From The National Freedman, Vol. 2, No. 2 (February 1866), pp. 60-61



Dear Sir: - Allow me by way of supplement to an important report of school interests in Virginia previously sent you to introduce your readers more particularly to one of the interesting fields cultivated by your Association.

It is Chimborazo – not the now-capped, cloud-invested South American mountain peak – but one of the seven hills of Richmond, capped with a camp of the “nation’s wards.” This hill is just outside the corporation limits, but overlooks the whole crescent of hills on which the city stands and is immediately above the steamboat landing at “Rocketts.” During the days of the Rebellion, this camp was an extensive general hospital of one hundred wards, each a separate building, of the shabbiest construction, the whole being symmetrically arranged on an area of about ten acres. Now it furnishes temporary and very indifferent shelter to upward of 1,500 victims of a social institution, which a Richmond paper of to-day calls “perfect,” and which the Richmond clergy call “divine.” A camp of refugee freedmen is a characteristic windfall of war and slavery. It has not its likeness in the world’s history, and the pattern, it is to be hoped, will soon be lost forever. Like its mountain namesake, it has sublime heights and fearful depth – heights of faith and hope, not only without sight, but against sight, and depths of destitution, debasement, and suffering. Its inhabitants, driven with loving kicks (the ex-slaveholders say they are the best friends of the negro) from the lands they had subdued, the houses they had built, and the crops they had just harvested, are gathered here in hunger and nakedness. In many instances they come separately – widow and forsaken women, young boys and girls, stray waifs, without living relatives that they know of, crippled old men, the diseased and helpless of all ages, women and children without husbands and fathers – such is a considerable part of the population. A majority, however, are able-bodied, and self-sustaining, when employment can be had. But against their will they have been forced into a condition of partial dependence. All are in ignorance, all have been trained in the violation of good morals, and tempted by wrong and suffering into vicious habits. Go through the camp, and behold the perfect work of the barbarism of slavery!


Now see what Christian benevolence is doing. The New York National Freedman’s Relief Association sends six faithful teachers to instruct the children in day school and the adults in night school; and supports a colored man, of excellent spirit and respectable talents, as assistant to the teachers, and as minister to the camp. He conducts their worship, and buries their dead. The teachers are Rev. John Walker, principal, Misses L. E. Williams, L. G. Campbell, Martha A. Cooke, Mary J. Cooke, and Lois Wadsworth. A part of these are veterans in the work, and the rest rapidly becoming so, if valiant service makes veterans. More than 100 children and 150 adults receive daily lessons. Last October, a Bible was promised to every one that would learn to read in it. The Bibles are beginning to be called for.


But the relief work necessarily commands a large share of the charity of your Association [61] and of the labor of the teachers. The following supplies have been received, and largely distributed: 14 boxes second-hand clothing (poor); 5 large cases new English clothing, valued at $1,700, and richly worth it; 1 large bale English cloths, $300. Miss Williams, by personal solicitation through her correspondence, has received $106 cash, 5 barrels clothing, valued at $380, and 2 cases boots and shoes. (Hopkinton, Mass., and Lee Chaplin and Sons, need only be pointed to a charitable work to go and do it.) Miss Campbell has secured $25 cash; Miss Wadsworth, $18; and the Misses Cooke have donations of clothing on the way. Brev. Maj. W. N. Felt, Chief Commissary of the Freedmen’s Bureau, has also collected $100 cash for the same objects.

The clothing and cloths are given to the necessitous, and sold at a very small price to those able to pay. The cash is expended principally in fuel, but partially in food for the sick and hungry. The benefactions, in this camp, are bestowed in the right way, viz., by a thorough personal examination of every case that seeks or receives relief. It should be said that the clothing has not all been given out in the camp; a very considerable amount has gone to outside sufferers.

Much as the teachers are doing, they only do what any one whose heart if flesh would do, if compelled to see what they can not help seeing. As it is, they do not reach the boundaries of the suffering within their sphere of labor; their supplies are limited, and the winter is not passed.

As Industrial Institution is maintained in the camp, by the Friends, at the head of which is Miss Smiley, whom thousands of the freed people in various parts of the South, unite in calling “blessed.” Aside from her great assistance in clothing the naked, she feeds and warms those who have need, as far as she can reach them. 

I have written thus particularly of this field, because it has come so much under my personal observation. Very respectfully yours,

Sup’t Freedmen’s Schools, Va.

RICHMOND, VA., Feb. 2, 1866.


One of the teachers, Miss L. G. Campbell, writes (Feb. 1st) as follows:

The supply of clothing, which, when it first arrived, seemed almost inexhaustible, is nearly gone; at least the warm garments. Much has been sold at a very low price to those able to pay for it, but much more has been gratuitously distributed. We are constantly having new arrivals in camp, (such ragged, forlorn looking specimens!) so that calls for clothing still come to us from every quarter, calls which we find impossible to supply. We have many cases of old and helpless people driven from their homes who not knowing where to find shelter, or even a crust to satisfy the cravings of hunger, wander into the camp, and locate themselves in some corner of an old tumble-down ward, with perhaps only a heap of clay for a fireplace, destitute of beds, bedding, and indeed everything necessary to make life even endurable, to say nothing of comfortable. A touching incident occurred only the other day; an old woman, bowed beneath the weight of nearly four-score years wandered into the school-room to get a ticket for rations (for you must know that one of our duties is to write notes of recommendation for those whom we think worthy of help). She had just been driven from her home in the city where she had faithfully served her mistress for many weary years, and now past labor, and unable in any way to contribute to the comfort or prosperity of those whose “chattel” she had been all those years of faithful, unrequited toil were forgotten, and she left to find her way as best she could to those who had “set her free.”

I have pupils in my school who come every day, through sunshine and through storm, with bare feet. One little fellow came one bitter cold day with is feet bound up with old rags; another little girl was “toted” to school by an elder sister.

In one school were two little brothers who had only one pair of shoes between them; one came in the morning; after recess he was found to be absent, having gone home and given up his shoues to his brother, who came in his place.

We have had many calls for those nice English prints, and think if you have any more on hand we could dispose of them to good advantage. I wonder if you have on hand any second-hand bed-quilts or army blankets; they would be such a comfort to those poor creatures who come to us so destitute.

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