Union Treatment of Slaves
I found these accounts regarding Southern blacks being oppressed by Federal authorities. On many occasions these are described as "worse than slavery".
"Freed people throughout the Union occupied South often toiled harder and longer under Federal officers and soldiers than they had under slave owners and overseers and received inferior food, clothing, and shelter to boot."
This is a letter written by Federal Chaplain and Surgeons, dated Dec 29th 1862,
The undersigned Chaplains and Surgeons of the army of the Eastern District of Arkansas would respectfully call your attention to the Statements and Suggestions following. The Contrabands within our lines are experiencing hardships oppression & neglect the removal of which calls loudly for the intervention of authority. We daily see & deplore the evil and leave it to your wisdom to devise a remedy. In a great degree the contrabands are left entirely to the mercy and rapacity of the unprincipled part of our army (excepting only the limited jurisdiction of Capt. Richmond) with no person clothed with specific authority to look after & protect them. Among the list of grievances we mention these:
Some who have been paid by individuals for cotton or for labour have been waylaid by soldiers, robbed, and in several instances fired upon, as well as robbed, and in no case that we can now recall have the plunderers been brought to justice.
The wives of some have been molested by soldiers to gratify their licentious lust, and their husbands murdered in endeavouring to defend them, and yet the guilty parties, though known, were not arrested. Some who have wives and families are required to work on the Fortifications, or to unload Government Stores, and receive only their meals at the Public table, while their families, whatever provision is intended for them, are, as a matter of fact, left in a helpless & starving condition. Many of the contrabands have been employed, & received in numerous instances, from officers & privates, only counterfeit money or nothing at all for their services. One man was employed as a teamster by the Government & he died in the service (the government indebted to him nearly fifty dollars) leaving an orphan child eight years old, & there is no apparent provision made to draw the money, or to care for the orphaned child.
The Negro hospital here has become notorious for filth, neglect, mortality & brutal whipping, so that the contrabands have lost all hope of kind treatment there, & would almost as soon go to their graves as to their hospital. These grievances reported to us by persons in whom we have confidence, & some of which we known to be true, are but a few of the many wrongs of which they complain. For the sake of humanity, for the sake of Christianity, for the good name of our army, for the honor of our country, cannot something be done to prevent this oppression & stop its demoralizing influences upon the Soldiers themselves? Some have suggested that the matter be laid before the Department at Washington, in the hope that they will clothe an agent with authority to register all the names of the contrabands, who will have a benevolent regard for their welfare, through whom all details of fatigue & working parties shall be made through whom rations may be drawn & money paid, & who shall be empowered to organize schools, & to make all needful regulations for the comfort & improvement of the condition of the contrabands; whose accounts shall be open at all times for inspection, and who shall make stated reports to the Department. All which is respectfully submitted.
Source: Free At Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom, and the Civil War, 1992 edited by Ira Berlin, & others.
The above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, Summer 2007