Three months after the Confederacy surrendered, the Goldsboro field office of the Freedmen’s Bureau received this shocking letter from an African-American resident of Wilson. Austin F. Flood poured his anguish and anger into four pages detailing the outrages of authorities against freedmen in the county. Though some of the perpetrators of violence were former Confederates, Flood pointed a steady finger at so-called Union men who also terrorized and abused formerly enslaved men and women.
Wilson July the 16 to 1865
I take the opportunity of writeing you these few lines because I under stand you to be the head ruler ove this Steate in Millitary act. And this I write to you secretly in feare of my life. For in the present condision we can not helpe our Selves. Because thes people has every advantege of us and they are makeing use of it. The free men are under very good beheaveior here; And yet they cant see any peace at all. The rebes is about take the Town because we cant help our Selves Because we are without any thing to Protect us. For they sent the cunstable around to every free man s houses and taken all the wepons they said by General Schorfield. they were com manded to do it. And thuse we gave them up because we thought it was demanded of us by him. And not with Standing I thought at the Same time in a certain [illegible] that he was giveing them
a Stick not only to breake my head But also his even the heads of all the Northren People whom I love as my Self. Yea I say more then love them. Therefore I look to them for protection. Why am I keept from my libberties Because you have never known the cruilties of these People Who says they are Union men when they are not. For am I acquainted with bot Heavenly an National union and it is as much imposible to mix union and secess as it is to mix Oil an Water. Ive been watching them for twenty-eight months and there is but three union principles about the place and that is Wilie Daniel an Lawyer Langston — T.C. Christmond. These are all that I can look opond as Such. And if these officers be Union men Why do they keep all your ordinances conceiled frome us And try so harde to place a Yoke of thiere own opond us when this is not your Militry rules. They receives your commans and make thiere own laws. Taken down the free men an striping them without liefe or licens. Carring them to Jail and Whiping them [illegible]
The cunsable Thom Hadly a few days a go or rather at neight took a man at his work And carid him to his house and Striped him with out Law And this thing are going continuely in the Country Wm Batts stroped two this Weak and gave them a bige dink I surpose not to say anything about it. Johnathan Bullock discharging two loads after a yonge man to make him go home to his Master to work. The Cunstable are ruled more by the rebs then he is by the officers as they so call in nam. But not in principle. They say that have every thing in thiere hands to do as they please. And a Negro shall not be equill with him. Before he shall they will kill him. And this they have stated to do. We have to pay taxes and yet we have no priverledge. We dar to walk almost after night without being put in Jail. And the rebs going where he pleases. And they have gon so far that we are almost a fraide to Stay in the house after night Last Friday night the town was in a larm with the cry of a free [illegible] Men who disguised them Selves
And wente to the house wher he staid and routed him. And as he jumped out the window. A pistol was fired on him. And by the time he tuched the grown one struck him with a gun. And by that time there four on him Choping with sabers an beating on him with greate stick. And hollowing murder an help nor man could go to him. Willie Dannel atempted to go to him And they threatened his life for they had sentenals out to keepe others off. Ben Lanston and the Cunstaple: Sid Clark Van Winman and Rube Winman. And they have almost ruin him. And it never will be no better untill you send men here and put this place to rights. And this is what has never been done. For the men that was sent here worked every thing to our disadvantage and I’m [in] the faviour of these People. I writ you these things secretly. Please send to our releife for we are here in this place And I will more then thank you. Yours, A.F. Flood
- General Schorfield — Gen. John McAlister Schofield,
- Wilie Daniel — Willie Daniel (1820-1897), wealthy planter and merchant, owner of 18 enslaved people as reported in the 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County, neutral during the Civil War.
- Lawyer Langston
- T.C. Christmond — not Thomas F. Christman, who died in 1861.
- Thom. Hadly — Thomas Jefferson Hadley IV (1838-1917), Confederate captain.
- Wm. Batts
- Johnathan Bullock — Jonathan Bullock (1822-??), farmer.
- Ben Langston
- Sid Clark — Sidney Phineas Clark (1841-1896), born in Connecticut, Confederate captain.
- Van Winman — Van Buren Winbourn (1838-1889), Confederate private.
- Rube Winman — Reuben Winborne (1832-??), brother of Van, Confederate private.
- A.F. Flood — I’ve been able to find little about Austin F. Flood, a Missionary Baptist minister who was born in slavery, probably in Pitt County, North Carolina. His letter indicates that he had been observing conditions in Wilson for 28 months, which would put his arrival in about March 1863. A year and two days after penning this letter, he filed a petition with the Bureau seeking an officer to arrest a “villain” in Greenville. Shortly after, he and Frances Delany registered their 16-year cohabitation with a Pitt County justice. In the 1870 census of Greenville, Pitt County: Austin Flood, 47; wife Francis, 35; children Della, 18, John, 16, Warren, 15, Louisa, 13, Josaphine, 8, Netta, 2, and Hetta, 5 months; and Dorey Paten, 17, hosler. Flood remained in Greenville the rest of his life. He was active in local Republican politics and Baptist leadership, helping establish several churches in the Pitt County area.
North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (subassistant commissioner), Roll 16, Unregistered Letters Received Aug 1865-Feb 1868, http://www.familysearch.org