The Plight of African-Americans in the Path of Union troops

In response to https://studycivilwar.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/the-plight-of-african-americans-in-the-path-of-the-army-of-northern-virginia-in-the-gettysburg-campaign/

Don’t fret Mackey I can match you kidnapping story, There are more if you need them.

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 3, vol 4, Part 1 (Union Letters, Orders, Reports)

BEAUFORT, S. C., December 30, 1864.

Honorable EDWIN M. STANTON,

Secretary of War:

SIR:

Page 1022——– The lands in the possession of our forces having been sold by auction, under the direction of the direct-tax commissioners, have passed into the hands of private persons or are under the control of the U. S. direct-tax commissioners.

Many of the freedmen had by industry and thrift acquired considerable property.

Page 1023 —- To enable me to carry out the views of the Government I was directed to take possession of the lands, and, subsequently, all other property abandoned by the rebels—-

Page 1028 — In these circumstances the recruiting went on slowly, when the major- general commanding (General Foster) ordered an indiscriminate conscription of every able-bodied colored man in the department. As the special representative of the Government in its relation to them, I had given them earnest and repeated assurances that no force would be used in recruiting the black regiments. I say nothing of this order, in reference to my special duties and jurisdiction and the authority of the major-general commanding to issue it; but as an apparent violation of faith pledged to the freedmen, it could not but shake their confidence in our just intentions, and make them the more unwilling to serve the Government.

The order spread universal confusion and terror. The negroes fled to the woods and swamps, visiting their cabins only by stealth and in darkness. They were hunted to their hiding places by armed parties of their own people, and, if found, compelled to enlist. This conscription order is still in force. Men have been seized and forced to enlist who had large families of young children dependent upon them for support and fine crops of cotton and corn nearly ready for harvest, without an opportunity of making provision for the one or securing the other.

Three boys, one only fourteen years of age, were seized in a field where they were at work and sent to a regiment serving in a distant part of the department without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

A man on his way to enlist as a volunteer was stopped by a recruiting party. He told them where he was going and was passing on when he was again ordered to halt. He did not stop and was shot dead, and was left where he fell. It is supposed the soldiers desired to bring him in and get the bounty offered for bringing in recruits.

Another man who had a wife and family was shot as he was entering a boat to fish, on the pretense that he was a deserter. He fell in the water and was left. His wound, though very severe, was not mortal. An employed in the Quartermaster’s Department was taken, and (page 1029) without being allowed to communicate with the quartermaster or settle his accounts or provide for his family, was taken to Hilton Head and enrolled, although he had a certificate of exemption from the military service from a medical officer.

Page 1029 —- I believed myself charged with a mission of justice and atonement for wrongs and oppression the race had suffered under the sanction of the national law. I found the prejudice of color and race here in full force, and the general feeling of the army of occupation was unfriendly to the blacks. It was manifested in various forms of personal insult and abuse, in depredations on their plantations, stealing and destroying their crops and domestic animals, and robbing them of their money.

The women were held as the legitimate prey of lust, and as they had been taught it was a crime to resist a white man they had not learned to dare to defend their chastity.

Licentiousness was widespread; the morals of the old plantation life seemed revived in the army of occupation.

There was a general disposition among the soldiers and civilian speculators here to defraud the negroes in their private traffic, to take the commodities which they offered for sale by force, or to pay for them in worthless money. At one time these practices were so frequent and notorious that the negroes would not bring their produce to market for fear of being plundered. Other occurrences have tended to cool the enthusiasm joy with which the coming of the “Yankees” was welcomed.

Their disappointment at not getting the lands they had selected at the invitation and under the supposed guaranty of the Government, I have referred to. They had been promised land on conditions they were ready and offered to fulfil they could not understand the reasons of law and expediency why the promise was broken to the hope.

