The Public Gathering Prohibition – The Bloody Legacy of the Camilla Massacre

By Mike Menkus

The murderous events of a September day in 1868 continue to punish Georgians who violate the prohibition from possessing a firearm or knife at a “Public Gathering”.

In 1868, a newly elected General Assembly convened. The General Assembly ratified the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution which granted citizenship to blacks and declared that no state was to deprive them of “life, liberty, or property.” This action permitted Georgia’s readmission to the Union. 1 Once Georgia was readmitted, the white members of the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate expelled the 32 black members on the grounds that the state constitution did not recognize the right of black citizens to hold office.2 3

Following the expulsion, violence and intimidation increased against Blacks and their Republican supporters.4 On September 19, 1868, several hundred Blacks and Republicans marched 30 miles from Albany, Georgia to Camilla Georgia for a political rally in support of the removed black Legislators and presidential candidate Ulysses Grant.5 6 Many of the Blacks were armed with walking sticks, shotguns and other various firearms. 7 8

As the procession approached Camilla, the Mitchell County Sheriff, Mumford S. Poore rode out to meet the marchers and tell them not to enter the town with firearms.9 10  After his admonishment, the Sheriff returned Camilla to organize an ambush of the marchers.11 When the marchers arrived at the courthouse square in Camilla, the white residents opened fire. The marchers bravely returned fire before retreating from the scene into the surrounding woods.12  As the retreating and wounded marchers returned to Albany, the hostile white residents pursued them with dogs and assaulted them for several days.13 14 15 Of the marchers, at least nine were killed and nearly thirty wounded.16 Six whites were reported slightly wounded. 17 This event has become known as the Camilla Massacre.

In his report to Georgia Governor Bullock, General George Gordon Meade assigned blame for the massacre on the marchers’ refusal to obey the sheriff’s orders not to bring arms into town.18 19 Two years later in 1870, the General Assembly prohibited the possession of guns at “public gatherings”.20  As
defined by the Law, this prohibition would only apply to the marchers, not the Sheriff and not to the residents ambushing the marchers.

 

Michael Menkus is presently a pricing analyst within the telecommunications industry. He is a graduate of Colorado School of Mines with a BS in Geophysical Engineering and Emory University with an MBA. He is a licensed Georgia Professional Engineer. His work experience includes oil exploration, environmental cleanup and risk assessment, and telecommunications network design and management. Michael competes in USPSA pistol competitions and is a certified USPSA Range Officer.

To contact the Author or for questions/comments about this article, please contact info@georgiacarry.org

 

References

1 The New Georgia Encylcopedia, Reconstruction in Georgia, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2533

2 Morgan, Jeanette, Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868, Historical Note,
Digital Library of Georgia http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/camilla-history.php

3 Grant, Donald, The Way It Was In The South ? The Black Experience In
Georgia, Carol Publishing Group, page 113-114

4 Grant, Donald, The Way It Was In The South ? The Black Experience In
Georgia, Carol Publishing Group, page 116-117

5 Conway, Alan, Reconstruction of the South, University of Minnesota Press,
1966, page169

6 Grant, Donald, The Way It Was In The South ? The Black Experience In
Georgia, Carol Publishing Group, page 117

7 Conway, Alan, Reconstruction of the South, University of Minnesota Press,
1966, page168

8 Morgan, Jeanette, Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868, Historical Note,
Digital Library of Georgia http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/camilla-history.php

9 Morgan, Jeanette, Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868, Historical Note,
Digital Library of Georgia http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/camilla-history.php

10 Conway, Alan, Reconstruction of the South, University of Minnesota Press,
1966, page168

11 Morgan, Jeanette, Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868, Historical Note,
Digital Library of Georgia http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/camilla-history.php

12 Morgan, Jeanette, Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868, Historical Note,
Digital Library of Georgia http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/camilla-history.php

13 Grant, Donald, The Way It Was In The South ? The Black Experience In
Georgia, Carol Publishing Group, page 117

14 Morgan, Jeanette, Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868, Historical Note,
Digital Library of Georgia http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/camilla-history.php

15 Conway, Alan, Reconstruction of the South, University of Minnesota Press,
1966, page169

16 Digital Library of Georgia > Civil Unrest in Camilla, Georgia, 1868,
http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/camilla/camilla-history.php The Digital Library of
Georgia, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, GA 30602

17 Conway, Alan, Reconstruction of the South, University of Minnesota Press,
1966, page168

18 Conway, Alan, Reconstruction of the South, University of Minnesota Press,
1966, page168

19 Meade, George Gordon, Letter to Governor Bullock, Digital Library of
Georgia, 1868, Meade, George Gordon, 1815-1872, [Headquarters, Department of the
South, Atlanta, Georgia] to Governor [Rufus B. Bullock], Atlanta, Georgia, [1868
Oct. 2]

20 ACTS AND RESOLUTIONS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA,
PASSED IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA, AT THE SESSION OF 1870

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