Other Wind
30 / July30 / July30 / July

Damd Rascals

I’ve been processing an old Superior Court case at work over the past few days. It involves a murder on the treaty grounds at “Highwassa” on July 14, 1805, before a treaty with the Cherokee. The file includes several examinations of men who witnessed John Pemberton and Edmund Waller quarrelling with sticks. According to several of the witnesses, Pemberton had been relentlessly seeking the fight all day. No one claims to have seen who struck first, but many saw Pemberton strike a blow to Waller’s head, above the ear. Soon after that strike, Pemberton put his foot in a hole and fell. With Pemberton down, Waller finished the fight with three or four blows to Pemberton’s head, giving him, as the indictment says, a “mortal bruise,” with “malice aforethought.”

There is a note from Waller to Pemberton in the file, passed on the same day as the fight. It is the kind of thing that makes me like my job.

Sir you Sent me a note by Col. James Ore    I have noticed the Content   Ore is a man I respect and am Sorry he has been led astray by a damd rascal—as to the Substance of your paper   I Shall Treat it with Silent Contempt which the thing merits and Shall make it an Invariable rule to punish the offender as I See cause   I am Yours

I am Yours. Such eloquence to that ending. Slithering eloquence. I wish we had Pemberton’s original note.

No papers in the file indicate what happened to Waller. He shows up in several cases shortly after this one. When I get a chance, I want to look through the minutes to see what I can find.

We’ve been reflecting at the Archives lately about how it is usually the ugly documents we remember and love to recall, the gritty and overblown old-fashioned divorces, the buggary, the murder. I don’t watch much Reality TV, but I guess I don’t really need to.