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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

January 16, 1865

Sherman Issued Order Giving Land to Slaves

From Savannah, Georgia, Union General William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15 that stated in part:

“The islands from Charleston south, the abandoned rice-fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the Saint John’s River, Fla., are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.”

See the full text of the order here. This order was likely a result of a meeting Sherman had with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton the previous week (January 11), concerning reports that Sherman and his forces had not been treating freed blacks properly. In reality, the order had little effect; it was overturned later in 1865 by then President Andrew Johnson.