Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 71
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The Freedmen 's Bureau
in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
by Barry A. Crouch
When General Edmund Kirby Smith officially surrendered to Brevet Major
General Edward Richard Sprigg Canby (commander of the Department of the Gulf) on
May 26, 1865, the war in the trans-Mississippi region came to a close. Some additional
brief clashes between the blue and the grey would occur as Confederate Brigadier
General Joseph O. Shelby, in violation of the peace terms, led an army estimated at 3000
into Mexico. In early June, Major General Philip H. Sheridan arrived in New Orleans to
supervise the occupation of the Lone Star State. Angered by the Texans' boast that "they
were not conquered and that they would renew the fight at some future date," Sheridan
believed that "it is always best to go in strong-handed."'
Commanding a force of fifty thousand men, Brevet Major General Gordon
Granger spearheaded the occupation. The XIII Corps was divided into three divisions,
headed respectively by Brevet Major Generals Joseph Mower, Frederick Steele, and
Francis Herron. Granger landed at Galveston on June 19, 1865, and immediately
declared "all slaves are free." This freedom "involve[d] an absolute equality of personal
rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection
heretofore existing between them becomes] that between employer and hired labor."
The freedmen were "advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for
wages." They would neither be allowed to congregate at military posts nor "supported
Lieutenant Colonel R. G. Laughlin, the provost marshal general, subse-
quently enlarged on Granger's original emancipation declaration. Suggesting that the
freedmen should work under such contracts as currently could be negotiated-mainly
because their own interest and that of their former masters rendered it necessary-these
temporary measures were to endure until permanent arrangements could be introduced
1 The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate
Armies (128 vols.; Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), series I, vol. 48, part 2, pp.
600-602 (hereafter OR); William L. Richter, The Army in Texas During Reconstruction, 1865-1870 (College
Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1987), pp. 13-14; "'It Is Best to Go in Strong-Handed': Army
Occupation of Texas, 1865-1866," Arizona and the West, vol. 27 (Summer 1985), pp. 113-142; Robert
Walter Shook, "Federal Occupation and Administration of Texas, 1865-1870" (Ph.D. diss., North Texas State
University, 1970), pp. 19-24; Daniel O'Flaherty, General Jo Shelby: Undefeated Rebel (Chapel Hill: University
of North Carolina Press, 1954), pp. 207-225; Joseph Howard Parks, General Edmund Kirby Smith, C. S. A.
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1954), pp. 456-480; Robert L. Kerby, Kirby Smith's Confed-
eracy: The Trans-MississippiSouth, 1863-1865 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972), pp. 377-434;
Paul Andrew Hutton, Phil Sheridan and His Army (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985), pp. 20-22;
Roy Morris, Jr., Sheridan: The Life and Wars of General Phil Sheridan (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.,
1992), pp. 262-265. For Sheridan and Texas see Richter, "General Phil Sheridan, the Historians, and Recon-
struction," Civil War History, vol. 33 (June 1987), pp. 131-154.
2 OR, series I, vol. 48, part 2, p. 929; Randolph B. Campbell, "The End of Slavery in Texas: A
Research Note," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, vol. 88 (July 1984), pp. 71-80; An Empire for Slavery:
The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1861-1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989), pp. 239-
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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/m1/3/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.