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CLAIM DEPARTMENT. I have the honor to submit the following extract from report of John Lawrence, superintendent Davidson county and chief of claim division : Number of pension claims forwarded to WashingtonOn account of wife....
46 On account of mother
13 On account of children
1 On account of father
1 On account of soldiers
Number of these claims collected ....
5 Number of back pay and bounty claims forwarded to Washington. 340 Number of the above claims collected...
3 Number of commuted ration claims forwarded to Washington
128 All the above have been allowed, and seventeen of them have been cashed.
Number of claims collected for labor on fortifications, Nashville, (cashed in the city,) average of 40 per month.
Independent of the foregoing, numerous private claims have been collected, legal advice has been daily given, and suits of freedmen continually prosecuted in the civil courts.
The claim department of this office, until within a few months past, since the abolishment of the freedmen's courts, was in the hands of inexperienced officers, while the blanks furnished both to the sanitary and bureau agencies were very defective. We consequently found things in a very bad condition, but at length have succeeded in setting matters to rights; and although but few returns have yet been made, the business will compare favorably with any private agency. We are now endeavoring to get widows, orphans, and all others entitled to bounties, &c., to come forward at once and make application, while several hunaied discharged soldiers are awaiting our instructions to file claims for additional bounty. Full instructions having been received for the collection of this last class, a large number will be made up and forwarded as soon as praeticable. Special attention will be given to the collection of these claims, as otherwise the freedmen are sure to be fleeced by attorneys and claim agents.
* 162 en route to Liberia.
On assuming charge of affairs I found this department considerably mixed. The former owners of property still on our books are quietly in possession, either themselves or by their agents, and the bureau is exercising no authority over it. Much of the property is rented to irresponsible occupants, and rents cannot be collected. The revenues had dwindled to a very small sum. No reports had been made, and it was work of weeks to straighten the business up. I have had prepared complete reports as follows:
I. Report of all property on our books as in our possession September 30, 1865.
II. Report of all property seized or taken up during the year ending September 30, 1866.
III. Report of all property restored during the year ending September 30, 1866.
IV. Report of all property on hand September 30, 1866.
A consolidated report of the above in figures shows the amount of each kind of property, as accounted for in said report, as follows:
Consolidated report of abandoned property in the State of Tennessee.
Now that we know how this property stands on our books we hope to soon ascertain its exact condition, and make such disposition as will make it more profitable.
Much of this property is in such anomalous condition as to require further instructions from the commissioner-namely: There is much of it that has been long on our books, and over which the bureau has never exercised any jurisdiction. On inspection by Lieutenant Groesbeck, the owners are found in possession; they have the President's pardon, or have taken the amnesty oath. In many instances General Fisk directed that an entry be made in the books as follows: "Not under the control of the bureau.” But no order has ever been issued restoring it, nor any papers filed on which such order can be issued.
When Major Fowler visited this office in September, a list of written questions was placed in his hands for solution, and I was assured special instructions regarding this property would be sent me immediately. They have never come to hand. I have the honor to forward a duplicate, herewith enclosed, with request for instructions.
RECEIPTS AND DISBURSEMENTS. I have the honor to forward herewith, marked exhibit K, a complete report of all receipts and expenditures for the year ending October 31, 1866. This does not include reports of rents, &c., received in October, complete returns for which have not come to hand. The amount for the year ending November 1, 1866, is as follows:
REFUGEES AND FREEDMEN'S FUND. On hand November 1, 1865....
$91, 125 02 Rents from abandoned lands.
47, 380 74 Fines, contracts, &c......
Total refugees' and freedmen's fund...
139, 224 55
$5, 000 00 6, 380 00
750 00 750 00
Salaries of assistant commissioner, superintendents, agents, &c...
1, 000 00 2, 500 00 1, 657 58
840 00 11, 500 00
Total received from appropriation fund...
30, 977 58
Total receipts from all sources..
170, 202 13
Total expenditures for the year ending November 1, 1866, have been as follows, among which I would call attention to the sum of $60,102 47 transferred to officers, transferred to chief accounting and disbursing officer at Washington, and to miscellaneous, postage, rents restored, telegrams, &c., about $20,000 of which was in rents restored :
EXPENDITURES FREEDMEN AND REFUGEES' FUND.
