"Forty acres and a mule"That famous order as issued by W.T. Sherman, Field Order Number 15.
Even one hundred and fifty years after the fact an item that is controversial in some quarters.
A response to dynamic change an expedient and ad hoc measure designed to alleviate an unanticipated situation.
That Army of the West having gathered a large band of refugees in tow, seriously impeding further progress of the army. Refugees freedmen [black slaves having been set free no longer at the command of their masters] and to included numbers of Southern whites.
Those refugees not allowing forward progress of the army as desired by Sherman, Field Order 15 issued in the hope of alleviating the situation.
Black freedmen head of families promised that forty acres title of land consisting of abandoned plantation acreage.
As described by E. L. Doctorow in his novel, "The March":
"Your pen, Major. Get this down. Field Order whatever it is.
"It would be Number 15 sir."
"Number 15, he said."
"The Sea Islands from Charleston south, and all the abandoned plantation acreage along the rivers for thirty miles inland in South Carolina, and I'll throw in parts of Georgia, and the country bordering on the St. John's River in Florida, are reserved for black resettlement. Have you got that? Black resettlement. Every free Negro head of family is to be given title to forty acres of tillable ground. Yes, and the seed and equipment to farm them. All boundaries to be determined and possessory titles issued by a general officer of the U.S. Army as - - call him - - Inspector of Settlements and Plantations."
That order a means to disperse in a fain and equitable manner the refugees, continued forward progress of the Army of the West no longer impeded.
Such was the intention of Sherman, a promise in the aftermath of the war unfulfilled.
It can be suggested that Sherman in his capacity as military commander having an unwritten authority in furtherance of his mission to take measures he deemed necessary to accomplish further tasks in an efficient manner. That authority allowing him to issue an order Number 15.