Murder of Rough Alexander







Headquarters Sub-post Of Shreveport, La.,

Jefferson, Texas, May 24, 1867.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following statement of facts concerning an outrageous, cold-blooded murder perpetrated in the city of Jefferson, and the action of the civil authorities and myself in the matter.

On the morning after the murder, early, a negro came to my quarters and reported that another negro, Rough Alexander, had been called out of bed and shot the night before, and that circumstances pointed strongly toward Hugh Freeman, a young white man, as the murderer; also, that it was probable that Freeman would escape unless I took measures to arrest him. Shortly afterwards another negro came to me and reported that the coroner's jury was holding an inquest, and that Freeman was still in town, at liberty. I ordered a sergeant and eight men to cross the bayou and await my orders, and went myself to hear the testimony of the witnesses and note the course pursued by the coroner and his jury.

J. C. Jones, esq., justice of the peace, was acting as coroner; the jury was composed of white citizens. The testimony of the witnesses, particularly that of Mr. Draper, a white citizen, confirmed the popular belief that Freeman was one of the parties guilty of the murder. Freeman and the negro had had a quarrel a day or two before, when Freeman beat the negro over the head with a revolver. This, by the way, is a trick which Freeman indulges in pretty freely, i. e., beating negroes for amusement. Two other parties were partireps criminis with Freeman in this affair—John Shepherd and a young man by the name of Tumlin. Shepherd entered the house at night, sent a negro into Alexander's room to call him out, tried to get him out of the house, beat him over the head with a revolver, and then shot him through the breast. The negro staggered to his wife, fell, and died. Shepherd went out, but soon returned, got a fagot, or rather ordered a negro to get one, and then examined his victim to see if his work was fully accomplished, after which all three went away. While the murder was being perpetrated Freeman stood as guard at the door, and Tomlin at the window.

So strongly did the evidence point to Shepherd as the one who fired the fatal shot that Jones, the justice of the peace, issued a warrant for his arrest, which warrant he offered first to John L. Whitmore, deputy sheriff, and then to L. H. Wright, constable, both officers refusing flatly to take it, or undertake the arrest. Had there been no troops here there might be some reason for these officers refusing to arrest those men, as their (Freeman's and Shepherd's) friends were prepared to attempt, if not effect, a rescue or resistance; but about two hours before the sheriff told me he might need assistance, and I informed him that I had made arrangements for that, and could have a squad there in less than five minutes at any time ; and both Whitmore and Wright saw me in the room where the coroner's jury convened, and knew that they could get assistance from me. The conduct of these officers in this matter is such, I think, as to demand a removal, if nothing more severe. If they will not execute a warrant for the arrest of a murderer, what security is there for life here? Shortly afterward Whitmore and Wright both pointed out Shepherd, walking alone over a hill about half a mile off, but neither seemed at all disposed to arrest him. Calling the squad, (which I had in the meantime sent for, by request of the magistrate. I ran after Shepherd, and soon came in sight of him and Freeman and another man, the latter two on horses, near a thicket outside the city on the Marshall road. All three ran—Freeman down the road, and the others into the thicket. They were fired after, but without effect. Before I could get to where they had been they were out of sight. I immediately sent a non-commissioned officer to the telegraph office with a telegram for Lieutenant Hawley, at Marshall, to look for the murderers on the road to that place. After hunting in the thickets awhile I returned to the city, and found that Freeman had returned to the city on full gallop, and rode unmolested through the streets. I have learned since that several parties had buckled on their revolvers with the intention of attempting a rescue, in case I made any arrests. I have not been able to learn who these parties were.

The action of the coroner and his jury deserves some notice, J. C. Jones, justice of the peace, acting coroner, did all in his power to bring the guilty parties to justice; he did his duty fully, and I have not the least doubt if other officers and the coroner's jury had not acted as stumbling blocks instead of aids that the murderer and his accomplices would be under guard to-day and awaiting trial. The jury smothered down all evidence which pointed out the guilty parties, as far as they could. They said the negro came to his death by a shot; their duty was ended ; it was not their business to find out who committed the deed; that was the business of the next district court. The coroner had half a dozen other witnesses whom he wanted to examine, for the purpose of fixing the crime on the guilty parties, but the jury refused to listen to them. The murderers are still at large. I have watched for them, and once sent a squad of soldiers to the city to search for them, (since the day after the murder,) but have not succeeded in getting a clue of their whereabouts. The most respectable part of the citizens have expressed a regret that such an occurrence should take place here, especially as they think (knowing that it should be so) that it will make it harder for them in having military officers to take the place of their inefficient civil officers. But the rough class, which greatly predominates here. rejoice at seeing justice foiled in every instance where a negro or " yankee " is interested, and are ever ready to aid in baffling the efforts of all who may attempt to see justice done.

