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Chapter 49: the abandoned lands

Perhaps nothing excited higher hopes in the minds of those who had for years suffered and labored for emancipation, than the provision of law that was to open up the abandoned estates and certain public lands for prompt settlement by the newly emancipated.

Much in vogue at the end of the war was that plan of allotting abandoned lands to freedmen. This course the Government during the latter part of the war, as we have seen, for those lands along the Atlantic coast and in the Mississippi Valley had constantly followed first in legislative and then in executive action. Only about one five-hundredth, however, of the entire amount of land in the States seceding was available; it was all that had ever been held by the United States as abandoned. Had this project been carried out and the negroes generally been so settled on farms, either more land must have been added or the Bureau would only have been able to furnish about an acre to a family.1

The law existing at the inauguration of the Bureau, though imperfect in many respects, could hardly have contemplated such extensive action for the drifting hordes of negroes. There was, however, some public

1 Act of July 2, 1864, and Act of March 3, 1865.

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