Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 79
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The Freedmen's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
Meanwhile, the condition of the freedmen in Fayette County seemed to
demand a bureau agent. Prominent local citizens recommended that a resident of the
county be appointed. Hamilton Ledbetter, his son William Hamilton Ledbetter, Frederick
William Grasmeyer, Zebulon Montgomery Pike French (the county clerk), William
Brownlow McClellan (the district clerk), William B. Price (the county judge), and Thomas
William Smith (a deputy sheriff and future sheriff), all felt a "deep interest in the present
condition and future prospects of the freedmen," and from their practical knowledge in
dealing with laboring hands, recommended Zachariah Lewis Neville, as a suitable person
to be entrusted with the "controll and management of the freedmen." Neville, they
assured, was competent, prudent, business-like, and ardently attached to the govern-
ment, and would guarantee any required bond.28
George W. Smith, a Kentucky native who had come to Texas in 1843,
become a Whig, opposed secession but supported the Confederacy, and had been
appointed a district judge for Colorado County by Provisional Governor Hamilton, also
recommended Neville. From his knowledge of Neville's reputation, Smith had no doubt
of his ability and believed that he would fill the office of sub-assistant commissioner to
the "satisfaction of all." Colorado County Judge John D. Gillmore, who had known
Neville for several years, also believed he would give satisfaction, and recommended him
as a "gentleman every way worthy and fully competent." However, since there was no
money appropriated to pay them, civilians could not be appointed as sub-assistant com-
missioners, and Neville was rejected.29
Nonetheless, Gregory continued his search for a possible agent for Colorado
County. Evidence suggests that he discussed the possibility of appointing First
Lieutenant Thomas H. E. Paine of Company E of the Thirty Seventh Illinois Veteran
Volunteer Infantry, a unit which was stationed in the region. He soon discarded this
notion when Paine, because he felt underemployed and dispensable, asked the state
bureau director to assign him to duty at headquarters in Galveston.30
Early Freedmen's Bureau Agents
Gregory's earliest appointment to the Columbus post was Captain Eli W.
Green. Born in Shawneetown, Gallatin County, Illinois, in 1831, Green was a clerk when
he enlisted in the Twenty-Ninth Regiment, Illinois Infantry, for a three year term on
August 15, 1861. He began his soldierly duties as a private. During the war he moved
up the ranks to sergeant-major, first lieutenant, and finally captain. He was wounded at
the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862, and was at Vicksburg when that city surrendered.
Later the same year, Green was captured at Holly Springs, Mississippi, but shortly
thereafter paroled. He then served in the Paducah, Kentucky, Jackson, Tennessee, and
28 Fayette County Citizens to Edgar M. Gregory (assistant commissioner, Texas), September 19,
1865, Assistant Commissioner, Unregistered Letters, 1865-1866, M821, Reel 17.
29 Ibid.; Endorsement, Chauncey C. Morse (acting assistant adjutant general), October 22, 1865;
Campbell, "Reconstruction in Colorado County," p. 6.
30 Thomas H. E. Paine (first lieutenant., Co. E, Thirty-seventh Illinois Veteran Volunteer Infantry)
to Edgar M. Gregory (assistant commissioner, Texas), September 21, 1865, Assistant Commissioner,
Unregistered Letters, 1865-1866, BRFAL, RG 105, National Archives.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995, periodical, May 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151394/m1/11/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed October 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.