Maryland White Unionist to the District of Columbia Freedmen's Bureau Assistant Commissioner

Prince Frederick [Md.]  September 14′ 1865

General Howard or those having charge of freedmen. at Washington DC.  I have been Called upon by Rindy M Allen the barrer of this.  [she] [. . .] me to state to you her condition and situation in regard to her children. whis is as follows.

She has a boy which she had hired last Christmas for which she was drawing wages. besides the boy was Clothed and fed, but it seems some time after the boy was hired out by his mother. that Ira Young her former master complains to the orphans Court and the said Court bound the boy to him (young)   the boy stayed with his employer about a month.  Young then replevys the boy. and the Justice or something in shape of a human being called a Justice of the peace decided that the boy was the property of young, notwithstanding it was proved on trial that the boy was hired out by his mother and she geting wages for him.  this man young treats the boy wors than a dog out to treated.  he neither feeds or cloths the boy   he does not get half enougth to eat and no cloths but what his mother gives him.

Some time ago the boy left young and it was some weeks before he could find him but he found him at last. and on last Sunday young with two others found out where the boy was at and carred him home again and whiped him–the boy in an unhuman manner and still has him yet,.  and I have stated in a former letter it is no use to appeal to the law here to have Justice done. in any Casese where a Colored person is to have or ought to have thre rights under the law. nor Can will it ever be any use as long as we have the officers of the that we now have.  I sugusted in a former letter an establishment of a milatary court which is the only way that Justice can be done here now.  as I before stated that the Colord people in this County. Can and would do very well if they Can have what they ought to have. that is to get there children un bound. or restored to them and have the privilege of hireing them or working them themselvs. in order that they can help now to surport there parrents in order that they may not be come a burthen opon the goverment.  but if this state of thing is suffred to be Contued–some of them will be Compelled to leave ther native place for other quatrs and thus be come a burthen on the Goverment when they might home here in native place and be a use to themselves and to a great many white people whou will hire them and gave them good wages. and so all would be benefited.  the Colord people ask of me to say that they ask the favor to interfare in ther behalf or appoint some person to do so. in order that they may be settled and know what to do.  It may be that some person have or may state that what is stated here by me is not so. but all I ask is an examination and you will find what I have stated is not as bad as it is.  it is to hoped that some thing will be done to have this matter investigated   as I before stated any information wanted Concerning this affar Can be had by addressing Joseph Hall at this place

I forgot to state that this woman rindy is now. held to bail for court to be trid in about tow weeks for persuading this boy to leave young. which she never did but I would not be surprised if she will be Convicted be cause she probly may not be able to have justice done her. when she is not even gilty of any offence   so you may know how justice is adminsterd here in this den of treason   yours truly

Joseph Hall

Please ansur this

Joseph Hall to General Howard or those having charge of freedmen at Washington D.C., l4 Sept. 1865, #16 1865, Letters Received, series 456, District of Columbia Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. Hall's rendition of the freedwoman's name was erroneous: Her son's surname was Allen, but hers was Smothers; and she evidently preferred Derinda to its diminutive form, Rindy. (See her affidavit, printed immediately below.) On September 19, 1865, an adjutant at the headquarters of the District of Columbia Freedmen's Bureau assistant commissioner informed Hall that “[t]he woman sent here by you will have all possible under the circumstances done in her behalf” and suggested that her son might be released on a writ of habeas corpus. “It is to be hoped,” concluded the adjutant, “that all will soon see the disadvantages of the policy, that [drives] labor elsewhere by its injustice.” (Lieut. S. N. Clark to Joseph L. Hall, Esqre., 19 Sept. 1865, vol. 6, p. 79, Letters Sent, series 449, District of Columbia Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.)

Affidavit of a Maryland Freedwoman

District of Columbia, City of Washington  18th day of Sept. 1865.

Mrs. Derinda Smothers, being duly sworn, states, that shortly after the passage of the emancipation act, she hired her son Jas. M. Allen, aged about 14 years, to Mr. Frederick Greyson, but with the understanding that he was to remain with his former master Ira Young, until christmas.  That Mr. Young told them that if they remained after that time, he would not pay them for their work.– That her son left the said Young, at the same time that the others of his slaves left.–  That the boy went to Mr. Greyson,s to work, & that Deponent recd, from Mr. Greyson pay for his services.  That Ira Young took possession of the boy,–claiming to have had him bound to him, though Deponent has never given her consent to anything of the Kind.  That during the past spring the boy ran away from Mr. Young–on account of ill usage–but was afterward caught & taken back.  That the said Young stripped him, tied him up & beat him in a most brutal manner.  That Deponent was arrested at the instance of said Young & put in jail–because she would not tell where the boy was, which she failed to do–as she did not Know where he was.–  That she was released on $500.00 bail–Mr. Gilbert Fowler going security for her appearance.

(Signed)  Derinda X Smothers

Affidavit of Derinda Smothers, 18 Sept. 1865, enclosed in Col. John Eaton, Jr., to Maj. Genl. O. O. Howard, 18 Sept. 1865, Unregistered Letters Received, series 16, Washington Headquarters, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. Sworn before an adjutant at the District of Columbia Freedmen's Bureau headquarters.

Published in The Wartime Genesis of Free Labor: The Upper South, pp. 544–46. Hall's letter is also published in Free at Last, pp. 376–78.