Annual report of the superintendent of Negro Affairs in North Carolina, 1864
SUPERINTENDENT OF NEGRO AFFAIRS
WITH AN APPENDIX,
HISTORY AND MANAGEMENT OF THE FREEDMEN IN THIS DEPARTMENT UP TO JUNE 1ST, 1865.
REV. HORACE JAMES,
w f brown & co, printers,
No. 15 cornhill.
It is but reasonable that the people of the North, who have so liberally supplied the means of alleviating the sufferings of the negroes made free by the war, should be permitted to receive full and official statements respecting this peculiar interest, from those who have been entrusted with its management.
It is to gratify their wishes, and at the same time to extend more widely the knowledge of these people's wants and condition, that this document is presented to the public. Believing it to be a matter of no particular importance whether the facts are given in the form of a direct address to the reader, or in the form of a Report, heretofore made to the Department Commander, the latter mode is selected, presuming that it will be more generally satisfactory. The results thus far attained have been reached by sheer experience. We had no precedents. But it is hoped that the record of these labors may be deemed a contribution, of some trifling value, to the history of a great movement, and be made of use to other workers in the same field.
New Berne, North Carolina,
January 1st, 1865.
Sir: In this, my Annual Report, I crave your indulgence in making an occasional reference to events which occurred previous to the year 1864, it being essential alike to a clear statement of facts, and a just estimate of my official labors.
The portions of North Carolina heretofore held by our army have been the towns of New Berne, Beaufort, Washington, and Plymouth; Hatteras Banks, from Oregon Inlet southward to Cape Lookout, and Roanoke Island. There is also a tract of debatable territory, along the route of the New Berne and Beaufort Railroad, some 38 miles long, and from two to six broad, embracing the stations of Morehead city, Carolina city, Newport Barracks, Newport, Havelock, and Croatan. But the tenure of the soil is so uncertain in this region, on account of rebel raids and the incursions of guerillas, that few people reside upon it, except in the vicinity of the railroad stations.
The census taken one year ago showed the colored people within our lines to be distributed as follows:
|Living in||New Berne and||vicinity,||8,591|
|Living“ in“||Beaufort and“||vicinity,“||2,426|
|Living“ in“||Washington and“||vicinity,“||2,741|
|Living“ in“||Roanoke Island||vicinity,“||2,712|
|Living“ on||Hatteras Banks,||89|
The census just completed shows them to be now located as follows:
|Living in||New Berne and||vicinity||10,782|
|Living“ in“||Beaufort and“||vicinity,“||3,245|
|Living“ in“||Plymouth and“||vicinity,“||94|
|Living“ in“||Roanoke Island||vicinity,“||3,091|
|Living“ on||Hatteras Banks,||95|
A glance at these localities and figures reveals the fact that great changes have occurred during the year, and thereby indicates the nature of the difficulties with which we have to contend. The fact is that nothing can be relied on in this District, except the certainty of change. What with confederate troops, guerillas, small pox and yellow fever, the negroes (and poor whites as well) have been tossed upon a sea of troubles, and our care of them has assumed a new phase almost every month.
Many of our friends at the North do not realize how little territory our army holds in North Carolina.
We control, indeed, a broad area of navigable waters, and command the approaches from the sea, but have scarcely room enough on land to spread our tents upon. Our base is three hundred miles away, at Fort Monroe; or farther still, New York; and but for a bi-weekly transport and an occasional mail we should be nowhere.
The management of the Freedmen's affairs in North Carolina would have been more gratifying to their friends, and to ourselves also, if we could have operated upon a larger area. If land had been accessible on which to settle the negroes, it would have prevented huddling them together in the fortified towns and in temporary camps. But there was left us no alternative. Some of the more fearless among them did indeed venture to hire tracts of land a little way out of the towns, or on the "debatable territory" along the Railroad and the Neuse, and attempt the culture of cotton or corn, or the making of turpentine; but it was done at the risk of capture, and in some instances, the experiment cost the poor fellows their liberty, in others, their lives. Under all these disadvantages and discouragements, it is a marvel that so many colored men should have engaged in agriculture, or turpentine farming, upon lands leased of the government, through the Special Supervising Agent of the Treasury. It appears from his records that a majority of the leases given by him have been taken by colored persons, and the premises have varied in size from a single acre to a whole plantation. The negroes prefer turpentine farming to cotton raising, less capital being necessary, and the cash returns being quicker. The trees, after being boxed, begin to produce turpentine immediately, and the boxes are dipped four or five times in a season. The results of the first dipping being put in barrels, and sent to market before midsummer, it is not necessary to wait until autumn before realizing any gains by the operation. Negroes have hired from the Treasury Agent from 3,000 to 10,000 trees apiece. One plantation near Havelock, leased by a white man, contains 120,000 trees, and not less than 125 colored hands were employed upon it, at wages varying from fifteen to thirty-five dollars per month. On the Ball Plantation, near New Berne, about fifty negroes were given employment in raising cotton. Upon all these plantations the results were favorable, and the crops (thanks to our generals, who kept the rebel armies well employed elsewhere) were secured and marketed safely. It is impossible for me to give in figures the results of this labor of the freedmen. But this may be said, with an assurance of stating the matter within the bounds of truth. Two hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars ($275,000) were paid during the last year to colored employees, upon these cotton and turpentine plantations, in cash, or in its equivalents, clothing, food, and domestic supplies. More than twelve hundred laborers were thus employed, ministering by their toil to the support of not less than 5,000 colored people. When this process can be carried on in extenso, the "negro question" need give political economists no more perplexity. Make them lords of the land, and everything else will naturally follow. There is more land lying waste in Eastern North Carolina, than is needed to support, in independence, ten times the negro population now within our lines.
To present a full record of our operations during the year, the several localities must be taken up in detail. The headquarters of the District, and largest rendezvous of colored people, will come first under review.
New Berne contains at present 10,782 negroes, of whom 6,560 reside in the town, 2,798 in a freedmen's village, just across the Trent river, and the remainder (1,424) in the near vicinity of the town. Most of these people are refugees from slavery, not more than one sixth of them having been residents of New Berne before the war. They have followed our various military expeditions on their return to New Berne from the interior, or have stolen in singly, or in squads, from time to time. Every week makes some small addition to the number. The new comers often find relatives in town, who give them shelter until they can obtain employment, and provide themselves with quarters. The able-bodied men mostly enlist. The families of all who enter the army are provided, by orders from headquarters, with government rations, and it is a part of my duty to see that these are duly issued.
The following is the ration for dependent negroes. It is a trifle smaller than the soldiers' ration, embraces fewer articles, and costs at this time but 20 cents, while the soldiers' ration costs 6 cents.
The Ration of Dependents and unemployed Negroes.
10 oz. Pork or Bacon, or 1 lb. Fresh or Salt Beef.
1 lb. Corn Meal, five times a week.
1 lb. Flour or Soft Bread, or 12 oz. Hard Bread, twice a week.
10 lbs. Beans, Peas, or Hominy, 8 lbs. Sugar 2 qts. Vinegar, 8 oz. Candles, 2 lbs. Soap, 2 lbs. Salt, 15 lbs. Potatoes, when practicable, to every 100 rations.
And for women and children, 10 lbs. Coffee (Rye), or 15 oz. Tea, to every 100 rations.
Thirteen hundred and fifty-one members of colored soldiers families are now fed in New Berne, 660 being adults, and 691 children. The full ration, as above given, is issued to adults, and half rations to children under fourteen years of age. In addition to the wives and children of soldiers, I am now supplying food to 2,149 persons in New Berne who are very poor, or aged, infirm, widows or orphans, or for other reasons dependent on the charity of government. This class of persons is therefore twenty-three per cent. of the whole number of colored people residing here. They are not supplied with the full "dependents' ration," but furnished with "necessary sustenance," in such quantities as they absolutely require.
Previously to the year 1864, the colored refugees who could not find quarters among their friends in town, were placed in camps or settlements a little out of town. Of these there were three, two of them being located a mile or two outside of our interior line of fortifications. In these two camps lived about 1,800 people. When the rebel insurgents under Gen. Pickett attacked New Berne in February last, every man, woman, and child from these camps came rushing wildly into town, struck with fear, and feeling as keen a sense of danger as if they had been actually returned by force to their old masters. And why should they not? Our outposts were driven in, the garrison was weak, the gun-boat "Underwriter" was burnt by the foe right under the guns of our forts, and the negroes themselves were called to the breast-works to repel the common danger, with extemporized military organizations, and a hasty equipment. For a day or two things looked very blue hereabouts, but the exigency passed by with the loss of some hundreds of prisoners, one section of a light battery, and more brave officers and men than we could afford to spare. Major Gen. Peck being then absent on leave, the defense of the town was made by Brig. Gen. I. N. Palmer, who performed the task with signal ability. He highly complimented the negroes, who took to the trenches, to the number of 1,200, with the alacrity of old soldiers.
This attack made it manifest that the colored people were not safe in their camps. A number of them were captured within two miles of the city, some were killed, and all driven from their homes. Consequently, Gen. Peck, on his return, ordered me to remove both these settlements, and consolidate the three upon the site of the one which lay within our interior fortifications, just over the Trent River bridge. It was immediately done. Streets were run out, and lots assigned, fifty feet by sixty, allowing a little garden spot to each house; and now upwards of eight hundred houses are standing upon this area, disposed in an orderly manner, and sheltering two thousand seven hundred and ninety-eight freedmen.
Of these, 1,226 receive help from the government, as dependents. The whole settlement is under charge of Mr. L.J. Howell, whose ability and tact make him a valuable helper in negro affairs. His services, for more than two years, are deserving of honorable mention.
If we must have camps, or African villages, in which temporarily to shelter and feed refuges from bondage, this settlement, located healthfully on the banks of the Trent, is a model for imitation. Its headquarters, where reside the superintendent, his assistant, and some of the female teachers, its hospital buildings, at one extremity, overlooking the river shore, its blacksmith's shop, cook-houses, camp stables, and variety store, its comfortable dwellings, its well-filled schools and churches, its neatness, comfort and order, conspire to make it a happy home for many a panting fugitive, in which he may learn the first lesson of a higher social life.
The gardens, though small, were wonderfully productive, and furnished for the cultivators thousands of bushels of green vegetables. It must not be supposed that the sandy soil of Eastern North Carolina is a sterile soil. Though it looks unpromising, it contains an admixture of the carbonate and phosphate of lime, from the detritus of old shells and marine substances, which makes it quite productive. The white refugees in a neighboring camp, composed of better houses and standing on better soil, neglected to raise anything themselves, but purchased vegetables freely of the negroes. In some cases, their corn, fifteen feet high, quite overtopped their houses.
On the first and second days in May, this village received an accession of upwards of two thousand new comers, from Little Washington.
Our army had evacuated that post, after the fall of Plymouth, and the colored people, true to the instinct of liberty, followed the troops to New Berne and Beaufort. They quickly settled themselves, and seemed as happy as before. Tents were pitched for them at first, which were occupied until cabins could be constructed of "shakes," an article well-known in this region, being a short board, four or five feet long, split out by hand. The negro is always jolly, and when driven out of one home, he will "tote" his small inventory of household stuff upon his head, until he finds a place in which to establish another. He goes forth like Abraham, journeying for "de promus land." The soldier under orders does not strike his tent with more alacrity, or sing with more unconcern, when he knows not where he shall next lay his head.
Large numbers of white refugees, also, left their homes at the same time with the negroes. Many of them belonged to families of North Carolina soldiers in the Union army. Dr. J.W. Page, of the Sanitary Commission, was appointed their Superintendent, and admirably has he discharged the duties of his trust. It was mainly through his care that these poor people were kept from actual starvation, so helpless were they, so totally unable to rally from the depression of spirits consequent upon their sudden change of life and their great deprivations. They have been dependent upon charity from that day to this. They did not build ther own houses, but were placed in soldiers' barracks. It is the testimony of Dr. Page, with whom I have had frequent conferences on topics connected with our kindred work, and who has himself resided years at the South, that the "piney woods" people, the "clay eaters," or whatever name be given to the poor whites of the South, are a more helpless and spiritless race than the negroes of the same section, and indeed, naturally inferior to them. They have more pride, but less activity; they make more pretension, but possess fewer mental resources. Being unused to labor, they know nothing of its processes, and are therefore incapable of self-support. From twelve to fourteen hundred of them have been fed by government, in Beaufort and vicinity, while only three or four hundred negroes have received aid in the same sub-district, the whole number of each being nearly equal. In New Berne, where there are more than eight thousand colored refugees, but little more than three thousand eat government bread.
But the whole body of white refugees are the nation's guests. This does not prove that "the negro is better than the white man," but rather that labor is honorable, and tends to independence.
Many who were at first settled in this camp have left it to live in town, where they can better obtain work, or to reside upon farms, or to migrate northward. As many as could be induced to go North, and for whom places could be found as household servants, have been assisted to go. But they much prefer to live in the warmer climate of the South.
