Question. Please give your name, age, and present employment.
Answer. My name is Hunter Brook; I am thirty-five years of age; I belong to the United States army, and am acting provost marshal general and judge advocate of the department of Alabama.
Question. What have been your opportunities, since Lee's surrender, of obtaining knowledge of the condition of the people in the States of Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, or either of them?
Answer. I have been in the State of Alabama on military duty constantly since the 23d of July, 1865. For the first month I was provost marshal of the district comprising the twelve lower counties of Alabama. After that I was provost marshal general of the State. I received the reports of the local provost marshals of the different districts, of which there were four in the State - Huntsville, Talledega, Montgomery, and Mobile. I received their regular reports, and heard, of course, of any extraordinary event that occurred. I superintended, to some extent, the administering of the amnesty oath, for which we had an officer of some grade in nearly every county in the State. My instructions to subordinate provost marshals, in sending these officers out, was, that, in addition to their regular reports, they should also report as often as possible the general temper and condition of the people as to loyalty. These instructions were complied with only partially; but I was in constant communication with these officers, either personally or otherwise, and had opportunities of learning what their experience was.
Question. If the people of Alabama were left to themselves to act as they pleased, would they prefer to remain under the present government, or to see the confederacy established?
Answer. I think a majority of them would prefer to see the confederacy established.
Question. What would be the condition of the freedmen and of the Union men who have been truly loyal during the war if the military and the Freedmen's Bureau should be withdrawn?
Answer. I think they would be subjected to a great deal of persecution, and finally compelled to leave the State. Just before I left Mobile there was a despatch published in the papers as being authorized by Governor Patton, stating that he had received information from General Thomas that the troops were to be withdrawn from the State, and that the militia were to be furnished with arms and ammunition. That despatch seemed to create a great deal of excitement among the resident Union men and the northern residents who had settled there and invested their capital both in the country and in the city of Mobile. Not less than fifty men called upon me at my office, and I suppose a larger number did upon General Wood, to know whether the despatch was warranted or not; whether it was going to be carried out, and how soon, which inquiries they made with the hope that they would have time to withdraw their investments, and leave the State when the military did. Of course, the only reply we could give was, that we had no official knowledge of it as yet, and if we had, we had nothing to say. They then begged to know if we could not use some military influence to delay it long enough for them to protest, and a number of reliable persons with whom I was acquainted, ex-officers of the army and others representing a capital of over a million dollars, stated that they would get up a remonstrance of that description and send it on if we could give them any assurance that they would be protected in doing it. I left the next day, before anything was done, and saw by the newspapers that Congress had taken the thing in hand, and passed resolutions upon the subject. Everybody I saw the morning of my leaving seemed to be satisifed so far as we could assure them.
Question. In the elections that have taken place, were Union men or men who had been in the rebellion generally elected?
Answer. Almost invariably men who had been in the rebellion. They elected in Madison county, in the Huntsville district of the State, to the office of sheriff of the county a young man whom I know personally, and who I know before the war could not by any manner of means, with the reputation he had, have been elected constable. But he was the murderer of Brigadier General McCook, was distinguished in the war as a partisan ranger, and, as I was informed by officers who were present in that locality at the time of the election, this was considered his great merit. He was then under sentence for that murder. He was subsequently arrested, I believe, by order of the President of the United States and taken to Nashville in irons. This was after he was elected sheriff.
Question. Do you know of any expectation that the government is to compensate the people for their slaves or for property destroyed or injured by our troops?
Answer. There are people preparing and hoping for the allowance of such claims for property, but whether the expectation is very general or not I am not able to say. Some have hopes of remuneration for such losses, especially those arising from Wilson's raid.
Question. As far as you have observed, what is the disposition among the negroes in regard to education and the general improvement of their race?
Answer. They seem to be very ambitious in that way. I have had very little to do with them directly. My attention has been called to the subject in various ways indirectly. They are very ambitious on the subject themselves, but get little or no encouragment whatever from any influential people of the State that I know of. When General Howard was in Mobile he went with General Wood and called on a Dr. Nott, who is perhaps the ablest physician in the State of Alabama, and a leading man in his profession, in reference to a temporary occupation of the Medical College of Mobile, which was not in use at the time, and for the use of which there was little or no prospect, it being out of capital and there being few students in the State able to attend and pay. The use of the building I refer to was for the establishment of a large colored school. I was informed by General Wood that Dr. Nott replied to that request by saying he would rather see the building burned to the ground than used for any such purpose. My impression is that they kept it any how, as they had it at the time.
Question. Please state any other facts in your possession pertinent to the subject of this investigation.
Answer. In reference to the question of government cotton, I think the management of that matter shows, to some extent, the temper of the people, as far as the government in concerned. We have heard the testimony in open court of as many as a dozen witnesses, considered in the interior as responsible planters, to the fact that a large majority of the people do not and never will recognize the title of the government to that property, and never will give any assistance to the government in obtaining it, as they never have done. Frequent collisions have occurred in different parts of the State between the people and the parties sent there by the Treasury Department, and also by the military, for the collection of this cotton. There are parties of citizens who band together to resist the officers of the government sent out for this purpose. Within five or six weeks steamers loaded with that property have been fired upon. The governor of the State has been officially notified that these occurrences are going on in different sections of the State, but what steps he has taken, if any at all, upon the subject, I do not know.
Question. What was the nature of the government title to the property you refer to?
Answer. It was cotton surrendered by General Dick Taylor as being the property of the confederate government. It had been subscribed by private individuals for the support of that government, but the title to it had gone out of the hands of the original planters. On one occasion I sent a man into the county of Choctaw to collect some information in reference to cotton-stealing. I sent with him a lieutenant and twenty-men to protect him. That man with his party were driven out of the county by armed citizens with the probate judge of the county at their head. We had to send a battalion of cavalry to accomplish what we wished. But that is dying away to some extent. The people feel exceedingly sore in reference to their political position, and it is discussed very bitterly, publicly and privately.
Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction of the First Session Thirty-Ninth Congress, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1866, Georgia - Alabama - Mississippi - Arkansas, pages 113-115.