Civil War & Reconstruction Civil War Third Federal (Union) Occupation and Reconstruction Freedmens Bureau

Freedmens Bureau

Created in the U. S. War Department on March 3, 1865, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, under Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, it was originally intended to assist postwar poor whites and freed enslaved people in the defeated South. Its most controversial actions naturally related to social, political and economic integration of African Americans in Southern society. Because Howard selected only strong Unionists and ardent abolitionists (meaning Republicans), friction was inevitably caused almost universally throughout the South, especially as the region was extended greater political autonomy.

The Virginia Freedmen’s Bureau, headquartered in Richmond, was divided into sub-districts. The Sixth Sub-District included Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford, King George, and Spotsylvania. On February 16, 1866, its commissioner, Lieutenant Hector Sears, wrote of Stafford: “In reference to the ‘feeling between the whites and blacks’ I have to state that the whites have not a kindly feeling or do they show good will toward the blacks…they have been threatened and fear violence, and my observations warrant me in expressing fears that in some cases these threats would be executed if it were not for the military.”