Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 12.djvu/261

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I Reconstruction in South Carolina. ' 251

the men so surrendering their arms would be safe from violence. Butler replied that that would depend on the way they behaved them- selves, but that they had no right to the arms and that they must be given up. The conference ended here, and not long afterwards the men in the house began to fire upon the whites. As soon as Merri- weather was slain the whites went to Augusta and brought thence a cannon, with which they drove the negroes from the house. As it was very late, General Butler left the place and went to Mr. Robert Butler's, where he spent the night.

Such is the substance of General Butler's statement. In a subse- quent letter, called out by Chamberlain's letter to Senator Robertson, he indignantly said : " No man knows better than Chamberlain that what he says in that letter to Robertson is false in every essential particu- lar. No one knows better than himself that he has published it in the bloody-shirt outrage interest." Meanwhile a coroner's inquest, conducted by Prince Rivers, with the assistance of Harmost, was sit- ting on the case, and continued its sessions until the end of the month. The result of this inquest was a verdict of murder against seven men, and eighty others of being accessory to the murder, and warrants of arrest were served by the sheriff on all who lived in South Caro- lina of the men thus accused (at least one had been dead several years, two were in California, and one was, on the night in question, con- fined in the station-house in Augusta). Ten of the jury made their marks on this verdict.

It was prudent on the part of the accused to fortify themselves with testimony in rebuttal of that which had been taken by the coroner, and a mass of sworn testimony was carried before Judge Maher, before whom the accused appeared and demanded to be bailed. From this it was proved that Adams had organized his company in the spring, with the avowed purpose of killing the whites ; that for several days before the collision, the negroes had threatened to force a fight ; that a white man named Schilber, a Hamburg shopkeeper, had gone to Columbia on the 5th and returned the next day with a tin case of cartridges, which was delivered to the officers of the company ; that runners were sent to Beach Island, to Bath Mills, and elsewhere, to call the negroes into Hamburg on the 8th, many of whom obeyed the call ; that the negroes had ammunition and a cannon stored in their armory ; that Adams, Athony and others had publicly declared their intention to kill out the whites before the election ; that the shooting in the night had begun with the negroes, and not a single fire had been returned until Merriweather was killed. It was proved, and