thanthe match to sustain it.

The author has studiously avoided tinting any of his observations[Pg 217]with preferences in favor of either of the conflictingpolitical parties of the day. He has indulged in no personalconsiderations for the sake of revenge. He has constantlykept in view public evils as they at present exist, and can seeno effective remedy from the triumph of either of the politicalparties. The evils are fundamental, and require new combinationsto meet the exigencies of the times, and to preventfurther of intestine convulsion.

In concentrating, or giving additional power, the secret anddifficulty consist in preventing the abuse of this power. Notin excessively frequent elections; not in the glowing descriptionsas given by Republican and Democratic orators andwriters, which have had their origin in the wild domains offancy; nor not in the harsh acerbitude which come from thearchives of despotism can the remedy be found to prevent theabuse of power. All these have sufficiently been tried with amelancholy failure. A form of government perhaps welladapted to one stage in the progress of a nation, may, if continued,prove fatal in a more advanced period of progression.

Let us hope that passions will subside within due bounds fortemperate reasons to mount the throne, so that this necessarychange can be accomplished without further effusions of blood—resultingin permanent order, peace and prosperity for theenjoyment of every class in this great and powerful nation.

[Pg 219]


Memoir of the Author3
Hon. T. C. Carter’s Certificate12
Life and Career of James Copeland21
Poisoning the Overseer in Texas37
Murder of two Mexicans in Texas41
Welter and Harden—Welter acting as U. S. Marshal64
Plot to kill Robert Lott and Thos. Sumrall66
Mr. Moore in pursuit of the Hypocrite Preacher McGrath68
McGrath in Disguise76
Murder of O’Conner on the Mississippi River77
Meeting of the Clan in Mobile, Ala.88
Burning of Eli Maffitt’s House and attempted Murder of his Wife96
Wages and McGrath killed by Harvey99
The Famous Harvey Battle103
Trial of James Copeland110
Members of the Copeland Clan120
Copeland’s Letter to his Mother121
Mystic Alphabet122
S. S. Shoemake and his John R. Garland Letter127
Sheriff’s reply129 [Pg 220]
S. S. Shoemake visits the Sheriff130
Shoemake returns with a writ for the arrest of the Sheriff133
Important information about the buried money142
The Trial in Mobile, Ala.144
The Records of the Trial from the City Court of Mobile149
Comments on the Records151
Shoemake and B. Taylor in Court153
McLamore fell a victim to the vengeance of the Clan156
G. Y. Overall, proves an alibi157
The Court and the Jury158
Tampering with the Jury159
Sympathy of the Jury160
Failure of Petition161
Miss Bowen’s Letter163
Dr. Bevell’s Letter to Miss Bowen165
Miss Bowen’s Reply167
An Extract from the speech of the Defendant before the Committee169
A Letter from Gonzales, Texas, to Defendant170
A Letter taken from the “True Democrat”173
Character of the Prosecution175
Concluding Sketch of the Trial188
Another design of assassination193
Shoemake again194
The murder of Sheriff Smith, of Alabama196
James McArthur, or “Calico Dick”197
Reflections on the history of “Calico Dick”203
The horrid murder of W. C. Stanley, at Escatawpa, Ala.205
Necessary comments on unpunished crime211


Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been
corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
the text and consultation of external sources.

Some hyphens in words have been silently removed, some added,
when a predominant preference was found in the original book.

Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text,
and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained.

