Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
				Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

War Department - Contrabands Report #5



SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 128 Volumes. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901. 

WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, October 5, 1861.

Maj. Gen. JOHN E. WOOL,
Commanding Fort Monroe :
Please select 1,000 active men from the lot of fugitive contrabands now on
hand at Fort Monroe, and prepare them to accompany General Sherman's
expedition to the Southern coast. Have them ready to embark by the 15th of
October. General Sherman will provide transportation.
I have the honor to be, very truly, yours,

Acting Secretary of War.

Port Royal, S.C., December 15, 1861.

Adjutant-General U.S. Army, Washington, D. C.:

SIR: For the information of the proper authorities, and for fear lest the
Government may be disappointed in the amount of labor to be gathered here
from the contrabands, I have the honor to report that from the hordes of
negroes left on the plantations but about 320 have thus far come in and
offered their services. Of these the quartermaster has but about 60
able-bodied male hands, the rest being decrepit, and women and children.
Several of the 320 have run off' Every inducement has been held out to them
to come in and labor for wages, and money distributed among those who have
labored. the reasons for this apparent failure thus far appear to be these:
1st. they are naturally slothful and indolent, and have always been
accustomed to the lash; an aid we do not make use of.
2d. they appear to be so overjoyed with the change of their condition that
their minds are unsettled to any plan.
3d. their present ease and comfort on the plantations, as long as their
provisions will last, will induce most of them to remain there until
compelled to seek our lines for subsistence.
Although comparatively few have thus far come in, it is therefore probable
that in time many will, and if they are to be received and taken care of,
some provision should be made to cover them. they are a prolific race, and
it will be found that for every able-bodied male there will be five to six
females, children, and decrepit. It is really a question for the Government
to decide what is to be done with the contrabands.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

P. S.--Besides those who have come in there are many still on the
plantations employed in gathering cotton.

December 20, 1861.

General M. C. MEIGS:

MY DEAR GENERAL: I have received your letter informing me that all my
requisitions on Colonel Tompkins were to be filled. I shall use every
endeavor to carry out your views with regard to economy.
I have thus far and shall continue to erect buildings of most temporary
character, consistent with utility.
Immediately upon the reception of your first, I took steps to collect the
cotton, and was so far successful as to send about the value of $30,000 of
it by the steamship Atlantic, consigned to Colonel Tompkins.
By the Vanderbilt, which has just arrived, came the agent of the Treasury
Department, and I have turned the whole business over to him. He finds the
parties all organized, in successful operation, so that he will have little
to do but take the credit of collecting a couple millions dollars' worth of
I very much wish, general, that you would visit Port Royal. It is but
seventy hours' sail from New York City, and your stay here could be
governed entirely by the time at your disposal. I think you would be able
to get a better idea of its wants and of our successes already achieved or
in prospect than any I could give by letter. the steamship Atlantic will
leave New York in a few days after this reaches you for this place. I am
very sure that your visit would prove pleasant to yourself and advantageous
to the service. I have endeavored to carry out your suggestions with regard
to burning the bridges, with what success the future may disclose. Some of
my contrabands inform me that they have been expecting that Charleston
would be burned, and they think the negroes did it.

General Sherman has strengthened the occupation of Tybee Island 
by an additional regiment, and guns are being put in position bearing on
Fort Pulaski; the garrison in that place is about 2,000.
I think before long we shall have accounts of the burning of Savannah. I do
not think, however, that we can advance upon either it or Charleston
without re- enforcements.
With great respect, I am, general, yours, sincerely,


Category: Civil War | Subcategory: Contrabands | Tags: Washington
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1861, 1880, 1901, Ark, Army, John, New York, New York (New York), New York City, United States War Department, War Department, Washington (DC),