Chaplain of a South Carolina Black Regiment to the Aide-de-Camp of the Freedmen's Bureau Assistant Commissioner for South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, Enclosing Affidavits of Three Georgia Freedmen

Savannah Ga.  June 7th 1865

Capt. Ketchum   I enclose the statements of three men who have just come in from the country about 150 miles west on the Gulf Rail road.  They agree with what I have heard from many others comeing from different parts of the state, And clearly show that the old slave system is as much in force today in many counties as it was two years ago.  The Statements were taken in great haste and are badly written and imperfect, but if you see fit to refer them to the General1 I trust he will be able to read the main facts.  I believe it is time something should be done and hoping that our present District Commander is an earnest friend of the people I have retaken them had them acknowledged and sworn to before the Adj't and forwarded to him–Maj Genl Birge–  Respectfully Your Ob't Servt

J. H. Fowler



[Savannah, Ga., June 5, 1865]

My name is Tall Boyd   I have lived Lowens Co. on the Gulf Rail Road Station Valdoster No 15.  I belonged to James Howel.  I left Mr Howels at the above place a week ago last Thursday arrived in this City last Wednesday.  James Howel come home from the war, where he was Lieutenant, about the Middle of April last.  His Brother Charles had care of the people.  One week ago Tuesday Charles Howel told us all we were free and told me when you go home you tell James you are free.  I went home and Master James told me to go about my business.  I thought I would have one day and went a fishing and come home to my wife Wednesday night bringing some honey.  Charles Howel had met me before I come home while cutting a bee tree and said “Did you leave James because you were free?  I said Yes, I wanted something to eat   You know I don't get any meet, & I though I would go a fishing.  Then he asked what did you come here for, and I said, “to cut my bee tree”   He then said If I had had a niggar on my place, Tall, that wanted to be free Id set him adrift.

I knew I was ruined

my mother who lived with Master James, sent word to me not to come home for Master James swore he would kill me.

I was much frightened and in the night went up to the Rail Road about 15 miles to See my brother and he advised me to come to Savannah   I came secretly

After I left my brother I was followed to Santilla river by dogs, and men on horses.

About the first of May Mr Gibson and John boyde white men run Scott Boyd two train of hounds all day and then he got away through some water and they Come up with him again in about a week and run him ten miles–

Soon after James Howel come home he whipped Patty a colored woman with about 75 lashes and My Sister Maria about 60 lashes.

Mr Tilman who lives near there just a little before I come off–the week before I left whipped his man Willis about 250 lashes, because he let his mare get out of the Stable

So far as I know all the white people hold the negroes as slaves now and work them.  This is the case I am certain for an hundred miles west of the Altamaha

I solemnly sware that the within statement was made by me on the 5th day of June and is true according to the best of my knowledge and belief

Tal Boid

[In the margin]  I solemnly sware that the statement here made by me is true–
Tall X Boid– witness J. H. Fowler–Chaplain 33d U.S.C.T.



Savannah [Ga.]  June 5th 1865

My name is Frank Frazier   I lived in Clinch Co. Ga at station No. 1[1], Atlantic and Gulf R.R.

I belonged to Eli Millett agent of the ware house.  I had lived there three or four years   was taken there from near Fernandina [Florida] when the Yankees took that twown.  I left there one week ago this night arrived here yesterday at 12 oclock.  I left home Sunday night about dark   my master did not know I was coming   I come secretly   I travelled only in the night till I arrived at the bridge of the Altamaha bridge which I found guarded by rebels with guns

they halted me, asked me for a ticket,  I told them I had no ticket,  They said I could not pass till morning.

I thought I would cross after he went to bed.  I waited till late then crept into the bridge and found the guard laying down with his dog   He had a gun   I had come up with Three women & three children the night after I left home.  they were coming to their old home in Liberty Co.  They knew nothing about being free.  We all went about a half amile above the bridge in the woods and crossed on some logs   After we had crossed the Altamaha in this manner They put dogs after us.  This was about midnight.  We pushed on as fast as we could to moyans lake about a mile this side of the bridge

The bridge across the lake was burned   The dogs were pressing us hard.  the bank was about fifteen feet high.  I went down to the water as quick as I could.  I climb down on the posts of the trestle work to the water,  One woman threw down her child to me   I caught it.  This was her babe.  She then threw down to me her little daughter about five years old   I could not catch it and the current swept it away and it was drowned.

One of the other women threw down her little girl about 7 years of age.  I could not catch it, it was swept away and drowned.  Then the mothers got down and the other woman.  Another man had joined me with the women   we all got across the stream   I swam and the other man helped the women across on the logs   The dogs could not get over and we went on.  I thought at home I was a slave the same as ever.  I had heard the Yankees who come on the train say we were free but never heard my master say so or any body else who lived there.

