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Oliver O. Howard in Reconstruction

Oliver O. Howard (1830-1909) served as chief commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau (formally established as the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands) at the request of President Johnson in May 1865. He was a Union general in the Civil War, and in 1867 he founded Howard University.

Howard was committed to improving opportunities and education for black people, but his efforts were hampered by an under-staffed and under-funded Bureau. Further, his credibility with the freed slaves was substantially undercut when President Johnson ordered him to seize the plantation land back from the blacks and return it to their former masters. The Bureau was discontinued in July 1869 after new southern state governments had organized under Congressional Reconstruction. In a somewhat paradoxical change of course for a man who had just been struggling for minority rights, Howard went on to become commander of the Dept. of the Columbia, where he directed several campaigns against the Native Americans. His forces pursued Nez Percé Chief Joseph to the Canadian border in 1877 and forced him to relocate along with his people to the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state. In 1886, Howard was promoted to major general and assigned to command the Division of the East, where he served until his retirement in 1894.

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