Thursday, September 24, 2015

White Caps and Blue Bills Continued

About the date above referred to, after similar notices had been given to some lewd women living in Emert's Cove in the upper end of Sevier county, which notices had been unheeded, the first White cap raid was made. Some half dozen women were whipped by masked men and notified to quit the community at once or like punishment would follow with increased severity. Most or all of said women did leave and went to Knoxville and other places, and the good people of Emert's Cove felt that it was a happy riddance. They spoke approvingly of the act thinking little of the influence that such an attempted correction of evils would ultimately have in the community. So on the surface there seemed to be a wave of approval of the first effort at White capping in the county, and those who were engaged in it felt emboldened to take a second step. But after several raids had been made and lone and unfortunate women whipped and driven from their homes at night, some with little children, there at once arose a feeling of resentment and opposition to this method of administering punishment even to those who were known to be living in violation of law, and whose example was detrimental to good society And the boldness and brutality which attended some of the whippings soon brought prosecutions against suspected persons. Generally these prosecutions were commenced before justices of the peace. By reason of the fact that the White caps went masked it was very difficult to identify them with any reasonable certainty, but occasionally one of the parties charged would be bound to court.

There was very little to impede the progress of White capping in Sevier county until an opposition was formed known as the organization of the Blue Bills. Not very much is known about this band further than its object was to thwart and put down White cap raids. It is said, however, to differ from the White cap organization in this: that it had no constitution, or by laws, no officers, and administered no oath or obligation, and they never wore masks when on their raids. It was composed of men stoutly opposed to the other organization, some from good motives and others no doubt from selfish view.s The former desired to put down White capping because it was a crime, the latter because the White caps had either threatened them or some of the immoral women of the county with whom they had been associated and had agreed to defend against the White caps.

Several sharp engagements thus occurred between the White caps and Blue Bills, in some of which men were killed and wounded. The White caps also went armed, and it was understood that when they met, it meant fight or run. It will thus be seen that both of these organizations were acting without sanction of law, and that one was about as revolutionary in its character as the other. The Blue Bills, however generally claimed to either have an officer of the law with them, or one deputized by proper authority to arrest all White cap raiders and prevent them from carrying out their plans.

(Source: The White-caps: A History of the Organization in Sevier County, E. W. Crozier, Bean, Warters & Gaut, 1899)

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