Harper's Weekly 12/23/1865


We present, at page 813, a sketch, by Mr. J. R.
Hamilton, of the Freedmen's Bureau at Richmond,
as seen from the intersection of Broad and Tenth
streets, looking south toward the Capitol Grounds;
and showing in the distance the rear of Crawford's
celebrated statue of Washington and the steeple
of the famed St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

This new court for the regulation of matters con-
nected with the freedmen was established on the
28th October last. Lieutenant H. S. Merrill is
its President, on the part of the Government, Judge
George Fitzhugh on behalf of the white people,
and Judge P. P. A. Bibb for the colored ones. These
gentlemen meet in council every day, and to their
decision are referred all difficulties between whites
and blacks, or among the colored people themselves,
respecting labor, contracts, etc., and all questions
except criminal ones or those connected with the
decision of titles—this being no Court of Record. In
all else their decisions are unlimited and final, as
much so at least as were those of the Court of Con-
ciliation, subject only to the commander of this De-
partment, General Terry. Their decisions average
some five or six a day, and, up to the 24th Novem-
ber, they had disposed of over 250 cases. Some of
these cases are most singular and amusing; the
Freedmen being in the habit of running to the Bu-
reau for protection upon any and every occasion,
from the most serious to the most ludicrously insig-

One day has been, hitherto, set apart for the dis-
tribution of rations to the needy colored people, of
whom one-fourth were generally children and the
remainder aged and sick; Lieutenant Merrill pro-
testing that under no circumstances [excepting in
such cases of sickness at home where it was impos-
sible for the only parent to work] would relief be
given to able-bodied men or women. On the 20th
November, however, an order was issued by Col-
onel O. Brown, Assistant Commissioner of the Bu-
reau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Lands, notifying
the Overseers of the Poor of Richmond that at that
date the Federal Goverment had in hand 260
freedmen (paupers) whom they were supporting,
and whom the overseers were expected to provide
for. It is therefore probable that before this is in
print these paupers will have been turned over for
support to the local authorities of Richmond.

The portion of the central framed building in the
picture devoted to the Freedmen's Court and the
Distribution Office is at the further end, fronting
the Capitol Square. In other parts of the building
are located the Relief Commission, under Captain
E. M.Meismer; the office of J. J. Delamater,
Surgeon-in-Chief; the Commissary of Musters of
the Department of Virginia, under Brevet-Major
Frederick Martin, and the office of Colonel Al-
bert Ordway
. Provost-Marshal-General of the
Department of Virginia. This building was erected
by the Confederate Government, and was used as
General Winder's head-quarters.

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