Florence Ala. Dec. 6th 1866,
Dear Sir: At the commencement of the year I made a contract with a man by the name of W. Beckwith of this County to work his farm– we were to get one half of what we would have made– we were to feed ourselves and also the teames– we (I mean myself and family who is composed twenty eight, in all about 12 hands the balance small children) have made a small crop consisting of 15 bales of cotton and 200 hundred barrels of corn– we never received any help from Mr Beckwith, exceding 2 bushels of wheat and 2 bushels of rye and he furnished us with three plows– still at the day of settlement–Mr Beckwith has had all of our part of the crop attached claiming that we were owing him a very large amount– I dont' know what we can owe him for we never have received any thing from him except what I have named above– we are left without anything after our hard years labor– he took away from us 200 Blls. of corn, about 20 head of hogs and our wagon and harness– we called on Judge Tinge but he could not do anything for us as he said he would not interfere with civil Law– the fact of the thing is that Mr. Tinge is afraid to do anything that would be against any of those big Southern men–1 I was induced by a Northern gentleman who is farming here to write you and get. your advice in the matter– no lawyer here can be had to take up a case for a negroes– My contract was registered with the Freedmens Bureau Agent and can be investigated if you would only give it your attention. My family is without any resource whatever– Please answer me what is to be done, by an investigation in this Country you will soon find that my case is only but one of the many who have been treated like me, Yours very respectfully
Richmond Body to Col. John B. Callis, 6 Dec. 1866, vol. 59, pp. 47–48, Letters Received, series 112, Huntsville AL Subassistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. No reply to Body or other communication in response to his letter has been found in the subassistant commissioner's letters-sent volumes.
1. Charles A. Tenge, a civilian, was the Freedmen's Bureau agent at Florence. One month earlier, he had lost most of his possessions in a fire that he believed to have been “the work of an incendary, burning out three Union families living side by side.” “[Ma]ny in the County were jubelant that the Bureau was burned up,” Tenge had informed the subassistant commissioner, adding that “not a soul but Freedmen would lift a hand to help me save what little I could from the wreck.” (C. A. Tinge to Col. Callis, 6 Nov. 1866, vol. 59, p. 28, Letters Received, series 112, Huntsville AL Subassistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.)
Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 454–55.