31 March 1864: “…to frighten them he pointed the gun at them…”

Item description: Entry, dated 31 March 1864, from the diary of Samuel A. Agnew.  Agnew describes the accidental death of Franky, the son of two of his Aunt Rilla’s slaves, due to a gun misfiring.

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Item citation: From the Samuel A. Agnew Diary, #923, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription: 

Accidental killing of a little negroe

Uncle Jo passed soon after breakfast and I gave him my letter to N E M to have mailed as soon as he can. The forenoon was very pretty and clear, this evening has clouded, and it commenced raining steadily between 4 and 5 o’clock and since then has been raining continuously, and tonight is a very wet night. Even while I am writing I hear the rain drops falling on the housetops and the water gurgling through the tin gutters, a fine night for sleeping.

Cleared off my table in order to find the manuscript of my critical notes. Find them and finished today the 6th Chapt. of Romans. This evening rode over to Simmons to hear from his Aberdeen trip. He has a receipt for the whole amount and will have to go back after the certificates on the 15 or 20th April. Pa sent by him for some Morphine, but he could find none for sale.

A melancholy occurrence took place at Aunt Rilla’s today between 11 and 12 o’clock. Melly shot a little negro child (Franky) of Abe and Adaline, and the child died in a half hour after. It was accidental. Aunt Rilla sent melly out with a gun (Mullinix’s) to shoot a hawk. The little negroes were in great glee running after him. He wanted them to go back, and to frighten them he pointed the gun at them, when contrary to his expectation it went off, killing Franky. Melly thinks the gun was only half-cocked. The little negro was shot in the head, 5 bullets entering, 2 in the forehead, 1 at the outer corner (below) of the left eye, and 2 near the nostrils. It is indeed a sad occurrence. Poor Melly no doubt bitterly regrets the circumstance. What an admonition in reference to the uncertainty of life. “In the midst of life we are in death.” Truly as David says there is but a step between me and death.

We have no news today, of the war, or Railroad. Mrs. Brice is fixing to be off for Memphis with some cotton. Aunt Rilla sends a bale with Mrs. Bishop. Claunch passed with a bale for Mrs. Mahon today. We have not heard anything from Reeves who took 2 bales for Pa on the 11th inst. Franky who was killed today was 4 or 5 years old. Aunt R. sent for Pa and he went over there soon after it happened.

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