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 June 28, 1862, Brigadier General Rufus Saxton, with headquarters at Beaufort, South Carolina, assumed the government and control of all places and persons in the Department of the South which were not embraced in the operations of General Quincy A. Gillmore, commanding the department. General Saxton, as military governor, appointed three division superintendents, each having charge of several of the Sea Islands. Market houses were established at Hilton Head and Beaufort for the sale of the produce from the plantations, and negroes put to work, the larger settlements being on Port Royal Island and near the town of Beaufort. Colored men in that vicinity were soon enlisted as soldiers and an effort was made to cause the laborers left on each plantation, under plantation superintendents appointed for the purpose, to raise sufficient cotton and corn for their own support, rations being given from the Commissary Department only when necessary to prevent absolute starvation. These conditions with hardly an interruption continued until the spring of 1865. Grant's army in the West occupied Grand Junction, Miss., by November, 1862. The usual irregular host of slaves then swarmed in from the surrounding country. They begged for protection against recapture, and they, of course, needed food, clothing, and shelter. They could not now be reenslaved through army aid, yet no provision had been made by anybody for their sustenance. A few were employed as teamsters, servants, cooks, and pioneers. Yet it seemed as if the vast majority must be left to freeze and starve; for when the storms came with the winter months the weather was of great severity.
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