Statement of a Tennessee Freedwoman

[Chattanooga, Tenn., February 27, 1866]

Statement of Anna Irwin Washerwoman in Genl Field Hospital D[epartment of the]. C[umberland]

Commenced work at Rasacca Geo. in the month of April 1864–remained there about two months–  then went to Big Shanty Stopped there four days–  went to Cartersvill stayed ther four days–  then went to Marietta stayed there about three weeks–  then went to Vining station stayed there about two Months   then went to Atlanta & stayed there about two months.  then came to Chattanooga Tenn   All the time under the charge of surgeon Woodruff   When we came to Chattanooga were turned over to surgeon E. L. Bissell.  then went to Huntsvill AL.  left there on Christmas day 1864   then went to Bulls Gap Tenn remained there one month   then went to Nashvill where we remained untill we were mustered out.–  was to recieve four dollars pr week.  Anna acted as foreman and was to recieve $5.00 pr week.  they have recieve but $4400.  Stewart Johnson & John Hardenberg took the money and made away.  The other claimants names are Laura Irwin Rhoda Willis and Milly Humphries

The above named persons were discharged at Nashvill Tenn June 16th 1865 by virtue of special orders No 3 Gen Field Hospital, by E. L. Bissell  Surg 5 Conn. Vols in charge

Statement of Anna Irwin, [27 Feb. 1866], enclosed in Lt. Col. F. E. Trotter to Surgeon Genl. U.S.A., 27 Feb. 1866, T-1 1866, Registered Letters Received, series 3448, Chattanooga TN Superintendent, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. In the same file is a copy of the special order of June 16, 1865, that discharged the four women from service at the general field hospital in Nashville and instructed them to report to an assistant quartermaster for transportation to Chattanooga. In October 1865, according to other documents in the file, Anna Irwin and her co-workers had presented a similar account of their wartime employment to the Freedmen's Bureau assistant superintendent at Chattanooga and solicited his aid in collecting their wages. The superintendent had reported the case to the medical director of the Department of Tennessee, who advised him to “request the Surgeon General US.A. to examine the Pay Rolls of Col'd employees of Gen'l Field Hospital Army of the Cumberland for the year 1864–5.” (Capt. N. B. Lucas to Surgeon Cooper, 19 Oct. 1865, and endorsement of Surgeon Geo. E. Cooper, 23 Oct. 1865.) That bureau superintendent had apparently taken no further action on behalf of the freedwomen, but his successor, after taking Irwin's statement of February 27, 1866, promptly forwarded it to the surgeon general in Washington, noting in a covering letter that “[d]aily applications are made at this office for settlement of similar claims many of which bear evidence of fraud haveing been practiced on the Negro by persons connected with the army.” On March 26, 1866, the surgeon general's office returned the papers to the bureau superintendent at Chattanooga, with the following endorsement: “There is no information on file in this Office, relative to the employment, or payment, of the women named within. After so long an interval and the discharge of many of the officers in charge, it is impossible to take any action in the absence of certified accounts, or certificates of service.”

Published in The Wartime Genesis of Free Labor: The Upper South, pp. 466–67, and in Free at Last, pp. 230–31.