Monday, February 20, 2012

A Slave Owner to Sec. of War Stanton on Union Army Impressment

Henderson Ky. March 14 1865

My Dear Sir – I trust you will excuse me for thus presuming to address you. I beg to assure you that nothing else than as I conceive my duty and humanity towards those, who have up to the present time, been by the laws of the land considered mine & still look up to me as their friend & protector induces me to do so – I have then three negroes – one man & two boys, who are at this time in Camp here, having been, as the proof very conclusively shews [shows] forced in the Service a the point of the bayonet & against their will and consent – If they would have gone in on their own I would not have said a word, or if they had been according to Law drafted regularly into the Service as three others of mine were last fall, whilst I should have been sorry to have seen them go off reluctantly, I should still have acquiesced as cheerfully & been as obedient to the law as any other man. But when boys that I have raised come as these do everyday now, and with tears beseech me to see justice done them, I can not refuse – and especially when I know that it is in violation of the law under which it is pretended that these Boys have been enlisted that they are held to service where they are – It is not I assure you my Dear Sir, in expectation of any value which their services may be to me in the future, that I am prompted to the course I take, for as far as the relation of master & slave is concerned I consider that as done away with, tho, not one of mine has yet run away or left me of their own accord – But if these in whose behalf I am now writing were to leave me as soon as released from their present condition, I should still make the appeal, which I trust will be successful…

Source - Ira Berlin, Joseph Patrick Reidy and Leslie S. Rowland eds. Freedom’s Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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