National Museum of African American History and Culture

Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Louisiana, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1869

Collection ID:
Physical Description:
36 Reels
The collection is comprised of digital surrogates previously available on the 36 rolls of microfilm described in the NARA publication M1027. These digital surrogates reproduced the records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Louisiana, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865–69. The records consist of 43 bound volumes and 10.8 meters of unbound documents. The bound volumes include letters and endorsements sent, orders and circulars issued and received, registers of letters received, and other records. The unbound documents consist primarily of letters and reports sent and received.

Historical Note
Historical Note
[The following is reproduced from the original NARA descriptive pamphlet for M1027.]
The Freedmen's Bureau, as the Bureau was commonly known, was established in the War Department by an act of March 3, 1865 (13 Stat. 507), and extended twice by acts of July 16, 1866 (14 Stat. 173), and July 6, 1868 (15 Stat. 83). Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, appointed Commissioner by the President in May 1865, served in that position until June 30, 1872, when activities of the Bureau were terminated in accordance with an act of June 10, 1872 (17 Stat. 366). Although the Bureau was a part of the War Department, its work was primarily social and economic in nature. Bureau officials cooperated with benevolent societies in issuing supplies to the destitute and in maintaining freedmen's schools; supervised labor contracts between black employees and white employers; helped black soldiers and sailors collect bounty claims, pensions, and backpay; and attended to the disposition of confiscated or abandoned lands and property.
The act of March 3, 1865, also authorized the appointment of assistant commissioners to aid the Commissioner in supervising the work of the Bureau in the States. In Louisiana, operations began in Tune 1865 when Assistant Commissioner Thomas W. Conway established his headquarters in New Orleans. The names and terms of the other Assistant Commissioners or Acting Assistant Commissioners in Louisiana are as follows: Gen. James S. Fullerton, October 4 – 18, 1865; Gen. Absalom Baird, October 19, 1865–September 7, 1866; Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, October 5–November 27, 1866; Gen. Joseph A. Mower, November 28, 1866–December 4, 1867; Lt. Col. William H. Wood, December 5, 1867–January 2, 1868; Gen. R. C. Buchanan, January 3-August 24, 1868; and Gen. Edward Hatch, August 25, 1868-January 1, 1869. In accordance with an act of July 25, 1868 (15 Stat. 193), Bureau operations within the States were terminated on January 1, 1869, except for educational functions and the collection of claims.
The organization of the Bureau's staff in Louisiana was similar to that of the Bureau's headquarters in Washington, D. C. The Assistant Commissioner's staff consisted at various times of a Superintendent of Education, an Assistant Adjutant General, an Acting Assistant Adjutant General, an Inspector General, an Assistant Inspector General, a Surgeon-in-Chief, a Provost Marshal General of Freedmen, and a Chief Quartermaster. Subordinate to these officers were the subassistant commissioners who commanded the subdistricts. Under supervision of the subassistant commissioners were civilian and military superintendents, assistant subassistant commissioners, and agents.
Originally, Louisiana was divided, for administrative purposes, into several districts with an agent or superintendent in charge of each. On April 19, 1867, the State was reorganized into seven subdistricts with a subassistant commissioner in charge of each. Subdistrict headquarters were established at Baton Rouge, Franklin, Monroe, Natchitoches, New Orleans, Shreveport, and Vidalia.
The correspondence received and sent by the Office of the Assistant Commissioner is generally addressed to or signed by the Assistant Commissioner, Assistant Adjutant General, or the Acting Assistant Adjutant General. Occasionally, the Inspector General, the Assistant Inspector General, or the Superintendent of Education signed outgoing correspondence. The major correspondents in the series were General Howard; staff officers, subassistant commissioners, and other subordinate officers of the Bureau in Louisiana; Army officers attached to military commands in Louisiana and neighboring States; Louisiana political officials; white citizens and freedmen in Louisiana; and officials of the Bureau in other States.
The volumes reproduced in this microfilm publication were arbitrarily assigned numbers by the Adjutant General's Office (AGO) of the War Department after the records came into its custody. In the table of contents, the AGO numbers are shown in parentheses to aid in identifying the volumes because these numbers appear on the spines of the volumes. The volume numbers without parentheses were assigned by the National Archives and Records Service (NARS) staff. Numbered blank pages have not been filmed.

Immediate Source of Acquisition
Acquired from FamilySearch International in 2015.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Freedmen's Bureau Digital Collection, 1865–1872, is a product of and owned by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution. Copyright for digital images is retained by the donor, FamilySearch International; permission for commercial use of the digital images may be requested from FamilySearch International, Intellectual Property Office, at:
Preferred Citation
Courtesy of the U. S. National Archives and Records Administration, FamilySearch International, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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Repository Contact
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Washington, D.C. 20004