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Freedmen's Bureau Records: W. Storer How to Orlando Brown, August 8, 1865

How's first report as Bureau Superintendent in Staunton sheds light on the early post-war situation of freed blacks. He writes that their new freedom seems tenuous as their former masters threaten to reestablish slavery once Union troops have left. How also notes that he has had trouble hiring military personnel to staff the office, and so has hired civilians.

Bureau Refugees Freedmen & Abandoned Lands
Headquarters Sixth District Virginia Colonel O. Brown, Assistant Commissioner Virginia
Richmond, Virginia

August 8th 1865

Staunton Virginia


I have the honor to report that because of the fact that I [unclear: intend] upon my duties as Superintendent of this District nearly at the end of the month of July, I am unable to make the Month Reports in detail as ordered. The Sixth District extends over two hundred (200) miles in length in a straight line upon the map, with incomplete and irregular communication between the principal parts along that line until my [unclear: ----lty] when a mail route was established between here and Winchester. The only Railroad in operation extends partially across this section of the District.

No Homes or Lands have as yet been acquired, and no funds received from any source.

For lack of time in which to obtain the information, no reliable report can now be made of the Condition of the Freedmen in this district. From limited and superficial [unclear: observation] it would appear that they are generally at work and willing to work, though not treated very kindly by their former masters and others, who in the presence of the military practically acknowledge their freedom while they tell the freedmen that they are not yet free

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as they will discover when the troops are withdrawn. Thus their former masters are not favorable to the education of the freedmen, and are not willing that they should settle on their lands at any rate. This conduct, together with various misrepresentations of the "Yankees" which are habitually made, tends to create distrust and a desire to emigrate, or to keep near the villages where they feel more secure, and think they can get warning of any changes in affairs.

The presence of military authority is, and for months will be indispensable for the maintenance of the rights of the freedmen in this section of our country. The troops in the District have been subject to frequent changes of location, many altogether withdrawn, and [unclear: some] waiting distribution, so that in the counties where they are not, time will be necessary for the organization of the District. I have been unable to [unclear: obtain] officers from this Command, because they are too few for the wants of the military Sub-Districts, therefore I have sought to meet the necessities of the Bureau by the employment of citizens three (3) of whom have been engaged for salaries varying from 80.00 to 100.00 per month.

I am Colonel
Very Respectfully Your Obedient Servant

W. Storer How, Captain & Assistant Quarter Master
Superintendent Sixth District Virginia

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