Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gen. Gordon Granger on Kentucky Masters and Fugitive Slaves

On November 18, 1862, Union Gen. Gordon Granger (shown right) wrote from Lexington, Kentucky, to commander of the Department of Ohio, Gen. Horatio Wright, on the issue of Union troops accepting runaway slaves into their Kentucky camps. His sense of urgency is of special interest:

General; I am daily annoyed and harassed by the many complaints made to me by Union men of this part of Kentucky, of the abduction of their negroes, by officers and men in this army. There is no doubt but that it has been carried on to a very great extent. We have officers in some of the regiments now stationed near this city, who have so far forgotten their duties as soldiers, as to confine their exertions almost entirely to seducing negroes from their homes into their camps; nor are they particular as to whom these negroes belong; the friends of the Government suffer such losses as much, if not more, than others. It was but this morning that complaints were made by men of the 10th Ky. Cavalry, to the effect that while they were fighting to protect their property, under the constitution and laws of the country, some of the men in other regiments of their own Army, were taking and secreting such property from them. Many of the camps are being crowded with worthless negroes, interfering with the proper exercise of military duty, and, in fact, greatly demoralizing the men. Already a Colonel of one of our Regiments has been indicted under the laws of Kentucky, for abduction of negroes. In some cases where loyal citizens, who have proper permission to do so, have endeavored to look for their negroes, they have been disgracefully treated by officers and men, who had secreted their negroes, and directly refused to put them out of the camps. Such action of officers our army, not only tends to greatly demoralize it, but gives the greatest discouragement to our friends and supporters, many of whom had most of their negroes stolen by the armies of [Confederates] Kirby Smith and [Braxton] Bragg - I am very desirous that you will lay down some policy by which I may be guided in this matter. Something ought to be done immediately. Very respctly yours,
G Granger 

From - Freedom: A Documentarty History of Emancipation, 1861-1867; Series I, Volume I, The Destruction of Slavery; ed. by Ira Berlin, Barbara J. Fields, Thavolia Glymph, Joseph P. Reidy and Leslie S. Rowland.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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