Depreciation, 2018
Restrictive covenant; 1 acre on Edisto Island, South Carolina

40 acres and a mule as reparations for slavery originates in General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Special Field Orders No. 15, issued on January 16, 1865. Sherman’s Field Order 15 was issued out of concern for a potential uprising of the thousands of ex-slaves who were following his army by the time it arrived in Savannah.[1]

The field order stipulated that “The islands from Charleston south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the Saint Johns River, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States. Each family shall have a plot of not more than forty acres of tillable ground.”[2]

This was followed by the formation of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands in March 1865. In the months immediately following the issue of the field orders, approximately 40,000 former slaves settled in the area designated by Sherman on the basis of possessory title.[3] 10,000 of these former slaves were settled on Edisto Island, South Carolina.[4]