Oliver Otis Howard was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War. As a brigade commander in the Army of the Potomac, Howard lost his right arm while leading his men against Confederate forces at the Battle of Fair Oaks/Seven Pines in June 1862, an action which later earned him the Medal of Honor. As a corps commander, he suffered two major defeats at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg in May and July 1863, but recovered from the setbacks as a successful corps and later army commander in the Western Theater.
Known as the "Christian general" because he tried to base his policy decisions on his deep, evangelical piety, he was given charge of the Freedmen's Bureau in mid-1865, with the mission of integrating the former slaves into Southern society and politics during the second phase of the Reconstruction Era. Howard took charge of labor policy, setting up a system that required freed people to work on former plantation land under pay scales fixed by the Bureau, on terms negotiated by the Bureau with white land owners. Howard's Bureau was primarily responsible for the legal affairs of the freedmen.