Return to Port Royal Experiment
Report on Port Royal and the organization of the National
Freedmen's Association
American Missionary
March 1862

American Missionary Association

March 1862
Colored Refugees at Port Royal
At the last accounts there were within Gen. Sherman’s command over twelve thousand ex-slaves—men, women and
children, and the number was daily increasing. Rev. Mansfield French, after visiting Washington, and obtaining the
approval of the President, went to Fortress Monroe, where he preached one Sabbath in the temporary absence of
Rev. L. C. Lockwood. On returning to this city, he proceeded to Port Royal, Beaufort, etc. There he was kindly
received, by Gen. Sherman, Capt. Saxton, Com. DuPont and others, and allowed every facility for the prosecution of
his labors. He visited twenty-five plantations, conversed with large numbers of ex-slaves, and possessed himself of
much valuable information respecting their condition, their feelings and capabilities.

After an absence of three weeks Mr. French returned to this city in company with Rev. John W. Lindsay of New York
and E. L. Pierce, Esq. of Boston, both of whom have been at Port Royal to investigate the condition of the recent
slaves.

At the request of Mr. French, a meeting was held at the Park Hotel, February 14th to receive his communications.
Lewis Tappan was appointed Chairman, and Rev. Dr. Wise, Secretary. Mr. French represented the destitution of the
poor black people as very great and stated that the most urgent necessity exists for their relief. A large portion of
them are in a state of want respecting clothing and other necessaries of life. Their demoralization is proceeding at a
rapid pace, owing to the vicious practices of many in the army. Such conduct is disgraceful, both to the army and the
country; it alienates the negroes from the government, and those who represent it in South Carolina; and it must be
provoking to God, who cannot look upon the iniquity.

Mr. Lindsay corroborated many of the statements of Mr. French, from personal knowledge.

A letter from Gen. Sherman to Mr. French was read, in which that officer speaks of the sufferings of the blacks in
consequence of their destitution of clothing, and his hope that the attention of the benevolent at the North,  would be
attracted to this charitable project. Gen. Sherman suggests that the articles most needed are coarse, durable and
cheap clothing, including shoes, and that a fair proportion of articles be for women’s and children’s wear. Com. Du
Pont adds his recommendation to that of Gen. Sherman and assures Mr. French that in all his labors for the poor
blacks, he has his sympathy and support. He adds: “Only yesterday I had a letter from one of my commanding
officers, holding North Ediste, who report that he has 1500 contrabands under his charge, in a very destitute
condition.”

The Collector of the Port. Hiram Barney, Esq. was present, and stated, briefly what he understood were the views of
the Government with regard to the recent slaves in S. C. He also expressed his desire to cooperate with citizens in
this philanthropic undertaking on behalf of the Government, to the extent of his official power.

After further discussion, it was unanimously resolved, as the opinion of those present, that a public meeting be
speedily called, when the facts in the case should be communicated and measures taken for the prompt relief of the
destitute persons concerned. A Committee of Arrangements was appointed, and also a Committee to wait upon the
Mayor of the city. Hon. George Opdyke, to request him to preside at the public meeting. The last Committee soon
returned, and reported that Mr. Opdyke accepted the invitation.

The Chairman stated that warehouse No. 320 Broadway, was subject to the use of the Committee, for the reception
of clothing and other articles that might be contributed. The offer was accepted, and it was voted that the public be
notified that all articles sent there for the ex-slaves would be stored until an opportunity offered for their transmission
to Port Royal.

The public meeting is to be held at the Cooper Institute, February 20th
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