This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 dated May 30th, that so long as a State continued in insurrection all fugitives seeking an asylum with the army should be received and protected without any reference to the question of their freedom. Whilst refusing to restore them for the time being, an exact account was to be kept of their cost and earnings, in order to settle that account with their masters in the event of their being restored at a later day. The question thus stated could not fail to provoke warm discussions on the part of the press and at political meetings in the North. Congress took up the subject soon after the beginning of its session, and on the 9th of July the House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring that in its opinion it was not the duty of soldiers to capture and restore fugitive slaves. Meanwhile, the number of these fugitives was daily on the increase; they assembled in the towns in the vicinity of the armies, especially in Washington, and crowded the Federal camps. Most of them were so profoundly ignorant that they could only serve the cause of their protectors by manual labor; some, however, were found possessing sufficient intelligence to furnish the Northern generals with valuable information regarding their adversaries. But there were others also who were caught acting, more or less voluntarily, as spies in the interest of the Confederates, and the Union officers justly complained of the obstacles which the concourse of fugitives interposed against the maintenance of order and discipline in the camps. On the 17th of July, General Mansfield, in command at Washington, issued an order forbidding all access to these camps on the part of fugitives, and directing corps commanders not to allow them to accompany the troops under any pretext whatever. Mansfield, an old man as brave as he was strict, like the majority of old army officers, was strongly opposed to the abolition party. The formal execution of this order gave rise to complaints which were all the more pointed because the order was directly at variance with the instructions of the Secretary of War to General Butler. It required the decision of some superior authority definitely to regulate the manner in which fugitive slaves were to be treated by the military, the resolution of the lower house simply implying a wish which had not the force of a law. Congress proceeded at
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.