At the time of the evacuation of Washington, this camp contained fully four thousand people. In September last, two hundred men were taken from it, at one time, and sent to labor in Virginia. This, with the gradual depletion alluded to above, leaves in it now but twenty-eight hundred residents. More than half of these belong to families of men working in the Quartermaster's or Engineer department, or laboring on their own account, and maintained at their own charges. Fully a thousand of them, however, ought to be sown thinly upon the soil. Let our army open the way, and we will do it in this neighborhood. If not, arrangements are in progress to do it elsewhere. To manage such a camp, and keep it orderly, tidy, and healthful, is very difficult, because it is against nature, opposed to the maxims of social economy, abnormal and unprofitable; yet it may be tolerated in disturbed times, while we fight and wait, and pray for peace, with enlargement and liberty.
In the town of New Berne, within the rude triangle formed by the rivers Neuse and Trent on two sides, and our line of fortifications on the other, are 6,560 colored people. The town contained in 1860, 5,482 inhabitants, white and colored. Nearly the whole of the white population abandoned the place before our army entered it. The most valuable, active, and useful of the slaves were compelled to accompany their masters.
But the free blacks generally remained, not having the fear of "the Yankees" before their eyes. They are all self-supporting. Others have come in, and among them many mechanics and skilled laborers, so that New Berne has now a good supply of tradesmen, in nearly all the different branches essential to social prosperity. There are carpenters, caulkers, shipwrights, blacksmiths, masons, shoemakers, coopers, mill-wrights, engineers, carriage-makers, painters, barbers, tailors, draymen, grocers, cooks, hucksters, butchers, gardeners, fishermen, oyster-men, sailors, and boatmen, with the usual supply of doctors and preachers. Some of these people are becoming rich; all are doing well for themselves, even in these times. They evince a capacity for business, and exhibit a degree of thrift and shrewdness, which are ample security for their future progress, if they are allowed an equal chance with their fellow-men.
In order to obtain some facts upon which I might estimate the amount of earnings to be credited to these free and freed people, I posted a handbill in New Berne, requesting such colored people as were not employed by government, but were pursuing some trade, profession, or calling on their own account, to report at my office the amount of their income or earnings during the year 1864. The result will interest the friends of the negro, and indicate their ability to support themselves.
Three hundred and five persons, nearly all males, made returns in response to my request, reporting a gross amount of one hundred and fifty-one thousand five hundred and sixty-two dollars, (151,562.)
The number reporting from $500 to $1,000 income was 110.
The“ number“ reporting“ from $500upwards toof 1,000 income“ was“ 18.
The“ number“ reporting“ from $500“ to“ 2,000 income“ was“ 4.
The“ number“ reporting“ from $500“ to“ 3,000 income“ was“ 2.
The largest income reported was $3,150. This was derived from the turpentine business, as indeed were most of the larger incomes reported, which varied from 300 to more than 3,000 dollars. The average of all the incomes reported is $496.92, a trifle short of five hundred dollars.
It is common for newspapers at the North, to print the names of a few of those whose incomes are the largest; but as there is no local newspaper here ready to perform this service for the freedmen, I shall be compelled to do it in this Report.
George Hargate, turpentine farmer,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ned Huggins, tar and turpentine,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
E. H. Hill, "missionary and trader,"
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
W. A. Ives, carpenter and grocer,
George Gordon, turpentine,
Adam Hymen, turpentine“
Samuel Collins, dry goods and groceries,
Benjamin Whitefield, grocery and eating house,
Hasty Chadwick, turpentine,
Limber Lewis, staves, wood, and shingles,
George Physic, grocer,
Sylvester Mackay, undertaker,
Charles Bryan, carter,
John H. Heath, shoemaker,
William Long, lumberman,
John Bryan, cotton farming,
Hogan Canedy, cooper and tarmaker,
Danzey Heath, grocer and baker
|The average income reported by the barbers, is||$675|
|The“ average“ income“ reported“ by the“ blacksmiths,||468|
|The“ average“ income“ reported“ by the“ masons,||402|
|The“ average“ income“ reported“ by the“ carpenters,||510|
|The“ average“ income“ reported“ by the“ grocers,||678|
|The“ average“ income“ reported“ by the“ coopers,||418|
|The“ average“ income“ reported“ by “ turpentine farmers,||446|
To offset these more thrifty people, with whom I have had officially nothing to do but to rejoice in their prosperity, there exists another class, and it is at present and must be for some time to come much the larger one, who by dint of perseverance and industry earn a few dollars every month, and would be glad to support themselves in independence. They are not wanting in self-respect, and scorn to be beggars. But their few dollars will not feed and clothe them at sutlers' and Jews' prices. If they could purchase a comfortable garment for three dollars, they would wear it out in honest pride, and have a dime left for the daily loaf, and a trifle for bacon and corn meal. But if they must pay ten dollars for the garment, nothing remains for them but to suffer hunger, or to beg.
Philanthropy can do no better thing for people in such a condition, than to furnish them the necessaries of life, and to some extent, its comforts, not as a gift, but by purchase, at low rates.
Some persons, who know about as little of the principles of political economy as they do of the pure spirit of religion, are ready to charge with covetousness and extortion the persons who come out to do good to the oppressed, and bring them things to sell!
They ought to know that he who brings the essentials of life to the door of the poor, at prices within their reach, putting it in their power to live within their scanty income, has done more for them, very much more, than has he who feeds and clothes them as a gratuity. He has satisfied their wants, and at the same time stimulated their better nature. He has done that which promotes their manhood, instead of inviting them to be mendicants.
It is with this end in view that we have established a cheap store for the colored people, where those who are utterly destitute, the refugees newly arrived, the sick, the infirm, and young children who are orphans, may receive freely from our stores, to the full extent of their need; but where those who have a little money in their purses may make it largely available, in answering the questions, what shall we eat, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?
The goods which have been sent us for donation by the various Freedmen's Societies, and by benevolent individuals at the North, have been here unpacked and sorted, and such as were consigned to me have been distributed by gift, or sale, according to the condition and needs of each individual applicant. This process requires at once judgment, penetration, firmness, and great kindness, on the part of those who engage in it.
This District has been fortunate in having at the head of this branch Mr. Horatio Leavitt, of Boston, a gentleman who combines these qualities in an eminent degree, and who, with his worthy associates, Mr. John B. Bonnell, and Mrs. Lucretia W. Johnson, has managed this business admirably.
The gratuitous distribution of clothing during the whole winter and spring, was made in person by Miss Eliza P. Perkins, of Norwich, Ct., a lady whose cheerful benevolence of heart led her to devote her energies, without compensation, and most untiringly, to this perplexing and difficult work.
The donations made from this office, during the colder months, were as follows:
|In January||1864,||4,120||garments, valued at||$2,351.25|
|In“ February||1864,“||3,917||garments,“ valued at“||1,986.45|
|In“ March||1864,“||2,514||garments,“ valued at“||1,386.70|
|In“ April||1864,“||2,091||garments,“ valued at“||1,853.10|
A portion of the gratuitous distribution, and an increasing one of late, has been done by the teachers of colored schools, to whom their friends have sent out boxes of clothing, new or old, with which they have aided especially the pupils of their schools. Garments for females and children are principally in demand.
Supplies, both for gratuities and sales, have been liberally sent to this District by the Freedmen's Associations at Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The National Freedmen's Relief Association has mainly supplied the miscellaneous goods for sale to these people. To their generous kindness we are largely indebted for clothing, new and second hand, and for mechanical tools, garden seeds, school books and school furniture of various kinds, nails, glass, sashes, stoves, hardware, earthen ware, groceries and dry goods.
The sales during the year did not fall short of $25,000,00. If transportation for the goods had been more readily procurable at New York, they would have been largely in advance of this figure. The funds derived from this source, beyond what were necessary to pay the wages of the three persons managing the business, were returned to the Freedmen's Societies for reinvestment, or put into a fund which is devoted scrupulously to the use and advantage of the colored people. In pursuing the policy indicated above, we have often given away articles which were furnished us for sale, and sometimes have sold goods which were sent for gratuitous distribution. We have been guided bythis one rule: "What will promote the highest welfare of these people?" and in its application have used the best judgment we could summon on the spot.
The military authorities and Treasury Agents have permitted these supplies to come to the District, in government transports, without the usual charge of three per cent. for internal revenue. As they were furnished by our friends at cost, and usually purchased very low by taking advantage of fluctuations in the market, we have been able to dispose of them at a large discount from the ruling prices in New Berne.
Still another branch of my operations in aid of the freedmen during the last year, was furnishing commissary stores or rations to government employees, on certificates of indebtedness from their employers, with which to feed their families until pay-day came. The wages of perhaps two thousand colored men, employed by quartermasters, engineers, &c, on behalf of the government, were from four to six months in arrears. For the laborers themselves rations were furnished, but their wives and children had nothing to eat, and nothing with which to buy food. Under these circumstances, I was permitted, by the commanding General, to buy food, in bulk, of the chief commissary, for cash, and furnish it to these people on credit, taking the risk of being reimbursed when they should be paid off. These purchases reached the sum of ten thousand dollars. As is the case in most philanthropic transactions, the reward came in the satisfaction of having extended timely relief, but with pecuniary loss to the agents. The death of some parties, and the removal of others to Virginia and elsewhere, will leave the account several hundred dollars deficient. The wages of most of these men do not exceed ten dollars per month, and rations, and they rely upon them for the support of their families. If payment be delayed, they are reduced to straits.
After the passage by Congress of the bill permitting the enlistment in rebel states of soldiers to be counted upon the quota of the loyal states enlisting them, the city of New Berne was flooded with recruiting agents, and able-bodied negroes were in great demand. But of the 250 who were enlisted from this District, and who were said to have received heavy bounties, few present any appearance of having been thus furnished. Their families are nearly as dependent on the Government for food as if no bounty had been offered or paid, suggesting the suspicion that the money found its way into the wrong pocket. While some of the recruiting agents in North Carolina were persons of integrity and honor, gentlemen in every sense of the word, it is not too much to say that others were scoundrels of the deepest dye, who left the District enriched with ill-gotten gains, filched by fraud from the ignorant poor, who became the easy dupes of their knavery.
Of the three great scourges of mankind, famine, pestilence, and war, this District has suffered severely from two, the past year. If under these disadvantages the colored people have accomplished anything for themselves, the fact is promising for the days of peace and liberty which are yet to come.
During the winter, small pox raged fearfully, and in the autumn, yellow fever swept our city with the besom of destruction. The former disease proved more fatal to the blacks, the latter to the whites. In February, full fifty per week died of small pox, and in October nearly as many per day, of yellow fever. The small pox was not arrested until the hospital for its treatment had been removed across the river Neuse, and the patients separated from all possible intercourse with their friends. It was difficult to make them report new cases. They would frequently conceal those attacked with it under blankets and beds, and hide them in their houses, even after dissolution had taken place, so gregarious are they, as they burrow together in their filthy cabins, so ignorant are they of the value of skilful medical treatment. This is the sum of a negro's ailments—he has a "right smart misery" somewhere; and his materia medica consists of roots, herbs, and castor oil! It became necessary to burn the clothing and many of the houses of the colored people who were attacked with this loathsome disease. Those of them who went to hospital were made comfortable, were skilfully treated, carefully nursed, and furnished, on leaving, with a new suit of clothes throughout; yet they preferred to die in rags at home, rather than go to hospital. But for the timely benefactions at that time received from the "Friends" in Philadelphia, and from the American Missionary Association, hundreds of these convalescents would have been naked and penniless.
Of the yellow fever, in September, October, and November, my report need not speak officially, except so far as it reached the colored population, and affected the management of negro affairs. My office, like those of other officers, was despoiled, and depleted. My chief clerk, James G. Gardner, of Boston, was among the earlier victims; my assistant at Beaufort, Mr. Charles Page, of Danvers, Mass., soon followed; and later, my two clerks, Joseph C. and Nathaniel P Low, of Tewksbury, Mass., brothers, and the only sons of their sorrowing parents, were removed by death. One was attacked with the fever; the other sped to his side with affectionate ministrations, took the disease, and died within twenty-four hours of his brother.
Samuel G. Champney, of Grafton, Mass., a private of the 25th Mass. Reg't, and a man of most estimable character, who had been more than a year my transportation clerk, having the fever upon him, but believing himself better, went north, only to expire in the harbor of New York, and find a grave on Staten Island. The plague also robbed us of one of our beloved teachers, Miss Elizabeth M. Tuttle, of Boston, commissioned by the N. E. Freedmen's Aid Society, but supported by Jas. M. Barnard, Esq., of Boston. She was a person of lovely character and fine accomplishments. With fearless and untiring zeal, she devoted herself to the care of another, who recovered under her tender nursing, while she fell a sacrifice to her devotion.
Fortunately for the colored people, my own health was perfect during the whole period in which the town was under embargo; my office help being reduced to two clerks. On the 26th of October, my turn came to struggle with the pestilence, but an assistant returned that very day who was able to carry the business along. Probably not less than 2,500 deaths occurred from yellow fever and kindred malarial maladies, of which full 1,500 were of white persons. As many as one in four of the white population of New Berne went under the sod in the short space of six weeks.
The town, deserted, forsaken, shut out from intercourse with the world, unprovided with things essential to the comfort of the sick or the sustenance of the well, all business suspended, except the undertaker's, shutters closed, and troops forbidden to enter, left the colored people in a condition peculiarly helpless. But the duties and routine of my office were not for one day omitted.
