Rollin, Frank [Frances] A.
|CHAPTER XXIX. -- GENERAL SICKLES.|
MAJOR DELANY was opposed openly in every advanced step he made, as stated before; hence, to accomplish any new measure of his relative to his office, he was compelled to resort to strategy. Before, oppositions of various characters were placed in his way, but he never permitted himself to be disturbed by them. He was actually forbidden to address the freedmen on public occasions concerning their rights; he spoke through the voice of the press, to the public at large, of their wrongs, and it found an echo in every loyal and generous heart. His color made him objectionable to many at that post as an officer, and his scathing denunciations of injustice rendered to the helpless and uneducated people who constantly challenged their consideration, showing him to be no mean opponent, rendered him still more objectionable.
Now he was at liberty to act freely; having an acceptable basis on which to begin his work, though late in the season, his prospect of usefulness appeared in its most promising light.
It was not long after the appearance of his "Triple Alliance Contract" that the following telegram was sent by order of the distinguished commander of the
Charleston , December 18, 1865.
To Major Delany , 104 th U. S. C. T.
General Sickles desires to see you at Charleston as soon as possible.
W. L. M. Burger , A. A. G.
The brilliant record written in unmistakable characters by this great neophyte to Liberty, as military lawgiver of the Carolinas, vies with the glory which encircled him at Gettysburg.
When the history of these eventful times shall have been compiled, the most pleasing development of the late revolution will be noted in the invaluable service given to the cause of human rights by those who previously opposed it. The ardor of those converts gave renewed zeal to the faithful; conspicuous among these, in letters as imperishable as their deeds, will be found the name of this gallant commander.
A few days after the reception of the telegram found Major Delany reporting his presence at the quarters of Major General Sickles. Of him he wrote afterwards, "I consider the gallant general who contributed so much to the victory at Gettysburg, a most liberal-minded statesman. His massive intellect at once grasped with vivid comprehension the entire range of political economy, domestic and social relations. In this interview he reviewed the situation thoroughly, giving me the details of instructions which were embodied in an order . This recognition, after previous discouragements, of his earnest
The general, in giving the instructions to him, said, "I cannot go myself," pointing to the remnant of the limb which he contributed to the nation's life at Gettysburg; " it requires an active person, and one in whom I can place reliance. You will be my representative. And I shall crush whatever dares to oppose you in your duties," he added, rising and straightening himself upon his crutches, as is characteristic of him, and suiting a gesture to the word.
Immediately after the interview with the commanding general, Major Delany returned to his post at Hilton Head, to make arrangements for starting on his tour of inspection. In this capacity he was de facto the military representative from the head-quarters.
The discerning general had his attention drawn on several occasions to the many abuses, both by the civil and military, of the person and property of blacks and whites. He could not fail to notice, when he assumed command of the department, that the bureau was unpopular with a large class, comprising Northerners and Southerners--its friends and officers hated; and with the exception of order which came directly from the assistant commissioner, discouragements were placed in the way, of such nature, that the entire social arrangement was threatened with neglect. It will be remembered that at this time the status of the bureau was not definitely settled, and its authority could be, and was, disputed by any ordinary military official.
The following order was furnished him: the instructions therein given, being strictly adhered to, resulted satisfactorily, as will be shown.
Headquarters Department of South Carolina
Charleston , S.C., December 21, 1865.
Special Orders. No . 148.
IV. Major M. R. Delany, 104th United States Colored Infantry, will proceed at once to the Military District of Port Royal, and the Sea Islands in the Military District of Charleston, South Carolina, and inspect, and report upon the condition of the population therein, according to the instructions received from the major general commanding. Commanding officers will afford Major Delany all necessary facilities.
The quartermaster's department will furnish the necessary transportation.
By command of Major General D. E. Sickles .