I come away because my master would not allow me to go to see my wife who lived about six miles from my home.  The last time I had seen her was Sunday in April   This is the ticket he gave me last.  He had always given me one every saturday night   He said he would not give me one because the Yankees were on the road and I would get in bad company and run away.

I have no fault to find with his provision.  He gave us a peck of corn a week and gave us about a pound and a half of bacon a week.

On the Saturday before I left home my master Eli Millett whipped my sister with his own hand   I saw him do it.  He did it with a cowskin.  I think he gave her about fifteen blows   The marks are on her now.

My master has for the last five months been agent for his brother's estate and has whipped the people most powerfully and whips them the same now as ever.  About two weeks before I left home he whipped brother struck him a heavy blow over the eye   My brother run away and he offered twenty dollars in gold or twenty bushels of corn to any one who would hunt him up.

Two weeks ago today Martha Kirkland living at 10 [1/2] station with William Griffin, who owns her as slave or claims her was abused by Mrs Griffin, who wished to beat her.  Martha ran away.  They caught her at No 8 and carried her back.  Her brother Charles and her baby [ran] away with her & were caught.  Her child was carried back with her   Charles was left at No 7. where he came.  After they carried Martha back they whipped her right well.  I was there and know about it.

I solemnly sware that the above statement is true   I also sware that my wife who lives with D B Barstow 6 miles from where I lived is now held as a slave and has only four quarts of cow pease each week no meat no corn.  There are about thirty others on the place   they have the same treatment

Frank X Frazier



Savannah [Ga.]  June 5th 1865

My name is George King   I belonged to Mr John Scriven the former owner of the Scriven House Savannah.  I lived in Brooks Co was carried there with the rest of Mr Scriven's people from this place at the beginning of the war.  I left Brooks Countey a week ago last Saturday night arrived here last night at 12 oclock.  Mr Scriven had until recently lived in Valdoster   he is in town now I believe.  He used to come where I was, on the place he called his, every other day.  On the same place were 200 people belonging to Mr John Scriven, & Thomas Scriven   Mr. John Scriven was at the place two weeks ago last Friday and left for Savannah on the next day or said he intended to doso.

He never told us we were free never said anything about making any Contract with us or paying us.  We were working on the same way as when we went there till I left

All the people thought they were slaves.  I never knew I was free till I got to Savannah.  I came because I heard the Yankees were here.  Mr Scriven gave us only four quarts of corn to each hand, per week   we drew it whole and ground it in a hand mill.  This was our allowance for two weeks before I left.  before this we had a peck of corn each   we never had any meat but once while I was there.  I left because I had not enough to eat and because he told us the crop should be taken in if only two hands were left to take it in.  I never heard any person white or black say we were free till I cot to Savannah.

My place where I lived was Quitman Station No 16 1/2 on the Gulf road about twenty miles from Valdoster.

I saw many people on the rail road as I came along   all thought they were slaves   just one week before I left–that is about two weeks ago the overseer and the driver on the place where I lived,–Renolds was the name of the overseer and Agrippa that of the driver, whipped Hannah a slave belonging to John Scriven my owner–  They gave her sixty lashes, because she left the work in the field & went off in the wood.  She had only been gone about a half hour.  They stripped her to bare back and tied her.  Agrippa whipped her the first day and when Renolds come home he told him and Renolds whipped her next day   She got 75 lashes the first day and next day Reynolds gave her 60   Mr Scriven come up the very next day and Said nothing about it that I heard of.

I solemnly sware that the above statement made by me is true.

George X King–

Chaplain J. H. Fowler to Capt. Ketchum, 7 June 1865, enclosing affidavits of Tal Boid, 5 June 1865, Frank Frazier, 5 June 1865, and George King, 5 June 1865, F-5 1865, Letters Received, series 15, Washington Headquarters, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. Affidavits all sworn before Chaplain Fowler. In the same file is another letter from Fowler to the aide-de-camp, Captain Alexander P. Ketchum, who was in charge of Freedmen's Bureau affairs at Savannah; it summarized the statements of additional freedpeople who had been held as slaves in the interior before fleeing to the city. Urging strong action, Fowler suggested that “if an order were issued, requiring under severe penalty, that every man should inform his slaves they were free before a certain specified date and make a specific bargain with them or cease to work them, on or before that date, something might be accomplished.” He pressed Ketchum to act before the harvest began, lest “the crops raised and geathered by the negro” be claimed by the former owner and the laborer “be sent adrift with nothing to subsist upon.” “For humanity's sake,” he implored, “do not let this thing be delayed till the master robs the negro of all his summers work and then has an opportunity to boast that the negro out of his chains, has to be fed by the government.” (Chaplain J. H. Fowler to Capt Ketchum, 11 June 1865.)

1. General Rufus Saxton, the Freedmen's Bureau Assistant Commissioner for South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Published in Land and Labor, 1865, pp. 90–94.