91st PA: Report of Edgar Gregory, 1866, Freedmen's Bureau in Maryland

Report by Gregory, Maryland, 1866


GENERAL: In compliance with your instructions, dated October 2, 1866, directing me to report all operations of the district under my charge to the 1st day of November, 1866, I have the honor to submit the following:

As stated in my last report to you, I am unable to furnish any information, other than that shown by the records on file in this office, of the operations of the bureau in this district previous to September 1, 1866, having no personal knowledge of the same, my assignment to duty as assistant commissioner for the district being on the date mentioned, viz., September 1, 1866.

The affairs of the bureau previous to March 30, 1866, were superintended by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel William P. Wilson, aide-de-camp. No record of the business transacted under his supervision remains on file in this office. Colonel Wilson was relieved on the 30th of March, 1866, by Brevet Major General George J. Stannard, whose district, comprising the State of Maryland alone at the time he entered upon his duties, was further increased in June by the addition of six (6) counties of Virginia, and two (2) of West Virginia, which addition was constituted a sub-district, designated the Shenandoah division, and placed under the charge of Brevet Major J. H. Remington.

General Stannard being mustered out of the service, to date July 1, 1866, he was succeeded in his duties by Brevet Lieutenant COlonel R. Chandler, as acting assistant commissioner, who was relieved about the 20th of July by Major General Francis Fessenden. On the 1st of September, 1866, I succeeded General Fessenden in the duties now discharged by me.

On the 1st of September, the district (which, since the addition heretofore referred to, had remained intact) was, in compliance with instructions from your office, dated August 16, 1866, again reduced by transfer of six counties of Virginia and two of West Virginia to the jurisdiction of Major General Schofield, thereby leaving under my charge the State of Maryland alone, with the exception of the counties of Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary's; the number of colored people comprised in the State being 171,131, 87,189 of the number formerly slaves. Of the total number 42,411 belong to the counties above mentioned, leaving 128,720 colored people under my jurisdiction. These figures are taken from the census of 1860, since which time the colored population has greatly increased, but to what extent I am unable to report.

The practical business of the bureau did not commence until June, 1866, as previous to that date but one officer had been assigned to duty with the assistant commissioner in the district, consequently rendering it impracticable to carry out and make known the object of the bureau throughout the State. This difficulty was obviated in the early part of June by the accession of several officers, who were immediately assigned to duty at local posts in different [p.90] portions of the district, one or two being retained to investigate complaints received at headquarters, and discharge other duties connected with the office.

The condition of the freedmen in Virginia and West Virginia, as shown by the records on file, was generally satisfactory, but few complaints having been received; none of a serious nature. This, however, is in marked contrast to portions of the State of Maryland, especially the seven lower counties on the eastern shore, where much bad feeling exists against both freedmen and bureau, and complaints are daily received of outrages and acts of injustice.

In compliance with instructions from your headquarters, dated June 12, 1866, officers stationed at local posts were gradually recalled, and the duties of their office are now discharged by inspectors from these headquarters.


The "complaint division" is under the charge of Brevet Major A. W. Bolenius. All complaints received at this office, either in person or by letter, are referred to Major B., by whom they are entered in a book kept for the purpose. Efforts are then made to settle such complaints by correspondence; such efforts being unsuccessful, an officer is ordered to investigate, and report result. Should the difficulty still remain unsettled, such action in the case is then taken as may be necessary, either brining it before civil authorities, or otherwise.

A large majority of the complaints received refer to the illegal apprenticeship of colored children until they are eighteen and twenty-one years of age, which is, in fact, a phase of slavery. [About the indenture/apprenticeship system in Texas, and the Freedmen's Bureau's attempts to resist it, see Barry A Crouch, '"To enslave the rising generation": the Freedmen's Bureau and the Texas Black Code', in The Freedmen's Bureau and Reconstruction, ed. Paul A Cimbala and Randall M Miller (New York: Fordham, 1999), pp.261-287.] No language can be too strong in condemnation of this evil. Parents are deprived of those who are able and wiling to support them, while children are denied the blessing of education, and doomed to spend long years in toil and servitude without an adequate compensation.

In most cases this has been done, apparently, in compliance with legal forms, but there is every reason to suppose, from statements made by parents, that misrepresentation and threats have been used to compel their attendance at the orphans' court, which attendance is considered equivalent to their consent; and in many cases, not even the presence of the parents was considered necessary to sanction the compact. Of the numerous complains received but seven have been satisfactorily adjusted, in each case the parties holding children voluntarily giving them up.

