Question. Of what state are you a native?
Answer. I am a native of Massachusetts.
Question. Were you raised and educated there?
Answer. I was; in Worcester county, Massachusetts.
Question. What has been your employment during the last year?
Answer. I have been searching for the missing men of the Union army.
Question. Where have you been engaged in that business?
Answer. I have been engaged in it here in Washington.
Question. Where else?
Answer. Nowhere else in that business. That business has led to other matters which have called me away.
Question. State where else you have been, and in what you have been engaged.
Answer. I commenced to search in the spring of 1865. In the latter part of June, 1865, I formed the acquaintance of a young man who had been a prisoner at Andersonville, and who had brought away the death record of that prison. He requested an interview, and, on giving it, I learned from him how the dead were buried in Andersonville, and I became satisfied that it was possible to identify them. I carried the question before General Hoffman, who, with the assistance, I think, of the Assistant Secretary of War, laid it before the Secretary, Mr. Stanton, who sent for me to come to him the next day. I did so, and stated to him my impressions, requesting that parties be sent out to identify the graves at Andersonville, and to mark them. He declared his gratitude even at the suggestion, all having thought it impossible; stated that an expedition should be started immediately, and that he would select some officer for the purpose, and he invited me to accompany it. We were ready in a week, and on the 8th of July we left Washington. I requested that the young man should also go with the party to identify the graves. We reached Andersonville, Georgia, on the 25th of July, and very soon the colored people there commenced to gather about me.
Question. What did you discover in relation to the colored people?
Answer. I discovered that they were in a state of ignorance, generally, at that time of their own condition as freedmen. Some of them knew it. They all, of course, mistrusted it. They had all heard it from one another. A few knew it from their masters, and only a few; and what they did hear they had very little confidence to believe. Hearing that a party of Yankees, and especially a Yankee lady, was there, they commenced to gather around me for the facts, asking me their little questions in their own way, which was to the effect, if they were free, and if Abraham Lincoln was really dead. they had been told that he was dead; that he had been killed; but at the same time they had been informed that, now that he was dead, they were no longer free, but would all be slaves again; and with that had come the suspicion, on their part, that he was not dead, but that it was a hoax to hold them in slavery. They would travel twenty miles in the night, after their day's work was done, and I would find them standing in front of my tent in the morning to hear me say whether it was true that Abraham Lincoln was dead, and that they were free. I told them Abraham Lincoln was dead; that I saw him dead; that I was near him when he died; and that they were free as I was. The next question was, what they should do. There were questions between the negro and his master in regard to labor and in regard to pay. Of course I had no way of proving that, but I inferred it. They were at work. Most of them offered to work until Chrismas time, and to take a part of the profits. General Saxton, I should think, made some regulation specifying just what portion of each crop the negroes should have. They were all very anxious to hear the rules read. The commandant of each post had issued certain rules and regulations. These they had never heard read, and they came to me to know what the paper said. The rules were published daily in the Macon papers. They said they had been told that General Wilson's orders said that they should work six days in the week hard, and half a day on Sunday. They wanted to know if it was so. My course with them was to read General Wilson's paper, as they called it. I have read it through sometimes forty times a day. They stood around my tent in great numbers on a Sunday; more than a hundred, men, women, and children, and every day more or less. Perhaps there were very few hours that I was not engaged in advising them, and attempting to decide some causes for them.
Question. Did General Wilson's order contain such a thing as that?
Answer. Oh, no, sir; General Wilson's order was protective of them in its character. The order was good, and the best of it was that they could understand it. When it was read to them they never failed to comprehend the most important parts of it. It was well drawn. I found that, if it had been read to them properly by their owners or masters, they would have understood it; for, as I read along to them, I would ask if they understood that; "Oh, yes," they would say, "we understand that." Then I would read another passage, and ask them if they understood that; "Oh, yes." "What do you understand by it?" They would put it in their own terms, and I saw that they understood it.
Question. Did they pretend to you that their old masters had given that peculiar version of General Wilson's order - that they should work six days in the week hard and half a day a Sunday?
