Northern Minister to a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts

Seminary near Fortress Monroe Va Jan 29 /62

Respected Sir,  I wrote you, as you remember, by Mr Coan, a few weeks ago concerning the desirableness of a Committee of Investigation to search into the affairs of the Colored Refugees at Fortress Monroe.  I was told that it was seen reported in a paper that you had moved the appointment of such a Committee.  Will you please inform me soon whether one has been appointed.  With this request I will respectfully present other urgent reasons for such appointment

Contrabandism at Fortress Monroe is but another name for one of the worst forms of practical oppression–government slavery.  Old Pharaoh slavery was government slavery, and Uncle Sam's slavery is a Counterpart–the subordinate officials of the latter vieing with the taskmasters of the former in bad preeminence.  And Genl Wool, through fear, acts the Gallio,1 ignoring as far as possible all responsibility in reference to the delicate matter.  Masters who are owners or who have been brought up with their slaves; but what do government officers generally care how they treat these poor waifs, who have been cast upon their heartless protection.

But by what constitutional right does government treat these persons as slaves?  Certainly not on the basis of the Fugitive Slave law, whose provisions are of a specific character, and give sanction to no such treatment.  And by what military right does government become a great practical slaveholder?  Was it not enough to throw the shield over state slavery?  Must general government adopt the accursed system and reduce it to practical working to carry on the war or pay its expenses?  Yet such is the repulsive unconstitutional fact.  If a man was a slave by the laws of Virginia, his slave status is recognized by government; if free, his free status.  The free colored man is allowed to work for himself; or if he work for government, he is paid fair wages,–some, a dollar a day.  A few of the slaves are allowed to work for themselves, and they are making a good livelihood for themselves and families; & if all were allowed to do so–or were employed by government as freemen–there would be no want Among them.  But most of the slaves are compelled to work for government for a miserable pittance.  Up to two months ago they had worked for nothing but quarters and rations.  Since that time they have been partially supplied with clothing–costing on an average $4 per man.  And in many instances they have received one or two dollars a month cash for the past two months.  Some–an engineer Corps, at work on the rail-road, who were promised the pay of freemen by Genl Wool, and whose labor, according to the estimate of the Assistant Engineer, Mr Goddard, was valued at from one to two dollars a day, have recieved but one dollar cash for five & six months' work & but little clothing.  Genl Wool told me that from the earnings of these slaves a surplus fund of $7000. has been accumulated.  Yet, under the direction of Quarter Master Tallmadge, Sergeant Smith has lately reduced the rations, given out, in Camp Hamilton, to the families of these laborers and to the disabled, from 500 to 60.  And some of the men, not willing to see their families Suffer, have withdrawn from government service.  And the Sergeant has been putting them in the Guard-house, whipping and forcing them back into the government gang.  In some instances these slaves have been knocked down senseless with shovels and clubs–

But I have just begun to trace the long catalogue of enormities, committed in the name of Union, freedom and justice under the Stars and Stripes.  Yours with great respect

Lewis. C. Lockwood

P.S. I have sent duplicates of this to Senators Sumner, Hale, Fessenden & Wade; And Representatives Lovejoy and Van Wyck.–

L. C. L.

Addenda–  About 70 of the slaves are worked on the Sabbath and on an average three nights in the week, sometimes till 10 & 2 o'clock, and sometimes till morning, and then compelled to work on through the day.  For this extra work they get 50 cts for Sabbath & 50 cts for 3 nights' work; but in that case they do not receive the one or two dollars a month given to others.–
P.S. I understand that Genl Wool is to appoint a commission to which our mission will be accountable–  I hope it will not be another “High Commission”.

L. C. L

Lewis C. Lockwood to Hon. Senator Wilson, 29 Jan. 1862, L-130 1862, Letters Received, Office of the Secretary of War, Record Group 107, National Archives. Lockwood signed as “Missionary to the Colored Refugees at Fortress Monroe.”

1. Gallio was a Roman governor in Corinth during the apostle Paul's sojourn there. When a group of Jews complained that Paul's proselytizing in their synagogue was “contrary to the law,” Gallio refused to rule on the charges, insisting that because they involved religious and not civil law he would “be no judge of such matters.” (Acts 18:12–17.)

Published in The Wartime Genesis of Free Labor: The Upper South, pp. 112–14, and in Free at Last, pp. 170–72.