January 16


January 16, 1865 Union General William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15 which confiscated as Federal property a strip of coastline stretching from Charleston, South Carolina to the St. John’s River in Florida. The order redistributed the 400,000 acres of land to newly freed black families in 40-acre segments. In a later order, Sherman also authorized the army to loan mules to the newly settled black farmers. This is the likely origin of the phrase “forty acres and a mule.” Unfortunately, the order was a short-lived promise for blacks. President Andrew Johnson overturned Sherman’s order in the fall of 1865 and returned the land to the planters who had originally owned it.


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