Brig. Gen. Harland was at this trying time in command, and faithfully did he maintain the order and welfare of the city. He summoned the colored troops to do guard duty in town, and attend to the burial of the dead. They shrank not from the task. Fortunate indeed were we in securing their valuable services. The city of New Berne did not contain, at this time, white people enough in a state of health to inter its own dead with the forms of Christian burial. As it was, not a few were left to die alone, and were carried to the grave without a friend to follow the hearse, or listen to the service. It was my mournful privilege, at this time, to conduct funeral solemnities at the grave of many a brave officer, and many a dear friend. May a kind Providence shield us another season from the poisonous breath of such a pestilence. It is more terrible than a battle, for one is exposed to an equal danger, but is sustained by no sublime exhilaration.
The management of negro affairs in this District is especially laborious, because the points we hold are so far removed from one another.
From New Berne to Beaufort is 38 miles.
From“ New Berne“ to“ Hatteras Inlet, 90 miles.
From“ New Berne“ to“ Washington, 90 miles.
From“ New Berne“ to“ Roanoke Island, 130 miles.
From“ New Berne“ to“ Plymouth, 200 miles.
These distances, except the first named, are computed by the water route, the only way open to us. The distance overland from New Berne to Washington is but 30 miles, and to Plymouth it is 70 in the same direction. The army has never kept open communication between these places by land, so much easier and safer is the water route, by the beautiful rivers and sounds which gird this "evergreen shore." In the article of time, especially in the winter season, when storms prevail and winds are high, this wide separation of posts is a serious drawback.
Between New Berne and Beaufort is kept up a more intimate connection than between any other two posts we occupy. This is owing to the railroad communication and the daily train. The terminus of the road is two miles short of the town, at Morehead city, on the northern side of the ship-channel which sweeps in at Old Topsail Inlet, past the guns of Fort Macon. All that appertains to Morehead which resembles a city is its name. It consists of two or three large hotels, a General Hospital, some Commissary and Quartermaster's store-houses, a few private residences, and four or five hundred inhabitants. But it is a capital business location, wonderfully healthy, having been a summer watering-place for the people of this State, and destined to be, after the war, an important entrepot of commerce with the interior.
At Beaufort and Morehead reside at present fifteen hundred and ninety-three (1,593) colored people. Between the two places ply large numbers of small boats, meeting every train of cars, and beating to and fro in every breeze. They run also to Fort Macon, Shackleford Banks, the Lighthouse, Harker's Island, and elsewhere, there being no other means of locomotion in this entire region. Hence the negro is here an aquatic animal, and takes to the water almost as readily as the sea fowl that abound in this vicinity. Not less than one hundred men are constantly employed in boating, this business being wholly in the hands of the negroes. And a remunerative calling it proves to be, indeed. It would be safe to say that the earnings of each boat are, on an average, three dollars a day. It requires two men to manage one boat, and their snug little income is more than a thousand dollars a year, or upwards of five hundred apiece. This would be reduced one half in case they sailed the boat on shares, as some of them do, for a white owner. It may be set down that the freedmen of Beaufort, North Carolina, earn a thousand dollars a week, or fifty thousand dollars a year, in this neat business. A pretty sight it is to see the fleet set sail from Morehead, after the arrival of a train. In sailing around the points, over the shoals and through the "sloos," it is much like a spirited regatta, repeated every day.
Many others of the people are employed in oystering and fishing, for which the locality is favorable. The mullet, sea-trout, sheep's-head, and blue-fish of these waters are delicious.
Less than three hundred, colored persons receive assistance from Government in Beaufort and vicinity, a fact which well illustrates the industry of the remainder. Some people are loud in their complaints that the Government should feed so many negroes. What have they to say to its feeding twelve or fourteen hundred white refugees, upon this limited area, while four out of five of the black refugees have found self-supporting employment?
My observation in this State has led me to the conclusion that, of those who are equally poor and equally destitute, the white person will be the one to sit down in forlorn and languid helplessness, and eat the bread of charity, while the negro will be tinkering at something, in his rude way, to hammer out a living.
Carteret County, of which Beaufort is the shiretown, extends from Bogue Sound on the south to the Neuse river on the north. Several small streams which take their rise in this county flow northward into the Neuse; and among them are Adam's Creek and Clumfort's Creek. Along the course and near the mouth of these creeks, are settled nearly a thousand colored people, who have been free for years, and who are among the most active, intelligent, and enterprizing colored people I have seen in the South. Some of them own large tracts of land and are esteemed wealthy. They deal largely in turpentine. They are a people who have proved the value of freedom, even with such poor experience of it as they have known under a slave code, and in a State where it was a crime to teach a servant to read.
Deeming one of these localities a good position for a school, efforts were made in that direction, and with good success. Within the shelter of the tall turpentine trees at Clumfort's Creek, far out in the wilderness, where no point of bayonet could guard it, rose the Puritan school-house. The American Missionary Association had posted its advanced picket here in the person of Rev. George W Greene, who had no sooner established this northern institution than it was entered and occupied by a cultured lady, whom the New England Freedmen's Aid Society sent out from Boston. This was Mrs. Carrie E. Croome. The rebels had slain her noble husband while in command of his battery at South Mountain, and she would avenge his untimely death by teaching the ignorant negroes how to throw off the yoke which those dastardly rebels had put upon their necks. This was the sublime retaliation of the gospel. But how was it met?
The sight of a "nigger school-house" was more than the chivalry could bear. It had not been occupied many weeks in quietness, before three ruffians, calling themselves "confederate soldiers," but really guerillas, appeared in the night time, set the school-house on fire, rudely summoned Mrs. Croome from her house adjoining it, and bade her hasten away before that also should be given to the flames. They threatened her with violence, and tried to extort the promise that she would never again teach "niggers" to read. But she bore herself with dignity and calmness, and so escaped their power. The loss of clothing, books, school furniture, and other property is slight, compared with the calamity which despoiled these people, hungering and thirsting after knowledge, of the instruction they prized so highly. They were indignant, angry, and sorrowful by turns, and are more than ever determined that the school-house shall stand amid their forest homes, and that their children shall drink at the fountains of knowledge. The indefatigable Missionary Association has sent out the same agent, well furnished with materials, to rebuild at Clumfort's Creek the temple of learning. It will soon rise from its ashes. And not a few of the negroes have purchased muskets, with which to dispute the right of the burglar and the assassin, when again he comes that way.
Could anything be more significant than is this incident, of the spirit which animates on the one side the Union legions, and on the other the Confederate troops? The one diffuse knowledge, the other enforce ignorance; one would make the whole land bright with liberty and love, the other would pollute it with deeds of darkness and violence, and stain it with the blood of slaves.
Within a month after assuming the Superintendency of the Blacks in North Carolina, I was ordered by Major General J.G. Foster, then commanding the Department, to establish a colony of negroes upon Roanoke Island. The good or ill success of this experiment ought to be credited as well to the mind which originated the enterprize, as to those who were entrusted with its execution. It was General Foster's purpose to settle colored people on the unoccupied lands, and give them agricultural implements and mechanical tools to begin with, and to train and educate them for a free and independent community, It was also a part of his plan to arm and drill them for self-defence.
This was in May, 1863. The bill to enlist colored soldiers did not pass Congress until the 16th of July following.
Before the close of that year, so rapid was the growth of public opinion, General Butler declared in General Order No. 46, "The recruitment of colored troops has become the settled purpose of the Government." The hardy young negroes of Roanoke were among the first to answer the country's call. Here was fought the battle which initiated the successes of the Burnside Expedition. And in this battle, musket in hand, pressing hard toward the front, were to be seen some of these very young men. Having helped to drive the oppressor from their own island home, they were equally ready to strike for the deliverance of the nation. Gloriously have they since maintained themselves at Port Wagner and Olustee.
Colored soldiers were first recruited here by Brig. Gen. E.A. Wild, on the 19th day of June, 1863. They freely and enthusiastically volunteered, to the number of nearly one hundred. The writer recollects spending one whole night with General Wild, in adjusting, on Quartermaster's papers, the accounts of these soldiers against the Government for previous labor, which accounts have not been settled to the present day.
This was the first company of colored troops raised in North Carolina, and so far as I know, the first in the country. Since that time a recruiting officer has resided at the island, and a large number from this locality have joined the army.
This removal of the vigorous young men, who would have worked upon the soil, and fished in the Sounds for the support of the colony, necessarily changed the character of the enterprize, converting it into an asylum for the wives and children of soldiers, and also for the aged and infirm, where the children might be educated, and all, both young and old, be trained for freedom and its responsibilities, after the war.
For such an asylum our forces held no other suitable or safe place in the State. Not a square mile of territory (excepting Hatteras Banks,) lying outside of the interior fortifications of New Berne, Beaufort, and Morehead, but has been repeatedly over-run by rebels and guerillas during the past year. Even Roanoke Island was seriously threatened for a few days, when the Ram Albermarle seemed about to take possession of the Sounds.
I went North in June, 1863, under orders from Gen. Foster, to procure materials and implements with which to furnish the projected colony with an outfit, and in a few weeks raised in New England and New York between eight and nine thousand dollars. It was most cheerfully given, and the donations were accompanied with many expressions of good-will towards the work, and of hearty interest in the colored people. Especially did the Freedmen's Associations at Boston and New York render efficient aid.
While this work of soliciting funds was in progress at the North, Gen. E. A. Wild received orders from Gen. Foster, to take possession of, and assign to the negroes, the unoccupied and unimproved lands of the island, laying them out in suitable lots for families. He sent thither Serj't George O. Sanderson (late of the 43d Mass. Reg't) as Assistant Superintendent, who made the preliminary surveys, and opened the first broad avenue of the new African town. Mr. Sanderson remained at this post until October, 1864, when he received a Lieutenant's commission in a regiment of colored troops, and went to the front.
I returned from the North in July, 1863, accompanied by female teachers, and furnished with large supplies, to find that Gen. Wild had been ordered, with his negro troops, to Charleston, S. C. He left New Berne on the 30th of July, with his brigade of 2,154 men—and among them, the flower of Roanoke Island—bearing the beautiful banner of the Republic which had been presented by the colored ladies of New Berne to the First North Carolina Regiment, Col. James C. Beecher.
Gen. Wild being no longer able to act in North Corolina, Maj. Gen. J.J. Peck, at the suggestion of Gen. Foster, issued the following order, devolving upon me the duty of superintending the organization of Roanoke Island, and conferring more ample powers.
|Headquarters Army and District of North Carolina,|
|General Orders||New Berne, N. C., Sept. 10, 1863.|
In accordance with the views of the Major General commanding the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, Chaplain Horace James, Superintendent of Blacks for the District of North Carolina, will assume charge of the colonization of Roanoke Island with negroes.
The powers conferred upon Brig. Gen. Wild, by General Orders No. 103, Headquarters Department of North Carolina, 18th Army Corps, are hereby transferred to Chaplain James. He will take possession of all unoccupied lands upon the island, and lay them out, and assign them, according to his own discretion, to the families of colored soldiers, to invalids, and other Blacks in the employ of the Government, giving them full possession of the same, until annulled by the Government or by due process of United States law. The authority of Chaplain James will be respected in all matters relating to the wellfare of the colony.
Benj. B. Foster, Assist. Adj't General.
The work was now prosecuted with vigor, though with little outside aid for some time. With compass, chart, and chain, and a gang of choppers, the old groves of pine, gum, holly, and cypress, were penetrated, crossed and re-crossed, and the upper, or northern, end of the island was laid out in acre lots, and at once assigned to families. Nothing could exceed the enthusiasm of these simple people, when they found themselves in possession of a spot they could call their own.
To be absolute owners of the soil, to be allowed to build upon their own lands cabins, however humble, in which they should enjoy the sacredof a home, was more than they had ever dared to pray for. It was affecting to hear the old men and women declare how fervently they blessed the Lord, that their eyes were permitted to see this unexpected sight. The woods now began to ring with blows from the woodman's axe, and to gleam at night with the fires which consumed the refuse vegetation, swept off in clearing the forests.
It was never intended to give these people farms at Roanoke, but only a homestead, and a garden spot for each family. There were sufficient reasons for this, in that the island is not large enough to divide into farms for any considerable number of people. The land is not rich enough for profitable farming, though it will produce vegetables, grapes, and other fruit, in abundance and variety. And again, invalids, aged people, and soldiers' wives and children, could not be expected to improve more than a single acre. This was the plan of the settlement. Broad, straight avenues were laid out, 1,200 feet apart, up and down the island, nearly parallel with its shores and parallel with one another, which were named "Roanoke Avenue," "Lincoln Avenue," "Burnside Avenue," &c. At right angles with these were streets, somewhat narrower than the avenues, and 400 feet apart, numbered "First Street," "Second Street," &c, &c, in one direction from a certain point, and "A Street," "B Street," &c, in the other direction.
This arrangement divided the land into parallelograms, or sections, containing each twelve one acre lots, square in form, every one having a street frontage. Along these the houses were disposed, being placed in line, and all at the same distance from the street. The lots were neatly enclosed, and speedily improved by the freedmen, soon making "the wilderness and the solitary place glad" at their coming. Wives and children with alacrity united with the men in performing the work of the carpenter, the mason, and the gardener. So zealous were they in this work, as to spend, in many cases, much of the night in prosecuting it, giving no sleep to their eyes until they could close them sweetly, under their own dear roof-tree.
