From the Richmond Examiner, 3/9/1866, p. 3, c. 3
THE CHIMBORAZO HILL NEGRO RIOTERS IN COURT – ABSTRACTION OF THE EVIDENCE – THE ACCUSED DISCHARGED. – Yesterday, at noon, after the disposal of the usual business before the court, the Judge, Colonel McEntee, took up the case of the ten negroes arrested on the night of the 2d of March upon the charge of engaging in a riotous demonstration at Chimborazo Hill Hospital grounds, and firing upon the citizens of that section, and the police of the city, sent out to quell the disturbance.
In the far front of the court arose a black cloud, the reflection of many negro countenances, summoned as witnesses, and gathered as spectators.
Lieutenant S. M. Merrill, of the Freedmen’s Bureau, represented the accused, who were called, and ranged themselves in double line, as follows – John Wright, Matthew Banks, George Smith, William Jackson, William Johnson, Shadrach Jasper, George Jefferson, William H. Lewis, Thos. Jackson and John Green.
Sergeant Clacker, of the Libby Prison, who was sent out by Lieutenant Hunter, in command, with a squad of soldiers, first deposed, but his evidence threw no additional light on what has heretofore been developed.
The inception and progress of the meiea, and the motives that created it were not brought out fully and distinctly.
Henry C. Adams, youth, deposed that he was going towards the gas works, out Twenty-seventh street; saw the crowd in the street, but couldn’t tell whether they were white or black. I was shot on Twenty-seventh street; about fifteen or twenty shots were fired at me; some musket shots; the one that struck my head was a musket ball; some small shot struck my person, which makes me think some had shot guns. I had been visiting Mr. Pollock’s on Venable street, and then Mr. P. and I walked over to a neighbor’s on the Mechanicksville pike.
E. W. Ball, policeman, testified – Was one of a posse of police who were sent up to Clay and Twenty-eighth streets; when we got pretty close we were halted, and pass word demanded; the sergeant in command (Baptist) replied, “Police-men,” and a volley was fired by the negroes, which was returned; the negroes, forty or fifty in number, ran, and witness closed in on the hindmost negro, who backed against a fence and grasped his musket by the barrel as if to strike; the police were first halted by the challenge, “Who goes there?” Sergeant Baptist replied, “Policemen; have you anything to say about it?” the negroes, who were unarmed and on the outposts, replied, “We are not of the party;” they appeared to be outside parties; appeared to have nothing to do with the firing; some of those who fired had muskets; others, muskets sawed off (Plug term, “box tails”); [witness scrutinized the row of accused, and recognized several of the negro accused]; witness saw there Sergeant Clacker, of the Libby prison guard, who gave orders to the police to arrest all the negroes seen; the sergeant (Baptist) in charge of the police “double-quicked” his men across the bridge at the foot of the hill; witness saw no assemblage of white men about the hill.
E. H. Allen, policeman, deposed – The affray occurred between 110 and 11 o’clock, I should judge; I did not effect any arrest; the police encountered the negroes at the corner of Twenty-eighth and Clay streets; had hear firing previous to being ordered up; it was outside of the corporation limits; the firing was in the direction of Leigh street church; Chimborazo Hospital is to the right; the shots were scattering; I suppose I heard half a dozen; at half past 10 o’clock I rejoined Sergeant Baptist at the corner of Main and Twenty-fifth streets; the first salutation I heard from the negroes was a volley of musketry; I was a little to the left, on a scouting expedition; after the delivery of the fire the main body of the negroes scampered, and they were pursued over the bridge across Bloody Run valley.
Lieutenant Merrill – Mr. Allen, how near were you when the first volley was fired?
Allen (to Court) – Before answering, I would like to be permitted, very respectfully, to ask the Court a question. Is this gentleman representing these negroes as counsel, and is he authorized to question me?
Lieutenant Merrill – Yes, sir; I am here by order of the Secretary of War, and am counsel for these prisoners.
Judge McEntee said Lieutenant Merrill was authorized to conduct the examination in behalf of the Freedmen’s Bureau.
The policeman then proceeded with his narrative of the “nigger” rebellion.
Lieutenant Merrill, for the defense, protested against the prolongation of the examination. Not one of the prisoners had been identified as a participant in the riot.
The Judge said one of them had been identified (John Green); he was arrested with a musket in his hand.
Matilda Jefferson and Eliza Robinson, negresses, were sworn and deposed as to the whereabouts of several of the accused while the firing was going on. Several negro witnesses were called by their full name, and they not being acquainted with the new style, did not recognize themselves, and some confusion occurred, which was soon corrected.
Several of the prisoners proved that they had been taken from bed by the police.
The Judge summed up the evidence, weighing it in favour of and against the accused. In conclusion he announced that he would discharge the whole batch of them, and they arose as their names were read. Immediately there was a tumult of rejoicing, and for the space of five minutes the lobby was garrulous with negro lingo, until the cloud had melted way.
To-day the whites (mostly boys), charged with the instigation and participation in the riot, will have an examination.