- A. J. Hamilton appointed provisional Governor of Texas -- Assembles a Constitutional convention -- the Texans dissatisfied -- lawlessness -- oppressive legislation -- ex-confederates controlling Louisiana -- a Constitutional convention -- the meeting suppressed -- a bloody riot -- my reports of the massacre -- portions suppressed by President Johnson -- sustained by a Congressional committee -- the Reconstruction laws.
Although in 1865-66 much of my attention was directed to international matters along the Rio Grande, the civil affairs of Texas and Louisiana required a certain amount of military supervision also in the absence of regularly established civil authority. At the time of Kirby Smith's surrender the National Government had formulated no plan with regard to these or the other States lately in rebellion, though a provisional Government had been set up in Louisiana as early as 1864. In consequence of this lack of system, Governor Pendleton Murray, of Texas, who was elected under Confederate rule, continued to discharge the duties of Governor till President Johnson, on June 17, in harmony with his amnesty proclamation of May 29, 1865, appointed A. J. Hamilton provisional Governor. Hamilton was empowered by the President to call a Constitutional convention, the delegates to which were to be elected, under certain prescribed qualifications, for the purpose of organizing the political affairs of the State, the Governor to be guided by instructions similar to those given the provisional Governor of North Carolina (W. W. Holden), when appointed in May. The convening of this body gave rise to much dissatisfaction among the people of Texas. They had assumed that affairs were to go on as of old, and that the reintegration of the State was to take place under the administration of Governor Murray, who, meanwhile, had taken it upon himself, together with the Legislature, to authorize the election of  delegates to a State Convention, without restriction as to who should be entitled to vote. Thus encouraged, the element but lately in armed rebellion was now fully bent on restoring the State to the Union without any intervention whatever of the Federal Government; but the advent of Hamilton put an end to such illusions, since his proclamation promptly disfranchised the element in question, whose consequent disappointment and chagrin were so great as to render this factor of the community almost uncontrollable. The provisional Governor at once rescinded the edict of Governor Murray, prohibited the assembling of his convention, and shortly after called one himself, the delegates to which were to be chosen by voters who could take the amnesty oath. The proclamation convening this assemblage also announced the policy that would be pursued in governing the State until its affairs were satisfactorily reorganized, defined in brief the course to be followed by the Judiciary, and provided for the appointment, by the Governor, of county officials to succeed those known to be disloyal. As this action of Hamilton's disfranchised all who could not take the amnesty oath, and of course deprived them of the offices, it met at once with pronounced and serious opposition, and he quickly realized that he had on his hands an arduous task to protect the colored people, particularly as in the transition state of society just after the close of the war there prevailed much lawlessness, which vented itself chiefly on the freedmen. It was greatly feared that political rights were to be given those so recently in servitude, and as it was generally believed that such enfranchisement would precipitate a race war unless the freedmen were overawed and kept in a state of subjection, acts of intimidation were soon reported from all parts of the State. Hamilton, an able, determined, and fearless man, tried hard to curb this terrorism, but public opinion being strong against him, he could accomplish little without military aid. As department commander, I was required, whenever called upon, to assist his government, and as these requisitions for help became necessarily very frequent, the result was that shortly after he assumed his duties, detachments of troops were stationed in nearly every county of the State. By such disposition of my forces fairly good order was maintained under the administration of Hamilton, and all went well till the inauguration of J. W. Throckmorton, who, elected Governor in pursuance of an authorization granted by the convention which Hamilton had called together, assumed the duties of the office August 9, 1866. One of Governor Throckmorton's first acts was to ask the withdrawal or non-interference of the military. This was not all granted, but under his ingenious persuasion President Johnson, on the 13th of August,  1866, directed that the new State officials be entrusted with the unhampered control of civil affairs, and this was more than enough to revive the bulldozing methods that had characterized the beginning of Hamilton's administration. Oppressive legislation in the shape of certain apprentice and vagrant laws quickly followed, developing a policy of gross injustice toward the colored people on the part of the courts, and a reign of lawlessness and disorder ensued which, throughout the remote districts of the State at least, continued till Congress, by what are known as the Reconstruction Acts, took into its own hands the rehabilitation of the seceded States. In the State of Louisiana a provisional government, chosen by the loyal element, had been put in operation, as already mentioned, as early as 1864. This was effected under encouragement given by President Lincoln, through the medium of a Constitutional convention, which met at New Orleans in April, 1864, and adjourned in July. The constitution then agreed upon was submitted to the people, and in September, 1864, was ratified by a vote of the few loyal residents of the State. The government provided under this constitution being looked upon as provisional merely, was never recognized by Congress, and in 1865 the returned Confederates, restored to citizenship by the President's amnesty proclamation, soon got control of almost all the State. The Legislature was in their hands, as well as most of the State and municipal offices; so, when the President, on the 20th of August, 1866, by proclamation, extended his previous