|Circular No. 3 - General Rufus Saxton
Abandoned Lands and Freedmen Farmers
May 22, 1865
Freedmen Bureau Records
Circular No. 3
War Department, Bureau Freedmen, Refugees, And Abandoned Lands, Washington, D. C, May
Whereas a large amount of land in the State of Virginia, and in other States that have been in
insurrection, has been abandoned by disloyal owners, and is now being cultivated by freedmen;
and whereas the owners of such lands are attempting to obtain possession of them and thus
deprive the freedmen of the fruits of their industry: it is ordered that all abandoned lands in said
States now under cultivation by the freedmen be retained in their possession until the crops now
growing shall be secured for their benefit, unless full and just compensation be made for their
labor and its products and for expenditures.
The above order will not be Bo construed as to relieve disloyal persons from the consequences
of their disloyalty, and the application for the restoration of their lands by this class of persons
will in no case be entertained by any military authority.
O. O. HOWARD, Major General, Commissioner Bureau Refugees,
Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.
War Department, Adjutant General's Office,
Washington, May 22, 1865.
All military authorities will sustain the Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and
Abandoned Lands, and aid him in the execution of the above order.
By direction of the Secretary of War:
E. D. TOWNSEND,
Assistant Adjutant General.
II. The provisions of the above circular will be strictly enforced throughout the States of South
Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Complaints have been made at these headquarters that in many
instances former owners of plantations and slaves, who are now allowed to remain on their
lands upon condition that they announce to their former slaves that they are free and make with
them fair and equitable agreements, whereby full and just compensation shall be made for their
labor and its products, are, in defiance of this order, still forcing their former slaves to work for
them, and continue to hold them in slavery, even to the ex tent of shooting them down if they
dare to assert their freedom, and fail utterly to admit or announce to them in any way that they
are free. Such acts are disloyal to the government and in plain violation of its policy.
It is hereby ordered that all persons employing the freedmen in agricultural and mechanical
pursuits within the States of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, who fail to announce to those
in their employ the fact that they are free, and fail to recognize them as free men, and to make
suitable agreements with them whereby a just and equitable compensation will be secured to
them for their labor, will be held as disloyal to the United States government, and their property
will be subject to seizure and division among the freedmen in accordance with the provisions of
section four of" An act to establish a bureau for the relief of freedmen and refugees," approved
March 3, 1SC5.
III. As the harvest time is near, and the freedmen have been regarded as free by the United
States government since January, 1863, and as a measure of necessity to prevent them from
becoming paupers on its bounty, the freedmen must be paid for their labor on all lands not
abandoned since the commencement of the preparation of the ground for seed, up to the
harvest time of this year; and unless full compensation is made to tbe satisfaction of this bureau.
the freedmen will be entitled to and will receive one-half of the crop raised.
IV. Any person who shall whip or otherwise maltreat nny freedman because he asserts that
freedom, or lor other cause, will be held guilty before the law and punished for assault and
battery; and any one who shall take the life of any freedman for like cause will be held guilty of
V. No person will be permitted to drive the aged, infirm, and helpless from their present places of
abode; they must be allowed to remain where they axe until such time as the government shall
make proper provision for their support
VI. The assistant commissioners in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida are
required to enforce this order to the extent of their power, and to report to these headquarters
all violations of it. The aid of every friend of justice and fair dealing between man and man is
also requested to bring to the not:ce of the Freedmen's Bureau any failure to comply with its
When the rules of exact justice shall be observed in the relations between all, employer and
employed, and each shall regard the other's rights, then will be practically demonstrated, so
clearly that none can doubt, the advantages of the free labor system.
By order of Brevet Major General R. Saxton, assistant commissioner.
STUART M. TAYLOR, Assistant Adjutant General.