Robert H. Gifford Papers, 1865
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A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2009
Two manuscripts, 30 October and 2 November 1865, of R[obert] H. Gifford, Beech Branch, relate to supposed "outrages Committed by Members of Co. I, 104[th] U[nited] S[tates] C[olored] Troops." The earlier document, which is directed to Captain Upham or the officer commanding the United States military garrison at Lawtonville, complains of the actions of African American soldiers under the command First Lieutenant Wellington Woods, Federal commander at Beech Branch, who in a search for vagrants had detained and had bound a woman possessing stolen sugar cane. | Manuscripts Gifts 2009 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
Not long afterward, according to Gifford, "an armed Party of about eight or ten more negroes [of] said Lieutenant’s command entered our yard and came to the Door and wanted to know where was the man that swung up that woman....H.M. Parnell who was with Lt. Wood at the time came to the Door and said He was present when said Lieutenant swung up said woman...[but] they did not believe that the Lt. done it and said...Parnell ‘better not talk too Damn strong about it.’" Gifford’s statement claims that Parnell was his nephew and "was acting in my place that night." It then poses the question, "are we to be held accountable by Negro Troops for a Deed done by their Commander," and lodges a complaint that the troops had disturbed "the peace and quietude of an aged Father and Sisters" - "My Father who is the owner of the premises has taken the Oath of Allegiance and wishes to know whether his person and Property can not be protected. Lt. Wood said he had issued an order saying if one of his men was found out of Camps with his Arms without his knowledge he should be shot...I reported our case to Lt. Wood on Saturday morning but have not heard whether he has taken any action in the case at all." Reportedly a "similar atrocious outrage" had been committed by African-American soldiers from the Brighton garrison, Gifford notes. "It seems that the unfortunate Cit[i]zen must not report an outrage nor must the white officer be allowed to punish for theft, except at the peril of the owners of the Plantations."
The later item, a paper wrapper in which the earlier manuscript was forwarded from Lawtonville as the incident was referred by Captain J.J. Upham and First Lieutenant S[tephen] Baker to First Lieutenant Wood at Beech Branch, conveys the following orders: "Soldiers Conducting themselves as reported within should be very severely punished[.] Such Conduct by a few men throws disgrace on a whole Corps and Should be visited with summary and severe punishment[.]"
Organized at Beaufort, S.C., between April and June 1865, the 104th United States Colored Troops was attached to the Department of the South and provided garrison and guard duty at various points in South Carolina until February 1866.
Robert H. Gifford appears in the 1860 census as a 28-year-old member of the household of 71-year-old Ebenezer Gifford, a planter residing in St. Peter's Parish, Beaufort District [now Allendale County, S.C.]