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Report, Freedmen's Bureau in Texas, 1865

[sources: National Archives, Record Group 105, microfilm publication M821, reel 1 (Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Texas, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1869, Letters Sent, Volume 1), pages 65-70. Printed in the serial set as Senate Executive Document Number 27, 39th Congress, 1st session, serial set volume 1238. Because of small differences between them, I have transcribed both separately.]
[related file: Strong's report, based on the journey he began with Gregory]
[related file: transcribed letters sent by Gregory as Assistant Commissioner for Texas]


[serial set] [manuscript]
Report of Texas, by Brigadier General E. M. Gregory, Assistant Commissioner.
GALVESTON, December 9, 1865.
Head quarters
Bureau R. F. and A. L.
State of Texas
Galveston, Texas, Dec 9th 1865
109.
Howard, Maj Genl O O
Comr B R &c
GENERAL: I have the honor to make the following report, which, though brief, I trust will give you such information in reference to the operation sof [sic] the bureau in this State, and the present condition and future prospects of the freedmen, as may be satisfactory. Genl

I have the honor to make the following report which though brief, will I trust give you such insight into the operations of the bureau in this state, and the present condition and future prospects of Freedmen as may be satisfactory.
From the most reliable information I can obtain from my sub-assistant commissioners, the planters, farmers, and business men, as well as from personal observation, during a journey of some seven hundred miles through the cotton-growing regions of the State, I believe the crops of all kinds are garnered, and that we have an abundant supply of subsistence to meet the demands of all, white and black, for the coming year. The cotton crop, although probably not more than [serial set page 148] one-half as large as it has been some previous years, was so well gathered, and demands such high prices, that it will bring more wealth into the State than any which has heretofore been thrown into the market. This has been accomplished, principally, by the labor of the freedmen, and at a time, too, when under the influence of the excitement incident to their transition from bondage to freedom, and while they were more or less unsettled and undecided in their purposes. If such results have been produced by free labor, trammelled as it has been during the period of its inauguration by innumerable adverse interests and prejudices, may we not reasonably expect from it, when fully and thoroughly established, still greater and largely increased crops, and a corresponding increase in the wealth of the nation? Indeed, but little complaint has been made by their former masters, and even they, notwithstanding their hostility to every thing pertaining to freedom, in some instances have admitted that free labor will not only materially enhance the value of their property, but that it will infuse a spirit of enterprise, industry, and thrift, and that they will thereby become more virtuous, intelligent, and prosperous. From the most reliable information that I can obtain from my Sub Asst Coms the planters, farmers and business men, as well as from personal observation during a journal of some Seven hundred miles through the Cotton growing portions of the State, I believe the crops of all kinds are garnered, and that we have abundance of all kinds of Subsistance for all Classes, White and Black, for the coming year. The Cotton crop, though not more than one half as large as it has been some previous years, was so well garnered and [?] demands such high prices that it will bring more wealth into the state than any which has been heretofore thrown into the market. This has been accomplished principally by the labor of the freedmen, and at a time too when under the influence of the exitement [sic] incident to their transition from bondage to freedom, and while they were more or less unsettled and undecided in their purposes. If such results have been produced by free labor trameled as it has been during the period of its inauguration by innumerable adverse [?] interests and prejudices, may not we reasonably expect from it, when fully and thoroughly established, still largely increased and greater crops, and a corresponding increase in the wealth of the nation. Indeed, but little complaint has been made by their former masters, and even they notwithstanding their hostility to everything pertaining to freedom, in some instances have admited [sic] that free labor [page 66] labor [sic] will not only materially enhance the value of their property, but that it will infuse a spirit of enterprise, industry and thrift, and that they will thereby become more virtuous, intelligent and prosperous.
On the 10th ultimo I left Galveston, in company with Inspector General Strong, and travelled twenty-one days in the interior of the State, he taking one direction and myself another. During that time I met and addressed about 25,000 freedman and planters. In doing so, my efforts were directed to impressing upon the minds of both the necessity and importance of turning their attention to the preparation demanded by the business of the coming year, and in instructing the former in their rights and duties. I found that but few contracts had been made by employers and employees. Such as had been made were verbal ones. I urged them to contract at once, (furnishing them with a form,) beginning the first of January and ending with December, and thereby get themselves and their families comfortably settled on some plantation, and, if possible, to remain where they have been born and raised, and where all their family ties and associations are, if they were kindly and properly treated, as this course would be more pleasant, satisfactory, and profitable to all parties. I have recommended to them that they labor for a fair compensation in money, or a portion of the crop; and that if any of them possess the means, they purchase and cultivate such lands as they desire. The freedmen are well informed as to the value of their labor, as some of them have been hired out by their former masters ever since they have been of a sufficient age to make their labor profitable, and are not likely to be imposed upon by their employers. I have also endeavored to disabuse their minds of the false impression which has been made thereon by the rumor which some designing and evil-disposed parties have very industriously circulated among them, that on or about Christmas they would be placed in possession of the property of their former masters. On the 10th ultimo, I left Galveston in company with Inspector General Strong, and traveled [sic] 21 [?] days in the interior of the state, he taking one direction and myself another. During that time I met and addressed about 25,000 freedmen and planters. In doing so my efforts were directed to impressing upon the minds of both the necessity and importance of turning their attention to the preparation demanded by the business of the coming year, and instructing the former in their rights and duties. I found but few contracts made between Employers and Employees. Such as had been made were verbal ones. I urged them to contract at once (furnishing them with forms) beginning the first day of January ending December, and thereby get themselves and their families comfortably settled upon some plantation, and if possible to remain where they had been born and raised, and where all their families and attachments are, if they were kindly and properly treated, as this course would be more pleasing satisfactorily [sic] and profitable to all parties. I have recommended to them that they labor for a fair compensation in money, or a portion of the crop, and that if any of them possess the means they purchase and cultivate such land as they may desire.
