The Violence Of 1866

May 3, 1866

About 6 o’clock last evening a disturbance, which at one time threatened to be of very serious dimensions, was begun by a party of negro soldiers, and resulted in the death of one white man and that of seven negroes, besides the wounding of several citizens and quite a number of the negroes. The origin of the fight, as we are informed, was a disturbance amongst the negro soldiers who have just been paid off and were drinking very freely, who commenced a free fight near the old Morris cemetery amongst themselves.

The following day the newspaper reported another outbreak of violence and two more deaths.

Both stories were modest, on page 3, and hardly commensurate with the bloodshed later revealed by the investigation of a joint congressional committee: There were 48 killed (46 black, 2 white) during two days of violence. Black homes and churches were burned. There were no arrests.

But Editor Benjamin F. Dill was hardly as reserved in his editorializing.

A political equality before the law — personal freedom, the right of property, access to all the means of maintaining personal freedom and rights of property — may be, and is, accorded to the black man; but when the enfranchisement goes beyond this, and it is sought to establish a personal social equality between the inferior and the superior races, the inextinguishable instincts (call them prejudices if you will) of the white race are awakened …