A good supply of lumber being indispensable when one would build a town, I purchased at the North a valuable steam-engine and saw-mill, thus using the larger portion of the funds which had been secured in aid of the freedmen. But as the mill could not be made immediately available, logs and boards split by hand were used at first, and chimneys of the Southern style were constructed of sticks and clay. A few sawed boards for floor, door, and window, were sometimes obtained in a boat expedition across the Sound, to Nagg's Head, Oregon Inlet, or Croatan, and thus their mansions were completed. A proud day was it for Mingo, or Luck, or Cudjoe, when he could survey his home as a thing accomplished, and sit at night by its blazing firelight, and see the dark shadows of his wife and children dance upon the cabin wall. And this, too, in a Slave State! his old master living, perhaps, at the south end of the island! Listen to his song:
"De yar ob Juberlo am come!"
Major Gen. B. F. Butler, on succeeding to the command of the Department, issued that important order No 46, organizing the Department of Negro Affairs, confirming the doings of his predecessor, and providing, with a wonderful prescience, for all the exigencies likely to occur in the enrolment, employment, support and care of the colored people. Under this regime, the work at Roanoke prospered more and more.
At one time, during the winter of 1863-4, there was a degree of suffering on the island from insufficient shelter. This was when a thousand or fifteen hundred persons at one time were sent there by Gen. Wild, now returned from the South, the result of a raid through the northern counties of the State. But the new comers were soon domiciliated, as comfortably as their predecessors had been before.
The number of colored people now on the island, as ascertained by the recent census, is three thousand and ninety-one (3,091). Of these, 1,295 are males, and 1,796 females; 1,297 are children under fourteen years of age, of whom 710 are girls, and 587 boys; 1,794 are fourteen years of age or upwards, of whom 708 are males, and 1,086 females: of these 708 males, only 217 are between the years of 18 and 45, the proper military age, and the larger portion of these, even, are exempts on account of physical disability, showing that 491, or seventy per cent, of the adult males, are either in the immature period of youth, or in the decline of life.
These statistics indicate, with sufficient clearness, what may be expected of these people, and what is, at present, their industrial force.
If remunerative employment could be given to the women and older children, it would be a blessing to them. Household cares do not sit heavily upon people who live in almost primitive simplicity.
Some kind of domestic manufacturing, supplied to them as a regular business, would not only train them to habits of industry, but raise them above the level of mere field hands. To substitute an occupation which requires skill, and taxes ingenuity, for one which is coarse and plodding, is to confer a lasting benefit. In this view spinning and weaving have been encouraged. Some of the better mechanics on the island have manufactured spinning wheels for sale, doing it without the use of a lathe, and making a very good article. Many of the women can card, spin, and weave. They might succeed in willow work, if the material could be easily procured. I have had a quantity of osier willow slips planted on Roanoke, hoping to introduce, by and by, this species of industrial labor. The Friends in Philadelphia, among their many benefactions to the negroes in this District, have sent out some complete sets of shoemakers' tools, the use of which is understood by several of the freedmen on the island. The same is true of coopers' tools, and to a much larger extent; for the turpentine business, the leading pecuniary interest of North Carolina, has made them familiar with the making and mending of barrels. It is common to find colored men acquainted with splitting and shaving shingles, and not a few are constantly engaged in this business, selling them at from $3.00 to $7.00 per thousand.
The negro always builds his own house. Set him down where trees grow, give him an axe, a saw, a hammer, and twenty pounds of nails, and in a month his house is done. Let some disturbance of the times drive him from his cabin, and when he has found an eligible spot, he will erect another, and another. An old Roanoke negro told me he had built eight houses for himself on his master's plantation. His heartless lord would give him a building spot, and suffer him to live there until he had cleared the land around his dwelling, and then would drive him out, to repeat the process in a new location.
Like all people who live near navigable waters, the negroes at Roanoke are fond of boats, and know how to manage them. Some few of them are respectable boat builders. About one hundred of the most active men on the island are employed in Government work, by the Quartermaster and Commissary of the Post. Some two hundred more have been kept at work a large portion of the year upon the fortifications of the island. More than one hundred were sent, in September last, to Bermuda Hundred, to labor upon "Dutch Gap Canal" and elsewhere.
These occupations, with the toil expended upon their own premises, have kept the men generally employed, and given to the colony an aspect of industry. The few, in every community, who are incorrigibly lazy, and who deliberately intend to eat their bread in the sweat of another's face, undoubtedly have their representatives here. Considering the antecedents of these people, who can wonder at it?
Roanoke Island is favorably located for carrying on fisheries, especially of herring, mullet, blue-fish, and shad. These have heretofore furnished one of the principal means of subsistence to the inhabitants. Preparations were made to pursue this business for the advantage of the colony; but the shad season in 1864 was much less productive than usual, the nets being broken and destroyed by ice and storms in the early spring.
Mr. Holland Streeter was entrusted with the charge of this business, and has pursued it, with a small gang of fishermen, through the year. Up to Jan. 1st, 1865, the income of the fisheries, as reported by Mr. Streeter, was $1,404.27 It is expected to be much larger during the approaching season, if the elements prove propitious.
The mill before alluded to was substantially erected, near the military Headquarters of the island, during the spring and early summer, and has now been for several months in successful operation. The engine is of seventy horse-power, carrying several circular saws, a turning lathe, and a grist mill. Its capacity to produce different styles of lumber, and to convert grain into the form so widely used by the negroes, and indeed by all the Southern people for food, makes it a positive addition to the wealth and resources of the island, and as valuable to the whites as to the blacks. The officers of the Government, the troops, the attachés of the army, the white natives, and the negroes, are sharing alike in the benefits of this Northern institution. Thus do enterprise, thrift, and productiveness enter the gates which have been opened by the demon of war. On the 7th day of February, 1862, the very spot where now stands this peaceful engineery of labor was enveloped in the smoke of contending fleets and armies, and shot and shell plowed madly through the soil.
Efforts to educate the sable colonists were nearly commensurate in time with the material improvments made.
A pioneer teacher from the North landed on the Island, Oct. 19th, 1863, and for more than three months labored alone and unattended, living in one log cabin, and teaching in another, with most commendable zeal and self-denial.
This was Miss Elizabeth James, a lady sent out by the American Missionary Association. On the 25th of January, 1864, Miss Ella Roper arrived, who was followed, on the 20th of February, by Mr. S.S. Nickerson, and a little later, by Miss Mary Burnap, transferred from a school in New Berne.
After the fall of Plymouth, and the flight of our teachers from that locality, Mrs. Sarah P Freeman, and her daughter, Miss Kate Freeman, took up their abode upon the island. Mrs. Freeman and Miss James remained through the summer vacation, and did great good in ministering, as judicious matrons, to the various wants of the islanders. Since the schools were reopened, the corps of teachers has been enlarged by the addition of Miss Esther Williams and Mrs. Nickerson to the number. The wants of the island are not yet fully supplied. Besides the 1,297 children under fourteen years of age, many of the adults are eager to be taught to read and write, and will not be denied. Add to this the distribution of donated clothing, visitation of the sick, writing letters for the women to their husbands or sons in the army, and their own domestic cares, and one may readily decide whether from ten to twenty dollars per month, would tempt teachers to do this work, in banishment and obloquy, if their minds were not glowing with enthusiasm, and their hearts penetrated with benevolent love. The colony would have been more promptly supplied with schools but for the want of suitable school rooms and quarters for teachers. The only abandoned house on the island was fitted up for a teacher's home, and willfive or six. Its former occupant is in the rebel army. Since the mill began to produce lumber, school-houses and teachers' quarters have been, or are being, erected, sufficient for all our purposes.
An Industrial School and an Orphan Asylum have been projected, and will be built, it is hoped, during the present winter.
An attempt was made, early in the year, to give the colonists an idea of governing themselves. A "council" of fifteen leading individuals was appointed, and instructed to meet and consult for the common welfare, and be a medium through which the rules and orders of the Superintendent of Negro Affairs and of the military authorities might be communicated and enforced. This was intended to be the germ of a civil government. But the plan proved unsuccessful in the main. The "councillors" were too ignorant to keep records, or make and receive written communications, were jealous of one another, and too little raised in culture above the common people to command their respect, at least while the island is under military rule. To fit these people for republican self-government, education is the prime necessity. The sword to set them free, letters to make them citizens.
The whites, who lived to the number of about four hundred on Roanoke Island previous to this rebellion, did not, for the most part, abandon their homes. They hastened, after the capture of the island, to take the oath of allegiance, which some of them have faithfully kept in its spirit, others only in "the letter which killeth." The truly loyal among them have appreciated the necessity which compelled the Government to take possession of their uncultivated lands for a negro settlement, and have accepted the fact with patriotic submission. But the other class, whose loyalty is so ill-disguised as to reveal the "copper," are loud in their complaints of the "nigger" and the "abolitioners." They would be glad to drive the colored people and their friends from the island. And this too, when, by their own confession, their estates are worth more by four or five hundred per cent, than they were before the war, and their island home has been lifted from an ignoble obscurity into honorable prominence and commercial importance. The average value of the wood and waste lands, on which the colony has been settled, was only two dollars (12.00) an acre before the war. The "nigger" will yet be the making of these poor people.
The question is sometimes asked, whether the Freedmen's colony on Roanoke Island has proved a success? The answer may be gleaned in part from the statements already made. If by success is meant complete self-support, the question must be answered in the negative. Its insular and isolated position, far removed from any centre of population, the necessity of clearing the lots assigned, which were all wild land, the smallness of the garrison, furnishing but little employment to the people as laun-dresses, cooks, and servants, the partial failure of the shad fisheries, and above all, the transfer into the army of most of the laboring men, have made it necessary to feed the larger portion of the colonists at the expense of the Government.
But this is done in obedience to military orders in the case of all wives and children of negro troops, and is to be considered a part of their compensation.
In every other aspect except that of "rations," the colony has met and exceeded expectation.
It has proved a safe and undisturbed retreat for the families of soldiers, who were nobly defending our flag at Petersburg, Charleston, and Wilmington.
It has instructed many hundreds of children and adults to read and spell, and to value knowledge as the means of elevating them and their race, and assuring to them the blessings of freedom forever.
It has made three or four thousand human beings useless as "chattels," by breathing into them new hopes and aspirations, and fitting them to go forth from this Patmos, where they have been inspired with the spirit of liberty, and teach the same divine apocalypse to their brethren, now in "Confederate" bonds.
It has helped to develope the resources of a somewhat remarkable island. Here landed, in 1585 and 1587, two colonies of Englishmen, sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh, which became utterly extinct in the short period of two years, leaving only some rude fortifications now overgrown with trees, by which to recognize this first attempt to settle America from our fatherland. The Freedmen's colony has done better than Sir Walter's. Within a period of about twelve months, the settlers have built five hundred and ninety-one (591) houses, which, with the improvements made upon their lots, are estimated to be worth $75.00 a piece. One of them was recently sold for $150.00. Adopting the lower figure, here is a money value of forty-four thousand three hundred and twenty-five dollars ($44,325.00), a sum large enough to have purchased the whole island three years ago, with all the improvements of two hundred years, under the rule and culture of its white inhabitants.
It has multiplied the value of real estate thirty-seven times in a single year, at least in the estimation of the negroes who occupy it, and has led the native whites to ask almost fabulous prices for the lands which they still retain.
It has furnished important manufacturing facilities to the island and its vicinity, by introducing valuable steam-power, and opening stores for trade, which will survive the war, and become elements of prosperity and sources of wealth.
The colored population of the island would have been much less dependent upon the Government, if the Government had more fully met its engagements with them. Immediately upon the occupancy of Roanoke Island by the Union troops, the negroes began to be employed by the Quartermasters, the Surgeons, the Engineers, and other Government officers, upon verbal promises to pay, at rates varying from $8.00 to $25.00 per month. In the frequent changes of command which came over the island, their accounts were transferred from officer to officer, and usually in a very imperfect form. Oftentimes they were never rendered at all, but the laborer was deliberately swindled out of his earnings by some officer leaving the service, who thought this a brave transaction, and "good enough for the nigger" and his friends. At the commencement of Gen. Butler's administration in North Carolina, these people were led to believe that their just dues would be paid them. The several Superintendents of Negro Affairs, were made special commissioners to audit carefully these accounts, and present them at Headquarters for payment. Accordingly a roll of labor was made up for Roanoke Island, with care and painstaking, making use of all the scattered materials at command, and comparing them, when possible, with the testimony of the parties. This Report Roll embraced unsettled accounts amounting to eighteen thousand five hundred and seventy dollars and seven cents. This sum of money in circulation on Roanoke Island would make greenbacks tolerably plenty over its limited area of twelve miles by three or four. The most unsatisfactory manner in which these accounts were kept by the officers under whom the work was done, which was practically encouraged by the vacillating policy of the government toward the negroes at that time, is probably the reason for their non-payment. Fearing that it never will be paid, I have exhorted the freedmen to consider this loss as one of their sacrifices for freedom; as something that they should willingly bear for the country's good; and which is in part made up to them by the fostering care of the government over their families, and more than compensated by their assured freedom in all time to come.
