Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Most Exciting and Desperate Affair - 1868

Capt Somers Perry
Elmwood Cemetery
Captain Somers Perry, of the Memphis Police Department, responded to a burglary call on June 4, 1868. He was severely wounded in the ensuing fray and died two days later leaving behind his wife Anne and their two children, Somers Jr (a victim of the 1878 yellow fever epidemic) and Mary Rubie Perry. Four men were arrested and one, Sam Moody, was found guilty of being the shooter and was sentenced to death.  He maintained his innocence to the end.  According to the report in the Memphis Daily Appeal, August 21, 1869, "the trap door fell on August 20, 1869, at 2:26.  Sam Moody was pronounced dead 14 and a half minutes later."

Captain Perry is listed on the Officers Down Memorial Page.

These are the newspaper reports that appeared detailing the robbery and Capt. Perry's death.

Death of Capt. Perry
Preliminary Examination of the Murderers

The shooting affray which occurred on the morning of June 4th, between a detachment of the police under Capt. Perry, of the Second District, and a party of negro burglars, and its bloody termination, is still fresh in the minds of the public, familiar though we be with dark and frightful deeds of murder and violence.

Capt. Perry, it will be remembered, was desperately wounded in the affair, and from day to day the public have been informed of his condition through the papers.  Although from the very first it was thought that he had received his death wound, from the fact of his lingering so long, and several times apparently rallying, the more sanguine of his friends and relatives entertained hopes that he might possibly recover.  But all the skill of the leech, all the devoted watchfulness, the hopes and prayers of an agonized and loving wife, all the aid and nursing of his friends, could not keep the spirit in the wounded and lacerated body, and yesterday at a quarter to two o'clock, death came and relieved him from his terrible suffering.

Monument for the
Memphis Police
Capt. Perry's name appears here and the stone
behind and just to the right is the back
of his individual monument.
As soon as it was known that the Captain was dead, the four negroes who were captured on that bloody night, (one of whom was severely wounded before being taken), were removed from the stationhouse, where they have since lain, and heavily guarded, were carried before Justice Griffith.  "Squire Miller appeared as prosecutor, and was ready to proceed with the case, but at the request of the accused, the examination was postponed till Tuesday morning at ten o'clock.  The prisoners were removed under a heavy escort to the county jail, where they now are, under charge of murder.

We took occasion, in a former account of this unfortunate and terrible affair, to speak of Capt. Perry's worth as a man and an officer, and we cannot refrain from now reiterating the sentiments then expressed.  As a man, he was honest and true, and beloved by all who knew him; and as an officer, he had no superior-brave to rashness, and incorruptible.  He was a native of Pennsylvania but had been in this city several years, eight of which were spent on the police, among whom there is a deep and earnest feeling against the murderers.  His age was about thirty-five, and he leaves a wife and helpless family in very straightened circumstances.  He will be buried this evening at 5 o'clock.
Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal June 13, 1868

Terrific Midnight Rencontre 
Between Negro House-Breakers and Policemen- 
A most Exciting and Desperate Affair
From the Memphis Avalanche, June 3

Yesterday's Avalanche briefly mentioned a terrible affray between policemen and negro burglars on Monroe street, late Wednesday night.  About a quarter to twelve a negro boy named Henry, employed at Cunninghams' keno saloon, hurriedly ran up the stairway of the establishment, approached Captain Perry, of the second district police, who was at lunch, and informed him that several negro burglars were robbing Mr. William E. Yeatman's grocery and commission house in the Cooper block.  The Captain ran down stairs, met Mr. Tilford, private watchman, on the pavement, and asked him to accompany, without mentioning the object or place of the object.

They went to Yeatman's back door, which was slightly ajar.  no noise was heard, and Captain Perry imprudently lighted a match, and asked, "Who's there?"  Its light had scarcely been extinguished before two negroes, each with a nave repeater, ran toward the door from about the center of the store.  One of them attempted to fire, but the pistol snapped.  Captain Perry thrust his own around the edge of the door and fired.  The ball missed its aim, and one of the negroes--Sam Moody, took deliberate aim and also fired.  The ball struck Perry in the right arm, entering near the wrist, passed up, came out below the elbow and lodged in the body, striking the sixth rib and passing into the lung.  The wounded man fell, hurriedly informed Tilford that he was shot, and urged him to kill both the negroes.

The black scoundrels had by this time approached the door, and Tilford, pushing his derringer against Moody's breast, pulled the trigger.  The burglar struck the weapon with his hand, and the shot passed harmlessly over his head.  Having no other weapon, Tilford hastily picked up Perry's repeater, that had fallen to the floor when its owner was struck down.  Both negroes observed the action, and three or four shots were fired at him.  That he should have escaped unhurt seemed almost miraculous; but no other damage than the burning of his neck with powder from the weapon's flash, so close was the weapon to his head.

The negroes, joined by another outside, now rushed by Tilford, stepping on Capt. Perry, who lay groaning in the doorway.  They turned down the alley and ran toward Union Street, closely followed by Tilford.  After proceeding about thirty steps, the officer stopped, took deliberate aim at the nearest burglar and fired.  The ball struck one of them--Bedford--in the neck, inflicting a painful though not dangerous wound.  It did not prevent him from continuing the flight, and the three, still followed by Tilford, reached Union street.  Here they struck across to Main, near while officers Wright and Barbiere joined in the pursuit.  The latter promptly fired on the fugitives, who as promptly returned the salute, one of the bullets grazing Wright on the knee-cap disabling him for a few moments.  The negroes continued their flight down Main street, but on reaching the alley between Union and Gayoso, turned into it and ran toward Second street.  Two of them escaped but Bedford, being closely pursued, jumped over the fence into Mr. Nick Malatesta's back yard, immediately opposite the Criminal Court room.  The shooting had aroused both Malatesta and his wife, who stood at an open window observing Bedford's movements.  Malatesta drew a repeater, leveled it on the burglar, and ordered him to surrender, threatening to shoot if he refused.  Bedford at once laid down, and a moment afterwards Tilford and the other officers, now reinforced by officers Crupper and Kunholtzer, sprang over the fence and took him in charge.

Bedford was frightened nearly out of his senses, and in reply to questions gave the names of Henderson Ford, Sam Moody, Henry Jones and Willis Mitchell as his companions, and mentioned where they could be found.  During the morning three of the four-Moody, (who shot Perry), Jones and Ford--were arrested and lodged in the second district station house.  The shooting caused a general awakening of people in the vicinity, and soon fifty or sixty men were in the streets, armed and ready for a fight.  For a time many supposed a riot had broken out.  Thirty or forty shots were fired in all, some by people from windows, at the fugitive burglars.

Captain Perry was removed to his residence on Allen avenue, and Dr. Kimbro was summoned to dress his wounds.  The injuries are dangerous, and although the sufferer was alive at a late hour last night, it is feared that he cannot recover.  Capt. Perry has resided in Memphis for ten or eleven years, and was a Lieutenant of police before the war.  He is a splendid officer, and since his promotion to Captaincy of the second district force, has repeatedly distinguished himself.  The city can ill afford to lose so good a citizen and efficient officer.
Originally posted in the Memphis Avalanche June 3, 1868

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