Testimony by an Alabama Freedman before the Southern Claims Commission

[Huntsville, Ala., July 31, 1872]

Deposition of Alfred Scruggs, Colored,

In answer to the First General Interrogatory, the Deponent says:

My name is Alfred Scruggs, my age 45 years, my residence Near Huntsville, in the State of Alabama, and my occupation a Farmer; I am the claimant, and have a beneficial interest in the claim.

To the 2nd he says:

Near Huntsville Alabama,  In 1861 I came from Arkansas to Huntsville.  In 1862 or until June I was hired by consent of my Master James H Scruggs to Col David Kelley.  In June 1862 I was turned loose by my old master to make a living for my self–  When I was turned loose I went to hauling wood to Huntsville.  The team belonged to my old master,  My old master gave me the use of the team if I would feed and take care of.  I used the team until the Yankee soldiers took them from me in the latter part of the summer 1862.  In 1863 I had my own team.  I rented about forty acres of land from Mrs Patteson, near Huntsville and raised a crop of cotton and corn that year.  I also haulued wood during the time I was not in my crop,  During the year 1864 I farmed on Mr Ed Spotswoods place four miles of Huntsville.  I had about twenty five acres in corn,  I hauled wood and everything that I could get to do.  I did not use my own team that year or all of that year,  In the early part of the year 1865 I was preparing to farm on Mr Nash Malones place

. . . .

To the 28th he says.

Yes   they took corn fodder meat and meal,  I did not put it in my claim because I was willing to let that go to help the United States Government that much for what they done for me.

. . . .

To the 43rd he says:

I was a slave.  I was free when we was declared free, but my master turned me loose in 1862   Hauling working and making money in any way I could in an honorable manner.  I bought this property.  I cant tell the exact date.  I bought my property about the end of 1862. or about 1863,  I worked and made the money in 1862 by hauling and jobbing with my fingers: and my wife washing and ironing is the way I made the money which I paid for the property in my claim.  James H Scruggs was my former master.  I am not in his employment.  I do not live on his land,  Do not live on land purchased from him,  I do not owe him, he owes me.  No one saveing me has any interest in this claim.

To the Questions as to the taking or furnishing of property deponent,

To the 1st Question says:


To the 2nd he says

Yes, I saw them when they took bay mule roane horse, ox, & cow.

To the 3rd he says

When they took this item of one bay mule I was there.  They said that Colonel Wilder sent them out to take all the mules and horses that was fit for service as they were going off the next morning.  They came to my house and went to my stable and taken the mule.  they led him away.

They came one evening and got this item of one rone horse. They just went to the stable and had it unlocke and they taken the horse out   That is all of it.  They rode the horse off.

They just killed these itemes of one ox and one cow about one hundred yards from my house.  The cows were there in pasture   they did not say a word just drove them up and killed them.  Their camp was right there.

To the 4th he says

These articles were taken from Mr Scruggs' place where I was living that time.  If I make no mistake it was in the year 1864,  I cant remember exactly as we were all head over heels then,  Mr Wilder took the two mules.  dont know the names of the other officers, who took ox &c   more than one soldier was present and helped to take the property.  seven or eight took the horse and mules–and a whole regiment was camped right there when they took the ox and cow.  They were not more than fifteen or twenty minutes taking the mules, and the other property they just took right away

To the 5th he says

Harrison Dox, Jordan Hamlet, Randal Ragland, Calvin Scruggs, and a large number of woman were on the place,

To the 6th he says

Lieutents were there when the mules were taken,  Don't remember of any officer being present when the roane horse was taken   when the ox & cow were taken plenty of officers were present but I do not know their regiment or their names,  They ordered it to be taken.  They said that they wante the mules for a force march the next morning.  They did not say any thing took the horse cow & ox

. . . .

Excerpts from testimony of Alfred Scruggs, [31 July 1872], Claim of Alfred Scruggs, Madison Co. AL case files, Approved Claims, series 732, Southern Claims Commission, 3rd Auditor, U.S. General Accounting Office, Record Group 217, National Archives. The questions that correspond to the enumerated responses are not in the file. According to other documents in the file, Scruggs had submitted a claim for $381 as compensation for the livestock taken by Union soldiers. He was awarded $340.

Published in The Wartime Genesis of Free Labor: The Upper South, pp. 445–47, and in Free at Last, pp. 308–9.