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[209]

That day Mr. Stanton caused the following War Department order to be formally issued, entitled

Order organizing the Bureau of refugees, freedmen, and abandoned lands:

By direction of the President, Major General O. O. Howard is assigned to duty in the War Department as Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, under the Act of Congress entitled β€œAn Act to establish a Bureau for the relief of Freedmen and Refugees,” to perform the duties and exercise all the rights, authority, and jurisdiction vested by the Act of Congress in such Commissioner. General Howard will enter at once upon the duties of Commissioner specified in said Act.


By other instructions made public the same day the quartermaster general was directed to furnish suitable quarters and apartments, and the adjutant general of the army to assign the number of competent clerks authorized by the law.

As soon as I received the orders of assignment to this new duty I sent General Sherman a copy. It met him on his arrival at Dumfries, Va., in his march from Richmond to Washington; for he came on with the troops. He wrote me a friendly letter that very night in which he said: β€œI hardly know whether to congratulate you or not, but of one thing you may rest assured, that you possess my entire confidence, and I cannot imagine that matters that involve the future of 4,000,000 souls could be put in more charitable and more conscientious hands. So far as man can do, I believe you will; but I fear you have Hercules' task. God has limited the power of man, and though in the kindness of your heart you would alleviate all the ills of humanity, it is not in your power to fulfill one tenth part of the expectation of those who formed the Bureau ”

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