Records of 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"
Mount Pleasant, S. C.
Sept. 5th, 1866
O'Brien, Edward F.
Bvt. Major & S. A. C.
Report of Business Transactions for the month of August 1866
Mount Pleasant, S. C. September 5, 1866
Bvt. Major A. Mc. L. Crawford
Bureau Adjutant of Charleston
I have the honor to enclose herewith my "Report of Business Transactions" for the month of August 1866.
In my visits to the different Parishes of my district, I found a great amount of destitution existing and more particularly in St. Thomas. There the people were living on green corn, pond lilly beans and in some instances have used Alligator meat to prevent actual starvation.
I consider the corn crop a failure and I fear that during the forthcoming Winter the suffering amongst the aged and infirm will be appalling. I cannot speak in very favorable terms of the conduct of the freedmen of Christ Church Parish. They are idle, vicious vagrants, whose sole idea consists in loafing without working. I had occasion to call on the best colored men I knew and could find to aid me getting these people to attend to their work but so far without success. Being so close to the city of Charleston they find plenty of temptation there to cause them to become idlers and they return to this Parish only to plunder for the purpose of indulging in their vicious practices. There are, in the Parishes, a number of men who are ostensibly small traders who are buying everything the freedmen have to sell, and hardly a night passes but what some depradation is committed. Lead pipes taken from wells and cisterns, harness from stables, cotton from the fields and even the iron from the Cotton Gins and engines. Everything finds a ready sale and I find that the freed people get whiskey, powder 7 shot and the most hurtful articles that can be found.
In St. James Santee I find but little trouble except on two plantation worked by two deserters from the rebel army, ignorant, brutal men who cannot get over the idea that "a nigger must be licked." I have had to warn them that if they flog or strike another black man or woman, I should take the responsibility of ordering the same amount and kind of punishment to them with the addition of a little manual labor on the public roads. It will, I know, be considered a high handed outrage and will no doubt be disapproved, but some terrible example must be made of these (illegible) incarnate, or else there will be no hopes of peace for the freedmen.
I have one more case to call your attention to and that is the case of Mr. McDowell of Cain Hoy. He is the reputed father of some six children and has been drawing rations for them from Gov't. under the plea that they were orphans and as such entitled to be fed. While on my visit to St. Thomas my attention was called to the fact and I proceeded to investigate and found the facts as above stated. I enclose herewith the number of rations drawn and would most respectfully suggest that the case be put into the hands of Solicitor of the Bureau for the purpose of punishing Mr. McDowell for fraud and collecting the money value of the rations drawn.
The Withiwood Plantation seized by me, has, by the order of the Brevet Major General Asst. Coms. Been returned to its owner. Enclosed is the number of rations drawn for that place for which Mr. C. L. Gilleaume of East Bay will pay.
I have a great many complaints from the freedmen in regard to their pay. The great trouble seems to be, they do not understand why, when they get money, rations or articles of clothing that it should be stopped from their monthly pay. In nearly every one of the cases I have adjudicated I have been met with "Old Massa always always gits us clothes and change when we ask him," and they suppose that now it is the same.
I seized one boat engaged in stealing cotton, but although one of the men was wounded still we failed to capture the parties. The boat remains here subject to the claim of the owner.
I have sent quite a number of cases to the Superior Provost Court for trial, not being able to give at all times the necessary attention to them so as to secure even justice to both parties.
In conclusion I am in hopes to be able to report next month a more favorable aspect of affairs, but I fear that on the stoppage of the "destitute rations" there will be an untold amount of suffering.
Bvt. Major, V. R. C.
Sub. AC Bu: R. F. & A. L.