Affidavit of a Kentucky Black Soldier

Camp Nelson Ky.  Dec. [15] 1864.

Personally appeared before me. E. B W. Restieaux Capt and A.Q.M. John Burnside–a man of color who being sworn upon oath says–  I am a soldier in Company K. 124 Regt. U.S.C.T.  I am a married man.  My wife and children belonged to William Royster of Garrard County Ky.  Royster had a son John who was with Morgan during his raid into Kentucky in June 1863.  He got separated from Morgan's command and went home.  The Provost Marshal instituted a search for him at two different times   He was not found.  My family were charged with giving the information which led to the measures of the Provost Marshal.  William Royster told me that my wife had been trying to ruin him for the last two years and if he found that this–meaning the information went out through the black family–meaning my family–he would scatter them to the four winds of heaven.  This was said about the last of September 1864.  In consequence of this threat my family were in constant dread, and desired to find protection and employment from the Government.  At that time I had been employed at Camp Nelson and was not enlisted.  A few days afterward I was sick at my mothers.  I sent my sister to see Col. Sedgwick1 and inquire if my family might come to Camp, and if they might, would they be protected:  She returned the same night and informed me that Col. Sedgwick said tell him (me) to bring them in and I, Col Sedgwick, will protect them.  Before, I was unwilling that they should come but on receiving the promised protection of Col. Sedgwick. I told them to come.  While my wife and family were in Camp they never received any money or provision from the government but earned their living with hard work

On Friday afternoon Nov. 28. [25] 1864 the Provost guard ordered my wife and family out of Camp.  The guard had a wagon into which my wife and family were forced to go and were then driven out the lines

They were driven to a wood belonging to Mr. Simpson about seven miles from Camp and there thrown out without any protection or any home.  While they were in the wood it rained hard and my family were exposed to the storm.  My eldest daughter had been sick for some time and was then slowly recovering.  and further this deponent saith not.

John Burnside

Affidavit of John Burnside, 15 Dec. 1864, enclosed in Capt. E. B. W. Restieaux to Maj. Genl. M. C. Meigs, 16 Dec. 1864, “Camp Nelson, Ky.,” Consolidated Correspondence File, series 225, Central Records, Quartermaster General's Office, Record Group 92, National Archives.

1. Thomas D. Sedgwick, colonel of the 114th USCI, was in charge of the organization of black troops at Camp Nelson.

Published in The Wartime Genesis of Free Labor: The Upper South, pp. 687–88, in Free at Last, pp. 394–95, and in Families and Freedom,, pp. 104–5.