Sunday, February 1, 2015

Request Reparations for Dead Animals ~ 1867

The writer of the letter, Maria Louisa Baxter Burnley, wrote to the Freedmen's Bureau Field Officer concerning reparations for her dead mare and mules, and blinded ox. She implied the freedmen working for her intentionally harmed the animals.

Maria Burnley was the wife of Edwin Burnley. The couple married in 1852, together they had five daughters: Jean, Hardenia, Fannie, Bertha, and Edwina. Jeanie died before the writing of this letter. They owned Somerset Plantation in Copiah County, Mississippi, with 60 slaves.

Somerset Plantation's acreage is shaded in pink on the map below.

Somerset Plantation
September 20th 1867

To his excellency General

Knowing it to be your desire to redress grievances in the district under your command, I have taken the liberty to address you, begging your advice or directions.

I will first state that before the War my husband owned about one hundred svts mostly his family servants & one valuable cotton plantation in Madison Parish La - on which during the war, the Southern soldiers burned near four hundred bales of cotton with corn, new gin house, steam engine & ? not giving even two hours to save the buildings - that with the mules they took has reduced us to poverty - my husband by an attack of apoplexy has been incapacitated to attend business since the war - & seldom leaves the house.
From Edwina Burnley Memoirs: There were 1300 acres across the river from Vicksburg in Madison Parish, La., on Jo’s Bayou not far from the little town of Delhi. Bro William managed the place but Pa went over several times a year. Jo’s Bayou was a valuable plantation, finely equipped, Pa refused $100,000 for it just before the war. Just before the fall of Vicksburg our own soldiers burned one year’s crop to keep the Yankee’s from getting it – 300 bales of cotton and unnumbered bushels of corn.

This year & last we have employed freedmen, but they have not made enough to feed themselves & teams & they only work when they choose.

However after these preliminaries which I deemed necessary as an apology for troubling you, I will state that my chief object is to inquire of yourself if there can be any redress for the cruelty of the freedmen to the animals under their care.

Those employed here have during this year killed two mules & one fine, young mare. Last night the ox driver beat an ox unmercifully & left him perfectly blind.

Now Sir, by stating in what way these cruelties can be prevented you will not only greatly oblige - your humble petitioner (who can ill afford to lose even one animal) but show an act of real kindness to those domestic animals who God has given us to care for & protect.

Very respectfully
Your most obedient
Mrs. M. L. Burnley
Gallatin, Copiah Co., Miss

P.S. May I beg this petition may receive your attention as I am obliged to employ freedmen inasmuch as I have four little daughters to support & no one to attend to any business but myself.

? M. L.B.

How is Somerset connected to my family?
Virgina Williams/Taylor was a slave of Somerset. She married John T Demyers, my 2nd great grandmother Alice Demyers Overton Usher's brother. The Burnley family also owned an Overton family whose connection to my 2nd great grandfather, Dave Brown Overton, is unclear.

"Mississippi, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872," images, FamilySearch (,1078469101 : accessed 1 February 2015), Brookhaven (subassistant commissioner) > Roll 11, Unregistered letters received, Jun 1865-Nov 1868 > image 110 of 214; citing NARA microfilm publication M1907 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Map Courtesy of Beverley Ballatine

Edwina Burnley Memoirs

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