Answer. In many instances they gave me that impression. They told me that in so many words, and said that they had been told so by the men for whom they worked. Some of them were not with their old masters, but were hired out, as they called it, to other parties; but that was the impression they were under. Of course they became relieved when they heard the order and understood it. Sometimes they came with complaints of cruelty. I never found myself, perhaps, fully drawn out, excepting in one instance of fearful cruelty. They came with a great many little complaints. I could understand how that state of things would naturally create jealousy on the part of owners, and perhaps make the negro more or less unmanageable, and perhaps impudent. Of these little things I took no notice, for I thought them natural. I simply advised them always to go back, for their own interest, and to work faithfully until Christmas, and to take their part of the crop, as I could see there was no money for them. I think they never failed to follow my advice. I know of no instance where a negro went away whom I advised to return. On the 7th of August I was awoke in the morning by our colored cook coming to my tent and saying that a man wished to see me. Immediately opposite my tent there was a colored man - a good-looking man, intelligent and bright faced; a yellow man, about a mulatto, I should think. He told me his name was Arnold Cater; that he had been born and raised as a house servant with Governor William Rabon, of Georgia; that he had been a few years ago sold to pay the debts of the family; that he was then (at the time I saw him) forty-five years old; that when he was sold he was separated from his wife and five children; and that he was purchassed by speculators and taken to southwestern Georgia. Perhaps I ought to state how the negroes came into southwestern Georgia. It is a poor section of the country, and the people there have been poor. They have been emphatically "poor whites." They were not wealthy enough to own slaves. They did their own work. But when the border States found it politic to sell their slaves, they sold them at a lesser price to speculators, who found it to their interest to purchase them and to run them into southwestern Georgia, and put them at a price at which these poor people could buy them, so that every poor man bought one or two slaves, as he could afford it, just as he would buy an ox or a cow. They kept them in their families and worked them like cattle. The slaves had no respect for their masters. The slaves have no respect for a poor man who owns them. They all seemed to apologize when they were asked where they came from. They would say, "We were not raised here." They all dated back to better days. They had been all raised in wealthy families in Virginia or South Carolina. This man that I have been speaking of had been taken away from his wife and five children, taken to southwestern Georgia, and sold to one Nick Wylie. Nick Wylie had a large number of slaves. During the years of the war he had not been on his own plantation, but some two hundred miles away, perhaps in the service; I do not know. He had an overseer by the name of Jim Bird, who must have been the personification of cruelty. This negro told me that some two years before, he married, after their style of marrying, a young woman about eighteen years old, who was a slave on the Wylie plantation. They had one child, who was then a little over one year old. This man was a blacksmith. While he was at work, a few days before, his wife had proved unable to do the task of spinning which was given her. She was again within two months of her confinement, and was unable to do her task. She complained that she could not do it, and failed by a knot or two, as their term was, of completing it. When he came home at night from his day's work he found here lying in her hut. She had been bucked and gagged.
Question. Describe the process.
Answer. The person is seated upon the ground, the knees drawn up, the hands put under the knees, and a stick run through over the arms and under the knees, the hands being tied in front; that makes them utterly immovable; then there is a gag put in the mouth and tied at the back of the head - this woman had been treated in that way - then the overseer had come behind her, kicked her on the back, and thrown her over. She had been stripped in the mean time, for they never whip the negro with the clothes on; she was thrown on her face, and lashed on her back, so that, when her husband found her, he said she was a gore of blood, and she must have been; she had been untied, and was lying there as she had been left. He did not tell me that he remonstrated very much; I suppose he dared not. Next day the woman was ordered again to her task; she was utterly unable to do it, and scarcely able to stand; she bought all the yarn she could to try and make up the eight knots that she had to turn in; she failed to get quite enough, failing by a knot, or half a knot. The overseer sent to her the next night, when her task was counted, and she had failed again, ordering her to come to him the next morning at seven o'clock, as he was going to whip her; that he had not whipped her yet, but should do so the next moring. Arnold then had no way but to gather up his wife, walking as well as she could; and, after night time, they started for Americus, twelve miles below Andersonville. They were some twenty miles in the country from Americus; they dared not take the direct road, for they knew that the overseer would mistrust that they had gone to Americus, and would overtake them; they, therefore, went around, travelling some thirty or forty miles. After two days they reached Americus by a circuitous route. the overseer had been there, and had warned the military authorities that he had two runaway slaves, a man and a woman, who were coming there, and he wanted them returned. I think he stated he had punished them. They went into Americus without going direct