War of the Rebellion: Serial 114 Page 0800 PRISONERS OF WAR, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

the North white laborers and pay their passage one way each season. For special and skilled laborers this will always be necessary to some extent of which the local officer can judge.

The establishment of a contraband colony bound to work here say three years unless sooner discharged will effect a very great saving, as the wages of contratands aside from rations need not be nearly as high as those now paid. I would not propose the fixing of exact rates though at the first an average allowance might well be indicated by authority the actual payments to be varid up and down according to merit. I attach great importance to this liding of rates as a disciplinary resource. Whether 100 or 200 should be sent depends I think mainly on the number available. I think too they should if possible be regular confiscates rather than refugees to avoid future reclamations. It will of course be a dictate of common humantiy not to separate families and therefore a considerable number of women and children would have to be sent. This climate so adirably adpated to the negro will make their comfortable housing a matter of littel expense. The barracoons will go far toward accomplishing this at the start but I think a row of small houses brought out ready framed will be necessary, for which a small rent may be charged which would pay for them in a few years. A system of issuing rations will be essential which could be bought for the fort and charged as stoppages from the rate of pay. Negro board is from $8 to $12 here now, $10 being about the average. The ration w ould be less and the cooking, &c., could be dne by the women. I think the details of living though they woul doffer more difficulties can be satisfactorily adjusted. I wuld propose that each man sent and perhaps the women should sign an obligation to serve under the direction of the engineer officer in charge at least three years for such pay as the officer may fix under his instructionis decidedly important and that is that in selecting negroes to come here under this obligation only those who are well adapted to this object should be chosen. Unless some care is exercised the worst may be sent, w hich as the Fort Taylor appropriation must pay their passage money and be charged with their support would be detrimental to the Government; nor should a large proportion of women and children be sent. Key West is likely for many years to be the locale of Government operations in building the fortifications, naval buildings, excavating a dock, receiving and supplying coal, &c. It will be well to authroize the application of these contrabands to any public use as the engineer officer may think proper, the rates charged being enough aboe the fort rates to pay a proper share of the expense of bringing out and establishing the colony. With proper management these men may become permanent employes of the Government. The application to be signed might probably be better drawn to serve the Government under the engineer in charge until a regular discharge shall be given. I will append a rough draft of my present idea of this obligation. I think immediate action on this proposition desirable. Believing its policy to be clear I do not by this mail order more white laborers to be sent for the tower works presuming that in a short time the needed force of contrabands can be sent.

If Captain Stewart is still at Old Point and the negroes there are superabundant I suppose he could attend to the selection and shipment, and similarly one of the engineer officers on the southeast coast. It is not my province to indicate how they should be selected and shipped. I may remark, however, that there are quartermaster's and naval transport steamers which could bring them at moderate expense.