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Memphis Riots and Massacres

June 1, 1866 — US Congressional Committee Select Committee on the Memphis Riots and Massacre, Gayoso House, Memphis TN


Q: State your name and residence. 
A: My name is Frances Thompson; I live in Gayoso Street, here in Memphis. 

Q: What is your occupation? 
A: I sew and take in washing and ironing. 

Q: Have you been a slave?
A: Yes sir. 

Q: Where were you raised? 
A: I was raised in Maryland. All our people but mistress got killed in the rebel army. 

Q: Have you been injured? 
A: I am a cripple. [the witness used crutches] I have a cancer in my foot. 

Q: Were you here during the late riots?
A: Yes, sir. 

Q: State what you know or saw of the rioting. 
A: Between one and two o’clock Tuesday night seven men, two of whom were policemen, came to my house. I know they were policemen by their stars. They were all Irishmen. They said they must have supper, and asked me what I had, and said they must have some eggs, and ham, and biscuit. I made them some biscuit and some strong coffee, and they all sat down and ate. A girl lives with me; her name is Lucy Smith; she is about 16 years old. When they had eaten supper, they said they wanted some woman to sleep with. I said we were not that sort of women, and they must go. They said, “that didn’t make a damned bit of difference.” One of them then laid hold of me and hit me in the side of my face, and holding my throat, choked me. Lucy tried to get out of the window when one of them knocked her down and choked her. They drew their pistols and said they would shoot us and fire the house if we did not let them have their way with us. All seven of the men violated us two. Four of them had to do with me, the rest with Lucy. 

Q: Were you injured?
A: I was sick for two weeks. I lay for three days with a hot, burning fever. 

Q: Did anyone attend you? 
A: I had a cold before, and Dr. Rambert attended me after this. 

Q: Were you robbed? 
A: After they got through with us, they just robbed the house. They took the clothes out of my trunk and took one hundred dollars that I had in greenbacks belonging to me, and two hundred dollars that belonged to a colored woman, that was left with me to keep safe for her. 

Q: Did they take anything else? 
A: They took three silk dresses of mine and a right nice one of Lucy’s. They put the things into two pillow slips and took them away. 

Q: How long did these men stay? 
A: They were there, perhaps, for nearly four hours: it was getting day when they left. 

Q: Did they say anything? 
A: They said they intended to “burn up the last God damned nigger.”

Q: Do you know any of them?
A: They were all Irishmen; there was not an American among them. 

Q: Did anything else take place? 
A: There were some quilts about that we had been making. They asked us what they were made for. When we told them we made them for the soldiers, they swore at us, and said the soldiers would never have them on their beds, and they took them away with the rest of the things. They said they would drive all the Yankees out of the town, and then there would be only some rebel niggers and butternuts left. I thought all the time they would burn the house down, but they didn’t. 



Source: US Congress. House of Representatives, Memphis Riots and Massacres, 39th Congress, 1st session, 1865-66. House Report No. 101. (Washington, DC), 1866, pp. 196-197.