instructions regarding civil affairs in Texas so as to have them apply to all the seceded States, there at once began in Louisiana a system of discriminative legislation directed against the freedmen, that led to flagrant wrongs in the enforcement of labor contracts, and in the remote parishes to numbers of outrages and murders. To remedy this deplorable condition of things, it was proposed, by those who had established the government of 1864, to remodel the constitution of the State; and they sought to do this by reassembling the convention, that body before its adjournment having provided for reconvening under certain conditions, in obedience to the call of its president. Therefore, early in the summer of 1866, many members of this convention met in conference at New Orleans, and decided that a necessity existed for reconvening the delegates, and a proclamation was issued accordingly by B. K. Howell, President pro tempore. Mayor John T. Monroe and the other officials of New Orleans looked upon this proposed action as revolutionary, and by the time the convention assembled (July 30), such bitterness of feeling prevailed that efforts were made by the mayor and city police to suppress the meeting.  A bloody riot followed, resulting in the killing and wounding of about a hundred and sixty persons. I happened to be absent from the city at the time, returning from Texas, where I had been called by affairs on the Rio Grande. On my way up from the mouth of the Mississippi I was met on the night of July 30 by one of my staff, who reported what had occurred, giving the details of the massacre — no milder term is fitting-and informing me that, to prevent further slaughter, General Baird, the senior military officer present, had assumed control of the municipal government. On reaching the city I made an investigation, and that night sent the following report of the affair:
On receiving the telegram, General Grant immediately submitted it to the President. Much clamor being made at the North for the publication of the despatch, Mr. Johnson pretended to give it to the newspapers. It appeared in the issues of August, 4, but with this paragraph omitted, viz.: 
I had made up my mind to arrest the head men, if the proceedings of the convention were calculated to disturb the tranquility of the Department, but I had no cause for action until they committed the overt act. In the mean time official duty called me to Texas, and the mayor of the city, during my absence, suppressed the convention by the use of the police force, and in so doing attacked the members of the convention, and a party of two hundred negroes, with fire-arms, clubs, and knives, in a manner so unnecessary and atrocious as to compel me to say it was murder.Against this garbling of my report-done by the President's own order — I strongly demurred; and this emphatic protest marks the beginning of Mr. Johnson's well-known personal hostility toward me. In the mean time I received (on August 3) the following despatch from General Grant approving my course:
In obedience to the President's directions, my report of August 1 was followed by another, more in detail, which I give in full, since it tells the whole story of the riot:
Subsequently a military commission investigated the subject of the riot, taking a great deal of testimony. The commission substantially confirmed the conclusions given in my despatches, and still later there was an investigation by a select committee of the House of Representatives, of which the Honorables Samuel Shellabarger, of Ohio, H. L. Elliot, of Massachusetts, and B. M. Boyer, of Pennsylvania, were the members. The majority report of the committee also corroborated, in all essentials, my reports of the distressing occurrence. The committee likewise called attention to a violent speech made by Mr. Johnson at St. Louis in September, 1866, charging the origin of the riot to Congress, and went on to say of the speech that “it was an unwarranted and unjust expression of hostile feeling, without pretext or foundation in fact.” A list of the killed and wounded was embraced in the committee's report, and among  other conclusions reached were the following: “That the meeting of July 30 was a meeting of quiet citizens, who came together without arms and with intent peaceably to discuss questions of public concern .... There has been no occasion during our National history when a riot has occurred so destitute of justifiable cause, resulting in a massacre so inhuman and fiendlike, as that which took place at New Orleans on the 30 of July last. This riotous attack upon the convention, with its terrible results of massacre and murder, was not an accident. It was the determined purpose of the mayor of the city of New Orleans to break up this convention by armed force.” The statement is also made, that “He [the President] knew that ‘rebels’ and ‘thugs’ and disloyal men had controlled the election of Mayor Monroe, and that such men composed chiefly his police force.” The committee held that no legal government existed in Louisiana, and recommended the temporary establishment of a provisional government therein; the report concluding that “in the meantime the safety of all Union men within the State demands that such government be formed for their protection, for the well being of the nation and the permanent peace of the Republic.” The New Orleans riot agitated the whole country, and the official and other reports served to intensify and concentrate the opposition to President Johnson's policy of reconstruction, a policy resting exclusively on and inspired solely by the executive authority — for it was made plain, by his language and his acts, that he was seeking to rehabilitate the seceded States under conditions differing not a whit from those existing before the rebellion; that is to say, without the slightest constitutional provision regarding the status of the emancipated slaves, and with no assurances of protection for men who had remained loyal in the war. In December, 1866, Congress took hold of the subject with such vigor as to promise relief from all these perplexing disorders, and, after much investigation and a great deal of debate, there resulted the so-called “Reconstruction laws,” which, for a clear understanding of the powers conferred on the military commanders, I deem best to append in full: