Former slave’s remains back in area
MARIETTA – It was the wrong time to be wearing a blue Union Army overcoat in southeastern Missouri in the year 1866.
But Edward Giles did just that – and was murdered for his actions – at the hands of Newton Hammond, his former overseer at a plantation owned by Irving Shields, in New Madrid, Mo., on Feb. 12, 1866.
Giles, who by then was a free man and had taken up residence in Marietta, was returned home and buried at Mound Cemetery.
Weeks after Giles’ murder, on March 2, The Morgan Herald reported that the “overseer…immediately shot him down, remarking that he would ‘take the stiffening out of them Yankee clothes.'”
That act of murder was no surprise to Ben Bain of Marietta, author of “Multiracial Pioneers of the Ohio Valley,” published in 1999.
“Everybody was rather bitter so soon after the Civil War, whether you were for the North or the South,” Bain said. “Giles would have given the overseer two reasons (to murder him). One, that he got away from the plantation owner. Two, that he had on Union blue.”
Born in Harden County, Ky., in 1832 and raised as a slave, Giles had eventually been sold to the Shields plantation in New Madrid along the Mississippi River.
“At the beginning of the Civil War, one of the local units, the 63rd Ohio unit, went through the area and liberated Giles’ (Missouri) plantation,” said Scott Britton, local historian and executive director of The Castle.
Not long after, Giles, his wife, Mary, and his son were brought to Marietta by Alexander Haskins, who served in the 63rd Ohio unit as a lieutenant colonel and was an engineer for the city of Marietta.
“That was pretty typical of the time,” Britton said. “A lot of people would help bring (former slaves) to freedom when they came back (to an area) on furlough or for a visit.”
Giles enlisted in the Civil War on Aug. 10, 1864. He served just more than a year in the 5th U.S. Colored Troops, then returned to his family in Marietta.
Traveling to New Madrid in February 1866, Giles was intending to bring his mother-in-law to Marietta to live.
He never made it back to the Mid-Ohio Valley alive, but Giles’ mother-in-law returned his body for burial in Mound Cemetery.
The simple tombstone that marks his gravesite is in the far left-hand corner of the cemetery, commemorated with a small U.S. flag and a white paper flower.
Mary Shields Giles remained a Marietta resident until her death in 1915 at the age of about 77.
“She ended up doing various odd jobs in Marietta to make ends meet and help raise her son,” said Britton.
It is not known if Giles’ murderer, Newton Hammond, was ever brought to justice.
However, in March 1866, the Marietta Register wrote “Such black-hearted, cowardly villains ought to be dealt with with the utmost severity, and if the people of the south will not mete out justice to them, then let the national government do it at all hazards and at any cost. Let justice be done tho’ the heavens fall and the powers of earth be shaken.”