Affidavit of a Kentucky Black Soldier

Camp Nelson Ky  November 26, 1864

Personally appered before me E. B W Restieaux Capt. and Asst. Quartermaster Joseph Miller a man of color who being duly sworn upon oath says

I was a slave of George Miller of Lincoln County Ky.  I have always resided in Kentucky and am now a Soldier in the service of the United States.  I belong to Company I 124 U.S. C[olored]. Inft now Stationed at Camp Nelson Ky.  When I came to Camp for the purpose of enlisting about the middle of October 1864 my wife and children came with me because my master said that if I enlisted he would not maintain them and I knew they would be abused by him when I left.  I had then four children ages respectively ten nine seven and four years.  On my presenting myself as a recruit I was told by the Lieut. in command to take my family into a tent within the limits of the Camp.  My wife and family occupied this tent by the express permission of the aforementioned Officer and never received any notice to leave until Tuesday November 22″ when a mounted guard gave my wife notice that she and her children must leave Camp before early morning.  This was about six O'clock at night.  My little boy about seven years of age had been very sick and was slowly recovering   My wife had no place to go and so remained until morning.  About eight Oclock Wednesday morning November 23″ a mounted guard came to my tent and ordered my wife and children out of Camp   The morning was bitter cold.  It was freezing hard.  I was certain that it would kill my sick child to take him out in the cold.  I told the man in charge of the guard that it would be the death of my boy   I told him that my wife and children had no place to go and I told him that I was a soldier of the United States.  He told me that it did not make any difference.  he had orders to take all out of Camp.  He told my wife and family that if they did not get up into the wagon which he had he would shoot the last one of them.  On being thus threatened my wife and children went into the wagon   My wife carried her sick child in her arms.  When they left the tent the wind was blowing hard and cold and having had to leave much of our clothing when we left our master, my wife with her little one was poorly clad.  I followed them as far as the lines.  I had no Knowledge where they were taking them.  At night I went in search of my family.  I found them at Nicholasville about six miles from Camp.  They were in an old meeting house belonging to the colored people.  The building was very cold having only one fire.  My wife and children could not get near the fire, because of the number of colored people huddled together by the soldiers.  I found my wife and children shivering with cold and famished with hunger   They had not recieved a morsel of food during the whole day.  My boy was dead.  He died directly after getting down from the wagon.  I Know he was Killed by exposure to the inclement weather   I had to return to camp that night so I left my family in the meeting house and walked back.  I had walked there.  I travelled in all twelve miles   Next morning I walked to Nicholasville.  I dug a grave myself and buried my own child.  I left my family in the Meeting house–where they still remain   And further this deponent saith not

(Signed)  Joseph     Miller

Affidavit of Joseph Miller, 26 Nov. 1864, filed with H-8 1865, Registered Letters Received, series 3379, Tennessee Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.

Published in The Black Military Experience, pp. 269–71, in Families and Freedom, pp. 199–201, in Free at Last, pp. 493–95, and in Freedom's Soldiers, pp. 138–39.