Appropriation fund. Total. Salaries of assistant commissioner, superintendents, agents, &c...
$4, 305 54
$6, 075 54 Salaries of clerks and laborers..
21, 581 88
25, 952 95 Stationery and printing .......
3, 778 98
4, 094 38 Quarters, offices, and fuel.....
2,012 71 511 37
2, 524 OS
The above expenditures include the expenses in the State of Kentucky, up to the 15th day of June, 1866, and certain expenses which accrued in the State previous to that date, but which have been paid since. No part, however, of the receipts accrued in the State of Kentucky.
There are now on duty in the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, State of Tennessee, twelve commissioned officers, viz: one colonel and brevet brigadier general, one lieutenant colonel, one major, (surgeon) one captain and brevet major, (quartermaster,) five captains, one first lieutenant, one second lieutenant and brevet captain, and one second lieutenant.
A complete roster of the above is forwarded herewith, marked exhibit L.
The whole number of civilian agents and employés in the service of the bureau is fifty-five, viz: One school superintendent, at a salary of....
$150 00 per month. One county superintendent, at a salary of.
100 00 Three county superintendents, at a salary of.
75 00 Four county superintendents, at a salary of.
50 00 Thirty county superintendents.
the fees of the office. Twelve clerks, at a salary of....
100 00 per month. One ambulance driver, at a salary of.
30 00 Two watchmen, at a salary of
30 00 One watchman, at a salary of.
30 00 One watchman, at a salary of..
25 00 A complete roster of the above is herewith forwarded, marked exhibit M.
The necessary orderlies are detailed from the troops serving at the various posts.
To conclude this report, I may say that the “bureau ” in Tennessee has become simply the almoner of the government bounty. The last clause of the 14th section of the last “bureau” bill has shorn it of all its authority in this State.
“ The courts of the State and the United States are not disturbed in the peaceable course of justice." (nor the peaceable course of injustice,) and the State is "fully restored in its constitutional relations to the government" and “duly represented in the Congress of the United States."
Without we have an agent in every judicial district, and each agent a firstclass lawyer, we can do comparatively little in stemming the general tide of petty injustice toward the freedmen.
Our agents have been generally honest and faithful in the discharge of their duties, and, I believe, entirely free from corruption. They have generally had the confidence of the colored people, and been above reproach by the wbites. They have done what they could for the interests of the freedmen. They stand as next friend to them, advise and assist them in the course to be pursued to obtain their rights, and, undoubtedly, simply as a corps of observation, prevent very much oppression and injustice.
They hold still the eye of the law and of justice over the evil-doer, although in part shorn of the hand of power. The bureau agents stand nearly as private individuals, but dispensing the bounty of the government. The greatest good yet remaining for them to do is to aid and foster the educational movement
. The schools established and school-houses built and freedmen educated are the seed sown in this land of oppression that shall spring up in soldiers strong and mighty to resist the oppressor and strive for their rights. I believe it is not true that the bureau increases the load of injustice the freedmen have to bear by the opposition it keeps alive in their enemies. It is no abstract thing that the enemies of the bureau are fighting for in urging its removal. It is a stone in their path, and a thorn in their side, which prevents their moving on to and settling quietly into nearly the same despotic control of the freedmen they enjoyed in times of slavery.
Unless the State shall be placed in a condition so that the loyal minority may be allowed to govern, I do not see how the difficulties of the freedinen are to be remedied. Political changes and time may bring them relief.
In the present state of affairs I can only recommend that the authority of the assistant commissioner be extended to the utmost in regard to building and repairing school-houses and furnishing them; furnishing transportation for supplies, both for school purposes and to supply the destitute; and power to employ legal aid for the bureau agents and freedmen in serious and important I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. R. LEWIS, Brevet Brigadier General, Assistant Commissioner Tennessee. Major General (). O. HOWARD,
Commissioner, fr., War Department, Washington, D. C.
HEADQUARTERS BUREAU OF Refugees, FREEDMEN
Galveston, October, 1866. GENERAL: In accordance with orders contained in circular letter from War Department, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, Washington, D. C., October 2, 1866, requiring me to make a report, to be embodied in your annual report to the President, I have the honor to submit the following: