Opinion of Witnesses by John W. Ramsey
One of the two claims of numbers 15.774 and 20.732, was taken by Special Commissioner Hyberger and one of them by me.
Before starting to Alabama in June, the claimant told me he had learned that Capt. A.E. Blount, J.C. Steed, J.F. Larrison and Leonard Carrouth had made depositions before Colonel Brownlow questioning his loyalty and conduct and farm products. As I was going to leave the next day he brought in several witnesses which I examined and sent up as rebuttal. I got back the 15th of July and in a day or two, the claimant called and told me that he had got copies of the depositions above named together with Col. Brownlow’s report and (?) to take rebuttal testimony. I could not begin at once to take his testimony but for the last three weeks as I had time to, he brought the witnesses I have taken testimony till he examined all the important he could reach. For he told me at the start that several of his most important witnesses were dead, such as James H. Norman, A.A. Clingan, Thomas H. Calloway, Dr. G.B. Thompson, Dr. J.P.R. Edwards and John N. Cowan.
Claimant is not a lawyer and his agent at this place Col. S.B. Boyd is not a lawyer. But claimant is a plain blunt farmer of industry pluck and good hard sense, with the utmost confidence in the justice of his claim and cause.
I allowed a liberal latitude of examination for I thought in such a case you were entitled to an insight into the situation and surroundings.
The particular questions of the claimant are generally put down with the answers. But my own question are not. I put many questions to the most of the witnesses to draw out and test their knowledge, writing down such answers as I thought pertinent or that would throw light on the subject. In the cause of the examination I was surprised of the knowledge the claimant had of the various events that took place around Cleveland during the war and at the retentiveness and accuracy of his memory.
I don’t believe that there is another man in the county that has as much knowledge in detail as the claimant.
His first witness - Joseph H. Davis, was most of the war Clerk of the County Court and is a loyal man of truth and honesty, had lived about Cleveland many years and had as good opportunities to know who was loyal as any man in the county.
The claimant managed to get all four of the men that testified against him before me at different times.
Leonard Carrouth, who refugeed from Murray county, Georgia about the 1st of 1864, lived some two miles East of Cleveland near Mr. Merideth Leggs till about the 1st of 1865 when he moved near the claimant. He was evidently very unwilling to testify for fear he would say something different from what he had sworn before Col. Brownlow. Said he had a bad memory. Is financially embarrassed. I make no conduct on Capt. A.E. Blount’s record and conduct further than it is clear he believed very differently at the close of the war from what he does now.
J.C. Steed left examination incomplete and could not disguise his ill feelings toward claimant.
J.F. Larrison seemed not able to understand why the rebels took so much of what he had and did not (torn) from the claimant. Admitted (torn) hard feelings and that he knew (torn) of claimant’s affairs.
Mrs. Sidney Henderson (torn) of John Henderson of Cleveland (torn) lady of high standing and (torn), Colonel D.M. Nelson, son of Hon. (torn) R. Nelson deceased and Capt. Thos. (torn) did good service in the late war as officers as did Andrew J. Maples, James A. Hague and James H. Brown as privates. Herman Foster is a learned clear-headed business man. T.L. Cate, nephew of the claimant, is one of the best business men in Cleveland. He was the last Republican nominee in this district of six counties for our State Senator. He was one of the Tuscaloosa prisoners.
Samuel Grigsby, though an old man is yet intelligent and knows the value of money. Nearly all of the other witnesses are leading men about Cleveland. A careful investigation I think shows there was no doubt of claimants loyalty till long after the war was over. if there is any other man about Cleveland that questions his loyalty I have not heard it and I have inquired. I certainly believe he was loyal.
John W. Ramsey - Special Commissioner
William Cate letter to Judge A.O. Alder