Commander of the U.S.S. Vermont to the Commander of the South Atlantic Squadron

[Port Royal Harbor, S.C.]  Dec. 9 [1863]

Sir:  I have rec'd your letter in repect to distributing the contrabands on board this ship, if they can be used more advantageously elsewhere, and beg leave to say that without these Contrabands, the work which devolves on this ship cannot be carried on.

When I took command of the Vermont a year ago, there were then One Hundred and Eighty Contrabands on board besides her crew and have not seen the day since, when they could be spared.

This ship has to wait upon every vessel that comes here, more or less, with boats & working parties, besides attending to her own economy, discharging vessels, &c. &c. and I shall be at a loss to get along if her complement should be weakened.  In fact I cannot get time to attend properly to the requirements of the Ship herself, as I have to meet so many demands for labor outside of her.

[William Reynolds]

[William Reynolds] to Admiral, 9 Dec. [1863], vol. 3, p. 32, Letters Sent by Comdr. William Reynolds, Letterbooks of Officers of the U.S. Navy at Sea, Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records & Library, Record Group 45, National Archives.

Published in The Wartime Genesis of Free Labor: The Lower South, pp. 275–76.