Records for the Assistant Commissioner for the State of South Carolina,
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1870
National Archives Microfilm Publication M869 Roll 34
"Reports of Conditions and Operations July 1865 - Dec. 1866"
Office Sub. Asst. Comr. F. B.
Moncks Corner, S. C. April 30.1866
I have the honor to render herewith my Report of business transactions during the month of April 1866.
The visiting of the several plantations for the purpose of examining and approving contracts has occupied the most of my time during this month.
Some difficulties which arose between planters and freedmen I have so far been able to settle peaceably and satisfactorily to both parties.
In one instance a Mr. Ben Ville Ponteaux living about 38 miles from Charleston on the North Eastern R. Road held a freedman's son, aged about 12 years, against the wishes of his father, who complained to me about it. On my request to Mr. Ponteaux to inform me whether or not he had authority to retain the boy in his service, I received no answer, but Mr. Ponteaux is said to have remarked that he had nothing to do with the "Yankees" and to have threatened to shoot the boy's father if he again came to his house. I went to Mr. Ponteaux to enquire on the matter, and found the boy there. Mr. Ponteaux gave as his reason for holding the boy that he was unwilling to live with his father. I sent the boy to his parents. Mr. Ponteaux denied having made the above mentioned remark and to have threatened to shoot the boys father. At first I intended to arrest and bring this man to trial, but finding that I could not get sufficient evidence to convict him, I merely confiscated his "Gun" thereby preventing him to carry out his threat to shoot.
Another case occurred on the plantation of Mrs. Mary Van Hagen near Moncks Corner. At the close of the rebellion, General Potter confiscated several horses, etc., the property of Mrs. Van Hagen, who then represented to General Potter that she was and had been a loyal woman and had indeed been of some service to the U. S. Forces, on which account she had been robbed of everything by the Rebels who moreover had threatened to hang her as a Union Spy, which fate she barely escaped by the arrival of the U. S. Gunboat in the vicinity. General Potter, I understand, then ordered his Quarter Master to deliver to Mrs. Van Hagen a mule and a cart in place of the horses taken from her. This mule had been confiscated during the war by the U. S. Forces from a Mr. Fripp, and he now demanded of Mrs. Van Hagen to give the mule up to him, which she of course refused. Here it might be proper to add that Mr. Fripp is, in my opinion, a rank secessionist, full of hatred towards the U. S. Govt. And its supporters, of which he has clearly convinced me by his actions towards myself. Mr. Fripp bought suit against Mrs. Van Hagen and a sheriff appeared at her house to arrest her if she refused to give up the mule. Mrs. Van Hagen procured bail and applied to me for protection. I reported the case to your Hd. Qrs. and received orders to protect Mrs. Van Hagen in the protection of the mule, and that, if Mr. Fripp desired to bring an action for its recovery, it had to be done before the Provost Court, and that Mrs. Van Hagen need obey no other summons in this case. I informed Mrs. Van Hagen as well as Mr. Fripp accordingly and so the matter rests for the present. If anything further should be attempted by Mr. Fripp or the civil authority I think it might be best that I take charge of the mule as confiscated Govt. Property and so hold the same subject to further orders from
The smallpox still prevails here to a larger extent and greatly interferes with the planting. The people are very careless in their habits, and many, when already convalescent, contract permanent diseases, such as sores, rheumatism, etc. Some even have more or less lost their eyesight.
I do all I can to impress upon the minds of the people that more cleanliness is necessary for the preservation of their health, but owing to their improvidence, their want of proper food and clothing (I do not think there are a hundred people in my district who have food enough to last them two months when they will be forced to live entirely upon unripe fruits and vegetables, etc.). I fear that should the cholera reach this country, its ravages will be terrible.
Gradually the Planters begin to advance food to those of their employees who have nothing, but in some parts where this is not done, the suffering is indeed great, and hunger induces them to steal and rob. I think almost every planter is now able to make some arrangement for the support of the people working for them until next harvest, and those who are inhuman enough to let their working people suffer might properly be considered as "rebels;" they refuse to acknowledge the colored man as free and, being bound by the laws of the land to do so, they now let out their spite on the poor people by letting them suffer.
I have several cases on hand where freed people had broken into barns, etc., but find it injurious to the planting just now to bring them to trial at Charleston. I would request authority to investigate and punish minor cases myself.
The people generally work well and I hope to see pretty large crops gathered in the fall of the season. There are several crippled freed people in my neighborhood, homeless. These people left their homes last year when freed and have now no one to see to them. Can such people be sent to the camp near Charleston? And can they be furnished with transportation?
I am Major
your obdt. Servant
F. W. Liedtke
Captain Vet. Res. Corps
Sub. Asst. Commissioner
for Districts of St. Jas. Goose Creek, St. John Berkley, St. Stephens and the country bordering on the Cooper River, S. C.
Major H. W. Smith
Asst. Adjt. General
Hd. Qrs. Asst. Comr. Bureau R. F. And A. L.
Charleston S. C.