Freedmens Bureau

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was established by the U.S. Congress before the Civil War ended and made a part of the War Department. It be­came known simply as the “freedmens bureau.”


Brigadier General Rufus Saxton was the first head of the freedmens bureau in Georgia. He was later replaced by Briga­dier General David Tillson. The state office was in Milledge­ville, and branch offices were located in counties where they were needed.


Branch offices were at first operated by U.S. Army officers, but they were gradually replaced by War Department civilian employees. The latter were referred to by most Southerners as “carpetbaggers,” most likely because they arrived carrying their possessions in a valise made of carpet. The name took on a different meaning altogether when the federal civilian employee was ignorant and corrupt, or black.


A branch of the freedmans bureau was located in Liberty County in 1865 between Midway and Bryan County at a place which became known as “Freedmens Grove.” The bureau branch chief, military and civilian, controlled virtual­ly all facets of Liberty County public life for about five years. The freedmens bureau in Liberty County was closed before Georgia was readmitted to the Union in 1870.


Georgia highways and towns in the summer of 1865 were clogged with former slaves who existed any way they could without working. In Liberty County, however, many former slaves remained on their plantations and worked with their former owners to sustain life for both of them, generally on a share-crop basis.