The Newport News Murders.
I'm looking into some unsolved murders of Confederates' at the Newport News Prison camp. The following account shows a pattern of abuse.
This is an account of a shooting on April 20th.April 1865 Newport News VA....
Testimony of Private John Gains, Company D, One hundred and twenty-second U. S. Colored Troops:
“I was posted as a sentinel on post No. 47 of the prison camp on the night of the 20th of April, 1865. I received orders to halt all persons approaching my post. While on post I saw a prisoner running toward post. There were ten or fifteen other prisoners close behind him. I ordered him to halt. He did not do so, but turned away from me. I them shot at him. I feel certain that the man I shot at was trying to escape.”( if the prisoner had turned away from the guard at gate 47 how could he be trying to escape?)
Testimony of Private Jack Eubanks, Company D, One hundred and twenty-second Regiment U. S. Colored Troops:
Was on post in the prison camp on the night of the 20th of April, 1865. During the night several of the prisoners approached my post as if trying to escape. I halted them and ordered them back to camp. I saw a man run from post No. 47 and I saw three or four more men behind him. They also ran. I saw John Gains fire his gun. I also fired my gun; don't know whether I shot any person or not. I took aim at the crowd. I received orders from the officer of the guard to halt all persons approaching my post, and if they did not halt when ordered, to shoot at them
(OK the number of prisoners has gone from 10 or 15 to 3 or 4, in both cases turning away from gate 47 and in this testimony running AWAY)
Testimony of Private Lewis Burris, Company D, One Hundred and twenty-second Regiment U. S. Colored Troops:
“I was on post No. 48 in the prison camp on the night of the 20th of April, 1865. I received orders from the officer of the guard to hail all persons approaching my post and to halt them within ten paces, and if they did not halt, to shoot them. During the time I was on post the prisoners kept coming close up to post No. 47, where John Gains was posted. I told them to keep away; that I did not want to hurt them. I saw a man running toward John Gains' post and there were at least five or six behind him running also; heard John Gains order him to halt several times. He did not halt, but kept approaching his post. I then saw Gains shoot at him. I then shot at him, but before shooting ordered him to halt; he did not do so. I did not hear him say anything before he was shot. I think that the man that was shot was trying to escape”
( OK now we have prisoners running towards gate 47)
Captain A. D. Clark, of Company D, One hundred and twenty-second Regiment U. S. Colored Troops:
I was officer of the day and was passing through the prison camp in company with the officer of the guard on the night of the 20th of April, 1865; heard the sentinel on post No. 47 hail in the following manner: "Halt! You had better halt! God damn you halt!" In about ten seconds heard three shots fired in rapid succession. I then took a relief around to the sentinels on posts Nos.46,47, and 48; was informed by the sentinels that they had shot at a prisoners and that he had gone in the direction of the camp. I then returned with the relief and went to where I heard the wounded man was, sent for the surgeon, and had the wounded prisoner removed to the hospital. A short time previous to the shooting of the prisoner I heard a shot fired. I went to learn the cause; found it to have been fired by the sentinel on post 47; found the sentinel reloading his piece and two prisoners standing within eight or ten feet of him. I asked the prisoners what they were doing there; received no reply. I then ordered them to go away from there. They did not obey until I drew my saber on them and compelled them to do so.
( Now we have prisoners standing near the gate where a man was just shot, and a guard with an empty gun, seems like if you were gonna rush the gate, when the guards gun was empty would be the time don’t you think? The of the guards stated that the men had turned away/ ran away/ and one says were running at the gate. Now the Capt. Says men were standing at the gate! I ain’t Perry Mason, but something just don’t add up. Lets see what the man who got shot says---
Testimony of Prisoner of War Thomas M. Tyree, private, Company D, Nineteenth Battalion Virginia Heavy Artillery:
“On the night of the 20th of April, 1865, I was going to the sink, when the sentinel hailed me several times and ordered me to halt. I did not know at first that he was hailing me. I halted when ordered. The sentinel told me to come up to him. I did so, and when within fifteen paces of him he ordered me to halt again. I halted. He then asked me what I wanted. I told him that I had the diarrhea and was going to do a job. The sentinel said it was a damned lie; that I did not want to shit. He then shot me. I was also shot by the sentinel on each side
And we also have the diary from another prisoner--- Creed T Davis
April 18.—Still sick. Most of the prisoners are prostrated with dysentery and other bowel complaints—thought to be the results of the **bad water we are forced to use in this low country. Our water is obtained from barrels sunk in the low places of the surface of the ground inside the prison enclosure
April 21.—Our prison life grows more and more wearisome ; it is almost unbearable. Every hour seems an age, and I am in despair of ever getting out again. The negro guards of the prison become more insolent and domineering every day. They abuse us in an infamous manner. Several prisoners have been shot down for the most trivial offences, without even a warning. Two men were shot last night.
( Ok Pvt. Deeds C.S.A. says two men were shot, the yanks say one, Private Jack Eubanks of USCT admits to firing into the crowd and is not sure if he hit anyone It seems that the Confederates’ story adds up, bad water dysentery and other bowel complaints = diarrhea !
The arrogance of the guards also seems to match between Deeds’ and Tyree)**
However the Yankee inspector paints a different storyAbout conditions at the camp.
Colonel J. HAM DAVIDSON, Commanding Post, Newport News, Va.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following inspection report of the condition of the prisoners of war at this station for the week ending April 22, 1865:Conduct-good. Cleanliness-good. Clothing-good. Bedding-sufficient. State of quarters-good. State of mess-houses-none state of kitchen-good. Food, quality of-good. Food, quantity of-issued per General Orders, No. 1, Office of Commissary-General of Prisoners. Water-good. Sinks-temporary ones in use, permanent ones in preparation. Police of grounds-good. Drainage-good. Police of hospital-hospital not finished. Attendance of sick-average 140 each day. Hospital diet-none issued as such. General health of prisoners-good. Vigilance of guard-goodRemarks and suggestions.-The ground enclosed comprises twenty-five acres, enclosed by a fence twelve feet high, inside of which is a railing twenty feet from the fence, which prisoners are not allowed to pass. Outside of the fence a gallery has been erected for the sentinels, from which they can observe who approaches the railing and also any unusual disturbance among the prisoners. The hospital is now building and will be finished in a few days. Wells have been sunk, which will give a full supply of water. It will not be necessary to erect mess-houses. A detail is made each morning from the prisoners for the purpose of policing the grounds. Personal cleanliness is very good, with but few exceptions. The present sinks are but temporary. In two or three days sinks of a permanent character will be in use.Very respectfully, Your obedient servant, JOHN HAROLD, Second Lieutenant, 122nd U. S. Colored Troops, and Insp. Officer