Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 92
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
He had done his best in the aftermath of war to keep the "blacks out of the hands of
drunkards and barbarians."66
During the war, Miller had been labelled "an abolitionist," a traitor, and,
though he was German by birth, a "Yankee." Prosecuted for opposing and counteracting
war measures, he been imprisoned for assisting in the organization of forces to cooperate
with the Union invasion of Galveston in December of 1862. Miller's self-admitted motive
in aspiring to the bureau office (and Gregory knew all men were "selfish to some degree")
was to demonstrate to his "former oppressors" that they were wrong about slavery and
that he, as a former slave owner condemning it as evil, was right. To consummate his
"victory," Miller aimed to assist the "Labor Bureau" to aid his "friends white and black
and to deal generous and fair with my former enemies."67
Gregory had allegedly advised Miller that no compensation could be
expected for services of citizen agents and that he might have to labor three or four
months without a salary. Miller declared he did not expect pay for his services in the
"Labor Bureau" and would report to headquarters, the uncertainty of the mails
notwithstanding. He did hope that he would simply be entitled to transportation postage.
If Miller had an object at stake to perform the duties of an agent, it was to serve "this
community, my immediate neighborhood, consisting of more than half German and
Bohemians whose languages are familiar to me and these foreigners were true and loyal
to the Union during the war."68
Miller believed that Gregory had given him oral permission to get some copies
of bureau orders and printed contract blanks from the Hempstead sub-assistant
commissioner, George C. Abbott. Nevertheless, Abbott furnished the necessary forms
and illegally gave him a bureau commission. As a consequence, he had ever since "acted
as such" and began to regulate the 1865 accounts between the former masters and the
freedmen. Miller had acted in "good faith" and only "used printed documents." And, to
justify his actions, Miller contended that Gregory had given notice in the bureau's
proceedings that he held an agent's commission under Abbott.69
Bureau efforts were so disorganized in the Colorado County region that, due
to a series of misunderstandings, Miller believed that he had been authorized to act as
an agent, and he took his "duties" seriously. As the civil officers violated the nature of
contracts and their intended compensation, Miller regulated the 1865 accounts between
the planters and the freedmen. He also negotiated contracts for 1866, and believed that,
so far, he had acted according to Gregory's intention. He had no military support, so he
"had to use policy to help the negroes to get what is due to them." He had arranged
matters successfully, although there had been "growling" from those who attempted to
66 Fred Miller (Frelsburg) to Edgar M. Gregory (assistant commissioner, Texas), February 21, 1866,
Assistant Commissioner, Unregistered Letters, 1865-1866, M821, Reel 17.
69 Ibid.; Fred Miller to Edgar M. Gregory (assistant commissioner, Texas), n. d., Assistant
Commissioner, Unregistered Letters, 1865-1866, M821, Reel 17; Richter, Overreached On All Sides, p. 44.
70 Fred Miller to Edgar M. Gregory (assistant commissioner, Texas), December 22, 1865, Assistant
Commissioner, Unregistered Letters, 1865-1866, M821, Reel 17.
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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/m1/24/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.