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Low, chief receiving and disbursing officer; Brevet Majors E. L. Deane and E W. Everson, aide-de-camp, and assistant surgeon; J.C. G. Happersett, surgeolin-chief, for the faithfulness and ability with which they have dischargid the duties devolving upon them; and to all the officers on duty in the State, as acting assistant and sub-assistant commissioners, for their cordial co-operation in carrying out the objects of the bureau. I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servalt,
R. K SCOTT,
Brevet Major General and Assistant Com'r. Maj. Gen. 0. 0. HOWARD,
Commissioner, 8c., IVashington, D. C.
BUREAU OF REFUGEES, FREEDMEN AND ABANDONED LANDS,
Nashville, Tennessee, Norember 1, 1866. GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the business of this office for the year ending October 31, 1966 :
The colored population of the State of Tennessee, as reported in censns returns of 1860, was as follows: Free colored, black, 3,008; mulatto, 4 292; total, 7,300. Slaves, black, 238,133 ; mulatto, 37,586 ; total, 275,719. Total colored population, 283,019, being a little more than one-fourth of the whole population of Tennessee. It is believed that the colored population has not increased in equal proportion to the whites since that time, but that the unusual ravages of disease, losses in battle, and emigration have so nearly balanced the natural increase and emigration, that the total colored population at this time is not far from three hundred thousand, (300,000.) The care of these people, with some aid to white refugees, and the management of abandoned property, was the duty devolving upon the bureau officers at the beginning of the year.
The district and its business was organized as follows : At the headquarters of the assistant commissary general, C. B. Fisk, in Nashville, Tennessee, were on duty, one assistant adjutant general, one quartermaster, a chief medical officer, and one aide-de-camp, and the necessary number of clerks, &c.
The State of Tennessee was organized into three sub-districts : Middle Tennessee, the agents in which reported direct to the office of the assistant commissioner ; West Tennessee, comprising all west of the Tennessee river, under the charge of a chief superintendent, a field officer, with headquarters at Memphis ; and east Tennessee, comprising the counties east of the Cumberland mountains, under the charge of a chief superintendent, a field officer, with headquarters at Chattanooga.
At the sub-district headquarters, and in five or six other localities, officers of . the army were in charge of bureau affairs. In nearly all the counties of middle and west Tennessee citizen agents, designated as superintendents and appointed by the assistant commissioner, were in charge of bureau affairs.
The bureau authority was introduced into Kentucky in January, 1866, and citizen agents appointed as county superintendents in a majority of the counties, who made reports directly to the office of the assistant commissioner, but the State was not organized fully until March, 1866, when it was also organized into three sub-districts, under the charge of field officers, with headquarters at Louisville, Lexington, and Paducah, the whole under charge of a chief superintendent, Brevet Brigadier General John Ely, with headquarters at Louisville.
All citizen agents were appointed without fixing a definite salary, but were authorized by Circular No. 7, office assistant commissioner Kentucky and Tennessee, of September 18, 1865, to collect a fee of fifty cents for each contract made and registered by them, and also such costs as the civil law allows in cases adjudicated by them. They were also authorized by Circular No.1, current series, to expend so much of fines and forfeitures as might be required to procure the books and stationery for office use. Circular No. 2, current series, authorized them to retain all costs of cases adjudicated by them, and to deduct from fines collected all expenses of their office for stationery and absolute necessaries, the balance to be remitted to this office. By Circular No. 6, current series, county superintendents were authorized to charge on each single contract made and registered one dollar, and twenty-five cents for each additional laborer included in a contract. It will be seen that the county superintendents have not in general been an expense to the bureau. In Kentucky, where the agents had very much trouble, and had their time much employed, but without doing a business which remunerated them, they were paid a salary of from $50 to $100 per month.
In the State of Tennessee the superintendents of this county have been paid a salary since May, 1866. and in August seven superintendents were paid salaries amounting to $575. In September eight were paid salaries amounting to $550, and in October eight were paid $550.
To punish crimes and secure justice to the friedmen, county superintendents, both civilians and officers, held courts, in which were tried all cases arising between freedmen and between freedmen and whites. The warrants, writs, executions, &c., of these courts were served by the civil officers, except in some counties where they would not act, and in these by officers appointed by the superintendents. From these courts either party hail the right of appeal to the assistant commissioner ; appeals were not very frequent, nor was there very
much difficulty experienced in carrying out the judgments of these courts.