  The freedmen are well informed as to the value of their labor for some of them have been hired out by their former masters ever since they were old enough to make their labor profitable, and are not likly [sic] to be imposed upon by their employers [page 67] I have also endeavored to disabuse their minds of the false impression that has been made thereon by false and deceiving persons and industriously circulated among them, that on or about Christmas they were to be placed in possession of the property of their former masters.
In our intercourse with the freedmen we have found them kind, courteous, and well disposed towards all. Rumors are freely circulated in different portions of the State that there is danger of an insurrection. This we do not believe, from the fact that irregularities and disturbances are becoming less frequent every day. If, however, one does occur, it will be brought about by the action of the whites, and not the freedmen, who, although somewhat elated by the possession of that long-wished-for blessing, (freedom,) have not and will not commit any act of aggression or lawlessness, but will quietly settle down in the "enjoyment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Since we have visited and spoken to the freedmen, we find that many who have heretofore refused to contract are now doing so, as their contracts are being forwarded to us for our approval; and from what we can learn from the sub-assistant commissioners, we fully believe that the work of adapting employers and employees to the circumstances by which they are surrounded is progressing rapidly. In our intercourse with the Freedmen we have found them kind, courteous and well disposed towards all. Rumors are freely circulated in various portations [?] of the state that there is danger of an insurrection. This we do not believe from the fact that irregularities are becoming less frequent every day. If however one does occur it will be brought about by the actions of the white man and not the Freedmen who though greatly elated by the possession of the long lookd for boon (freedom) have not and will not commit any act of lawlessness but will settle down in the enjoyment of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
  Since we have spoken to and visited the Freedmen we find that many who refused to contract are now doing so as these contracts are being forwarded to us for Approval. We fully believe that the work of adapting employers and employees to the circumstances by which they are surrounded is progressing rapidly.
The freedmen are, as a general thing, strongly impressed with religious sentiments, and their morals are equal, if not superior, to those of a large majority [serial set page 149] of the better informed and educated. We find them not only willing but anxious to improve every opportunity for their moral and intellectual advancement, and they are constantly inquiring for books and tracts of a religious character, there being some few among them who can read. Hence, we have had but little difficulty in opening and organizing schools, all of which, so far, we are pleased to be able to state, have been self-sustaining. We regret that we are compelled to report that we have not been able to give this portion of our labors that attention which its importance demands. This is owing, however, to the absence of Lieutenant Wheelock, our superintendent, and the want of proper books and a sufficient number of teachers. The lieutenant is now in New Orleans. The cause of his detention is, we presume, fully understood by you. We are daily expecting him to return, with such books and help as he may have been able to procure. Both are essentially necessary, if we improve in the future upon our past efforts. Some liberal-minded planters and business men have kindly and voluntarily offered us their assistance, and are doing all they can for the cause of education. What effort has been directed in this channel has been eminently successful, and we doubt not we will be able to show a marked and decided improvement in this department of our labors in our next report. The Freedmen are as a general thing strongly impressed with religious sentiments, and their morals are equal to if not Superior to those of a large majority of the better informed and educated. We find them not only willing but anxious to improve every opportunity offered for their moral and intellectual advancement, and they are constantly enquiring for books and tracts of a reglious [sic] character, there being some few among them who read. Hence we find but little difficulty in opening and organizing Schools all of which so far we are pleased to state have been self sustaining. We regret to report that we have not been able to give that portion of our labors that attention which its importance demands. This is owing, [page 67] however to the absence of Lieut Wheelock, our Superintendent, the want of proper Books and a sufficient number of teachers. The cause of his detention is I presume fully understood by you. The Lieut is now in New Orleans. We are daily expecting him to return with Such Books and assistance as [he] may be able to procure. both are essentially necessary if we improve in the future upon our past efforts. Some liberal minded planters and business men have kindly and voluntarily offered us their assistance and are doing all they can for the cause of education. What effort has been directed in this channel has been eminently successful and we doubt not we will be able to show a marked and decided improvement in this department of our labors in our next report.
The business of that portion of the State through which I have passed has been but little affected by the war. The planters are wealthy, crops are good, and nowhere are to be seen evidences of suffering and want. But few cases of destitute and impoverished freedmen have come under our observation. These we have relieved as best we could, there being no poor or alms houses in the State. The health of the freedmen is good, as will be seen by the report of the surgeon-in-chief, S. J. W. Mintzer. The buisiness [sic] of that portion of the state through which I have passed has been but little affected by the war. the planters are wealthy, the crops are good and no where are to be seen evidences of suffering and want. But few cases of destitution and improverished freedmen has [sic] come under our observation. These we have relieved as best we could, there being no poor or alms houses in the state. The health of the freedmen is good as will be seen by the report of S J W Mintzer Surgeon-in-Chief.
