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General William T. Sherman, c. 1863

General William T. Sherman, c. 1863.
(National Archives)

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On January 16, 1865, Union general William T. Sherman, shortly after capturing Savannah, issued Special Field Order 15, setting aside land on the Sea Islands and along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia for black settlement.

Intended to provide temporary refuge for the large number of former slaves following his army, Sherman's order nonetheless had the effect of raising blacks' expectations that the land would belong to them permanently. Later, under President Andrew Johnson, the land was restored to its prewar owners.

Copyright 2003
A New Birth of Freedom: Reconstruction During the Civil War The Meaning of Freedom: Black and White Responses to Slavery From Free Labor to Slave Labor Rights and Power: The Politics of Reconstruction Introduction The Ending of Reconstruction Epilogue: The Unfinished Revolution Additional Resources Credits for this Exhibit Digital History Home