Roanoke Island is the key of six charming estuaries, whose ready navigation by small vessels and light draft steamboats, must needs make them hereafter the seat of a profitable commerce, in cotton, corn, turpentine, rosin, tar, timber, fish, oysters, wood, reeds, cranberries, and grapes. The Roanoke fisheries alone would yield fortunes every year if pursued in a business-like manner. The scuppernong grape, which is a native of North Carolina, if planted in vineyards and cultivated scientifically, might be made to produce, on Roanoke alone, an income of $100,000 annually. It grows here spontaneously, and without enrichment of the soil, and yields, perhaps, the most delicious white wine that ever tempted the palate. I have corresponded with parties at the North, who are ready to commence its culture here as soon as the way is open.
Some persons have predicted that the government would fail to confirm to the Freedmen the rights and privileges they enjoy in these homesteads on Roanoke Island. I cannot believe it. These people are wards of the government. It is an element of our glory as a nation, that we can crush out a slave-holding rebellion with one hand, and sustain a liberated people with the other. The person, be he white or black, who has taken an acre of piney woods, worth two dollars in the market, and increased its value thirty or forty fold by his own labor in a single year, certainly deserves well of his country, and should be permitted to enjoy, while he lives, the fruits of his industry. When a "Bureau of Freedmen's Affairs" is created by Congress, it may well look to this matter.
Sir Walter Raleigh's El Dorado, where gay cavaliers hoped to discover mines of gold, but only found starvation and an early grave, may yet fulfil, under the magic touch of freedom, the expectations of its early settlers. Its evergreen woods, its picturesque dales, its wave-kissed shores may yet, under the skilful appliances of labor, and the stimulus of republican institutions, be the abode of a prosperous and virtuous people, of varying blood, but of one destiny, differing, it may be, in social position, but equal before the law, a happy commonwealth, in which Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall no longer vex Ephraim.
This pretty little southern town has been the scene of stirring operations during the year, and war's devastations have left it scarcely more than a mass of ruins. Bandied to and fro, like a shuttle-cock, between the belligerants, having changed masters five times in two years, our army has builded, theirs has burned. And since destruction in point of time has so much the advantage of construction, its occupancy by the rebels, though brief, has left it in heaps.
Its colored population in January, 1864, was 860; in January, 1865, it was 94. At the beginning of the year the garrison and white population might have numbered 2,500. Plymouth was the headquarters of the "sub-district of the Albemarle," that brave and accomplished old soldier, Gen. H. W Wessells, being in command. It was attacked in April last by a strong column under the rebel Gen. Hoke, and for two days was bravely and successfully defended, with great slaughter of the assaulting forces. On the morning of the third day a new element was introduced into the contest by the coming of the "ram Albemarle" down the Roanoke river. A fort erected above the town, and armed with a 200 pounder Parrott gun, allowed the ram to pass without a shot, in the gray of the morning, and anon the formidable creature was in front of the town, and in the death-grapple with our naval fleet. Lieut. Commander Flusser, who had been expecting for a year the advent of this enemy, first discovered her close aboard of him, no signal having been given by the fort above. The bow gun of the "Miami," his flag ship, was charged with a shell. "Fire this, boys," said he, "and then we will give them solid shot." The gunner pulled the lanyard, the shell struck the iron plating of the Ram, broke in pieces and rebounded, one piece of it striking and instantly killing the brave commander. This shot decided the fate of Plymouth. The Southfield (gunboat) was immediately sunk by the Ram, and the whole fleet driven from the river, leaving the town open to a raking fire on its undefended side. Unfortunately, Captain Flusser left no peer.
It was a hard day for the poor negroes. The garrison, of Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts troops, were taken prisoners. The few colored men found in uniform were treated with shocking barbarity, as were the coloredof the government. Some few, who escaped by swimming and taking to the swamps, found their way at length to our gunboats, or to the Union lines. The remainder were remanded back to slavery in the interior. But many of the women and children were sent, by the thoughtful care of Gen. Wessells, to Roanoke Island, the evening before the fall of the town. At the same time were removed our three northern teachers, Mrs. Freeman and daughter, and Mrs. Croome, with the wives of several officers. The transport which bore them to a place of safety left Plymouth not six hours before the "Albemarle" obtained possession of the river.
The schools at Plymouth were of especial interest, and full of promise. The earliest instruction to the Freedmen at this post had been given, more than a year previously, by the chaplain of the 25th Massachusetts Regiment, then stationed there. In no place in the District were the negroes more in earnest to obtain knowledge. The ladies had the hearty approval and kind assistance of Gen. Wessells, and were especially aided by Lieut. D. B. McNary, quartermaster of the 103d Pennsylvania Regiment, who volunteered to act as my assistant in Plymouth, and performed the duty with efficiency and promptness.
The sudden flight of the ladies compelled them to leave behind school-books, school-furniture, house-furniture and much clothing, but they were courageous and unterrified. They did not desert either their schools or their colors, but stood guard faithfully at their post, only marching when they were ordered to do so, and going where they were directed to go.
This reverse to our arms cut short sundry peaceful enterprises which had been projected in aid of the Plymouth freedmen. One of these was the cutting of reeds for paper making. An agent of the Fiber Disintegrating Co., of Wall St. New York, had been here several times for the purpose of starting the business, and was on the point of succeeding, when Hoke appeared before the town. The same Hoke is answerable for the discontinuance of our agricultural operations, our fishing, shingle making, and turpentine farming. The Ram ruled the hour in Plymouth, and guarded like a Cerberus the mouth of the Roanoke, until the night when Lieut. Cushing succeeded in exploding a torpedo beneath her armor and sinking her. So Plymouth is ours again. But with less than 100 negroes in the town, there is little to be done in this department of labor.
Let no one associate Roanoke river, on the right bank of which stands the town of Plymouth, with Roanoke Island. They are nearly one hundred miles apart, both bearing a name known chiefly before the war in connection with the nativity of that singular man, John Randolph. The river is navigable for small vessels as far up as Weldon, and the birthplace of Randolph was in the little town of Roanoke, still nearer the source of the river. Roanoke river empties into Albemarle Sound at its west end. Roanoke Island lies near the eastern extremity of the Sound.
This town lying midway between Plymouth and New Berne, on the Tar or Pamlico river, was, before the war, a place of more importance than Plymouth, but somewhat smaller than New Berne. Its plan is perfectly regular, with streets crossing one another at right angles, and beautifully shaded. A year ago it contained a colored population of nearly three thousand, where now are not one hundred.
The fall of Plymouth hastened its evacuation by our army. But the need of troops for the Virginia campaign was one of the causes which led to this result.
The brave defence which Gen. Foster made here the year before having given the place some celebrity, our troops left it with regret. But especially sorrowful was this leave taking to the colored people, who parted with all they had, forsaking houses and lands, furniture, clothing, business, and all the associations of home, to go they knew not where, or whether ever to return. It is one of the sad things in the current history of these people, that every change in the posture of public affairs, every movement of an army, every raid, advance or retreat, whether of our troops or of the other, is to them a new distress. They are ground between the upper and the nether mill-stones, and whoever has success the negro has sorrow and suffering. It is the terrible discipline through which the race will be brought into a higher social state. These are the pangs of the nation's new birth, and they have their counterpart and complement in the mourning which fills our northern homes. The wail of grief is mingled with the shouts of victory every time the wires flash out some new success. But, with the Anglo-Saxon and the African alike, these great tribulations, so sure as God reigns, must work out a common advantage, and bear for centuries to come the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
Among the disappointments attending the evacuation of Washington was the relinquishment of the land we had already put under cultivation, and of the comfortable dwellings which had been erected under the direction of Mr. Samuel M. Leathers, my assistant and superintendent there.
Educational matters were also in an excellent state. The pioneer teachers, Miss Fanny Graves, Miss Sarah T. Dickinson, and Miss Anna M. Seavey, with those afterward associated with them, Miss Mary E. Jones, and Miss Annie P Merriam, deserve great praise for the prudence, tact, and cheerful energy which they brought to their work, in a community greatly prejudiced against the movement, because made up so largely of persons born in North Carolina.
A prosperous school of white children was here taught by Miss Seavey, until her health failed. It was not reopened before the town was given up, and our forces withdrawn.
As an illustration of the benevolent spirit of our female teachers, and of the whole movement as well, it is proper that mention should be made of the assistance rendered by these ladies in the care of the sick white refugees at Beaufort and Morehead. It was here that most of the ladies were sent for a time, when hostile incursions were so prevalent in the District as to interrupt their peaceful avocations. The same disturbances had filled the Hammond and Mansfield General Hospitals with poor white people, mostly women and children, whose frail constitutions were completely prostrated under the hardships and discomforts of a forced removal from home. Among these refugees our teachers moved like ministering angels. They took by assignment a hospital ward each, and attended to those helpless patients, day and night, like sisters of mercy. Ignorant people, they could scarcely believe their own eyes when they saw the despised "nigger schoolma'am's" ministering so sedulously to themselves and their children. Some of them might have obtained here their first gleam of light, on the subject of a common brotherhood of man. Dr. Ballanger, of the Mansfield Hospital at Morehead, since deceased of yellow fever, testified in terms of warmest admiration to the fidelity and skill of our teachers while, as nurses ad interim, they sojourned with him.
At this point, although one of importance to us in a military point of view, there are so few colored people, that only an occasional visit has been necessary to give them all needed attention. A few hardy negroes are employed by the quartermaster to man the boats which put out to passing vessels, and a few are servants of officers at the fort. Less than one hundred colored people live on the Banks, all the way from Cape Hatteras to Ocracoke Inlet.
Most of those who resided there in 1861, have gone to other points since our military occupation of Eastern North Carolina.
Having touched upon the principal matters of interest belonging to the several posts we occupy in this State, as they stand connected with negro affairs, I now present some facts and general considerations on the subject of
My earliest interest in the blacks of North Carolina had respect to their training in the elements of knowledge, and their instruction from the pulpit. Long before assuming my present charge, in the early days of the war, when the experiences of the Burnside Expedition were the staple of current news, my personal efforts in behalf of the negroes began.
In evening schools, very soon after our friend Vincent Colyer left the field, and in connection with other chaplains, particularly Messrs. Woodworth of the 27th, Stone of the 45th, and Hall of the 44th, Massachusetts Regiments, and especially with Rev. James Means, chaplain of the Foster Hospital, my lamented predecessor in this office, whose love and zeal were so unquenchable, and whose beautiful life was laid down a willing sacrifice to save a suffering people, I have acted, consulted, and labored in this department during a period of more than three years. When called to a special charge of this business by Gen. Foster, my first inquiries and correspondence had reference to the opening of day schools for the Freedmen, to be taught by cultured females from the North.
The first schools so established were opened in New Berne, on the 23d day of July, 1863, in two of the colored churches. One was taught by Miss Betsey L. Canedy, assisted by Miss Alice Ropes, and the other by Miss Mary A. Burnap, and Miss Susan A. Hosmer, all from the State of Massachusetts. It is therefore about seventeen months since the first day school for colored children was opened within the District of North Carolina. On the 1st of January, 1864, the number of different pupils in all the schools was 1,500. From that date until July there was a steady increase in the attendance from month to month, until the aggregate reached nearly 3,000. Sixty-six different teachers, mostly from the North, have been commissioned and have labored in this field. The schools were closed on the 23d of July, and owing to the prevalence of yellow fever but few of the teachers returned from their vacation before the first of December.
We now have in the District, nineteen day schools fully attended and most successfully taught. Thirty-six different teachers are employed, and, with a single exception, hold two sessions each day. In some of the schools two, three, and even four teachers are engaged. They bring to their work a great amount of enthusiasm and ability, laboring incessantly in school hours to improve the minds, and out of school hours to clothe the bodies of their pupils.
In addition to the day schools we have eight flourishing evening schools. These constitute one of the most interesting features of the work of education, embracing as they do only adults, or those unable to attend a day school. In the largest of these evening schools, 15 teachers are employed, instructing 170 pupils. Beyond a doubt the school will soon increase to 200, when we shall be compelled to limit the attendance. The whole number attending evening schools cannot be less than 400 to 500. We have plans matured for immediate execution, and when completed, shall have in New Berne proper, one advanced school, and eight primaries; at Trent River Camp five large schools; at Beaufort three; at Morehead one; at Clumford Creek one; at Newport and vicinity three; and at Roanoke, six; Total 28. Already we have commodious quarters for all the teachers we shall need at New Berne, embracing three houses; we can easily enlarge the quarters at Roanoke to meet increasing wants; and at the other places there will be no difficulty in obtaining them at small expense.
Notwithstanding that our efforts have been greatly interfered with and retarded by the yellow fever and its malarial accompaniments, we have now a fair prospect of at least doubling our work this season, and laying a broad foundation for the future. The schools are regularly visited by the Superintendent of Education, Rev. William. T. Briggs, and monthly reports are made, giving the statistics and general condition of the schools, with accompanying remarks. These are sent each month to the societies supporting the teachers. It is a noticable and gratifying fact that there is as much eagerness to attend school, and as much interest in study at the opening of this year as when the work commenced, and everything was new.
The services of Mr. Briggs in this department of endeavor have been all that could be desired. His mature mind, large experience in educational matters, courteous bearing, and thorough goodness of heart, with untiring diligence in his work, have won golden opinions from those who have come in contact with him. His reorganization of the schools during the last month, when I was too ill to aid him with one word of counsel, deserves especial mention. The services of such an officer give unity and point to all our operations in this department. We wholly ignore sects and sections, and labor for the country's welfare by striking at that ignorance which is the old root of this rebellion, and we welcome as honored coadjutors in the work, all whose hearts and hands are consecrated to it.
