1865: “We Claim Freedom”

Nashville, January 9th, 1865

We the undersigned petitioners, American citizens of African descent, natives and residents of Tennessee, and devoted friends of the great National cause, do most respectfully ask a patient hearing of your honorable body in regard to matters deeply affecting the future condition of our unfortunate and long suffering race.

First of all, however, we would say that words are too weak to tell how profoundly grateful we are to the Federal Government for the good work of freedom which it is gradually carrying forward; and for the Emancipation Proclamation which has set free all the slaves in some of the rebellious States, as well as many of the slaves in Tennessee.

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1864: “I Run Off From Him”

My name is Jim; I have been living on Bull run, with a man by the name of Pierce; they call him Cromwell Pierce. I run off from him nearly two months ago, because he treated me so mean: he half-starved and whipped me. I was whipped three or four times a week, sometimes with a cowhide, and sometimes with a hickory. He put so much work on me, I could not do it; chopping & hauling wood and lumber logs. I am about thirteen years old. I got pretty good meal at dinner, but he only gave us a half-pint for breakfast and supper, with cornbread. I ran away to town; I had a brother “Bob” living in Knoxville, and other boys I knew…

I hired myself to Capt. Smith as a servant, and went to work as a waiter in Quarter Master Winslow’s office as a waiter for the mess. After Capt. Winslow went home, I went to live with Bob, helping him.

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1863: “I Am In No Hurry To Get Into Any More Battles”

Murfreesboro, Tenn., April 20. 1863.

Dear wife:

I am alone in my tent to-night, I have a good solid floor in it, an excellent fire place in one end, graced by a pair of andirons, a cheerful fire is glowing on the hearth for though the days are warm the nights are a little cool; my good feather bed with feather pillow is waiting for me; the excellent brass band of the 19th regulars, who are encamped near us, fills the soft night air with splendid music, and while I am content as it is yet if you were here with me I should be happy. You remember when I was at home I was almost entirely out of the notion of soldiering much longer, and I really expected that by this time I should be out of the service. Continue reading