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Letter from Freedmen Robert Hamilton and Patrick Allston Requesting Rations, Beaufort County, SC, 1868

Toni Carrier
by Toni Carrier

Freedmen’s Bureau records are such a rich resource for African American genealogy and history. From these records, you can learn more about your ancestors’ lives, and what was happening where your ancestors were living just after the end of the Civil War. But, even in Freedmen’s Bureau records, it’s rare to find a document written by a freed person, and to be able to hear that person’s voice in the document.

This remarkable letter was written by Robert Hamilton and Patrick Allston, two Freedmen who had rented land to farm in Grahamville, SC, near Beaufort. The men were partners and planned to employ 20 hands to cultivate cotton, rice and subsistence crops. In the letter, dated 1868 and written in Grahamville, Hamilton and Allston request rations from the US government, to enable them to sustain their families as they wait for the year’s crop to mature. The body of the letter is transcribed below. Please click on each image to view a larger version.

 

 

Letter Written by Freedmen, 1868 Page 1

Letter Written by Freedmen, 1868 Page 2

Letter Written by Robert Hamilton and Patrick Allston, Freedmen, Requesting Rations to Enable Them to Plant a Crop in 1868.

“South Carolina, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9ZG-DQN?cc=2127881&wc=MFHK-7TL%3A1017928201%2C1017971001 : 21 May 2014), Claim division > Roll 25, Planters’ applications for provisions, G-O, 1868 > image 170 of 944; citing NARA microfilm publication M1910 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

“We Want you Sir for to Let us have $75 dollars Worth of Rashen and We Will make Cotton to Pay you in November of 1868. We Want to make A Crop this year if God be Wit us …”

March the 30 1868

Grahamville S.C. Charleston S.C.

General Scott Sir I have taken this Authority of Enform you of this & hoping that you Will Grant our Request We Lease a Plantion for [“for” is crossed out] from Mr. William Bely for $1000 dollars A year Wit 20 Hands on it & We Will plant Cotton & Corn & Rices Bean Potato & & other [crossed out word] necessary Crops and We Want you Sir for to Let us have $75 dollars Worth of Rashen and We Will make Cotton to Pay you in November of 1868. We Want to make A Crop this year if God be Wit us & We fell throught [through &?] Wit Rashen We are here now Sir Workin hard and Cant Afford to Eat but one time En A day We had make 21 people ration to Mr. J.E. P(?) Lewis(?) in march th 2 & he say that the Government Will not Let us have no Rashen Except We had Stocks Property 2 Sir We havent got Property yet But if We Can get Corn & Bacon from you We Will Sho You Sir that We Will Pay You / for see that We get from you & Plese Sir to Let We have it and We Want it Now as Soon as You Will Send it and if You Will Let We get this Rashen at Beaufort it Will be better for We to get it home Wit A Boat En 2 mile

do General to Grant our this Request hear it is 20 hands on this Place Call to you for help & We trust that You Will help us out and Look to us for Your Payment

 this Robert Hamilton

and Patrack Alleston

Whom Will Bear Poncibility

for the Plantion and Rashen

money is Payable to time that dated to Pay it 1

“We are heare now Sir Workin hard and Cant Aford to Eat but one time En a Day.”

Footnotes

[1] When transcribing a document, it is important to transcribe it exactly as it was written, preserving upper and lower case characters, spelling and phrases exactly. As we see in this document, elements of Gullah Geechee language structure are preserved within the Freedmens’ speech (ex. “for see that We get; ” “to Let We have it.”). See Turner, Lorenzo Dow 1949 Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press to learn more.

[2] (livestock for collateral for an advance of rations.) 

Source Citations

[3] “South Carolina, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9ZG-DQN?cc=2127881&wc=MFHK-7TL%3A1017928201%2C1017971001 : 21 May 2014), Claim division > Roll 25, Planters’ applications for provisions, G-O, 1868 > images 170 and 171 of 944; citing NARA microfilm publication M1910 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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