At this point, I subjoin a list of all the teachers who have come to North Carolina up to this date, with the name of the organizations which commissioned and sent them out.
Commissioned by the New England Freedmen's Aid Society,
|Oscar E. Doolittle,||Harriet M. Round,|
|Betsey L. Canedy,||Elizabeth M. Tuttle,|
|Alice Ropes,||Anna Gardner,|
|Therese O. James||Caroline S. Haven,|
|William V. West,||Moses G. Kimball,|
|Esther C. Warren,||Helen M. Ireson,|
|Sarah M. Pearson,||George Warren,|
|Carrie E. Croome,||Margaret E. Smith,|
|Annie P Merriam,||Frances E. Ellis,|
|Annie C. G. Canedy,||Elizabeth Condon.|
Commissioned by the American Missionary Association.
|Mary A. Burnap,||Ella E. Roper,|
|Susan A. Hosmer,||Harriet Spalding,|
|Elizabeth James,||Abby Winsor,|
|George N. Greene,||Mary H. Howe,|
|E. J. Comings,||Samuel S. Nickerson,|
|Sarah D. Comings,||Mrs. S. S. Nickerson,|
|Mary Brownson,||T. Lyman,|
|Carrie M. Getchell,||Mrs. T. Lyman,|
|A. S. Etheridge,||Nancy J. McCullough,|
|Emily S. Gill,||N. D. Francis,|
|Rhoda W Smith,||Vienna McLean.|
Commissioned by the National Freedmen's Relief Association.
|Mrs. J. P. R. Hanly,||Helen E. Luckey,|
|Maggie Hanly,||Mary A. Rutherford,|
|Helen James,||Sarah P Freeman,|
|Lucretia W. Johnson,||Kate S. Freeman,|
|Sarah W Tolman,||Anna M. Seavey,|
|Sarah T. Dickinson,||Mary E. Jones,|
|Fanny Graves,||Frances E. Bonnell, |
|Edward S. Fitz,||Antoinette Turner,|
|Emily L. Piper,||Richard Boyle, (Colored.)|
|Eveline Harris,||James Keating,(Colored.)“|
|Juliet B. Smith,||Martha Culling, (Colored.)“|
|Caroline E. Gould,||Robert Morrow,(Colored.)“|
Sent out by no Association, but self-supporting.
|Eliza P. Perkins,||Jennie B. Bell.|
New England Freedmen's Aid Society, (White),
American Missionary Association, "
National Freedmen's Relief Association, (White)
Whole Number Male Teachers,
Whole Number Female Teachers,
The foregoing list shows how nearly equally the teachers sent to North Carolina are divided between the three organizations to which they stand accredited. It has been to me and to my associates a matter of solid satisfaction to see these important agencies so kindly co-operating. It is like the soldiers of the regiments fighting side by side, though gathered from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. We are commencing the grandest work of education the world ever witnessed; unspeakably the most important ever entrusted to men; and nothing is more suitable and wise than to prosecute it with a spirit free from all jealousy and distrust. If any one will cast out devils in the name of the Lord in a region where devils so much abound, who shall dare forbid him because he followeth not with us?
No arithmetic can compute the amount of blessing conferred by these sixty-eight teachers, even in this brief period. Light has been flashed for the first time into hundreds of benighted minds, with an effect as electric, as inspiring, as beautiful, as when the Divine Spirit moved upon the formless void, and said, "'Let there be light,' and there was light."
The teachers who have deceased during the year are the following: Carrie M. Getchell, and Elizabeth M. Tuttle, at Beaufort; and Robert Morrow, (colored), at Roanoke Island.
Miss Getchell died March, 14, 1864, after a brief but painful illness. Her disease was acute inflammation of the glottis, contracted by exposure and too close application to her duties. She loved her work, and labored for her Divine Master with all her heart and soul and strength. She was a person of robust health, and was stationed in one of the healthiest localities in the State. Yet here have occurred the only instances of mortality among our northern teachers.
Miss Tuttle died of yellow fever in its most decided and fatal form. She was tenderly nursed night and day by a fellow teacher, Miss Graves, who passed the sickly season with health unimpaired, though she was fearlessly and almost continually among the sick and dying.
Robert Morrow, at the time of his decease, was a sergeant in the 1st North Carolina Heavy Artillery, (colored troops.) He came into our lines at the time of an attack upon New Berne, and had been for many years a body servant of the rebel General Pettigrew, whom he then deserted for liberty and Union. He had a decent education, having been with Pettigrew at West Point, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and was an enthusiastic and excellent teacher. He was of pure African blood, had an intellectual cerebral development, and a patriotic heart. He died suddenly, and in his bed, having retired at night as well as usual. He was then engaged in recruiting colored troops at Roanoke Island. It matters little to him that he left the world without warning, for he daily walked with God. He still belongs to the great army which marches under the banner of truth, but he wears a conqueror's wreath and sings the song of victory. His was a short war, and a speedy promotion.
Not only the decease of these warm-hearted workers, but the steady progress of the war towards its termination admonishes us to urge forward these labors of love with all possible energy. This is our hour and opportunity, while crowds of freedmen are hovering about our armies, and hiding behind our fortifications, to give them the instruction, and impart to them the impulses which they will retain after our armies are recalled, and the wave of southern population has rolled back within its former limits; which will prepare them, simple, untutored children of the sun, for the new responsibilities of life under freedom, and make them helpful of the honor and glory of the State. Upon no part of our work do I look with such satisfaction as upon this.
The experience of the last year has confirmed me in some opinions which a previous sojourn of two years in North Carolina had suggested. Let them be taken for what they are worth.
The negroes are not so helpless and dependent as the poor whites. They are more fertile in expedients, more industrious, more religious, and more active and vigorous in body and mind.
The pure blooded Africans are superior to the mulattoes. Mixture of blood diminishes vitality and force, and shortens life. What is gained in cerebral development, is lost in tendency to scrofula, and other diseases. Yellow children acquire knowledge no faster than blacks, and yellow women are frailer than their dark sisters. "Miscegenation" is the last measure to be recommended for the elevation of the negro race, whether morally or physically.
The negroes are grateful for liberty, and but little inclined to abuse it. They know, as we do not, what slavery means, and are truly grateful that they have escaped it. It would be natural enough for their minds to react, and go to the other extreme of rude and disgusting boldness in their new powers and privileges. But only occasionally is one found who would put upon the white man's limbs the fetters which have dropped from his own. Devout thankfulness to God is their prevailing sentiment.
The negroes strongly aspire to the common rights of citizens. If they have been set free, they want liberty to buy and sell and get gain, to select and favor their own church, school, and party, to defend themselves, to litigate with and implead one another, to hold written documents instead of verbal promises, and to manage their own affairs. They form societies, leagues, combinations, meetings, with little of routine or record, but much of speech-making, and sage counsel.
They almost adore the persons who have brought them deliverance. They are hero worshippers. The eternal progress of ideas they comprehend not, but Abraham Lincoln is to them the chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. They mingle his name with their prayers and their praises evermore. They have great reverence for the "head men" and for all in authority, and hence are easily governed. Even in their afflictions they retain this vanity. A message recently came to me that a colored man in a certain cabin across the river "had been under deep concern of mind, since last Friday, and wanted the General to come to see him, with the two head clergymen in the place." The delegate of some local society who has been to the front, and obtained an audience with Gen. Butler, or some other dignitary, will never have done rehearsing the circumstance.
They are slow and shiftless workers. Seldom does one of them do a good day's work, when laboring for another party. Their own rude, bungling, slipshod style, seldom forsakes them. It almost gives one the backache to witness their labor. Not that they mean to be idle, but their habit is to strike a few blows, and then lean against a fence in the sun, and the last as much as the first. They never saw a gentleman work, until the Yankees came here, and before this time their only rule was to do as little as they could.
The ownership of real estate is their strongest incentive to industry. Give them a piece of mother earth, and a "scrip o' paper" to show for it, and they are as happy as kings. Be it swampy or scrubby, with roots and bushes, or sandy, or wooded, it matters not. Up goes a house, down sinks a well, and soon pigs and chickens appear on the scene, and the farm is inaugurated with a cornfield and a collard patch and rows of sweet potatoes between.
They will do better in the society of whites than in separate communities. At least for the present and until the enterprising and thrifty among them have become wealthy and able to furnish occupation to the remainder, the more intelligent race must employ and pay them. They are now a nation of servants. They will always make the most faithful, pliable, obedient, devoted servants that can enter our dwellings. And the foolish prejudice against color which prevails, I am forced to believe, even among the best people of the North, should immediately give way, that they may take their proper place in all our households: not to throw white laborers out of employment, but to lift them higher in the social scale, and engage them in labors which require more skill. In the successive orders or ranks of industrial pursuits, those who have the least intelligence must needs perform the more menial services, without respect to color or birth. Give the colored man equality, not of social condition, but equality before the law, and if he proves himself the superior of the Anglo-Saxon, who can hinder it? If he shall fall below him, who can help it? undoubtedly the negro has his own place under republican institutions, and eternal laws are sure to bring him into position. This, at least, is our "south-side view."
Their elevation as a race is a work of patience and time. The growth of character is slow, especially if one must unlearn the traditions of a lifetime to prepare him to commence aright. One is sorely tempted at times to throw up the work in disgust. The soil seems so unpromising, so choked with poisonous weeds, as to defy cultivation. The negroes are so untrustworthy, so full of all deceitfulness and dishonesty, so enveloped in dirt and rags, that we ask in despair, Is there rain enough in the sweet heavens to cleanse them, or grace sufficient to renew them?
The doubt is but for a moment; for these poor creatures are surely more sinned against than sinning. The shadow of a passing disgust at the abject negro is changed into the fervor of a holy indignation against the crime that debased him when we reflect upon the pent up abuses of many generations now let loose in judgment upon the land, and hear the voice of the Lord, like muttering thunders, saying, let my people go. Verily, with Paul the apostle, we are "debtors to the bond," as well as to the free. The temporary support of a few hundred thousand negroes is but a trifling incident for this nation, and is more than countervailed by their services in the field. When we have gone into every corner of the South, and carried liberty and laws, art and enterprise, learning and pure religion to all these people with painstaking and in the spirit of love, then and not till then, shall we have paid the debt.
The colored people will raise up and support their own preachers. They are a religious people. On Sundays, arrayed in their best, they statedly frequent the sanctuary to sing, and praise, and pray. There is no lack of ministers among them. Their preparation to preach is small, but their fluency great, and their use of language remarkable. The St. Andrews Methodist Church in New Berne has raised a thousand dollars for church purposes the past year. The colored people fear God, are free from profanity, and highly prize worship. Almost the only comfort they enjoyed under slavery was derived from this source. It may be that their changed condition will train them into the vices of a higher state of Christian society, and make profanity, drunkenness and crime as common among them as it is, alas! among the dominant race. But we hope not.
The first want of the negroes is instruction by devoted and cultured teachers. Schools, academies, institutes, colleges, universities, may all be needed by and by. But at present schools only. The tyranny under which they have been ground was nursed by ignorance. Upon intelligent people it would have been powerless. Send out teachers then, and especially female teachers. Let them follow in the track of every conquering army. Let them swarm over the savannas of the South. Bring hither the surplus of females in New England, greatly increased by the bereavements of war, for here it can essentially contribute to the national wealth and honor. No more beautiful resolution of a difficult and delicate social dilemma can be conceived of.
My relations to the military authorities of the Department, and of the District and several Posts as well, has been so uninterruptedly cordial, as to make the conduct of negro affairs far easier than it would have been under a state of distrust and jealousy. The number of officers who sneer at the idea of freedom, education, and advancement for the African race in America is, fortunately for the service, growing less every day. The current of public opinion and the resistless logic of events is too strong for them. Those who make a stand against this sentiment of the age will go down before it to rise no more. Those who attach themselves to it will advance with it to historic success. The negro made free is the great fact of this century, and its vouchers are a national debt of two thousand millions of dollars and the graves of half a million of young men!
My official duties in North Carolina have been greatly aided by my assistant superintendents. Especially were the labors of Rev. Clarendon Waite of use to the service at New Berne, during the first half of the year. Could we have offered an adequate compensation to this gentleman, he might perhaps have been retained permanently, if it be proper to apply the term permanent to a service which is confessedly but temporary, and preparatory to a new organization of society.
To present the business of the last year to the eye of the reader in a more compact and tangible form, a statement is here given of our operations in the form of a debt and credit account. From this it may be seen what the government has done for the negroes, and in part what the negroes have done for themselves. It will serve to show, at least, that the aid extended by the government to these people in their homelessness and poverty, is in some measure compensated by their patient and faithful efforts on their own behalf. They have not been supported as mendicants, but helped frugally and considerately.
District of North Carolina, (Third District,) in Account with Department Of Negro Affairs.
