Tennessee Freedman to the Commander of the Military Division of the Tennessee

Chattanooga tenn  July 18th 1866

Dear ser   I seat my self to write you a few lines to in form you the present condishon of a few of us at this time   I hope you will not think hard of me for so doing for a drowned man will ceach at a straw   here is all most a 100 famly here on the north side of the river   whe was put here by the Govermen on land that people had gone and left   now those men has come back after being discharg from the rebel Armey and is going to turn us out of house and home and not giv us time to gether the stuf of our gardens   we was put here by the goverment and they say if the yankeys has put us here they must provide for us we cant live on they land   they seen to hav a spite at us   amoung us there are good many musterd out soulders   they hav it to say to the great yankeys has come and what has they dun for you   they new that we was musterd at a late time so that weCould not make any crop al so did not get our bounty and they are mad with Us because we wer souldirs and they wer in the rebel Armey   they wan to take spite at us

I cant send my name for fear

if Trotter had not giv them permison to do so I wold write to you

[Endorsement] Hd. Qrs. Mil. Div. Tenn. Nashville Tenn.  July 21″ 66.  Respectfully referred to Bvt Maj. Genl. C. B. Fisk Asst. Com'r. Bureau of Refugees Freedmen & Abandoned lands   By command of Maj. Gen'l. Thomas  Wm D. Whipple Bvt. Brig. Gen'l. A.A.G.

[Endorsement] Bureau R.F&AL State of Tennessee  Ass't: Comr's Office. Nashville [Tenn.], July 23d 1866,  Respf'ly: referred to Bt Brig Gen F. E. Trotter Chief Supdt, Chattanooga Sub District whose attention is invited to Circular No 15– Par. 8– Bureau RF.&AL War Dep't– Sept 12th 1865–1  Report will be made to this office relative to the within complaint, returning this paper–  By order of Bt Maj: Gen C B Fisk Asst Comr Tenn  J E Jacobs. Bt Lt Col & AAG

[Endorsement] B.R.F.&A.L. Chattanooga Tenn.  Aug. 6th 1866.  Respectfully returned–

The land upon which these colored people are settled is known as the “Freedmens Village” and as I am informed was set aside for them by order of Genl Stedman while comdg this Dist.  They were all moved away from the city for fear of fire as the majority had huts and cabins close to the Govt. warehouses.  The party who sues for possession of the land is Mrs Cowatt–  She has never been in the Rebel Army that I am aware of   It is also claimed by W. L. Dugger of this city.  I have written to Genl Steadman at Washington for a copy of th order setting aside the lands   The suit was adjourn[ed] 15 days and a motion will be made to have it adjourned 15 days more to await an answer from Genl Steadman.  The first knowledge I had of the case at all was upon the receipt of this communication.  F. E Trotter. BB Genl & Chief Supt.

[Endorsement] Bureau R.F and A Lands  Asst. Commissioner's Office  Nashville [Tenn.] Aug 9 1866   Respectfully returned to Bvt. Brig Gen'l Trotter Chief Supt, Chattanooga Sub. Dis.  There is no authority for continuing These Freedmen on these lands and they should remove from them or arrange with the owners for occupation.  Gen'l Steadman's order was of course a War measure.  By order of Bvt. Maj Gen'l Fisk  Asst. Comr Tenn  H. S. Brown A.A. Genl

Unsigned to Jenreal Thomas, 18 July 1866, filed as B-18 1866, Registered Letters Received, series 3448, Chattanooga TN Superintendent, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. In March, a Freedmen's Bureau surgeon had reported that the “Freedmens Camp” on the north side of the Tennessee River was home to 80 able-bodied men, 125 able-bodied women, 500 children, and perhaps a dozen aged or infirm individuals. Many of the residents engaged in day labor in the city, he noted, and each family had its own quarters with “a small patch of ground fenced in, now under cultivation.” (AA Surg J. H. Van Deman to Brevet Lt Col. J E Jacobs, 5 Mar. 1866, filed under “L” 1866, Unregistered Letters Received, series 3380, TN Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.) That same month, an officer on General Fisk's staff who had been sent to Chattanooga to conduct an inspection described the settlement's residents as “subsist[ing] in some manner not apparent.” “A few have little carts with which they do hauling for irregular periods,” he reported, “others do day's work among the neighboring farmers, the women wash and some do sewing, while many of the men roam over the surrounding country begging or stealing for a living, and large numbers of the women live in vice and utter idleness.” He did allow that “the Freedmen's village is tolerably well policed, in fact much more cleanly than are the cabins of the freedmen in and south of Chattanooga.” (Bt Lt Col J E. Jacobs to Bt Maj: Gen: Clinton B. Fisk, 12 Mar. 1866, Inspection Reports, series 3390, TN Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.)

1. Circular 15 had been issued by General O. O. Howard, commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, on September 12, 1865. Its eighth section stipulated that land controlled by the bureau and under cultivation by freedpeople was not to be restored to former owners “until the crops now growing shall be secured for the benefit of the cultivators, unless full and just compensation be made for their labor and its products, and for their expenditures.” ( Land and Labor, 1865, pp. 431–33.)

Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 303–5.