Today we’re highlighting a small series called Maps of Captured and Abandoned Properties, NAID 960291, filed among the General Records of the Department of the Treasury, Record Group 56. Created after the US Civil War, the maps in this series provide intriguing but fragmentary evidence of property ownership transfers. Few in number, these records raise more questions than they answer– a perfect invitation to intrepid researchers in search of a project.
The first two maps show the positions of government farms in southeastern Virginia, and are attributed to the 1st and 2nd Districts Negro Affairs, Department of Virginia and North Carolina.
Each map shows numbered plots of land in red, with a key listing the name of the estate, owner or perhaps occupant for each number. The 2nd District map also includes information on size of land holdings, and whether acreage has timber or not. The 1st District map includes the location of a “Poor House” among the listings. While the maps alone do not definitively state the farms are occupied by freedmen, outside documentation suggests this is the case (Berlin, Reidy and Miller 193-95).
Several maps in the series depict the lease of captured and abandoned lands and plantations along the lower Mississippi River in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In one case, we have what appears to be a manuscript map together with a lithograph of the same area along the Mississippi River through Wilkinson, Adams, Claiborne and Jefferson Counties, Mississippi and Concordia and Tensas Parishes, Louisiana.
The last maps for today also relate to the status of plantation properties. These maps are attributed to A. McFarland, agent for leasing. The first depicts plantations in Carrol Parish, Louisiana, and Issaquena County, Mississippi; Goodrich Division, Skipwith District. In addition to identifying properties by name, the map depicts residences, quarters and cotton gins on the properties.
The remaining maps show property status in portions of Desha and Chicot Counties, Arkansas, and Washington and Bolivar Counties, Mississippi, Skipwith District. The first two images are clean copies of the two parts of the lithograph; the third is a heavily annotated copy of the Southern half, with notes recording sales, of bales in some cases, and what appears to be the sale or lease of acres of land in others.
Though the story they tell is far from complete, records like these offer a unique birds-eye glimpse into the turmoil of the post-war landscape, and invite further research into the lives inscribed there.
Berlin, Ira, Joseph P. Reidy and Steven F. Miller. The Wartime Genesis of Free Labor: The Upper South, Volume 2. Cambridge University Press, 1993. Excerpt online: https://goo.gl/hX90D7