District of Columbia Freedwoman to the Headquarters of the Freedmen's Bureau Assistant Commissioner for the District of Columbia; and Affidavit of Her Husband in Virginia

Lincoln Depot. Washington D.C.  Novr 17, 1866.

Colonel:  I have the honor to state that on the 16th inst. (yesterday) my husband, James Lacy, together with Mr. Saml. Ricksey, his former owner–& with whom he is now living, near Culpepper C.H. Va, came to the residence of my mother–& took from her, my daughter Julia, not year two years of age–and carried her away with them to Va.–  My husband has done nothing to assist in supporting me for the past two years–nor has he assisted in providing for the child.

I am working at Mr. W. H. Hildreth's–& have supported the child from the proceeds of my own labor.–

I respectfully ask that measures may be taken to have her returned to me.–  Very Respectfully– Your ob't Servant.

Mary X Lacey

Culpeper CH Va  November 28th–\66

James Lacey (cold) of Culpeper Co Va being duly sworn deposeth as follows–  I married Mary Allen my present wife who is now in Washington D.C about two years prior to the commencement of the late war.  We lived togather as man & wife until October–\66–  Work got dull in Washington & I was obliged to leave there & look for work elsewhere   being acquainted in Culpeper Co Va I very naturally came there & succeeded in getting employment with my former Master Mr Samuel Rixey who pays me ($12.) twelve dollars a month–during the winter months & is to pay me $15 fifteen dollars a month during the summer month and will give me a good house for a home for my wife Mary & child–  When I left Washington in Oct \66 Mary refused to come with me. assigning as a reason for decling to come. “that she did not intend to come among the old secesh” any more”   As I could not make sufficient to support her & child in Washington D.C I was obliged to leave there as before stated.  I am now ready and able to take good care of my family–  I had money when I left there to pay Marys transportation here but she would not go with me.  I am still willing to send Mary money to come here but am unwilling to give up my child–  I have always supported Mary & my child up to the time I left Washington D.C (Oct \66)  I am still willing to do so. but I cannot do so unless Mary will come where I am–

on or about the first of the present month I came to the Office of Bvt Capt W. A. MacNulty Asst Supt Freedmen at Culpeper C.H Va and stated my case to him telling him that I had tried in evry way to get Mary to come to me but had failed   the Capt told me I had better go to Washington & try to induce Mary to come with me–

I did go to Washington–& saw Mary & she refused to come with me–

I went to my wifes mothers house to see my child Julia and found her in very destitute condition.  I asked my mother in law “if the child had no better clothing than it had on”  she said the child has no clothing “she needs clothing now”  I said I'll take Julia & see that she has clothing”

I accordingly took the child with me on Fiday evening Nov 16th & came to this place the next day–  I got my sister here. to make up good winter clothing for Julia and she is now comfortably clothed. & well cared for & I feel unwilling to have her go back where I am satisfied she was badly treated

James X Lacey

Mary Lacey to Col. W. W. Rogers, 17 Nov. 1866, and affidavit of James Lacey, 28 Nov. 1866, #179 1866, Letters Received, series 456, DC Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. Both documents witnessed. In the same file is a letter of November 16 from Mary Lacey's employer, the chief clerk in the quartermaster's department at Lincoln Depot, written at her request. Identifying her as his servant, he reported that her husband “who does not support his wife, and lives in Va has this day obtained her child under two years of age, and taken it away with him–”; he asked the Freedmen's Bureau to intervene. (W. H. Hildreth to Brg. Gen. G. W. Balloch, 16 Nov. 1866.) Endorsements referred Mary Lacey's letter through bureau channels to Captain W. Augustus MacNulty, assistant superintendent for Culpeper and Orange counties, Virginia, who took James Lacey's affidavit and also compiled statements that James solicited from his own former owner and from Mary's. Mary's former owner declared that he believed James “to have been a Kind & affectionate husband to her whilst she remained a member of my family.” (Statement of B. M. Yancey, 25 Nov. 1866, in the same file.) Samuel Rixey, who had owned James and was now his employer, described him as a trusted slave, a devoted husband, and an industrious worker. “He had when a slave plenty of money, made by his handicraft, working at night, making door mats, brushes brooms, bottoming chairs & such things,” Rixey wrote, “so that he had more money than most free negroes, and now that he has good wages I dont see why he cant support his wife as well as anybody I know.” According to Rixey, ex-slaves who had known the Laceys ever since their marriage “say they never knew him to ill treat his wife in any way. . . . & if there had been any trouble I think I or some of these servants would have known it.” “I think Mary has treated Jim very badly after all his kindness to her,” Rixey told Captain MacNulty, “& that if she wont now live with him you ought to help him to free himself from all charges hereafter on her account. If Jim has at any time since he left here treated her roughly, I am sure she deserved it & more too than she got, for he never was quarrelsome in his life, but very polite at all times & even tempered. He came up here last summer & said work was dull in Washington & expenses large, I gave him work & in two weeks he earned ten dollars clear, but he got anxious then to see his wife & hurried back, promising to come up again, if he could not get along well there. I told him he could not afford to be going back & forth & that he ought to bring his wife or stay with her, he came again this fall & said he could not make any thing down there & that his health was not as good in Washington as in the Country & that he should not go any more as Mary would not come with him.” (Saml Rixey to Lieut McNulty, [25? Nov. 1866], in the same file.) Captain MacNulty concluded that “Mary Lacey has no just cause of complaint against her husband James Lacey.” “To my certain knowledge he has made evry effort to get her to return to him & I know him to be amply able to care for his family in a comfortable manner,” MacNulty reported. “[H]e came to me several times about his wife & I advised him to go to Washington D.C & try to induce her to return with him to this place– James is well known here and evry one seems to think Mary has acted very badly tword James.” (Bvt Capt W. Augs MacNulty to Maj W. R. Morse, 28 Nov. 1866, in the same file.) Additional endorsements transmitted Mary Lacey's letter, MacNulty's report, and the other documents through Freedmen's Bureau channels to the assistant commissioner for the District of Columbia.

Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 837–39.