ON BOARD STEAMER SUFFOLK,
Mississippi River, December 13, 1863.
The commission met pursuant to adjournment. Present, all the members. The examination of the witnesses was then closed.
The commission, having maturely considered the evidence adduced, finds and reports as follows:
1. As regards the cause of the disturbance at Fort Jackson on the 9th instant, the commission finds that the immediate cause of the disturbance was the whipping with a rawhide, or cart-whip, on the afternoon of the 9th instant, by Lieutenant-Colonel Benedict, Fourth Regiment Infantry, Corp d'Afrique, of two drummer boys belonging to that regiment, aggravated by his previous conduct toward the men of the regiment, and the severe punishments to which he had been in the habit of resorting.
2. As to the course and termination of the troubles, the commission finds that the disturbance began about an hour after the whipping of the music boys referred to, by about half of the regiment rushing upon the parade with their arms, shouting, and discharging their pieces into the air. The shouting and threatening language used was directed against Lieutenant-Colonel Benedict. One man proposed to "kill all the damned Yankees." Part of the men rushed to the guard-house, forced the guard, and released the prisoners confined there. Others rushed toward the levee, discharging their pieces, probably under the impression that Lieutenant-Colonel Benedict was on board the Suffolk, lying at the levee, or would try to get there. The commission does not find that the shots fired were fired at any person, but that they were fired into the air, although a number of them took effect upon the quarters of the officers. The disturbance was not premeditated, but was a sudden outbreak, and was quelled by the officers going amongst the men, and pacifying them by assurances that justice should be done them. It lasted until about 7.30, when the last shows were fired. Soon after, tattoo was beaten, and the men retired to their quarters.
3. As to the conduct of the commanding officer and other officers, the commission finds that Colonel Drew, commanding the post, went on the parade as soon as he knew of the disturbance, and attempted to quiet the men by telling them that Lieutenant-Colonel Benedict had done wrong, but that they were doing a greater wrong, and that, if they would go to their quarters, justice should be done them. The other officers, with the exception of Major Nye, Fourth Infantry, Corps d'Afrique, behaved in a similar manner. Major Nye was not on the parade, and his absence has not been satisfactory accounted for. Soon after the disturbance commenced, Lieutenant-Colonel Benedict was ordered by Colonel Drew to his quarters, and remained there and in the quarters of the other officers until the next morning, when he was sent to New Orleans. All the witnesses express a belief that an attempt to quiet the disturbance by force would have resulted fatally to the officers, and, upon the evidence, the commission is of opinion that the means resorted to were, perhaps, the best that could have been adopted under the circumstances, although leaving the troops under the ill-effects of such temporizing measures.
4. As to the conduct of the men, the commission finds that about half the regiment took part in the disturbance, and that the other half, though not taking part, showed no disposition to assist in quelling the outbreak. The commission is of opinion that the conduct of the men was more owing to an ignorance of their rights and the proper means of redress than to any preconcerted plan of revolt.