Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Union Occupation

On November 9th, the North occupied a town that had only 48 hours before belonged to one of the wealthiest, most privileged classes ever to exist in the US. Union diaries from the time describe with awe the still impressive homes and the lush gardens that now bore the scars of indiscriminant destruction and looting. Union forces under General Isaac Stevens put an end to looting both by former slaves and later by soldiers, but ironically was unable to prevent the more systematic sacking of valuable goods by Northern agents who had arrived on the heels of the military. The physical changes to Beaufort, though, were only a prelude to the social changes about to take place.

After the restoration of order, the Department of the South, as Beaufort was now known in Washington, had two pressing challenges to address: the waging of the war and what to do ultimately about the huge slave population that had been largely cast adrift. In response to the latter, abolitionist groups in the North rapidly organized to create Freedman Aid Societies, sending supplies, clothing and most significantly teachers to help the former slaves in the transition to freedom.

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