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Two letters about the Texas Freeedman's Bureau


[Serial Set, volume 1330. 'Removal of Hon E. M. Stanton and others. Letter from General Grant, in answer to the resolution of the House of Representatives of date November 26, 1867, ..., pages 59-60.]
GALVESTON, February 7, 1866.
General RAWLINS, Chief of Staff:

I arrived here yesterday and hope to get away to-morrow for Brazos--two days on this infernal gulf in a norther, and the prospect of five or six more.

I have talked with the officers and some of the people here, and from what I see, think the feeling rather more bitter than at New Orleans, as if A. J. Smith's opinion, that they were only about half whipped, was true. One man, an ex-confederate navy officer, was very savage on a negro regiment brought here for fatigue duty, denounced it as an outrage and intended humiliation of the people; would evidently like the privilege of shooting them when they ran across. I told him why they came, and he was a little quieter, though I don't suppose he thought it sufficient reason. A squad of them were marching down street the other day and met some white men, who did not give way. The corporal undoubled files so as to get them through easily; but one of the citizens, thinking a negro hit him with his elbow in passing, struck the soldier with his cane, whereupon soldier number two hit citizen an astonisher under his ear. Of course was an outrage, and in good old times the negroes would have been lynched. In the present case, investigation showing the negroes not in fault, the citizens were advised to let the soldiers alone in future, to their great indignation and disgust. Some of the citizens, rebels, find great fault with General Gregory, charging him with putting erroneous ideas in the heads of the negroes, telling them they can break their contracts when they please, &c.

I have had quite a large talk with him, and while I think he probably tells some plain truths to the unreconstructed in a plain way, also think him a very good man for his place; determined to make the whites do their part, and just as determined to make the negroes do theirs, his idea evidently being that the negro should have precisely the same rights as the white man--no more and no less.

After all, when we think that a year ago 400,000 blacks in this State were slaves; that to-day they are free; that now nine-tenths of those blacks are working well at from $8 to $15 per month and found, or for from one-fourth to one-half the crop they raise; that the planters are anxious for still more colored labor, and that so far it is working steadily, we ought to be surprised that such a great change has been so easily made and has progressed so far. In 1860 there were 180,000 slaves here, General Gregory tells me, and now 400,000. This shows how many have run into Texas for safety.

The labor question here and in Louisiana is rapidly settling itself. Canby thought it would be fixed in six or eight months permanently; Gregory thinks in a year. This is surely all we could hope for; but here, as in Louisiana, every one says no withdrawal of martial law or troops, if Union men are to stay here. Several here have asked to be notified whenever it was contemplated, that they might leave first.

I do not know that I spoke in my letter from New Orleans of one thing said to me by several citizens as well as by officers--that the day of large plantations is over; that to raise cotton and to control the labor well the planters already see the number of hands must be small. Without my reference to it General Gregory spoke of the same thing here, and says it is inevitable; indeed, that thirty per cent. of the cotton raised this year, which he thinks will be as large a crop as was ever raised, will be by small planters, many of them Germans, not employing more than eight or ten hands.

When southern plantations are like northern farms the great element of difference betwen north and south will have disappeared with slavery.

The citizens with whom I have spoken think the negroes will raise about half the crop they would raise if slaves. This differs materially from General Gregory's estimate, and the truth is doubtless between the two. Three-fourths of a crop for the first year of emancipation is far better than would have been hoped.

Very truly yours,

C. B. COMSTOCK,
Brevet Brigadier General and Aid-de-Camp.
[ibid., page 111]
HEADQUARTERS PORT CLINTON,
Clinton, Texas, April 13, 1866.

CAPTAIN: In obedience to circular No. 4 I have the honor to state that everything is getting on very quietly excepting the treatment of freedmen. It appears that the civil authorities pay no attention to their complaints, and they allow them to be beaten and swindled with impunity, without taking any notice or using the slightest exertion to bring the offenders against freedmen to justice.

If freedmen come to my camp to make any complaints they are sure to be threatened with corporal punishment by a gang of desperadoes who have nothing at stake, and in some cases even with their lives, for reporting their wrongs. However, they have not executed any of their threats since I have been stationed here. What they may do after the troops are removed from this post I am unable to say. One thing is certain, that they have effectually terrified these poor people, to such an extent that they say after we leave here it will be worse for them than it was in time of slavery, as then they had their masters to protect them, and now their only protection is the United States troops.

I made an arrest on the 10th instant of two citizens; their respective names are Augustus Gilmanot and Gilbert Gar, by the order of Brigadier General E. M. Gregory, assistant commissioner Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, State of Texas, for unmercifully flogging two freedmen, and ordered to retain them until further orders. Please to instruct me if I am subject to his orders.

The health of my men is exceedingly good, and my horses are improving rapidly; the grass being very good in the vicinity of my camp.

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


GAZA HARAZTHY,
Captain 18th N.Y. Cav. Vols., Commanding Post.

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revised 2 Aug 05
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