When they were invited to enlist as soldiers they were promised the same pay as other soldiers; they did receive it for a time, but at length it was reduced and they received but little more than one-half what was promised. The questions of the meaning and conflicts of statutes which justified this reduction could not be made intelligible to them. To them it was simply a breach of faith. It is first of all essential to the success of the efforts of the Government in their behalf that the negroes shall have entire confidence in its justice and ——

Page 1031 —I am sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,

R. SAXTON,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 3, vol 2, Part 1 (Union Letters, Orders, Reports) Pages 52 – 53

PORT ROYAL, S. C., May 12, 1862.

Honorable S. P. CHASE:

DEAR SIR: This has been a sad day on these islands. I do not question the purpose which has caused the disturbance, as in many respects it is praiseworthy; but practical injustice and inhumanity may often consist with a benevolent purpose.

Last evening (Sabbath) I received a messenger from General Stevens bringing an order from General Hunter requiring all able- bodied negroes between eighteen and forty-five to be sent early this morning to Beaufort, and from thence to go at once to Hilton Head, where they were to be armed.

Page 53 — I now come to the scenes of to-day, which have been distressing enough to those who witnessed them. Some 500 men were hurried during the day from Ladies and Saint Helena to Beaufort, taken over in flats and then carried to Hilton Head in the MattaNumbers The negroes were sad enough, and those who had charge of them were sadder still. The superintendents assure me they never had such a day before; that they feel unmanned for their duties, and as if their work had been undone. They have industriously, as subordination required, aided the military in the disagreeably affair, disavowing the act. Sometimes whole plantations, learning what was going on, ran off to the woods for refuge. Others, with no means of escape, submitted passively to the inevitable decree.

Yours, truly,

EDWARD L. PIERCE,

Special Agent Treasury Department

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 3, vol 2, Part 1 (Union Letters, Orders, Reports) Page 57

Numbers 6. POPE’S PLANTATION, Saint Helena Island, May 13, 1862.

Major-General HUNTER,

Commanding Department of the South:

GENERAL: It seems important to advise you of the scenes transpirating yesterday in the execution of your order for the collection and transportation of the able-bodied colored men form the islands to Hilton Head. The colored people became suspicious of the presence of the companies of soldiers detailed for the service, who were marching through the islands during the night. Some thought the rebels were coming and stood guard at the creeks. The next morning (yesterday) they went to the fields, some, however, seeking the woods. They were taken from fields without being allowed to go to their houses even to get a jacket, this, however, in some cases, being gone for by the wife. The inevitableness of the order made many resigned, but there was sadness in all. As those on this plantation were called in form the fields, the soldiers, under orders, and while on the steps of my headquarters, loaded their guns, so that the negroes might see what would take place in case they attempted to get away. This was done in the presence of the ladies here. Wives and children embraced the husband and father thus taken away, they knew not where, and whom, as they said, they should never see again. On some plantations the wailing and screaming were loud and the women threw themselves in despair on the ground. On some plantations the people took to the woods and were hunted up by the soldiers. The school at Eustis was a scene of confusion, the children crying, and it was found of no use to carry it on. The superintendents aided in the execution of the order with moral influence and physical assistance, some of them walking many miles in the night to guide the soldiers, but they all express great sorrow at what has been done and feel that the hold which they had been slowly and carefully getting on their people has been loosened. They told the negroes that General Hunter was their friend and meant well by the, and his orders must be obeyed, but they disavowed responsibility for the act. The soldiers, it is due to them to say, concerning the summary manner in which they were called upon to act, and the speed required of them, conducted themselves with as little harshness as could

Such was yesterday; and it was a sad day with these simple- hearted and family-loving people, and I doubt if the recruiting service in this country has ever been attended with such scenes before. I pray you for the kindest attentions (and I know you will give them) to those who have gone to Hilton Head, and for the immediate return of all who are not disposed to bear arms, in order that the suspense of those who have gone and of those who have remained may be relieved. I shall go to Hilton Head to- morrow (Wednesday) to visit them.

Your obedient servant,

EDWARD L. PIERCE,

Special Agent Treasury Department.

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