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[241]

The very rumor of my coming disturbed them. I answered Mr. Stanton that I had set Captain Ketchum to restore lands to the pardoned, provided they signed the obligatory instrument which I have described; that this was as nearly satisfactory to all parties as anything that I could devise. I had given the freedmen a supervising board to guard their interests during the transition.

After the work under the President's instructions extending as far as Mobile had been finished, I returned to Washington November 18th, and submitted an account of the journey to Mr. Stanton. These were my closing words:

It is exceedingly difficult to reconcile the conflicting interests now arising with regard to lands that have been so long in possession of the Government as those along the coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. I would recommend that the attention of Congress be called to the subject of this report at as early a day as possible, and that these lands or a part of them be purchased by the United States with a view to the rental and subsequent sale to the freedmen.

Congress soon had the situation clearly stated, but pursued its own plan of reconstruction, as did the President his own, regardless of such minor justice as making good to thousands of freedmen that promise of land which was at that time so essential to their maintenance and their independence.

The assistant commissioner for Louisiana was twice changed during the year 1865. General Absalom Baird was by some circumstance delayed from taking charge. I had my adjutant general, Fullerton, sent there to act temporarily as assistant commissioner

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