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Doc. 93.-Freedmen in Virginia.


Official report.

Freedmen's Department, South-Potomac, July 10, 1863.
Chief Quartermaster for the Department of Washington:
sir: In accordance with orders issued from headquarters, I herewith submit my report of the numbers and condition and health of the freedmen established, by an order of the Secretary of War, upon the abandoned farms of rebels in Virginia.

We landed on our camping ground on the Arlington estate, naming it Camp Springdale, Monday afternoon, May eighteenth, and pitched our tents for the night, and thus began our improvements.

At the beginning, there were about ninety persons in all. The work commenced the second day on the farm.

May thirtieth we established a camp on Major Nutt's farm, near falls Church, Virginia, calling it Camp Rucker. The people at this place had to be sheltered in tents, there being no houses in the vicinity belonging to rebel owners.

On the same day, May thirtieth, we commenced an encampment on rebel Cooke's farm, near Langley, on the Leesburgh turnpike. This encampment we called camp Wadsworth. A branch of this camp was shortly after formed on a farm of rebel Means near by. A week later we organized the two encampments — Camp Todd, where General Casey had his encampment formerly, near by Fort Albany, and Camp Beckwith on McVay's and Jackson's farms, near Lewinsville. The number of the several encampments on June thirtieth is as follows: Camp Springdale, three hundred; Camp Todd, two hundred and thirty; Camp Rucker, one hundred and five; Camp Wadsworth, one hundred and seventy-eight; Camp Beckwith, seventy-two--total, eight hundred and eighty-five.

The people in my charge have subsisted on Government rations as follows: Every man or woman above the ages of sixteen and fourteen years has drawn daily one ration; every boy from one year to sixteen years, and every girl from one to fourteen years, has drawn one half rations; all below one year have drawn nothing.

There has been a manifest improvement in the tone of health since we came over this side of the Potomac.

We have had fresh air and pure water, and work on the soil to employ the people. This has [342] contributed to the health of the people. Though several contagious diseases appeared among the people, yet they have easily yielded to the treatment, or have been removed to the Pest-House in Washington.

Twenty persons have died during the month of June, fifteen of whom were children, and five of the fifteen were only twelve months old, or under.

At Camps Springdale and Rucker we have sheltered the people in tents, there being no houses near the grounds to be cultivated to be occupied. At Camp Todd we have used the log huts put up for the accommodation of General Casey's encampment. These houses have capacity of holding not less than one thousand people, and are in a good degree of preservation. At Camps Wadsworth and Beckwith the people occupy two of the farms abandoned by the rebel owners.

We have constructed quarters for the Superintendent of Freedmen and an office for the same, a store-room for Commissary Department, and another for agricultural implements, and a forage house and quarters and an office for the Surgeon. Also, we have hauled down a large supply of poles from abandoned camps on Minor's Hill and vicinity, which we purpose for quarters for freedmen at an early day.

This work has been well done, and has a respectable show as regards amount, and the promise of ample remuneration is cheering.

I would suggest that the good of these people could be best secured by having the women and children remain at Camps Springdale. and Todd, the last being just under the fortifications of Fort Albany, or at least the outside of defence of that fort, while the former is inside the fortifications, and send only a sufficient force of men to the outposts with a proper guard, and return each Saturday night, and go back to their work on Monday morning. This plan would be well for several considerations; mainly it would place them in a greater degree of security, and then it would place them more immediately under the eye of the Superintendent of them, and thus take away the necessity of having any assistant on each of these farms, except that of the farmer.

Second. I would request that a military order be obtained from General Heintzelman, giving Superintendent of Freedmen the power to perform the marriage ceremony among them. A similar order has been passed in the Department of South-Carolina. Also a military commission (or a commission) be appointed, consisting of the military commander of the post and the Superintendent of the Freedmen and the Surgeon in charge, who shall hear causes of complaint made by them in relation to want of fidelity of parties to the marriage contract, and determine the facts and the penalty of every violation of the same.

There has been a similar order for the Department of South-Carolina.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

D. B. Nichols, Superintendent of Freedmen.

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