Mississippi Freedman to the Freedmen's Bureau Commissioner

Vicksburg Miss.  Oct. 6th/66

General   At a Freedmens meeting held in this city today a week a committee was appointed to obtain all the information attanable in regard to the Eighty Acre Homestead Lands.1  in furtherence of that. a sub. committee called upon Gen. Wood   he could give no Information   We then sent one of the committee out to Jackson and the Land officer there–(at leest the one it was published whoe had received the appointment. (Mr. Austin Morgan) could give no information about it and now General we ask of you in the Name and on the behalf of three hundred heads of Families, whoe during this year have been cultivating cotton and some of whom had to pay as high Ten and twelve dollars per acre Rent, and whoe owing to the Army worm–the Land Owners–and being held to “what was nominated in the bond.”  We ask of you we beg of you to Hurry up these Laggard Land officers.  Our people Will go on any Land in a Body or in 80 acre patches here & there–any where to be saved from paying all they can earn to the owners of the soil and have the owners manage by hook or by crook to get all.

Approved by the Committee

(signed)  A. W. Ross
chair man

Henry Mayson secretary

A. W. Ross to Gen O. O. 'Howard, 6 Oct. 1866, R-118 1866, Letters Received, series 15, Washington Headquarters, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. In reply, a clerk at the commissioner's headquarters sent Ross and Mayson a copy of the homestead law and informed them that “free transportation and subsistence for one (1) month will be furnished by this Bureau to Freedpeople who have selected lands upon which to locate.” (Fred Wooster Owen to Messrs A. W. Ross & Henry Mason, 22 Oct. [1866], vol. 79, p. 75, Press Copies of Letters Sent, series 3, Washington Headquarters, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.) General Thomas J. Wood, to whom the freedpeople had initially applied, was the bureau's assistant commissioner for Mississippi. “Little has been accomplished under the homestead act,” he reported at the end of October, “for the reason that little or no information has been obtained as to the position or extent of the three millions of acres of public lands scattered throughout the State, though every possible means has been taken to obtain maps and necessary records for the prompt execution of the provisions of the act. We now await the necessary maps and records upon the application made to the Commissioner of the Bureau . . . from this office some months since, and also for the opening of a land office, which was asked from this office in July last.” (Brevet Maj. Gen. Th. J. Wood to Major General O. O. Howard, 31 Oct. 1866, in U.S. Congress, Senate, “Letter of the Secretary of War, Communicating, in Compliance with a Resolution of the Senate of December 17, 1866, Reports of the Assistant Commissioners of Freedmen, and a Synopsis of Laws Respecting Persons of Color in the Late Slave States,” 3 Jan. 1867, Senate Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 2nd sess., No. 6, serial 1276, p. 96.)

1. The Southern Homestead Act, approved on June 21, 1866, authorized homestead settlement on public lands in Mississippi and four other states, in tracts of up to eighty acres. For a more detailed description of its provisions, see Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 921–22n.

Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 941–42.