Page 5: “real benfactors” replaced by “real benefactors”.
Page 6: “on the strategems” replaced by “on the stratagems”.
Page 6: “distinguishsd officers” replaced by “distinguished officers”.
Page 6: “route, defeat” replaced by “rout, defeat”.
Page 7: “other Geuerals” replaced by “other Generals”.
Page 9: “inadvertant mistake” replaced by “inadvertent mistake”.
Page 9: “exonorate” replaced by “exonerate”.
Page 10: “last strategem” replaced by “last stratagem”.
Page 13: “Fillial acknowledgements” replaced by “Filial acknowledgements”.
Page 14: “contray results” replaced by “contrary results”.
Page 22: “managed my villiany” replaced by “managed my villainy”.
Page 29: “patch ouer” replaced by “patch over”.
Page 29: “spread rapidly,” replaced by “spread rapidly.”.
Page 36: “doleful sound,” replaced by “doleful sound.”.
Page 41: “we approrched” replaced by “we approached”.
Page 41: “horses and mnles” replaced by “horses and mules”.
Page 42: “dry gass” replaced by “dry grass”.
Page 47: “we reachad” replaced by “we reached”.
Page 52: “a llght near” replaced by “a light near”.
Page 54: “trailing theives” replaced by “trailing thieves”.
Page 58: “bittle of whiskey” replaced by “bottle of whiskey”.
Page 59: “we pursuaded” replaced by “we persuaded”.
Page 64: “time theg” replaced by “time they”.
Page 65: “negroes were,” replaced by “negroes were.”.
Page 66: “him goed-by” replaced by “him good-by”.
Page 69: “loose seven” replaced by “lose seven”.
Page 70: “travelar had” replaced by “traveler had”.
Page 71: “road off” replaced by “rode off”.
Page 78: “of the axe,” replaced by “of the axe.”.
Page 78: “He utter” replaced by “He uttered”.
Page 79: “awful scence” replaced by “awful scene”.
Page 79: “green gozzles” replaced by “green goggles”.
Page 81: “dinner and ball,” replaced by “dinner and ball,””.
Page 83: “lives before” replaced by “lives before.”.
Page 84: “gospel money?’” replaced by “gospel money?””.
Page 88: “visited he” replaced by “visited the”.
Page 96: “in the secred” replaced by “in the secret”.
Page 98: “So wages went” replaced by “So Wages went”.
Page 100: “double-barrell” replaced by “double-barrel”.
Page 100: “July, 1858” replaced by “July, 1848”.
Page 104: “moment Stroughton” replaced by “moment Stoughton”.
Page 109: “my feellings” replaced by “my feelings”.
Page 112: “said Court.” replaced by “said Court.””.
Page 113: “Malcolm, McCallum” replaced by “Malcolm McCallum”.
Page 114: “sworn as baliff” replaced by “sworn as bailiff”.
Page 119: “Wm. Grffin” replaced by “Wm. Griffin”.
Page 121: “my cofinement” replaced by “my confinement”.
Page 124: “degree respectacle” replaced by “degree respectable”.
Page 124: “fine opporunity” replaced by “fine opportunity”.
Page 125: “tube suffcient” replaced by “tube sufficient”.
Page 126: “prosecution agains” replaced by “prosecution against”.
Page 127: “vile and abhorent” replaced by “vile and abhorrent”.
Page 130: “general character,” replaced by “general character.”.
Page 138: “master-peice” replaced by “master-piece”.
Page 140: “tremenduous public” replaced by “tremendous public”.
Page 145: “excessive philanthrophist” replaced by “excessive philanthropist”.
Page 146: “conficting interests” replaced by “conflicting interests”.
Page 149: “getting possessing” replaced by “getting possession”.
Page 152: “controled the files” replaced by “controlled the files”.
Page 153: “B. TALYOR” replaced by “B. TAYLOR”.
Page 157: “from Missiisippi” replaced by “from Mississippi”.
Page 157: “accupied the Court” replaced by “occupied the Court”.
Page 169: “possible experience” replaced by “possibly experience”.
Page 169: “unswering constancy” replaced by “unswerving constancy”.
Page 171: “exhilerating influences” replaced by “exhilarating influences”.
Page 171: “rectitude or sincerety” replaced by “rectitude or sincerity”.
Page 174: “palpaple absurdity” replaced by “palpable absurdity”.
Page 177: “ever since,” replaced by “ever since.”.
Page 184: “friends and brethern” replaced by “friends and brethren”.
Page 187: “C. F. Monlton” replaced by “C. F. Moulton”.
Page 187: “disappeared subseqently” replaced by “disappeared subsequently”.
Page 196: “desperate resistence” replaced by “desperate resistance”.
Page 196: “is escape” replaced by “his escape”.
Page 197: “effrontory to contend” replaced by “effrontery to contend”.
Page 201: “jayhawing” replaced by “jayhawking”.
Page 214: “auxilary aiders” replaced by “auxiliary aiders”.
Page 215: “been superceded by” replaced by “been superseded by”.
Page 217: “exegencies” replaced by “exigencies”.
Page 217: “archieves of despotism ” replaced by “archives of despotism”.
Page 219: “Eli Moffitt” replaced by “Eli Maffitt”.
Page 220: “The horried murder” replaced by “The horrid murder”.


Life and Bloody Career of the Executed Criminal, James Copeland, the Great Souther Land Pirate (2024)
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