From the Richmond Dispatch, 8/9/1864, p.1, c. 5
Mayor’s Court. – Preliminary to entering upon the regular business of his court yesterday, the Mayor called around him a few of the night watchmen and administered a severe reproof upon the manner in which some of those officers have recently conducted themselves. The particular case in point was in reference to an arrest of an unlawful assembly of negroes a few nights since at the house of Mr. James Pendleton, on Fifth Street, near Jackson. Several communications have been received by his Honor from parties cognizant of the roughness shown by the watchmen towards the white ladies who were at Mr. Pendleton’s on the night in question, and it has even been alleged that one of the officers so far forgot himself in his efforts to establish a reputation for vigilance in catching a negro, as to deliberately knock a lady down who, unintentionally, happened to get in his way. These complaints, the Mayor stated, were of frequent occurrence and of such a character as to entitle them some attention. He intimated that at some future time he should demand the name of the man said to have struck the lady alluded to, when he should not only be dismissed from the service but should be otherwise punished for his brutal behavior. It had been alleged that some of the watchmen who had previously been apprised of contemplated unlawful gatherings of negroes, purposely lurked around and waiting until the assemblage took place, so that they could have the opportunity of rushing upon and carrying them to the watch-house. This was very reprehensible, and the guilty parties were admonished of the consequence of a repetition of this conduct in future, as well as instructed that it was their duty, when information was received prior to the commission of an offence, to take steps towards intercepting it, instead of waiting in readiness to pounce upon the offenders as soon as the plan was matured. The Mayor also alluded to the conduct of an ex-watchman, who arrested a negro woman and afterwards released her upon the payment of a bribe of ten dollars, and expressed his intention to hand him over to the grand jury for indictment. In concluding his homily, he took occasion to refer to the almost invariable practice of the watchmen of hunting about for runaway negroes during the day, and, as a consequence, when night came, they were incapacitated, from the want of sleep, to attend to their duties. It was no part of their duty to put themselves out of the way to catch runaway negroes, and in future they shall not be permitted to do so.
The following is a summary of the cases which were brought up for a hearing:
William Kothe was charged with whipping a negro boy named Allen, slave of James Moore, in such a manner as to cause his death. Messrs. Andrew Jenkins and R. T. Seal testified that having heard late on Saturday evening that a negro boy had been whipped to death by the accused, who occupies a portion of the old building on Broad street know as Brackett’s Tavern, they repaired thither, and in an old coal-house in the yard found a negro boy, apparently about fourteen or fifteen years of age, lying upon an old oil-cloth dead. They took hold of his limbs and found them supple and easy to move about, thus indicating to their mind that he had not been long dead. The only person who could given them any information about the manner of the boy’s death was the wife of the prisoner, who said that he died from consumption; had been sick for a long time and attended by Dr. Albert Snead, who she knew would substantiate her statement. The boy looked very much emaciated; about his head and arms various bruises and scratches, but none of them were regarded as of sufficient character to produce the death of a person in health. Subsequently, they learnt from Dr. H. M. Thomas, whose office is next door, that he had frequently heard Kothe inflicting severe blows upon the deceased, and knowing his delicate condition, it attracted his attention, and once or twice he had intended telling the owner of the boy that if he desired to save the life of his servant, he had better take him away. _______, a witness for the defense, stated that the negro died about ten o’clock Friday morning. At nine o’clock he was solicited by Mrs. Kothe to go in to see him; that she believed he had a fit on him, and she was unable to render any assistance. He did so; found him in the stable in an apparently dying state; could not assist him and left in a few minutes. He knew nothing of the whipping; understood he was whipped Thursday; was certain that he died Friday morning. - At this juncture the Mayor announced that he should proceed no further till he could procure the attendance of the physician who attended the boy, and other witnesses, who were important in the case. He referred to the very vague and indefinite procedure on the part of the Coroner’s inquest, and said that it was his own opinion that a post mortem examination should have been held over the body; but instead of that, no witnesses had been summoned before the Coroner, but the jury of inquest simply assembled, and without any deliberation, rendered a verdict of death from natural causes. In this connection, the Mayor remarked that the Coroner appointed by the Hustings Court (Dr. Peachy) was a gentleman of distinguished attainments, but unfortunately, he was deterred from performing his duty in consequence of protracted and serious illness. He was not aware that the acting Coroner possessed any remarkable knowledge of medical jurisprudence and felt very sure he was not a man of much legal knowledge. He therefore adjourned the matter over till Wednesday, and intimated that he should, in the meantime, have the body disinterred and a post mortem examination held over it.
Ann James and Primus Pleasants, free negroes, were charged with having in the possession a horse belonging to the Confederate States, which had been stolen. Witnesses for the Commonwealth proved that the horse was taken from one of our batteries in the neighborhood of the city, on Friday, and that on Saturday he was found in the possession of Primus. For the defense, it was proven that the negro caught with the horse bought him for three hundred dollars from a soldier, who have his name as George W. Pitts, but it turned out that his real name was Hugh Southard, and he was a member of company H, Thirtieth Virginia regiment. In order to procure the attendance of witnesses, the matter was postponed till Saturday next, and in the meantime the accused were permitted to enter into a recognizance for their appearance.
Three negroes, named William, slave of Dr. Burton; Edward, slave of E. G. Haywood; and Robert, slave of Charles Lumsden, were each whipped for exposing themselves by bathing in the canal.
Martin, slave of William F. Taylor, charged with stealing a bag of meal from James M. Taylor, was ordered to be whipped; but an appeal was subsequently asked for, and the accused was bailed for his appearance before the Hustings Court.
A. Wilfe and Henry Johnson were charged with buying watermelons in the Second Market to sell again. The fact was proved against them and the melons confiscated.
Joseph, slave of William Allen, was committed as a runaway.