Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 102
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
charged with attempting to release a prisoner from the hands of the civil authorities. Prior
to the arrest, however, Tate had approached agent Goodman, apprised him of the facts,
and wondered what he should do if arrested. Goodman had advised Tate to ask the
sheriff to allow him to examine the case rather than to take Tate to jail. When Tate was
arrested, the sheriff, James B. Good, complied with the agent's wish and brought his
prisoner before Goodman. Goodman fully examined the case, summoned all the
witnesses that could be found, pronounced Tate not guilty of any violation of the laws
of the state, and released him. Goodman pointed out that Tate had used neither force
nor arms in his so-called rescue of the prisoner, that the assembly was not a riot, and
that in any case, Tate had had nothing to do with organizing it. Nonetheless, on the
morning of May 4, Tate was again arrested and confined in the county jail. The same
day, a second indictment, this one for killing a hog that belonged to Charles Schmidt on
February 21, 1866, was handed down against Tate. Probably, the civil authorities made
the second arrest because of this second indictment. Goodman, however, may not have
been aware of the second indictment, or he may have simply thought that the authorities
were harassing Tate, for as soon as he learned of the arrest, he sent a written order to
Sheriff Good to release Tate immediately. The sheriff stated that Judge George W. Smith
would not permit him to be set free unless the bureau agent added to the order a notation
that the sheriff was forced to release Tate by force of arms. Barring that, the sheriff
suggested, Goodman could send a squad of soldiers to the jail. Goodman, obviously
angered, tore up the order and sent a sergeant with a file of men from Company H, Thirty-
seventh Illinois, Veteran Volunteer Infantry, to the jail, where they proceeded to free Tate
from confinement. The civil authorities responded by, on May 7, reindicting Tate for
engaging in a riot and attempting to release Burford from custody, and on May 8, handing
down an indictment against Goodman for breaking Tate out of jail.102
Goodman verbally justified his actions to Gregory. Smith furnished a
transcript from the district court records of Tate's case which stated he had been
arrested for rescuing a prisoner from the sheriff and then released by armed men under
Goodman's direction. General Wright ordered that if Tate was in custody of the military
and not the bureau, he was to be given to the civil authorities. Goodman replied that Tate,
to whom he referred by his first name, was "a negro of more intelligence than the majority
of them and [one who] was well aware that it would be impossible for him to remain here
after the troops were withdrawn," and that therefore he had left the place with the
company and was in Galveston.103
The following July, Goodman made a partial tour of Colorado County. His
physical disability had prevented him from doing so earlier. On his tour, he visited the
Eagle Lake area, which comprised about one-fourth of the agricultural portion of the
county. From personal observation and conversations with the principal planters and
black laborers, he found the crops in "a very fine condition." Both employees and
102 Endorsement, J. Ernest Goodman, May 30, 1866, vol. 72, pp. 8-10; State of Texas v. Mack
Oates and Tom Tate, Cause File 570; State of Texas v. Tom Tate and Polly, Cause File 591, State of Texas
v. Mack ates and Tom Tate, Cause File 603; State of Texas v. J. E. Goodman, Cause File 611 ; all in Office
of the District Clerk, Colorado County, Texas.
103 Endorsement, George W. Smith (district court judge), May 14, 1866; Endorsement, Horatio G.
Wright, May 21, 1866; Endorsement, W. H. Sinclair, May 23, 1866, all in vol. 72, p. 8.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995, periodical, May 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151394/m1/34/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed October 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.