Peaking at Fifteen Million Acres

Forty acres and a mule
was part of General Sherman’s
special order fifteen
to allot land to some
some freedmen.

Sherman encouraged
his army quartermaster
to give mules
to the new farmers
to increase their chance
of success.

The freedmen expected
that land to be theirs
from that day forth
with the force of law
and the Union army
behind the order.

But special order fifteen
was a war order
and peace came
a few months after
it was issued.

With the end of war
Lincoln was assassinated
opening the way
for Tennessee’s Johnson
to be president
and politics to alter
what Sherman wrought
in good faith.

Title of the land
was not issued to the freedmen
and they were told
that they were now paid laborers
instead of land owners
(instead of slaves).

Over the next fifty years
African Americans used their wages
to purchase unsettled land
in the Southern states
that once formed the Confederacy.

They had to purchase their mules too.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

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