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Circular ...
[concerning the employment of free negroes and slaves
in certain capacities...]:

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Confederate States of America. Adjutant and Inspector-General's Office

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(caption) Circular ... [concerning the employment of free negroes and slaves in certain capacities ...]
Confederate States of America. Adjutant and Inspector-General's Office
1 p.
S. l.
s. n.

From the Ella Barrow Spalding Papers, call number 1106 (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998

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Revision History:


No. 32.

Richmond, March 11, 1864.

        I. The Act of Congress relative to the employment of free negroes and slaves in certain capacities, and the instructions of the War Department relative to its execution, are published for the information of those concerned:

        An Act to increase the efficiency of the Army by the employment of Free Negroes and Slaves in certain capacities.

        Whereas the efficiency of the army is greatly diminished by the withdrawal from the ranks of able-bodied soldiers to act as teamsters, and in various other capacities in which free negroes and slaves might be advantageously employed: Therefore,

        The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That all male free negroes and other free persons of color, not including those who are free under the treaty of Paris of 1803, or under the treaty of Spain of 1819, resident in the Confederate States, between the ages of 18 and 50 years, shall be held liable to perform such duties with the army, or in connection with the military defences of the country, in the way of work upon fortifications or in government works for the production or preparation of materials of war, or in military Hospitals, as the Secretary of War or the Commanding General of the Trans-Mississippi Department may from time to time prescribe; and while engaged in the performance of such duties, shall receive rations and clothing, and compensation at the rate of eleven dollars a month, under such rules and regulations as the said Secretary may establish: provided, that the Secretary of War or the Commanding General of the Trans-Mississippi Department, with the approval of the President, may exempt from the operations of this act such free negroes as the interests of the country may require should be exempted, or such as he may think proper to exempt, on grounds of justice, equity or necessity.

        That the Secretary of War is hereby authorized to employ for duties similar to those indicated in the preceding section of this act, as many male negro slaves, not to exceed twenty thousand, as in his judgment the wants of the service may require, furnishing them, while so employed, with proper rations and clothing, under rules and regulations to be established by him, and paying to the owners of said slaves such wages as may be agreed upon with said owners for their use and service; and in the event of the loss of any slaves while so employed, by the act of the enemy, or by escape to the enemy, or by death inflicted by the enemy, or by disease contracted while in any service required of said slaves, then the owners of the same shall be entitled to receive the full value of such slaves, to be ascertained by agreement or by appraisement, under the law regulating impressments, to be paid under such rules and regulations as the Secretary of War may establish.

        That when the Secretary of War shall be unable to procure the services of slaves in any military department in sufficient numbers for the necessities of the department, upon the terms and conditions set forth in the preceding section, then he is hereby authorized to impress the services of as many male slaves, not to exceed twenty thousand, as may be required, from time to time, to discharge the duties indicated in the first section of this act, according to the laws regulating the impressment of slaves in other cases: provided, that slaves so impressed shall, while employed, receive the same rations and clothing, in kind and quantity, as slaves regularly hired from their owners, and in the event of their loss, shall be paid for in the same manner and under the same rules established by the said impressment laws: provided, that if the owner have but one male slave between the ages of 18 and 50, he shall not be impressed against the will of said owner: provided further, that free negroes shall be first impressed, and if there should be a deficiency, it shall be supplied by the impressment of slaves according to the foregoing provisions: provided further, that in making the impressment, not more than one of every five male slaves between the ages of 18 and 45 shall be taken from any owner, care being taken to allow in each case a credit for all slaves who may have been already impressed under this act, and who are still in service, or have died, or been lost while in service. And all impressments under this Act shall be taken in equal ratio from all owners in the same locality, city, county or district.

Speaker House of Representatives.
President pro tem. of the Senate.

Approved February 17, 1864.


        II. The Bureau of Conscription will direct the enrollment of all persons described in the first section of the act aforesaid, east of the Mississippi river, who are not unfit for the service required from them, by reason of physical or mental incapacity or imbecility, and will assign them to the performance of the duties mentioned in the act, or similar duties in any of the military bureaux, or with troops in the field, as there may be any call for such service.

        III. Applications for an exemption on the grounds that the interests of the country require it, or because it is demanded by justice, equity or necessity, will be made to the enrolling officer in writing, and will be disposed of by him according to the general directions contained in the regulations published in Orders No. 26, (1864), under the "act to organize forces to serve during the war."

        IV. For the execution of the sections in the foregoing act, relative to the employment and impressment of slaves, the provisions of Orders No. 138, of the 24th October, 1863, will afford the requisite rules for the guidance of the military bureaux and commanding generals, with modifications hereafter mentioned. 1st. That slaves shall not be impressed when the services of free negroes can be obtained. 2d. Slaves under the age of 18 and above the age of 50 are exempt. 3d. The hire for slaves impressed shall be according to the rates fixed by the appraisers under the act to regulate impressments. 4th. The limitation as to the term for which slaves shall be impressed for service shall be for twelve months, instead of the term fixed by said orders, if the exigency shall require it.