The testimony of freedmen is admitted in the courts of some of the judicial districts of the State, while in others it is excluded. It is my opinion that their rights are not properly acknowledged and guarded by the judiciary; but still there are encouraging indications that ere long they will receive that consideration to which they are entitled under the laws of the United States, and by the proclamation of the President. The testimony of the Freedmen is admitted in the courts of some of the Judiciary Districts of this State, while in others it is not. It is my oppinion [sic] that their rights are not properly acknowledged and guarded by the Judiciary, but still there are encouraging indications that ere long they will receive that consideration to which they are entitled under the law and the Proclamation of the President of the United States.
Some few difficulties have occurred between the blacks themselves, and the whites and blacks. These we have endeavored to adjust equitably and justly. In the settlement of differences which have grown out of past transactions of a business character, we have pursued such a course as will insure to the freedman all the rights and privileges to which he is lawfully entitled. Some few difficulties have occured [sic] between the blacks themselves and the blacks and whites. these we have endeavored to adjust equitably and Justly. In the settlement of differences which have grown out of past [page 69] transactions of a business character we have pursued such a course as will insure to the freedman all the rights and privileges to which he is lawfully entitled.
In some portions of the State, and especially it is the case where our troops have not been quartered, freedmen are restrained from their liberty, and slavery virtually exists the same as though the old system of oppression was still in force. The freedmen do not understand their true status, and their former masters, though acknowledging them to be free, practically deny the truth by their acts. With this class of men (and a few of the editors who still continue to misrepresent the object for which this bureau was instituted) we have more difficulty than any other, as they refuse to pay the laborer his hire, and it seems almost impossible for them to deal justly and honestly with him. This is owing, perhaps, to the fact that heretofore they have had his labor without compensating him therefor. In this respect, however, there are evidences of improvement, and I trust that in the future there will be less cause for complaint on this account. They must pay them, if they expect to employ "laborers worthy of their hire." In some portions of the State, especially it is the case where our troops have not been quartered, freedmen are restrained from their freedom and slavery as [?] virtually exists the same as though the old system of oppression was still in force. The Freedmen do not understand their new status and their former masters although acknowledging them to be free, practicably deny the fact by their actions. With this class of men (and a few of the Editors who still continue to Misrepresent the object for which this Bureau was instituted) we have more difficulty than any other, as they refuse to pay the laborer his hire, and it seems almost impossible for them to deal justly and honestly with him. This is owing to the fact that heretofore they have had his labour without compensating him therefor. in this resepct however there are signs of improvement. I trust that in future there will be less cause for Complaint on this account. They must pay them if they expect to employ "laborers worthy of their hire"
Owing to the vast extent of territory embraced in my district, I find great difficulty in procuring a sufficient number of officers who can render me that assistance, as sub-assistant commissioners, which is necessary to a proper discharge of my official duties. But few, comparatively, feel and manifest that interest in the advancement of the freedmen that they should. Owing to the vast extent of territory embraced in my district I find great difficulty in procuring a sufficient number of Officers who can render me that assisstance as Sub. Asst. Coms which is necessary to a proper discharge of their duties and my official duties. But few, comparatively, feel and manifest that interest in the advancement of the freedmen that they should.
[serial set page 150] Your letter of instructions of October 4, 1865, as far as it related to apprentices, cannot be applied here, as there is no such a law in the State. Any instructions that you have, which would be applicable in this case, will be thankfully received. Your letter of instructions of October 4 1865, so far as it relates to apprenticeship, cannot be applied here as there is no such law in the state. Any instructions that you may have which would be practable in this case will be thankfully received.
The military authorities of this department have rendered us all necessary assistance. The Military Authorities in this Dept have rendered us all Necessary Assistance.
My present labors are directed to the uniting of capital and labor. If I succeed in inducing the freedmen to settle down and enter into contracts with the planters--this accomplished, labor is applied to capital, future want and its attending train of evils will be driven from our midst, and the freedmen will become an educated, prosperous and happy race of people. This, by the blessing of God, I believe I will be able to accomplish. I can do so in no way so rapidly and effectually as by visiting and talking with them. For this purpose, I contemplate leaving here in a day or two for another town [sic] in the interior, from which I do not expect to return until after the first of January. [page 70] My present labors are directed to the uniting of labor and capital. if I succeed in inducing the freedment to Settle down and enter into contracts with the planters, this is accomplished, labor is applied to capital, future want and its attending train of evils will be driven from our Midst and the freedmen will become a happy, prosperous, and educated race of people. This by the blessing of God, I believe I will be able to accomplish. I can do So in no way so rapidly and effectually as by visiting and speaking with them. For this purpose I contemplate leaving here in a day or two for another tour in the interior from which I do not expect to return until after the first of January.
In the mean time, I am, general, yours, very respectfully,