I have been informed from eminent legal sources that the whole system of apprenticeship is illegal, and consequently not binding, but have been unable to legally test the matter, owing to the inability of complainants to furnish the means required in paying expenses of court and sheriff. One case, however, has been brought before the court, and is now awaiting decision.

Another obstacle in securing justice to freedmen has been the refusal of justices of the peace to take the testimony of colored persons, in violation of the civil rights bill. As shown by the accompanying report of Major Bolenius, four justices have, through the instrumentality of this office, been arrested and brought before the United States commissioner, in this city; and unofficial information has been received that a true bill was found against Justice Watkins, of Sandy Hook, Washington county, Maryland.

The difficulty is confined principally to the southern counties of the State. Below I give the number of complaints acted upon, and instances in which assistance has been given to colored people, referring you to the report of Brevet Major A. W. Bolenius for details:

Assault and battery6
Refusing to obey civil rights bill4
Illegial apprenticing of colored children28
Miscellaneous cases58


The "claim division,", in charge of Brevet Major F. C. Von Schirack, was established about the 1st of June, 1866, under the supervision of Brevet Major John H. Piatt, and has been of invaluable service in the making out and forwarding of applications of colored soldiers and their families for bounties, pensions, &c. The business of this department has steadily increased, and a report of figures is inadequate to give an idea of the labor required in making out papers, procuring evidence, &c. Two or three regiments of colored troops are ordered here for muster-out, which will greatly add to the business of the division.

Below I give a list of applications for bounties, &c., forwarded and acted on by Major Von Schirack, and respectfully refer you to his accompanying report, in which are set forth the difficulties encountered in procuring the Maryland State bounty for colored soldiers:

Claims for State bounty, incomplete103
Claims for State bounty forwarded35
Claims for State bounty settled3
Claims for arrearage of United States pay and bounty forwarded9
Claims for arrearage of United States pay and bounty, incomplete4
Claims for United States pensions forwarded4
Claims for United States pensions, incomplete2
Claims for United States additional bounty forwarded3
Claims for United States additional bounty, incomplete3
Number of claims in prosecution of which assistance has been rendered W. F. Baxton, general agent United States Sanitary Commission, Washington, D.C.80
Amount received and paid claimants in settlement of State and United States claims.
Amount received in settlement of State claims$650.00
Treasury certificates in settlement of United States claims received1,795.16
Amount paid claimants in settlement of State claims$650.00
Treasury certificates in settlement of United States claims delivered to claimants697.01
Balance, treasury certificates in settlement of United States claims awaiting disposition1,098.15


For operations of medical department I respectfully refer you to the accompanying report of Surgeon W. R. De Witt, jr.

Disbursements for this year to November 1.

1866, July 31$391.00
August 27$1,100.00
September 26131.00
1866, October 5$770.00
October 63,200.00
October 2514.50
October 3043.48
For salaries1,391.46
For rents538.28
For postage65.00
For expenses of officers travelling under orders60.96
For internal revenue tax14.37
For hauling rations at Winchester24.00
For purchases3,342.53
For miscellaneous expenditures14.50
Balance on hand November 1, 1866198.98

Three thousand two hundred dollars of the amount stated as disbursed for purchases was expended in the purchase, at auction sale, of sixteen (16) government buildings, (formerly known as Hicks United States general hospital,) to be used in erecting school-houses for colored children.


For transactions of the quartermaster, consisting principally in the purchase and transfer of property (a list of which is given below) for school purpposes and carried upon the returns of Lieutenant Buckley, I respectfully refer you to his accompanying report.

Seven hudnred feet fencing, received from Major J. M. Brown, chief quartermaster Bureau Refugees, Freedman and Abandoned Lands.

Five stables, received from Major J. M. Brown, chief quartermaster Bureau Refugees, Freedman and Abandoned Lands, transferred to R. M. Janney, State superintendant of schools for colored children.

Five buildings, (barracks,) received from Colonel Bradley, chief quartermaster middle military department.

One stable, received from Colonel Bradley, chief quartermaster middle military department.

Two sinks, received from Colonel Bradley, chief quartermaster middle military department.

