The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 56, July 1952 - April, 1953

THE SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
VOL. LVI JULY, 1952 No. 1
rhe reedaeH 's bureauu i Zexas
CLAUDE ELLIOTT
WHEN General Robert E. Lee surrendered his armies at
Appomattox Courthouse in April of 1865, there were
approximately 400,000 (including nearly 2oo,ooo ref-
ugees from other southern states) negroes in Texas. These freed-
men did not know what to do with their new-found freedom.
The United States government, anticipating the confusion which
would inevitably follow the break-up, had established on March
3, 1865, a Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands,
more commonly known as the Freedmen's Bureau. To this bu-
reau was committed the supervision and management of all aban-
doned lands and the control of all matters pertaining to refugees
and freedmen from the so-called rebel states.' This act defined
abandoned lands as all abandoned property, real or personal,
from which the lawful owner had been or was voluntarily absent
and engaged in aid of the rebellion. The President of the United
States, through a General Court Order of the War Department,
on May 12, 1865, organized the bureau and appointed as its chief
commissioner, Major General Oliver O. Howard.2 General Wil-
liam T. Sherman, under whom Howard had served, said of this
appointment that he could not "imagine that matters that may
iCircular Order No. 2, July 24, 1865, in House Executive Documents, 39th Con-
gress, 1st Session (Series No. 1256), Document No. 7o, pp. 47-48.
2General Howard was a graduate of Bowdoin College and of the United States
Military Academy. He was an earnest, able, and courageous soldier. He served
honorably and with distinction at Gettysburg and later led one of Sherman's
columns in his march to the sea. Much of his life prior to the war was spent in
the South, where at one time or another he commanded troops in most of the
seceded states. He knew much of the relations between the races, and he believed
implicitly in the capacity of the negro for improvement. He was gentlemanly,
upright, and religious, but unfortunately he had little administrative ability. See
Paul S. Peirce, The Freedmen's Bureau: A Chapter in the History of Reconstruc-
tion (Iowa City, 19o4), 46-48.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 56, July 1952 - April, 1953. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101145/. Accessed September 18, 2014.