        V. All impressments for service in the various military bureaux under this act, will be by special order upon application to the War Department, disclosing the efforts that have been made to provide other labor specified in the act, the necessity for the impressment, and the plan proposed to secure it.

        VI. The General commanding the Trans-Mississippi Department will superintend the execution of the law for that department.

By order.

Adjutant and Inspector General.

OFFICE ENROLLMENT SLAVES, Savannah, Ga., June 15th, 1864.

To the Slave Owners of Georgia.

        In accordance with orders from the Secretary of War, in pursuance of the Act of Congress passed February 17th, 1864, another call upon you for slave labor to work on the fortifications of the coast, is hereby made. In consideration of the planting interests of the country, the Major General Com'dg has postponed the time for receiving the slaves until July 1st, and it is expected that all planters will promptly respond at that time.

        Captain John McCrady, Chief Engineer of Georgia, directs me to state that the negroes will be worked in healthy localities on the salt water, and consequently the apprehensions usually felt in regard to removing negroes from the interior to the low country during the summer, need not exist in the present case, as the locality of the work is equally healthy with the interior.

        A well organized medical department at the head of which is an experienced Physician of Savannah, has charge of the sanitary condition of the negroes.

        Having made every arrangement that can conduce to the health and comfort of the negroes, and to the convenience of their owners, a prompt response to this call is confidently expected.

        The counties will be called upon in an order determined by the number of times they have contributed previously, those being first enrolled which have heretofore furnished no labor at all, or who have furnished a less number of times than others. Credit will thus be given for former contributions, not only to counties, but to individuals--and on the other hand all parties in every county, who have heretofore escaped the Enrolling Officer, will be compelled to furnish their respective quotas.

Yours very Respectfully,

Capt. & Ass't Quartermaster, in charge.


Savannah, Ga., June 15th, 1864.

        In the hiring or impressment of slaves within the Military District of Georgia, the Enrolling Officers, charged with those duties will be governed by the following instructions:

        I. You will strictly comply with General Orders No. 32, A. & I. G. O., March 11, 1864, and with such other instructions as are herewith given.

        II. You will not impress free negroes, or other free persons of color, as by order of the War Department, the Bureau of Conscription is charged with their enrollment, and they have been assigned to certain duties in connection with the military service under the act of Congress of Feb. 17th, 1864[.] The present call for slaves is to supply the deficiency thus created according to the provisions of the same act.

        III. Before proceeding to impress slaves you will endeavor to obtain from each owner or controller, by voluntary contract, the quota liable to be furnished for the period, and upon the terms and conditions set forth in these instructions[.]

        IV. Slaves under eighteen and over fifty years of age are exempt from impressment. All male slaves between those ages are liable to be impressed, subject to the following exceptions.

        1. Only one out of every five male slaves, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years can be taken from any owner by impressment.

        2. If an owner has but one male slave between the ages of eighteen and fifty years, such slave cannot be impressed without the consent of his owner.

        3. No impressment shall be made of slaves employed in the domestic and family service exclusively. And where there are not more than four male slaves between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years upon any farm or plantation, none of those four will be impressed.

        4. All male slaves, actually in the employment of the Government, under contractors, or employed by Rail Road companies, at the time the labor is demanded under these orders, are exempt from impressment while so employed.

        V. In impressing slaves you will take them in equal ratio from all owners in the same locality.

        VI. In each case of impressment you will allow a credit for all slaves already impressed under the Act of Feb'y 17, 1864, and who are still in service, or have died or been lost while in service.

        (NOTE. At the date of these instructions no previous impressments have been made under this act, in this Military District.)

        VII. You will demand from each owner, hirer or controller of slaves within your county the quota of slaves which such party is liable to furnish according to Paragraph IV, of these Instructions, to serve for a period of time not longer than six months. You will impress one fifth of all such slaves between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, and one fifth of those between the ages of forty-five and fifty years, regarding especially the exemptions set forth in Sec. 2., 3. and 4. of Paragraph IV. of these instructions.

        VIII. You will receive none but sound and healthy male slaves, and should any one furnish an unsound or unhealthy slave, who upon examination by the Surgeon in charge, shall be rejected and declared unfit for service, then all expenses, of every description attending the impressment of such slave, shall be chargeable to the party, and a sound and healthy male slave required instead.

        IX. You will offer the following compensation for slave labor at the time demanded whether hired or impressed:

        For Laborers, thirty dollars per month.

        For common Carpenters, thirty-five dollars per month.

        For good Carpenters, forty-five dollars per month, besides rations, medicines and medical attendance, and one suit of clothing for every six months of service.

        If the owners or their authorized agents shall not consent to receive the sums offered, (or in any case of disagreement as to the amount of compensation) you will cause just compensation to be ascertained and determined by the judgment of two loyal and disinterested citizens of the city or county in which the contract of hire or the impressment may be made, one to be selected by, or in behalf of the owner, and the other by yourself, which two citizens, in the event of their disagreement, shall choose an umpire of like qualifications, whose decision shall be final. The persons thus selected, after an oath to appraise the value of the services of the slaves, hired or impressed, fairly and impartially (which oath may be administered by yourself) shall proceed to assess just compensation for the services of each slave per month.