I have the honor to be, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

STANTON WEAVER, First Lieut. 20th U. S. Infantry, Commanding Sub-post. Post Adjutant, Shreveport, Louisiana.





Headquarters Post Of Shreveport,

Shreveport, Louisiana, June 1, 1867. Respectfully forwarded. I have directed First Lieutenant Thomas Latchford, commanding sub-post of Shreveport, Jefferson, Texas, to arrest the persons named in this communication as the murderers, to suspend in office Deputy Sheriff John L. Whitmore and Constable L. H. Wright, until the orders of the commanding general of fifth military district be known ; to call upon the civil authorities to make the arrest, or assist him in making it; to report any failure in compliance on their part, and all facts looking to their removal from office he may see fit to report.

Should the arrest be made, knowledge thereof will be immediately forwarded, and a military commission requested for the trial of the accused.

Attention is respectfully invited in this connection to an accompanying copy of memorandum instructions from these headquarters to Lieutenant Thomas Latchford, commanding sub-post of Shreveport, Jefferson, Texas, covering this case, with others.

I have the honor to recommend that Deputy Sheriff John L. Whitmore and Constable L. H. Wright be removed from office.

Bv't Lieutenant Colonel U. S. A.,
Capt. Twentieth V. S. Infantry, Commanding Post.






Extract from memorandum instructions given by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel J. M. Cutts, commanding post 35*, Louisiana, to Lieutenant Latchford, commanding sub-post of Jefferson, Texas.

A copy of Lieutenant Weaver's communication is herewith enclosed to you, and you are hereby instructed to use your best endeavors to arrest the parties therein named as the murderers, viz: John Shepherd, Tomlin, and Hugh Freeman. You will use sufficient force for the purpose indicated, act with secrecy, promptness, and dispatch, and should you be unable to arrest the parties accused, you will furnish me with a full and accurate description of them, to be furnished post commanders throughout the States of Texas and Louisiana, should the commanding general fifth military district so direct. You will yourself communicate with First Lieutenant William Hawley, commanding sub-post of Shreveport, Marshall, Texas, who has been made acquainted with the subject matter, and been directed to make the arrest himself, or to render you all the assistance in his power, or which you may require. You will suspend Deputy Sheriff John L. Whitmore and Constable L. H. Wright in their offices, and absolutely forbid them to exercise, or attempt to exercise, any of the duties of their offices until the orders of the commanding general fifth military district in the case can be received. Should they attempt to violate this order, you will arrest either or both of them. You will call upon the mayor of Jefferson and the sheriff of the county and inform them of the action you have been directed to take; also upon the judge of the court, if there be one, and you will require of the civil authorities to use their utmost endeavors to make the arrests themselves, or assist you in making the same; and should they fail to do so, you will report the fact to these headquarters, with such information or suggestions, looking to their removal from office, as the facts may authorize.

Brevet Lieut. Col. IT. S. Army, Capt. 20th. Infantry, Comd'g Post.





[Special Orders No. 72.—Extract.]

Headquarters Fifth Military District, New Orleans, La., June 19, 1867.


 It having been officially reported to these headquarters that an atrociously cold-blooded and deliberate murder was committed in Jefferson, Texas, and that deputy sheriff John L. Whitmore, and constable L. H. Wright, of that place, each absolutely refused to execute a warrant legally issued for the arrest of the murderer, said officers are hereby removed from their respective offices. The commanding officer at Jefferson will, if possible, cause the arrest of the murderer.

By command of Major General P. H. Sheridan :


Assistant Adjutant General.



Senate documents, otherwise publ. as Public documents and ... - Page 233

United States. Congress. Senate - 1868




Francis Black  was born at Grand Bluff, Mississippi, about 1850, on the Jim Carlton plantation. When five years old, she was stolen and taken to the slave market in New Orleans. Failing to sell her there, the slave traders took her to Jefferson, Texas, and sold her to Bill Tumlin