Report on the Condition of the Freedmen of the Mississippi

Publication Year: 1864

Yeatman, James E. A Report on the Condition of the Freedmen of the Mississippi, Presented to the Western Sanitary Commission, December 17th, 1863 (St. Louis: Western Sanitary Com., 1864). 
PHS Call number: PAM E 185.93 .M6 Y42 1864

Source note

James Erwin Yeatman (1818-1901) was a wealthy white industrialist and banker who was born in the south. Despite his family ties to slavery, he became a strong supporter of the Union in the Civil War. Yeatman helped found and was president of the Western Sanitary Commission (WSC), a private institution based out of St. Louis whose mission was to provide medical care and other services for wounded soldiers. The WSC had an abolitionist bent and, in addition to building and supplying hospitals, put resources towards supporting newly freed African Americans with donations of clothing and money and by helping to set up and staff schools. 

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Reading questions

1.    Who is the author of this source? Who is the intended audience? Do you find this source to be reliable?

2.    What education was offered to newly freed children and adults in Camp Holly Spring (page 2)? Based on the rest of the report, were schools common in freedmen’s camps?

3.    What injustices does Yeatman point out with regards to freedmen’s labor (page 4-5)? What is Yeatman’s attitude toward these injustices?

4.    How does Yeatman describe the free black soldiers and their leaders (pages 5-6)?

5.    As in Document 1, Yeatman comments on the freedmen’s work ethic and eagerness to work hard on farms, as soldiers, and in other trades (page 10). Why do the authors of these two reports emphasize this point?

6.    What conditions does Yeatman describe at Paw Paw Island, Young’s Point, and Natchez (pages 11-13)? Are these conditions unique to these three camps?

7.    Yeatman ends his report with a strongly worded criticism of the unfair pay and work requirements for freedmen, and argues, “these people should be educated up to, and made to realize, their new condition” (page 16). To what extent might African Americans of this time period agree or disagree with this statement?

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Source type
History Topics
Abolition and Anti-slavery
African American History
Civil War
Time Period
Civil War and Reconstruction (1861-1877)