From The National Freedman, Vol. 1, No. 10 (November 1865)
[Excerpt from report of Edward Barker on his visit to City Point and Richmond.]
This has been a month of great activity. There has been much accomplished. On Monday, the 2nd inst., I organized a school in the old Baptist church at Petersburg. On the next day I had present seventy-five scholars. Had I remained, I could have had 200 pupils in a short time. But as you know, I was called upon to go to City Point, on the 4th inst. (Wednesday).
City Point. I found this place a desert as regards social enjoyment. The aspect of things was forbidding. But soon there was a happy change. I fixed up a long stockade building with seats, stoves, tables, broom, and blackboard; procured a bell; fixed it on the roof; rang it, and men, women, and children came to school. But before this I had visited every house in camp. In the mean time, I fixed up another stockade, which is the teachers’ home. This I filled with chairs, tables, and useful things.
At the time I went to City Point, it was very sickly indeed. The freedmen were being swept off by fever and ague at the rate of seventy-five per week. The poor creatures were destitute of clothing, and of the common necessaries of life. The clothing you have since sent them will barely supply them. They are generally too poor to pay for anything. I have wept as I have passed from bed to bed, to see father and mother, and all the family sick. One man told me he had just buried his wife and four children. Poor man. He was left with a bright girl of eight years.
I was soon joined by Mr. E. D. Smith, of whom I have spoken in previous letters. While I remained we had the sessions daily. The scholars improved day by day; this encouraged us; we averaged daily sixty-five or seventy, and at night about forty-five. Many of our pupils were over sixty years of age. I was down there on Saturday last. The people were glad to see me. I spoke to them at night in the school-house, and again on Sunday A. M. in Sunday school. All is well there.
On the 17th inst. I left City Point for Richmond, via Petersburg. The next day I was at my post early, and organized a school in the 2d Baptist Church, in which I found Mrs. Jennings and daughter. There were present there eighty-four scholars. To-day there are 250, with two additional teachers, Miss Scott and Miss Eccles, and a night school of 200 men and women. I shall teach them to support themselves…
On the 23d inst. I organized a night school at the Chimborazo camp, and taught there four nights. There are about 200 pupils there under the care of six or seven lady teachers. Chaplain Manly is usually present, and takes an active part. Yours respectfully,