Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 73
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The Freedmen 's Bureau in Colorado County, Texas, 1865-1868
more literate than the former slaves, then the same source could be used as a weapon
in any forthcoming political battle with the black denizens in his region.
Whether Walker intended it or not, his state government under military rule
also included a national organization that would oversee the transition of the former
slaves from slavery to freedom and intrude in local affairs. But much would have to
transpire before this type of agency made its appearance in Texas and, eventually,
appointed one of its representatives to oversee the Colorado County region. Military
occupation, the freeing of the slaves, and the beginning of political reorganization all
occurred before the Freedmen's Bureau entered the Lone Star State. The immediate
concern of Texans, however, was the status of the freedmen and how they would be
integrated into the social and economic structure of the state.
Six weeks after the abolition of slavery, Oliver L. Battle, a former slaveholder
who had the opposite perspective of Walker, wrote Provisional Governor Hamilton and
offered his support. A supporter of President Andrew Johnson's benign Reconstruction
plan, Battle believed that the interest of Texans would be "subserved by the early
restoration of the State to its old relations with the Union." This would necessitate the
cooperation of "loyal men" and he hoped that Hamilton would soon have "evidence of
loyalty from all parts of the State" that would convince the provisional governor to
quickly organize a convention for the "purpose of restoring 'the Constitutional relations'
of the State to the Federal Government."7
Residing in Eagle Lake, Battle accepted black freedom as "a matter
accomplished and closed to further discussion." He addressed himself to "that most
important of all other questions (after the restoration of the State's Constitutional
relations in the Federal Government)" which was the "proper direction of the future
legislation of the country in regard to the Freedmen." When the press in Europe and the
United States prophesied "the early extinction of the negroes," Battle regarded this
attitude "as a reflection on the Humanity & Statesmanship of our Government, and
people-the extinguishing-the dying out, in our midst, of three & a half millions of people!
a whole race!-from starvation and degradation & crime!"8
Battle did not feel it was necessary to discuss the "capacity" of blacks to live
as a free people, as that had been established. "Many of both races" now realized that
the war had resulted in the destruction of slavery; and the quicker everybody realized
the changed circumstances, the "better for all." A "full apprehension of that fact" would
be the "starting point" for the moral and intellectual "elevation" of the freedmen. This
advancement "must be accomplished," he asserted. Those who thought otherwise
pointed to the emancipation experience of the British West Indies three decades earlier,
which to him was "not all a failure." Battle contended that the two cases were "not an
analogy, it is much nearer a contract."9
7 Oliver L. Battle (Near Eagle Lake, Wharton County) to Andrew J. Hamilton, August 4, 1865,
Governor's Papers: Hamilton, Texas State Library.
9 Ibid. Battle's allusion here is interesting because few former slaveholders made the comparison.
In the British West Indies legal slavery was abolished on August 1, 1834, and total emancipation occurred on
August 1, 1838. This four-year interregnum was called the "apprenticeship period." The Civil War prevented
any such "gradualism" in the United States. It is interesting to note that the "emancipation of approximately
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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/m1/5/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed July 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.