|General Rufus Saxton Authorized to Raise Black
War of the Rebellion Records
|Order to Create Black Regiments
On August 25th, 1862, Secretary of War Stanton officially authorized the raising of the 5,000 black
soldiers under the command of Brigadier General Rufus Saxton.
Washington City, D. C., August 25, 1862
General: Your dispatch of the 16th has this moment been received. It is considered by the
Department that the instructions given at the time of your appointment were sufficient to enable you
to do what you have now requested authority for doing. But in order to place your authority beyond
all doubt you are hereby authorized and instructed:
1st To enroll and organize, in any convenient organization, by squads, companies, battalions,
regiments, and brigades, or otherwise, colored persons of African descent for volunteer laborers to a
number not exceeding 5,000, and muster them into the service of the United States for the term of
the war, at a rate of compensation not exceeding $5 per month for common laborers and $8 per
month for mechanical or skilled laborers, and assign them to the quartermaster's department, to do
and perform such laborers' duty as may be required in the military service of the United States, and
whatever the same may be required during the present war, and to be subject to the Rules and
Articles of War.
2d. The laboring forces herein authorized shall, under the order of the general-in-chief or of this
Department, be detailed by the Quarter-master-General for laboring service with the armies of the
United States, and they shall be clothed and subsisted after enrollment in the same manner as other
persons in the Quartermaster's service.
3d. In view of the small force under your command and the inability of the Government at the present
time to increase it, in order to guard the plantations and settlements occupied by the United States
from invasion and protect the inhabitants hereof from captivity and murder by the enemy, you are
also authorized to arm, uniform, equip, and receive into the service of the United States such number
of volunteers of African descent as you may deem expedient, not exceeding 5,000, and may detail
officers to instruct them in military drill, discipline, and duty, and to command them. The persons so
received into service and their officers to instruct them in military drill, discipline, and duty, and to
command them. The persons so received into service and their officers to be entitled to and receive
the same pay and rations as are allowed by law to volunteers in the service.
4th. You will re-occupy, if possible, all the islands and plantations heretofore occupied by the
Government, and secure and harvest the crops and cultivate and improve the plantations.
5th. The population of African descent that cultivate the lands perform the labor of the rebels
constitute a large share of their military strength, and enable the white masters to fill the rebel armies
and wage a cruel and murderous war against the people of the Northern States. By reducing the
laboring strength of the rebels their military power will be reduced. You are therefore authorized by
every means in your power to withdraw from the enemy their laboring force and population, and to
spare no effort consistent with civilized warfare to weaken, harass, and annoy them, and to establish
the authority of the Government of the United States within your department.
6th. You may turn over to the Navy any number of colored volunteers that may be required for naval
7th. By recent act of Congress all men and boys received into the service of the United States who
may have been the slaves of rebel masters are, with their wives, mothers and children, declared to
be forever free. You and all in your command will so treat and regard them.
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
* * *
While apparently General Saxton was given authority to raise black regiments, this directive was
plain and unambigious. He was the military governor of the Department of the South and was directly
under Secretary of War Stanton (although this was ambigious.) This resulted in friction between
Saxton and other officers in the Department of the South.
|General Rufus B. Saxton
|Edwin M. Stanton
Secretary of War