Value of Commissary Stores, (Rations,) issued to Freedmen in the Third District, during the year ending December 31st, 1864.
|Whole No. of persons assisted.||Total cost of Rations issued.||Members of soldiers families assisted.||Cost of Rations for soldier's families.||Poor dependents & refugees assisted.||Cost of Rations, for dependents and refugees.||Cost of a single dependent Ration as allowed by Government.||Cost of a single Ration as actually issued to dependents and refugees. (Average.)||Saving to Government in issuing to dependents and refugees.|
|Per Mo.||Per Day.||Per Mo.||Per Day.|
|Feb. 23.||By cash received from Lieut. Col. J. B. Kinsman, Supt. General Negro Affairs,||$1,257.56|
|Apr. 26.||By cash received from Lieut. Col. Kinsman, by hand of Captain Orlando Brown, A. Q. M.,||1,529.84|
|Aug. 27.||By cash received from Major George J. Carney, Supt. General Negro Affairs,||2,000.00|
|Oct. 14.||By cash received from Major G. J. Carney,||6,704.25|
Value of Permanent Improvements made in the Third District during the year ending Dec. 31, 1864.
|Mill,||One Steam Saw and Grist Mill,||$20,000|
|Schools,||Five School Houses on Roanoke Island,||925|
|Three School Houses at New Berne,||700|
|Storehouses, &c.,||One Commissary Storehouse, Roanoke,||600|
|One Commissary Storehouse, New Berne,||1,500|
|One Small Pox Hospital, Roanoke Isl.,||150|
|One Storehouse, Roanoke Island,||350|
|One Storehouse for Fish,||350|
|Dwelling Houses,||Eight hundred Houses in Trent River Settlement, at $20 each,||16,000|
|Three hundred houses in city of New Berne, $40 each,||12,000|
|Five hundred and ninety-one houses and improved lots at Roanoke Island, at $75 each||44,325|
|Ten houses at Beaufort, at $100 each,||1,000|
|Dwelling House for camp superintendent and teachers,||500|
Value of Articles Fabricated in the Third District, during the Year ending Dec. 31, 1864.
|Dec." 31,"||1,000||1,000||cords,||Pine Wood,||3,000|
|Dec." 31,"||200||200||cords,||Hard Wood,||800|
|Dec. 31.||From sale and letting of public horses,||$1,173.50|
|From sales of clothing and private stores,||2,581.82|
|From sales of camp grease,||1,189.57|
|From proceeds of grinding at the grain mill on Roanoke, Island,||98.30|
The foregoing statistical tables will show that the department of negro affairs has not been fully self-supporting in North Carolina during the first year of its operations. It is, however, gratifying to see that it has accomplished what it has. The increase in the issue of food to the blacks in the month of May over the preceding month, is due to the capture of Plymouth and the evacuation of Washington which caused a great increase of refugees at Roanoke Island, New Berne, and Beaufort. The number assisted steadily decreased until September, when the yellow fever, even more formidable than a raid of rebels, unfurled its dread banner before our eyes. The colored people suffered with the whites, and, as all business was suspended, a larger number than before required charitable aid.
The column of "Savings to Government" requires explanation. Let it be observed, that we are not ordered to issue the full dependent ration to all poor and needy blacks, but only to give them necessary sustenance, and prevent positive suffering. With the families of soldiers it is otherwise. They receive the fixed and full allowance. To give the poor and dependent enough to sustain them in indolence was never intended. To give them enough to encourage and stimulate them to help themselves is what we have endeavored to do. The difference between this and the full ration may therefore be properly considered a saving to the government in the administration of this charity.
The balance of accounts for the year would have been upon the other side, if the abandoned farms and turpentine plantations of this District, or even half of them, had been in the hands of the superintendent of negro affairs. The agent of the Treasury Department had the sole management of these farms.
And while they were occupied in many instances by colored lessees, and almost wholly worked by them, the department of negro affairs was not pecuniarily benefited thereby. In matter of fact it is the same thing however, and the earnings of the negroes within our lines in North Carolina, have far exceeded the expenses of the government on their behalf. When the management of the Freedmen, and of the abandoned lands shall be confided to the same hands, so that they may be settled upon them, and protected in their culture and care, it admits of no doubt that their labor will both prove remunerative to themselves and a source of new wealth to the country. The manufacturers of the North will scarcely be able to supply the South, in those swift coming days when almost every negro will be a cash paying customer.
For the present it is plain that the negroes must be sheltered under the protecting wing of the government, and be trained into self-reliance and independence. They need a special agency to manage their affairs at the nation's capital. They will require for a time a central superintendence in each State that has been afflicted with slavery. At least until the return of the seceded States into the Union, and the enactment by them of new laws in the interest of freedom, this national tutilage of the negro must continue. Otherwise he will not have an even chance to rise, and his new born privileges will be turned into a curse.
I respectfully suggest that a change ought to be made in the issue of rations to the families of colored soldiers. The wages of all common soldiers are now the same. Many wives of soldiers are well able to support themselves by their own labor.
Many now receive supplies of money from their husbands in the army. To give them all full rations without regard to their circumstances is teaching them to be indolent, saucy, and unchaste. Slender as is the marriage tie among them, strong as are their passions, it is not strange that they often prove unfaithful to their husbands in the field. Would it not be better for the government to extend aid to the needy among these people, and not bestow it upon all? Or to feed the children only and the sick and very aged, requiring the able bodied to support themselves?
The year past has been one of experiment, and our work that of pioneers. Some things have been learned, some things begun, and some, we trust, well done. If our successors shall continue to feel theirway along the path of progress, to welcome each kind auxiliary, adopt each improved method, and act on every suggestion of experience, the duty of the age will be performed. It is a work of faith and patience. We have been conversant with its beginnings. Its end who can foresee?
I have the honor to be, Major, with great respect,
Capt., and A. Q. M.,
Supt. Negro Affairs, Dist. of N. C.
continuing the history of the management of freedmen's affairs in north carolina down to june 1st, 1865.
Early in the year 1865, active preparations began to be made to change the base of supplies of Sherman's army from Savannah to Eastern North Carolina. To this end Morehead City was occupied by the Quartermasters and Commissaries of that army; and Mansfield Hospital was broken up. The Construction Corps were landed there, who commenced to build storehouses, relay the railroad, enlarge the piers, and otherwise prepare to land and transport from this point supplies sufficient for a hundred thousand men. The bay and roadstead about Morehead and Beaufort were soon filled with loaded transports, and the harbor swarmed with troops and munitions of war.
This new activity swept into its current, for the time, every other interest. For a few weeks labor was in pressing demand, and large gangs worked through the day, only to be relieved by others, which worked through the night. All the able-bodied negroes in the Department were offered employment at the best wages, and whoever hesitated was persuaded to work by the solicitation of the bayonet. Not half enough could be found within our lines to perform the needed services, and large details of soldiers were made for fatigue duty, in addition to the thousands taken up by the Quartermasters upon the rolls of labor.
At this time matters were rapidly culminating in the Confederacy. Fort Fisher had fallen. The capital of South Carolina had been occupied. Charleston was evacuated, and Wilmington could hold out but a little longer. As soon as this famous headquarters of blockade-running had also succumbed to the Union forces, and Gen. Sherman had sent thither thousands of refugees from Fayetteville, some hundreds of these were brought to Morehead, quartered in the buildings lately used for hospital purposes, and employed in the government service.
About the same time with these important army movements, Gen. Butler was relieved of the command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, and the last named State was annexed to the Department of the South. This brought North Carolina under the jurisdiction of its former commander, Gen. J.G. Foster. This arrangement, however, was suddenly terminated by the erection of North Carolina into a separate department, as it had been formerly under Burnside, in 1862. Major Gen. Schofield was placed in command, having brought hither the gallant Army of the Ohio, the headquarters of which were now established upon the Atlantic sea-board.
Soon after the entry of Gen. Schofield upon his new command, his attention was called to the fact, that families of southern soldiers, both white and colored, were supplied with rations by the government without regard to their particular needs. Whereupon he issued, very wisely, the following order:
|Headquarters Department of North Carolina,|
|General Orders||(Army of the Ohio)|
|No. 17.||New Berne, N. C, March 18, 1865.|
All able bodied men, within the lines of the Army, who have no legitimate employment, are required to report without delay to the nearest Provost Marshal for enrollment, in order that they may be employed in the Quartermaster's Department. Provost Marshals will take measures to secure full compliance with this order within their respective jurisdictions.
The names of all persons enrolled will be reported to Brig. Gen. L.C. Easton, Chief Quartermaster Military Division of the Mississippi, and upon his requisition such number as he may require will be ordered to report to him for labor in the Quartermaster's Department. They will while so employed, receive the usual compensation and subsistence.
Hereafter the Commissary Department will not issue rations to any person not in the Government service, except such as are unable from age or infirmity to work, and are actually dependent upon charity for their support. There is work enough for all, and none will be allowed to live in idleness while supported by the Government.
The General commanding the District of Beaufort will cause this order to be strictly complied with.
By command of Major-General Schofield:
J. A. CAMPBELL, Assist Adj't General.
This order, so far as it respects the colored people, being in accordance with the views suggested at the close of my report for the last year, has worked well in practice, and compelled some to engage in remunerative labor who would otherwise have continued to eat the bread of idleness. If the pay of colored soldiers had been more promptly given them, they would have provided food for their families. Indeed it would have been a great saving to the government to have made more frequent settlements with its colored , for so long as they had no cash in hand, they had no means of living, and must be helped as a charity.
After Gen. Sherman had arrived at Goldsboro', and opened the eastern gates of the Old North State, it was wonderful to see how the dark tide of population rolled into the sea-board towns. Ten thousand entered Wilmington, five thousand New Berne, and in large numbers they came down to other places on the coast. Some had followed that victorious army from the heart of South Carolina, some had come even from Savannah. But most had left their homes along the route of that grand march, and, glad to escape from their old servitude, had pressed forward until they could go no farther. Pitiable was the condition of many of them, when they entered our lines. Footsore and weary, ragged and dusty from travel, mostly without covering for either their feet or heads, some of them emaciated and already marked as victims of death, afflicted with hoarse hollow coughs, with measles, with malarial chills, it seemed like anything but a land of promise into which they had come. But they were happy, and did not complain. With the characteristic cheerfulness of the negro, which is an admirable and beautiful feature of his character, they went singing along, and still, though living in want and destitution, they continue to sing.
Our stores of clothing were soon exhausted, and an appeal was issued, not in vain, to the good people of the North to send us more. The same warm friends of suffering humanity who had once and again supplied our wants, and who had just responded to an urgent appeal in behalf of Savannah and Charleston, listened kindly also, when we spoke of Wilmington and New Berne. The Friends at Philadelphia sent us very promptly a valuable invoice of clothing, shoes, hats, caps, blankets, axes and seeds. The National Freedmen's Relief Association sent a large quantity of clothing. The New England Freedmen's Aid Society, forwarded sundry valuable boxes of clothing and other goods. And the Rhode Island Freedmen's Association, a new but vigorous society, added an important contribution to the donations of its elder sisters. These supplies have done incalculable good, and have relieved the most pressing cases of suffering and want. During the warm weather the people, even in their poverty, will get on comfortably. But the next winter will be one of trial, it is to be feared, beyond any in the history of this war.
Had hostilities ceased a couple of months earlier, much more land would have been put under cultivation this season, and perhaps food enough would have been produced in the State for the supply of all its inhabitants, white and black. But it can hardly prove so now. When Johnston's army surrendered, it was late planting time, and the horses and mules needed for plowing, had mostly been captured, and put to army uses. It will require at least a year to bring the cleared lands of the State, large tracts of which have lain fallow during the whole war, into cultivation again.
Those portions of the State which were overrun by Gen. Sherman's army were stripped of all food and stock, and the people who resided there were reduced to positive want. It was a matter of necessity that the negroes should leave their homes and congregate in the large towns. Hunger and fear of the rebels, and a sense of liberty, alike impelled them to follow the army, though it was attended with great hardship and suffering. Many poor creatures who then left their homes will never see them again. What with long marches, and hunger, and exposure to cold and rain, with insufficient clothing and shelter, and not unfrequently rudeness and cruelty, on the part of those who ought to have been their defenders, and toward whom they looked with all confidence as deliverers, these people have melted away almost as rapidly as if they had been swept with grape and cannister, and their routes of travel are marked with freshly made graves.
Government aid was freely but judiciously administered to them, in the form of simple food, and none were allowed to die of hunger. But so soon as hostilities had ceased, and it became safe for the freedmen to return to their former residences without fear of violence, they were advised and encouraged to do so.
In order to promote this end, and at the same time define the status of the former slaves, and assure them of their freedom and of protection therein, Gen. Schofield issued, very wisely, the following order:
|Headquarters Department of North Carolina,|
|(Army of the Ohio)|
|General Orders||Raleigh, N.C. April 27, 1865.|
To remove a doubt which seems to exist in the minds of some of the people of North Carolina, it is hereby declared that by virtue of the Proclamation of the President of the United States, dated January 1st, 1863, all persons in this State heretofore held as slaves are now free; and that it is the duty of the Army to maintain the freedom of such persons.
It is recommended to the former owners of the Freedmen to employ them as hired servants at reasonable wages. And it is recommended to the Freedmen that when allowed to do so, they remain with their former masters, and labor faithfully so long as they shall be treated kindly and paid reasonable wages, or that they immediately seek employment elsewhere, in the kind of work to which they are accustomed. It is not well for them to congregate about towns or Military Camps. They will not be supported in idleness.