to the military authorities; but the people saw them, and saw that she was lame and hurt, and took her in somewhere. He went to work for people there at blacksmithing at a dollar a day. he heard of me at Andersonville, and he thought to reach me there; he heard there was a settlement of Yankees forming at Andersonville; he started with his wife, for, after being a week there, she had got a little better. He had been paid for his work in confederate money, and, when he found himself on the train, the conductor would not take that money, and put them both off. He left the wife at Americus, came to me at Andersonville, and told his story. I wrote immediately to the commandant at Americus, stating the case to him, and asking him to send a sergeant and wagon, or team of some kind, with that man back to Nick Wylie's to get whatever he had left - (he spoke of having left chickens, furniture, bed and bedding, and the baby which he had been obliged to leave) - and send them to me. He took the note to the commandant at Americus, and it was done as I requested. Two days after, the whole assemblage drove up in front of my tent - Cater, his wife and the baby, the chickens, and the bed and bedding. I took his wife into my tent and examined her back; she was a young, bright-colored woman, a little darker than he, with a fair, patient face, with nothing sulky in her look; I found across her back twelve lashes or gashes, partly healed and partly not, some of them cut into the bone. She must have been whipped with a lash half as large as my little finger - it may have been larger; any of these gashes was from eight to ten inches in length; the flesh had been cut completely out most of the way. It had been a curling whip; it had curled around her arms, cut out inside the arm, over the back, and the same on the other side. There were twelve of those long lashes, partly healed and partly not; she could not bear her clothing on her at that time, except thrown loosely over her shoulders; she had got strong enough so as to be able to walk, but she was feeble, and must have been unable to work before that occurred; she was in no condition to work.
Question. She was in a state of pregnancy, then?
Answer. Yes, sir; that was the difficulty. She was one who, from her face, would never have rebelled against labor that she could have done; of that I am satisfied.
Question. Do you now what became of her?
Answer. I referred them to colonel Griffin, then in charge at Andersonville. The colonel put Cater to work at his trade as a blacksmith, and gave them a house to live in. I would have taken them away with me if I could; but it was impossible, and I left them there working for Colonel Griffin, he at his trade and she as a waiting girl.
Question. From your intercourse with the people there did you learn that treatment similar to that was of frequent occurrence among the slaveholders?
Answer. I should judge that it was not an uncommon thing. That was all that I observed myself. How far they would be inclined to exaggerate I cannot say. They might magnify their wrongs; but they told me a great deal of them. I believed what I saw. I knew what I saw.
Question. When did you leave that part of the country to come back?
Answer. I left on the 25th of August, I think, and came back to Washington through Chattanooga and the west.
Question. What did you discover to be the feeling among the whites in Georgia, where you visited, towrard the government of the United States and toward the loyal people of the United States?
Answer. I should suppose that in no instance was I able to get at their real feelings. They would be less likely to show their real feeling to me than to almost any other person. That was shortly after the arrest of Wirz, and the impression was general when I went there that I went to make observations with reference to further arrests. The women, supposing that I, a woman, had come to look after the women in particular, commenced to call upon me the first day of my arrival. I speak of the white women who had lived in the neighborhood during the time of its occupation as a prison. They appeared to associate together in threes and fours, and came to call upon me very neighborly, very bland, all taking the utmost pains to assure me that they had no part nor lot in the treatment of our prisoners, but throwing it back upon Winder, who was dead and in his grave. They all appeared willing enough to save Wirz. They, of course, would all have done better, and they did not think that Captain Wirz was bad at heart, but that he was ordered to do all those things by Winder. They wanted to screen Wirz, because if they could get the matter to stop inside of him, that was the last would be heard of it - there was no going over that; but if it went over him, there was no knowing how far it would go. So they screened everybody but Winder, and themselves they made immaculate. They were all willing to admit that the greatest atrocities had been committed on the prisoners, and that they had been shocked at the sight. They were ready to admit everything that we had ever thought of. They did not think, however, that Mr. Davis knew anything about it; but you would have supposed, to have heard them talk, that old General Winder was answerable for every crime and inhumanity ever committed in the confederacy; and he, fortunately, was dead, and no harm could be done to him. They centred everything there. There was every reason why none of them should tell me the truth, and there was a strong personal reason why they should falsify to me, and I took it so. They were, as I saw, "making friends of the mammon of unrighteousness." I read at once what their standing was, and what their fears were. So I have no idea that I got any truthful expressions from white people there.
Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction of the First Session Thirty-Ninth Congress, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1866, Arkansas - Georgia - Mississippi - Alabama, pages 102-105.