W. L. M. Burger , Asst. Adjt. Gen.
While on the eve of setting out on his tour of inspection, a report had reached Hilton Head that the negroes of Port Royal Island had matured an insurrection, to take place on Christmas night, their head-quarters being Beaufort. At first no person paid sufficient attention to a rumor so silly; but finally it magnified into an alarm, which caused the major to be sought out by many of the white citizens and some of the military, and requested to take a detachment of troops,
Believing that "the better part of valor is discretion," and to make assurance doubly sure, he at once made a requisition for a detachment of the 21st United States Colored Troops, then doing duty at the post. A part of Company E was detailed, under command of a sergeant, with other assistant non-commissioned officers. On Christmas night the transport steamer Sampson, Dennett, master, was ordered, which carried him to Beaufort, though, in consequence of a fog, he did not reach that point till five o'clock the next morning; not in time to quell an insurrection of the evening before, but in good season to learn from the rising inhabitants ," that among the most quiet and pleasant evenings of the year was that which had just given place to the morning; and the insurrection-haunted whites of the island could again repose in peace, until the next report would awake them.
Completing his official duties at Beaufort, the next point of importance was Edisto, where he went by advice of Major General Sickles. Here he met, at the headquarters of Captain Batchelor, commanding a detachment of United States forces, a delegation of the old planters, at the head of which was Jacob Jenkins Mikell, Esq., formerly one of the largest cotton-growers of Sea Island.
The 1st of January found him here, and he attended an immense gathering of the freedmen at their emancipation celebration. He addressed them, and in the course of his advice endeavored to disabuse their minds of the expectation of obtaining land, which he
By the force of his genius and acquirements, as well as position, he had compelled the old planters of Carolina to extend a recognition to him such as no black had ever before received; so that, while visiting many of the plantations of Edisto, so thoroughly had slavery done its work, that his advice to them only served to arouse their suspicions. John's, James's, and Wadmalaw Islands were barely touched upon; but the advice given was strictly guarded, in order to be effective.
He turned towards Charleston soon after, and reported his observation to the major general commanding, and paid his respects to the commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.
The detachment of troops which had accompanied him had acted only thus far as a guard of honor, he having had no occasion, happily, for their service.
While he was reporting in Charleston, the order was received relieving Major General Saxton of his command. The people, not having a knowledge of his noble successor, Major General Robert K. Scott, were anxiously excited.
The following Sabbath, three days after the news of his removal was received, a large meeting of the colored people, indiscriminately, was called at Zion's Church, for the purpose of expressing their gratitude to the general for his steadfast adherence to their interest, and their unfeigned regret at his removal.
At this meeting the general, his family, and a part of his staff, with other military officers, including the black major, were present. The speeches and resolutions on this occasion gave evidence of their appreciation of the character of that distinguished military philanthropist; and at a subsequent meeting some testimonials were presented by the people, and the scholars of the Saxton and Morris Street Schools, in simple acknowledgment of his official services, and of their personal attachment to him.
Knowing the suspicion and dissatisfaction with which the freedmen and colored people generally in South Carolina look upon such changes respecting those whose friendship they have enjoyed, or those upon whose impartial sense of justice they are willing to abide, the days of General Saxton's removal, in remembrance of their unbounded attachment and devotion, and the scenes attending it, remain in the mind as one of the most touching reminiscences of our war.
After the great Saxton meeting, the major prepared for setting out for his post at Hilton Head. On arriving on Monday morning at the wharf, he was met by Brigadier General Bennett, with two companies of colored troops, just boarding the transport steamer Canonicus, en route for Mount Pleasant and Sullivan's
Sending back his baggage in charge of his orderly, he embarked with the brigadier general. On reaching the plantation, they found the only evidence of an insurrection, was an attempt that had been made by some persons to effect an unjust contract, which the freedmen refused to receive, and declared their intention to abandon the place before they would submit. The military applauded their action, as there was no violence accompanying it, and their verdict, "You did right," settled everything further on the part of the aggressors. The major introduced to their consideration, and finally placed them fairly on, his system of land, labor, and capital, or triple alliance system. There being no further need of military intervention, they returned to Charleston, happy at the result of their passive victory. We would have cause for gratulations if future military expeditions into other places
The major, having accomplished his mission, set out that afternoon for Hilton Head, to resume his functions.