The legislature of the State of Tennessee having enacted a law on the 25th of May, 1866, declaring persons of color competent witnesses in all the courts of the State, giving them full and equal benefit of all laws for the security of persons and estate, and relieving them from all punishment and penalty for the commission of offences other than such as are prescribed for white persens committing like offences, the assistant commissioner issued Circular No. 11, current series, abolishing the freedmen's courts, since which time the agents of the bureau have simply advised and instructed the freedmen in their rights and the methods of maintaining them in the civil tribunals.
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE. I am obliged to report that the expectations of the bureau officers and freedmen, in regard to the benefits they were to receive from the operations of the law, have not been realized. The old prejudices and opinions of the civil officers so warp their judgments that the testimony of colored persons is almost universally found wanting when weighed in the balance against that of white persons. The freedmen have little to encourage them in the prosecution of civil suits. Their ignorance, and want of aid and interest on the part of the civil officers, too often leave them victims of the grossest kind of lawyers' trickery, which, however, cuts them off from all hope of redress. They are only free from prosecution in civil suits by lack of property and destitution. He would be a shrewd and successful one indeed who could succeed in keeping the white man from seizing his own without recourse to the civil law.
In criminal cases the freedmen are often convicted on the slightest testimony and for want of proper defence, and whenever convicted may, in many districts, surely expect the heaviest penalty, while the white persons convicted of outrages on freedmen may, with much confidence, expect the lightest punishment.
Negro testimony, wherever introduced, is taken, as they say, " for what it is worth," and in some districts it is not offered. (Another name for excluded.)
In civil prosecutions by freedmen the delay of the officers, and the stay laws of the State, nullify the judgment, even when in their favor, for any good to them in their present necessities. And in criminal cases the punishment often follows too closely on conviction to admit of appeal or remedy, though the puoishment be ever so unjust. I may cite a few of the many instances establishing the truth of the above statements :
June 22, 1866.—Mike Dougherty, in Giles county, assaulted a freedman, named King Pedon, with an axe, with intent to kill, and inflicting a severe injury. A warrant was issued by a loyal magistrate, but no further action was had until in August, when, to forestall the action of the county superintendent, said Dougherty was brought before a magistrate for the offence and fined fire dollars and costs.
About the same time and place five colored boys were accused of combining together to do bodily injury to a white man, but they were held to bail in sums beyond their ability and thrown into jail to await trial.
July 7.—John Sullivan, Jack Keith, Powhatan Hardeman, James Russell, and one Walls, at night, and on the public highway, and without any provocation, shot a colored man named Dudley Kimble so that he died. A warrant was issued by a magistrate and placed in the hands of the sheriff, P. H. Perden, who made no effort to arrest the accused, nor was any further action had by the civil authorities. On my application, four of the parties accused were arrested September 1 by the military, under General Order No. 44. The civil authorities inade immediate requisition for them, and they were turned over to the sheriff of Giles county, and were released on mere nominal bail.
In this county (Davidson) six white men are now under indictment for the killing of colored persons in the county within the last six months. They are at large on bail from two to five thousand dollars each, but their trial has been postponed from time to time, and will be, I fear, indefinitely.
About three weeks since the police of this city arrested some forty or fifty young men and boys (colored) on various pretexts, mostly for vagrancy, and they were thrown into the work-house to work out fines of from $10 to $60 each. By an arrangement with the city recorder, Messrs. Beach and Cheatham, resi. dents of this city, went to the work-house, and, by paying their fines, induced the prisoners, as is claimed, to consent to go tj Arkansas to work on a planta. tion. The freedmen were taken from the work house and carried off under guard. Many of them are minors, and were taken away without the knowledge or consent of their parents. Indeed the whole transaction was accomplished so quietly that myself or my agents had no kuowledge of it until they were gone. T'he matter is being thoroughly investigated, but I have little hope of proper redress from the civil authorities. I have consulted with General Thomas in the matter, and, with his approval, have sent an agent to Arkansas with voluminous testimony, and an application to General Ord for a thorough investigation of the case on the plantation in Chicot county, and the immediate return of the minors and all adults unjustly abducted to this city.