By command of Major-General Schofield:
J. A. CAMPBELL, Assist Adj't General.
The foregoing order did not, however, become immediately known to all the people. The negroes were plied in many cases with abuse and falsehood, and made to believe that after the departure of the troops they would be slaves precisely as before. While they were in this transition state, scarcely knowing whether they were or were not free,—a point made still more uncertain to them by the untimely death of their great Deliverer, Abraham Lincoln,—the efforts and counsels of my assistant superintendents were of great value to these bewildered people. It was noticeable that the negroes would not believe the promises of their old masters, however much they had been supposed to love them, but would confide implicitly in the statements of Northern men whom they never saw before, and who told them they had rights of their own which white men even were bound to respect. It will be necessary for such mediators to stand between the colored people and the old aristocracy, that once presumed to own them, until the feelings and habits of both classes have become adjusted to the altered conditions of society. The general government having stricken off their shackles, and pledged freedom to the colored race, should stand god-father to these simple children of nature, and throw the strong arm of its protection around them, until they are confessed to be free men and citizens, and willingly treated as such by the dominant race. In order to introduce a uniform practice in respect to the Freedmen in North Carolina, and provide for the settlement of all cases that might arise, and bring the whole subject under military control, Gen. Schofield promulgated in General Orders a series of rules intended to cover the whole ground, as follows:
|Headquarters Department of North Carolina,|
|(Army of the Ohio)|
|General Orders||Raleigh, N.C. May 15, 1865.|
The following rules are published for the government of Freedmen in North Carolina, until the restoration of civil government in the State: I. The common laws governing the domestic relations, such as those giving parents authority and control over their children, and guardians control over their wards, are in force. The parent's or guardian's authority and obligations take the place of those of the former master.
II. The former masters are constituted the guardians of minors and of the aged and infirm, in the absence of parents or other near relatives capable of supporting them.
III. Young men and women, under twenty-one years of age, remain under the control of their parents or guardians until they become of age, thus aiding to support their parents, and younger brothers and sisters.
IV. The former masters of Freedmen may not turn away the young or the infirm, nor refuse to give them food and shelter; nor may the able-bodied men or women go away from their homes, or live in idleness, and leave their parents, children, or young brothers and sisters to be supported by others.
V. Persons of age, who are free from any of the obligations referred to above, are at liberty to find new homes wherever they can obtain proper employment; but they will not be supported by the government, nor by their former masters, unless they work.
VI. It will be left to the employer and servant to agree upon the wages to be paid; but Freedmen are advised that for the present season they ought to expect only moderate wages, and where their employers cannot pay them money, they ought to be contented with a fair share in the crops to be raised. They have gained their personal freedom. By industry and good conduct they may rise to independence and even wealth.
VII. All officers, soldiers and citizens, are requested to give publicity to these rules, and to instruct the freed people as to their new rights and obligations.
VIII. All officers of the Army, and of the county police companies, are authorized and required to correct any violation of the above rules within their jurisdiction.
IX. Each District commander will appoint a Superintendent of Freedmen, (a commissioned officer,) with such number of assistants (officers and non-commissioned officers) as may be necessary, whose duty it will be to take charge of all the freed people in his District, who are without homes or proper employment. The superintendents will send back to their homes all who have left them in violation of the above rules, and will endeavor to find homes and suitable employment for all others. They will provide suitable camps or quarters for such as cannot be otherwise provided for, and attend to their discipline, police, subsistence, &c.
X. The superintendents will hear all complaints of guardians or wards, and report the facts to their District commanderi, who are authorized to dissolve the existing relation of guardian and ward in any case which may seem to require it, and to direct the superintendent to otherwise provide for the wards, in accordance with the above rules.
J.A. CAMPBELL, Assist. Adj't General.
Whether or not these rules were in every respect the best that could have been made, needs not to be here discussed. Almost any system is preferable to confusion. But nearly at the same time with their promulgation, Major-General O. O. Howard was appointed Commissioner of the new "Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands," and the system of management proposed by General Schofield gave way to the rules of the new Bureau. It will be needful, however, that there should be a good understanding between Department commanders and the officers of this Bureau, otherwise little can be accomplished. During the last month, and since the negroes have become well assured that the war is at an end, and that they will be safe in the interior, they have left the towns in large numbers, and have returned to their plantation residences. Three thousand have gone from New Berne alone, and as many more from Wilmington. It is touching in the extreme to witness the happy meetings that take place between parents and children, or husbands and wives that have not seen each other since the war began, or perhaps for eight, ten, or even twenty years. The negro is demonstrative in the expression of his feelings, and his domestic affections are very strong. If any one can witness without emotion or even tears, the affectionate meetings and greetings of these people after long absence, he must be something either more or less than human.
After the return of peace, and during the month of May, many of the refugees, both white and black, were supplied by the government with horses and mules to aid them in cultivating the soil. These animals, mostly captured during Gen. Sherman's campaign, were no longer of use to the army, and were therefore, to the number of four or five hundred, loaned out to the poor farmers for agricultural purposes. Of these the colored people had their share, and most joyfully did they avail themselves of this assistance in obtaining for themselves and their families a living.
No sooner was Wilmington wrested from the rebels, than it was explored by the agents of northern educational bodies, and schools were opened by the American Missionary Association. The National Freedmen's Relief Association has also sent laborers there, and not less than twelve northern teachers are now occupying different points on the Cape Fear River. Schools have been opened at Kinston and Goldsboro', but they have been thus far taught by chaplains and soldiers from the regiments.
During the five months of the present year, all our operations in behalf of the Freedmen in North Carolina have been pursued in much the same manner as heretofore, and with good success. The changes experienced have been more sudden than ever before, vibrating from the active conflicts of war to the hushed repose of peace. The negroes are adjusting themselves as rapidly as possible to their changed circumstances, and things generally look promising.
It is not true in North Carolina that the negroes are lazy and will not work. Whoever says so bears false witness against his neighbor. They are industrious and energetic, and will be sure to prosper, unless the old tyranny is re-established under some other form. The community need to be cautioned against accepting without question the statements of enemies. If unscrupulous falsehood can create the impression that negro freedom is a failure, it will do it. But all honest investigations will show the contrary.
The colored people greatly desire to learn. They are enthusiastic and persevering in their efforts in this behalf. They have an idea that knowledge is power, and that it has given to the Yankees their great success, and this thought stimulates them to exertion. The boon they crave above all others, is knowledge. They believe it will assure them rights, influence, position, and consideration. In this way they hope to vote, and to acquire property, to become landholders, and citizens in full. And now that the national battle is won, it is to be hoped they may not be disappointed. If this war, terminated as it has been in the success of the Union arms, means anything, it means that thought and speech and instruction at the South are now and forever free. If it be not so, we had better go to fighting again. The last school-teacher has been banished. The last preacher of liberty has been silenced. The last propagandist of liberal ideas has been hooted and proscribed by a tyranneous and brutal public opinion. An idea may now march, with the step of a conqueror, over every foot of Southern soil. The shadow of Bunker Hill monument reaches to the Rio Grande. Over this whole area truth and error may now grapple upon a fair field, and the right will have no odds against her.
Sooner or later negro suffrage must come, not however without earnest and protracted agitation. While several of the powerful free states of the North are still holding the black man aloof from the ballot box, it was hardly to be expected that he should emerge from abject slavery in the South, and rise at one bound to this high privilege of citizenship. But he is fast vindicating his fitness for it, by the sword, by mental progress, by dignified acceptance of his new condition, and a certain noble bearing in it, and he will do it yet more by his industry, thrift, economy, and evident fitness to become the honest American yeoman, paying his taxes, bearing the burdens of society, and contributing to the common welfare.
As great interest is felt at the present time, in the new Bureau of Freedmen's Affairs, the act of Congress establishing the same is here given.
AN ACT to establish a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees.
Be it enacted, By the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there is hereby established in the War Department, to continue during the present war of rebellion, and for one year thereafter, a bureau of refugees, freedmen, and abandoned lands, to which shall be committed, as hereinafter provided, the supervision and management of all abandoned lands, and the control of all sutjects relating to refugees and freedmen from rebel states, or from any district of country within the territory embraced in the operations of the army, under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by the head of the bureau and approved by the President. The said bureau shall be under the management and control of a commissioner to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, whose compensation shall be three thousand dollars per annum, and such number of clerks as may be assigned to him by the Secretary of War, not exceeding one chief clerk, two of the fourth class, two of the third class, and five of the first class. And the commissioner and all persons appointed under this act, shall, before entering upon their duties, take the oath of office prescribed in an act entitled, "An act to prescribe an oath of office, and for other purposes," approved July second, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, and the commissioner and the chief clerk shall, before entering upon their duties, give bonds to the treasurer of the United States, the former in the sum of fifty thousand dollars, and the latter in the sum of ten thousand dollars, conditioned for the faithful discharge of their duties respectively, with securities to be approved as sufficient by the Attorney-General, which bonds shall be filed in the office of the first comptroller of the treasury, to be by him put in suit for the benefit of any injured party upon any breach of the condition thereof.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of War may direct such issues of provisions, clothing, and fuel, as he may deem needful for the immediate and temporary shelter and supply of destitute and suffering refugees and freedmen and their wives and children, under such rules and regulations as he may direct.
Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the President may, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint an assistant commissioner for each of the States declared to be in insurrection, not exceeding ten in number, who shall, under the direction of the commissioner, aid in the execution of the provisions of this act; and he shall give a bond to the Treasurer of the United States, in the sum of twenty thousand dollars, in the form and manner prescribed in the first section of this act. Each of said commissioners shall receive an annual salary of two thousand five hundred dollars in full compensation for all his services. And any military officer may be detailed and assigned to duty under this act without increase of pay or allowances. The commissioner shall, before the commencement of each regular session of Congress, make full report of his proceedings with exhibits of the state of his accounts to the President, who shall communicate the same to Congress, and shall also make special reports whenever required to do so by. the President or either house of Congress; and the assistant commissioners shall make quarterly reports of their proceedings to the commissioner, and also such other special reports as from time to time may be required.
Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That the commissioner, under the direction of the President, shall have authority to set apart, for the use of loyal refugees and freedmen, such tracts of land within the insurrectionary States as shall have been abandoned, or to which the United States shall have acquired title by confiscation or sale, or otherwise, and to every male citizen, whether refugee or freedman, as aforesaid, there shall be assigned not more than forty acres of such land, and the person to whom it was so assigned shall be protected in the use and enjoyment of the land for the term of three years at an annual rent not exceeding six per centum upon the value of such land, as it was appraised by the State authorities in the year eighteen hundred and sixty, for the purpose of taxation, and in case no such appraisal can be found, then the rental shall be based upon the estimated value of the land in said year, to be ascertained in such manner as the commissioner may by regulation prescribe. At the end of said term, or at any time during said term, the occupants of any parcels so assigned may purchase the land and receive such title thereto as the United States can convey, upon paying therefor the value of the land, as ascertained and fixed for the purpose of determining the annual rent aforesaid.
Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That all acts and parts of acts inconsistent with the provisions of this act, are hereby repealed.
Approved, March 3, 1865.
Major-General O. O. Howard, so favorably known to the country as the brave Commander of the Army of the Tennessee, was placed at the head of this Bureau by the President, on the 12th of May, 1865. A more fitting choice could not be made, nor one more in accordance with the will of the people.
If any one asks what will be the policy of General Howard in the practical working of this bureau? it may be answered, without violating his confidence, that he desires,
1. The education of all the Southern people, white and black.
2. Fair play for the Freedmen and refugees of the South, that they may retrieve their fortunes by their own industry.
3. Settlement of these people upon the soil, and the permanent occupancy of farms of their own. To favor these ends, he invites the earnest co-operation of all benevolent associations and persons, all educational and missionary societies, all churches and civil organizations, in the work of reorganizing society at the South, it being the purpose of the Bureau "not to supersede the benevolent agencies already engaged in it, but only to systematize and facilitate them."
Never did a fairer field of endeavor open before any man, though there will be many obstacles to success. But let not one of them be a faint heart on the part of the friends of the Freedmen. Our work is just begun; years are necessary to its completion. Latent in our successful appeal to arms are unspeakable blessings for the whole South, both oppressors and oppressed. They are to be developed slowly and by peaceful processes, like the healing ministries of nature and the restoring grace of God. Let us address ourselves bravely to the work, and place at least one thousand teachers in the South this very autumn. Let Northern capital and Northern men go in and possess the land. Then shall the wilderness smile with plenty, and the desert shall blossom as the rose.
I only remark in closing this somewhat rambling appendix, that I was appointed Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, for North Carolina, but am to be relieved at my own request by General Howard, who has designated Lieut. Col. E. Whittlesey as Commissioner for North Carolina, with his headquarters at Raleigh. For a short time longer my labors will be associated with his. I am most happy to turn over these duties to a gentleman so admirably qualified to discharge them.
An expression of gratitude is due to my assistants, Mr. Samuel S. Ashley, at Wilmington, Mr. Frederic A. Fiske, at Morehead City, and Mr. Edward E. Johnson, of New Berne, for the diligence and fidelity with which they have discharged their duties.
Capt., and A. Q. M.,
Assist. Com'r Bur. of Ref 's Freedmen and Aban. Lands.
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