Officer in a Kentucky Black Regiment to the Headquarters of the Regiment

Battery Rodgers, Va–  November 15th 1865–

Sir:  I have the honor to make the following statement, relating to Serg't Thos McDougal of Co. “F” 107th U.S.C.I. who received a Furlough of thirty days on the 1st of October 1865, to visit his family in Ky.; and would respectfully request that it be forwarded to the proper authorities in order that justice may be done in his case.

After reaching Louisville Ky. Serg't McDougal got an order from Gen'l Palmer,–in charge of the Freedman's Bureau of Kentucky,–to move his family to Louisville–  His wife is living with her old master Hillary Johnson, Judge of the county of Larue Ky, and living in the town of Hodgensville.  he is an old rebel and one of some note in that County.–  Serg't McDougal was arrested by Johnson soon after reaching Hodgensville, his order taken from him and he lodged in the County jail, where he has been confined since October 24th 1865, on account of trying to free his family from bondage.

The above is a true statement of the case at it has reached me.

Serg't McDougal is a superior Non-com. Officer and his services are much needed in this Company.  I am sir, very respectfully, Your obedient servant,

F. B. Clark

[Endorsement]  Hd Qrs 107th U.S. C Inf'y  Fort Corcoran Va.  Nov 21st 1865   Respectfully forwarded.  Quite a number of instances have occurred where men of this Regiment have been incarcerated in prison upon the most frivolous pretences.  The Regiment was organized in Kentucky; and when the men return home to provide for their families they are often shamefully treated by their former masters.  Especially is such the case in the interior districts of the state, where the disloyal element strongly preponderates, and where it is impossible for colored soldiers to obtain justice from magistrates who despise the Federal uniform–particularly so when worn by their former slaves.  I would respectfully request that some action be taken to have Sergt McDougall released, so that he can return to his regt as soon as practicable   D. M. Sells. Lt. Col. Comdg

[Endorsement]  Hd Qrs Dept of Ky   Louisville  Nov 30 1865    Respectfully returned to Col C W Foster AAG with the remark that the case of Sergeant McDougal illustrates in an eminent degree the peculiar ideas of loyalty honesty, and justice which animates certain of the judicial officers of Kentucky   The facts as I have ascertained them are substantially as follows.  McDougal went to the house of Johnson who is county Judge of Larue County Ky and formerly owned McDougals wife and demanded her   Johnson refused to give her up without my order which was promptly given   He then removed his family from Johnsons house and in doing so inadvertently took with them the clothes of some other colored child of the value of 75. cts as I am advised   When these clothes were demanded of him he said “There they are take them   I knew nothing about them supposed they belonged to my children” which I am assured by respectable people is true.  Judge Johnson however had him arrested for larceny brought before himself and committed him to jail in default of bail   (The Judge it is reported takes the astute distinction that though the act of Congress may free the wives and children of soldiers “it does not divest the owner of the title to the clothes they wear”)   I at once took steps to investigate the case found the facts as before stated with the additional fact that a loyal man had become McDougals bail and the court just at hand   As the soldier was in civil custody upon colorable process authorised for a scandalous purpose in a rascally way I determined to wait the action of the Court trusting that justice would be done   The court met on last Monday–  The result of its action will be promptly reported

I may add that the colored soldiers who return to this state are persecuted and outraged in many ways.  John M Palmer  Maj Genl Comdg

Capt. F. B. Clark to Lieut. E. T. Lamberton, 15 Nov. 1865, C-771 1865, Letters Received, series 360, Colored Troops Division, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, National Archives. Other endorsements. In January 1866 General Palmer, commander of the Department of Kentucky, reported that the grand jury of Larue County had failed to indict Sergeant McDougal, who was living with his family in Hodgensville. (Major General John M. Palmer to Col. C. W. Foster, 26 Jan. 1866, vol. 2 DKy, Letters Sent, series 2164, Department of Kentucky, U.S. Army Continental Commands, Record Group 393 Pt. 1, National Archives.)

Published in The Black Military Experience, pp. 750–51, in Free at Last, pp. 422–24, and in Families and Freedom, pp. 51–53.