Gen. Banks on putting slaves to work, New Orleans, 1863
Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, a native of Massachusetts who was serving as commander of the Department of the Gulf, sent to all commanding officers an explanation his plan to put slaves to work. He sent a copy of the letter to Military Governor of Louisiana Brig. Gen. George F. Shepley. Banks, who assumed command of the Union's Department of the Gulf in mid December 1862, wrote that "an effort is being made to provide work for the negroes and to maintain the cultivation of Plantations ..." He asked Shepley for help in "explaining to the negroes the advantages of the plan to their race, to the planter, and to the government."