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The Freedmen's Bureau Aids Civil War Refugees

In the chaotic last days of the Civil War, newly emancipated slaves were on the move across the South. Some had escaped bondage by joining Union military forces and following them; others were attempting to reunite with lost family members. Most had only the clothes on their backs. In March 1865 Congress established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (which became known as the Freedmen’s Bureau) to oversee the transition from slavery to freedom. The Freedmen’s Bureau provided food, shelter, and medical aid to the freedpeople and other war refugees. The Sanitary Commission was a U.S. government agency that coordinated the work of women volunteers to the Union cause during the war. The author’s original spelling and grammar has been preserved.

The average arrivals of Freedmen in transit from all parts of the state, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina seeking their relatives and endeavoring to reach their homes have been fifty (50) per day, and twenty one thousand (21,000) rations have been issued to such persons during June and July on the ground of absolute destitution and inability to proceed further without such aid. . . . One hundred articles of clothing have been given to Freedmen since June 1st, the value of which was fifty dollars ($50.00). The whole of it was donated by the Agent of the Sanitary Commission and no supplies distributed from this office have apparently been more needed or better bestowed. . . . Many of those who followed Genl. Sherman from Georgia, suffering from the toilsome march, exposure and insufficient clothing & food died soon after reaching Port Royal, leaving friendless and unprotected orphans; of this class a large number subsist we hardly know how, mainly in Beaufort & it seems an imperative duty to provide for them some place of refuge. The benevolence of northern associations will secure clothing &c but the Govt should set apart from unsold property a building or buildings in which they can be property cared for.

Source | H. G. Judd to Maj. Gen. R. Saxton, 1 August 1865, Beaufort, South Carolina; The Freedmen’s Bureau Online: Records of the Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees and Abandoned Lands,
Creator | H. G. Judd
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | H. G. Judd, “The Freedmen's Bureau Aids Civil War Refugees,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 1, 2023,

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