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Rufus Saxton manuscript

Printed manuscript, ca. 1863, augments the Library's holdings of the papers of Rufus Saxton (1824-1908), a West Pointer who explored the Rocky Mountains and belatedly received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his defense of Harper's Ferry during the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. It further documents his command of the District of Beaufort, Department of the South, 1863-1865.

The latest addition is the printed text of an agreement signed by those who purchased land at Port Royal during the March 1863 government auction for unpaid taxes. The Direct Tax Commissioners conducted the sale as specified by the federal statute of 7 June 1862, but the law left certain details unresolved. How, for instance, was the government to be repaid for what it had already spent on the 1863 crop? By signing the agreement, the purchaser got immediate possession of the land and promised to pay Saxton or his successor "the full amount paid by him for work done...in manuring, listing, or otherwise preparing ground for the next cotton crop." The government would collect when the Attorney General of the United States ruled that Saxton had authority to exact the promise and demand payment.

The document further bound the purchaser to respect the rights granted to ex-slaves by the Federal military government. It obligated the new owner not to "interfere, during this season, with any negro, in respect to lands which have already been alloted to him for raising his own subsistence, under sections I and II of General Orders, No. 12, issued by Gen. Saxton...unless said negro shall be adjudged by competent authority to have forfeited by his own conduct the right to the use of land formerly allotted to him."

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