        X. You will require the owners or controllers from whom slaves may be hired or impressed to furnish them with a comfortable supply of good clothing, shoes and blankets or other bedding, as only one suit of clothes, as before stated, will be furnished by the Confederate States, during a period of six months service.

        XI. Owners of slaves will be allowed to furnish a suitable Overseer for each gang of fifty or more slaves (hired or impressed) who will be paid by the Confederate States fifty dollars per month and rations, and such Overseer shall be at all times subject to the control of the officer in charge, and may be dismissed by him for any misconduct.

        XII. The Confederate States will be responsible to the owner of every slave hired or impressed for his full value, in the event of the loss of such slave, while employed in their service, by the act of the enemy, or by escape to the enemy, or by death inflicted by the enemy, or by disease contracted while in any service required of said slave, during the period for which he may have been hired or impressed. In case such value cannot be agreed upon by the owner and the Impressing Officer, it shall be ascertained and determined by appraisement in the manner and at the time prescribed in Paragraph IX., of these instructions. The Confederate States will not be responsible for any slave not returned by reason of fraud or collusion on the part of the owner or agent, or overseer appointed to superintend them, nor if his death should be caused by the act of God, or by disease existing when the slave is received by the Confederate authorities.

        XIII. Whenever the appraisement either of the value of the services of the slave or slaves hired or impressed, or of the full value of such slave or slaves shall for any reason be impracticable at the time of said hire or impressment, such value shall be assessed as soon as possible in the manner prescribed in paragraph IX of these instructions.

        XIV. You will endeavor in all cases to obtain the consent of the owner of the slave or slaves hired or impressed, to have the appraisement of the full value of the same made at this Office, by an Appraiser appointed by the owner or controller to meet the Government Appraiser for that purpose, these two in case of disagreement to appoint an Umpire, which will constitute a Board of Experts to determine the valuation. It is believed that this course will prove equally satisfactory with an appraisement made in the county of impressment or hire, and it will conduce greatly to the convenience of the officers in charge and the facilitation of business. Such consent and all other consents and agreements provided for herein, must be in writing and signed by the owner or party furnishing the slaves, in presence of a witness.

        XV. Should the owners prefer furnishing subsistence to their slaves, the rations will be commuted for at the rate allowed soldiers in service for corresponding months.

        XVI. You will request the owners to furnish their slaves with three days rations, that they may be supplied with food until they arrive at this office and are ordered to the works.

        XVII. You will use all due dilligence in the discharge of your duties, and be particular to notify the owners of the conditions of the orders under which you act, the time and place in your county where they are to turn over to you their required quota of slaves, which you will deliver at this office as soon thereafter as possible.

        XVIII. In obtaining the quota from your county, you will use only peaceful and conciliatory measures, as coercion is only intended for those who wilfully resist the law. Should these means fail, summon to your aid such assistance as you shall deem necessary to obtain the quota of such selfish and unpatriotic parties as refuse. Should you still fail, report at once to this office those who refuse, and the number to be furnished by them, when the law will be enforced by military power. In case of slaves thus impressed, the term of service will be extended to a period not exceeding twelve months.

        XIX. The term of service will be computed from the time of their departure to their return to their homes.

        XX. All payments for slave labor will be made after the termination of service, and should parties authorize others to collect their pay or hire, they must furnish proper powers of attorney, in duplicate duly signed and witnessed, and in case of Administrators, Executors, Guardians, Trustees or Agents, the certificate of the Ordinary of the County in duplicate, will be required in attestation of such fact.

        XXI. All claims for the enrollment and impressment and hire of slaves, will be paid at this office, to which all communication connected with this department must be addressed.

        XXII. Receipts will be given to each owner or controller of slaves when appraised, which must be returned to this office when the quota is discharged.

        XXIII. You will endeavor so to direct the time of receiving the slaves, that their delivery at this office shall not be on Saturday Night or Sunday, that labor may be avoided on that day.

        XXIV. You will issue Certificates of Transportation to the Rail Road Companies over whose roads you may have to pass, stating the number transported, which will be redeemed with Tickets at this office.

        XXV. You will endeavor to obtain the entire quota of your county at one time, so that the enrollment may be at once consummated.

        XXVI. Clerks for receiving and delivering the slaves will be at the depots on the arrival and departure of the trains.

        XXVII. Should you find parties so unpatriotic as to endeavor to evade the impressment by representing to you a less number than their required quota, you are hereby authorized to have all such parties sworn to the truth of their statements and representations.

Capt. & Ass't Quartermaster, in charge.

Amendment to Paragraph VII.

        Provided, That if a party has not five slaves between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, but has five or more slaves in all between the ages of eighteen and fifty years, you may impress from those between the ages of forty five and fifty years, a number equal to one-fifth of such party's entire force.