During our episode Digging up War of 1812 Bounty Land one of the documents was this land warrant issued by the pension office to veterans. The law in 1850 stated that men serving at least 3 months were eligible for 40 acres. When I saw this document, of course… you know what I thought about.
Yeess, 40 acres in the mule. This was a broken promise from the federal government to African Americans during the Civil War, not including the mule. As Union General William Tecumseh made his famous “march to the sea,“ he encountered large groups of freedpeople in need. With thousands of additional people to care for, the federal government needed to come up with a plan.
On January 16th, 1865 a plan was laid out in Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15,.One part of that plan was the distribution of 40 acres of land, with protection from the military. From the coast of Charleston South Carolina to St Johns River in Florida, plus the Georgia Sea Islands, 400,000 acres of land were to be redistributed to the newly freed.
After 40,000 freedman settled on what was being called “Sherman Land,” this order was overturned by Andrew Johnson. (The man on the $20 bill where Harriet Tubman was supposed to be.) Most of the land was returned to the original owners.
- Read Special Field Order Number 15
- Read the full 40 Acre and a Mule details by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
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