Sixteen buildings, purchased at government auction sale, known as Hicks United States general hospital, to be used in erecting school-houses for colored children; not yet transferred.


As stated in the accompanying report of First Lieutenant McDougal, the labors of the bureau in regard to schools for colored children have been of a "supervisory character, consisting of occasional inspection and protection of teachers from interference." Up to October 1, 1866, all other work connected with the organization of schools for colored children has been done under the superintendence of the "Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of the Colored People," whose noble efforts have met with great success. [p.93] Since the 1st of October, the bureau has co-operated with the above association by assuming the responsibility of renting buildings for school purposes, and erecting school-houses at such points as they are needed. For this purpose (in compliance with instructions from headquarters) sixteen (16) government buildings, formerly known as "Hicks United States general hospital," were purchased at auction sale, and will be used as above stated, the colored people, whenever able, assuming the expenses of rebuilding.

I respectfully refer you to Lieutenant McDougal's report for information on other points, and to the statistical report given below:

Total number of schools for colored children 49
Total number of above owned by freedmen 43
Total number of school-houses furnished by bureau 3
Number of white teachers22
Number of colored teachers45
Number of colored pupils, male1,800
Number of colored pupils, female1,828
Average attendance2,220
Number of industrial schools4
Number of pupils attending industrial schools511

The above report was obtained from the Baltimore Association, &c., but does not include the latest returns from the teachers made under their supervision, much of it being taken from previous returns of May and June. I regret exceedingly that the failure of teachers to forward their reports renders me unable to give fuller and more correct information. In order to do so, I delayed the report until the last moment. In future, all information referring to schools for colored children will be obtained by personal inspection of Lieutenant McDougal, school superintendent at these headquarters.


The only property of the above description in possession of the bureau during this year was two (2) frame dwellings, both in the Shenandoah division. One was returned to the owner in compliance with orders from these headquarters, dated July 186, 1866, and the other is now under the jurisdiction of Major General Schofield, being in the district transferred to him September 1, 1866.


The issue of rations, a report of which is given below, was confined to the Shanandoah district, transferred September 1 to Major General Schofield. No rations have been issued in the State of Maryland.

3,289 rations issued to two hundred and ten refugees; 7,351 rations issued to five hundred and seventy freedmen; total, 10,640 rations issued to 780 refugees and freedmen.


Requisitions for transportation have been issued (only in cases of evidence necessity) in twelve (12) instances, and for the following number of persons, viz: thirty-two (32,) all freedmen.


Officers, clerks, &c., on duty at this office October 31, 1866.
Gregory, E. M.Brevet major generalAssistant commissioner.
Knower, Edward C.CaptainDisbursing officer.
Wiegel, William H.Brevet colonelAssistant adjutant general.
Von Schirach, F. C.Brevet majorClaim division.
DeWitt, W. R., jr.Brevet lieutenant colonelChief surgeon.
Bolenius, A. W.Brevet majorInspector.
Buckley, John D.LieutenantChief quartermaster
McDougall, CharlesLieutenantSuperintendent of schools.
Bailey, W. S.LieutenantComplaint department.
Total number of officers9
Total number of clerks3
Total number of messengers1
Total number of orderlies1

With reference to the homestead act and labor contracts, there is nothing to report, as all contracts between the white and colored population in this State are regulated by mutual agreement between themselves, without the approval of officers of the bureau, our action in the matter being confined to the investigation of complaints made by colored persons against their employers, of which few are received, as the condition of the laboring colored population is very satisfactory.

As stated previously in this report, our manner of securing justice among freedmen has been by bringing their complains before the civil authority; but such a source, I am convinced, is inadequate, owing to the refusal of justices of the peace in many counties to take the evidence of colored people. In three cases where justices of the peace for the above offence have been brought before the grand jury, they have failed to find a true bill against the parties accused, thus defeating our efforts to secure justice, and encouraging the whites to continue in the commission of acts of injustice and oppression upon the colored people.

I would respectfully recommend that freedmen's courts be established in the State for the investigation and dispensation of justice in all cases where colored people are unable to obtain justice in the civil courts.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant.

E. M. GREGORY, Bet. Major General Volunteers, Assistant Commissioner.

Maj. Gen. O. O. HOWARD, Commissioner, &c., Washington, D. C.

[Senate Executive Document no.6, 39th Congress, 2d session, pp.89-94; serial set volume 1276]

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revised 10 Jan 04
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