Back to top

General Daniel E. Sickles, General Order Number One, Headquarters, Department of South Carolina, January 17, 1866

Daniel Sickles, detail
During the latter half of 1865, reconstituted state legislatures in the old Confederacy began to pass new laws that defined the post-slavery treatment of their inhabitants, black and white. Many of these laws took on the appearance of pre-war criminal laws, especially where African-Americans were concerned. Northern observers began to call these law the "Black Codes." One such a law, for example, passed in December 1865, reforming South Carolina laws. In the legislation, discrimination against black citizens was clear, down to draconian restrictions on movement, commence, and the right to bear arms. General Daniel Sickles, Union commander in the region, here issued an order decreeing that all such restrictions and other aspects of "the codes" be ignored in the law. Instead, Sickles laid down his own set of laws and penalties designed both to guarantee the rights of blacks in South Carolina but also provide for both a thriving commerce in which the able-bodied worked and the aged and children were cared for. (By John Osborne)