E. M. Gregory, Brigadier General, Assistant Commissioner

Major General O. O. HOWARD, Commission Bureau Refugees, &c.
In the Mean time, I am Genl
Very Respectfully
Your Obed. Servt
E M Gregory
Bvt Brig Genl & Asst Comm


[The rest of this page is from the serial set only.]

Memorandum of report of General Gregory for November.

Believes that all crops are garnered, and that there is subsistence enough for all, for the coming year.

The cotton crop, although about half its usual size, will bring more wealth into the State than any previous one has. This has been made by the freedmen while in a transition state, and expects largely increased crops when the free labor system is developed. The former masters, although disbelieving in freedom, acknowledge that it will increase the value of property, and infuse a spirit of enterprise, and cause more intelligence, virtue and prosperity.

For twenty-one days was in the interior of the State with General Strong, and addressed 25,000 freedmen and planters, and urged contracting, furnishing forms. Found few contracts made, and these only verbal. Endeavored to disabuse their minds of the maliciously circulated report of the division of lands and property at Christmas. The rumor of the insurrection is unfounded. The freedmen are anxious to learn; schools self-sustaining, but lack books and teachers.

Business is little affected by the war; planters are wealthy; but few cases of destitution, and these speedily relieved., The health of the freedmen is good. The colored man's testimony is received in some courts, in others excluded. In some parts of Texas, slavery virtually exists. The planters acknowledge their slaves to be free, but deny it by their acts, by refusing to pay them. There are evidences of improvement, however. Has so much territory, that he has great difficulty in finding a sufficient number of sub-commissioners, and few of these manifest proper interest in the work.

Is no apprentice law in Texas, so he cannot apply circular letter, October 4. Wishes for instructions in this. Military authorities have rendered all necessary assistance. Intends making another tour to last till 1st January, to urge contracting.


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revised 3 Jul 02
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