The aid to be expected from the civil authorities, in some distrirts, may be indicated by the following extracts from report of Captain Tracy, Veteran Reserve Corps, of an inspection of affairs in Suinner county, dated November 1, 1866. He says he has made as thorough an inspection as could, under the circumstances, have been made, and found a perfect reign of terror existing ; so much so that any report that I can make would utterly fail to do the subject justice, and would have to be seen and experienced to be appreciated. I saw and experienced myself a small portion, but am still unable to describe to you the real and actual state of affairs that exist in that county, together with Robertson county and Simpson county, Kentucky, all joining, which are governed by Ellis Harper, the notorious guerilla chief, who has a band of armed men so strong that any opposition to him by Union men or freedmen would be perfectly futile. Their strength in numbers is unknown, but it is known to be a powerful band, who perpetrate outrages so numerous and revolting as to strike terror to all unorganized and unprotected citizens, whether black or white, who entertain Union sentiments. This class is so much in the minority that they dare not offer any resistance, or report them to the authorities; and the civil authorities, whether leagued with them or not, dare not attempt to bring the parties to justice, so that the civil law is virtually a farce; and the only cases that are tried by county migistrates, of a criminal nature, are those brought by those outlaws against Union men and freedmen; but this is seldom done, for they take the laws into their own hands, • Harper's law,' and, on the most trivial pretexts, inflict the most brutal and summary punishment, which the following cases will serve to illustrate.”'
Here follows a recital of seven cases, including five murders, highway robbery, rape, and assault.
Detachments of troops have frequently been sent into this region, bat, owing to the protection and warning given the authors, they have not been arrested. From a majority of the counties in Middle and West Tennessee the superintendents report that there will be great difficulty in the settlement of contracts for the past year, and great injustice done the freedmen.
From, perhaps, one-third of the counties, the superintendents report that the freedmen and their employers are getting along passably well together.
The chief superintendent of East Tennessee reports that “the rights of the colored people are generally respected better in this section than almost any other part of the south. The contracts of the colored people are all made by themselves, and are generally verbal. Very few complaints are made of bad faith on the part of either whites or blacks."
Ex. Doc, 6- -9
LABOR AND SUPPORT.
The contract labor system, as applied in Tennessee, would undoubtedly have been a complete success if carried out in good faith. Contracts have generally been made for one year, and, when carried out in good faith by the employers, the result has demonstrated the propriety of long contracts. They serve to fix the freedmen in permanent homes, keep the families together, enable them to calculate and make plans for the future, and increase the amount saved at the end of the year. For the employers they give stability to all business operations, and it is believed would, in the end, inerease their profits. Unquestionably the yearly contract system, if it gives property to the freedmen more slowly, does it more surely, and by it the number of paupers and destitute is greatly reduced.
The form of contracts issued from the commissioner's office is that in general use in Tennessee, but, unfortunately, county superintendents have frequently varied from it, adding to or subtracting from.
The employers required more specific contracts, generally confining the freedmen more closely, requiring them to labor, whether for wages or an interest in the crops, under the supreme direction of the employer, confining them to the plantation at the pleasure of the employer, &c., &c., and stipulating for the forfeiture of wages on failure to comply with any of these provisions.
Wbile the bureau courts were in operation, there were few complaints of breach of contract, and these were generally settled in equity. Since the courts were abolished and all control over contracts was turned over to the civil courts, these complaints have multiplied, and as the crops mature and are laid by, the employers take advantage of these special provisions to find all sorts of pretexts for turning away their hands without wages or share in the crops. Unfortunately for the freedmen, these bad men have ample facilities, by their knowledge of law and the prejudices of the courts, to make the worse appear the
The freedmen are, as a general thing, laboring well and faithfully for themselves and the interests of their employers. It is believed that about one-half of them in the agricultural districts are at work for an interest in the crops. More than one-half of all of them are laboring under contracts of some kind. The agents of the bureau have made and registered for the last season about 20,000 contracts, including about 50,000 persons, adults and children.
About 500 orphan children have been found homes and apprenticed under the form provided by the State law, with an education clause added. The freedmen have established beyond doubt the fact that they can support themselves if granted their rights.
It is believed that with justice there will be very little suffering among them the coming winter, except among the old, the sick, the widows and orphans, especially about the crowded towns. The crops will furnish subsistence for the entire population, except perhaps in meat. Much more cotton has been planted this season than ever before ; it will, however, produce not much more than half a crop.
The corn crop in East and Northern Tennessee is at least an average crop, and will perhaps make up in those localities for the failure in the rest of the State. The wheat has produced about half a crop. Tobacco will be fully an average crop, and more planted than usual. Hogs bare suffered from hog cholera, and there will probably be less than one-half the usual amount of pork. The total amount of land under cultivation will not fall much short of that of 1860.