Kentucky Black Soldier to the Secretary of War, Enclosing a Letter from the Soldier's Wife and a Letter from Her Owner

U.S. Gen. Hospital, Hampten, V.A.  January 26th 1865

Sir.  I the under-Sined, Respectfully ask for the liberation of my Wife and children now residing in the State of Ky. Boone County.

I enclose two letters Received from there   one is supposed to be from my Wife   the other is from a man claiming to be my Wifs master by the name of Jerry, Smith.  You can see by the contents of his letter forbidding me not to write, Saying that he only gave her to me on my good conduct Of which he Says I have not fullfiled   it is not necessary for me to say anymore   you can see his letter,–

And as I am a Soldier. willing to loose my life for my Country and the liberty of my fellow man I hope that you will please be So Kind as to attend to this   please lett me know, or send me your Reply and oblige your humble Servent,  yours very Respectfully

Aaron Oats

[First enclosure]

[Union, Ky.]  December the 22 64

Dar husban   I receive your letter dated December the 7 64 which gave me much pleasure to hear that you ar alive and well   I mus state that I and mother and the children ar all well hopping thet these few lines may still find you well still   I am at home and far as well as usial   I shall content myself and wait for the time to come as you thought you could not get a ferlough   I must state that there is another one was Born sence you left but I suppose you heard of it   if you have not I will tell you hernane is effis tell   [pood?] as they call him can run half as fast as you can and fat asever   your sisters ar all well   Johns mother states that, she wish that John would right and if he wont Right when you right again send all the perticklers About him whether he is live ordead.

N.B  you stated in your letter that you sent me too letters and your picture but I never receivd either

so I must conclude my short letter by saing that I send my love to you all and keep the Best part for your self   so no more till death


[Second enclosure]

[Union, Ky., January 10, 1865]

When your letter came to hand it was red and answerd and when I went to put it in the office ther was another at hand Equal as insolent as the other so I concluded to send you a few lines apon my own responsibelity and, not to wright any more with out you will have some Respect for me   if you dont they will not be red nor answered   my darkes has too much Sence to be foold in such away   ther has been agreat menny woman and children have left and returned back again   one instant in my nabohood   Henry corben's mandy you nod her   dan had encoyd her and six children over in cincinnati out on walnut hill and there she and three children starved to death   the oldest that could travel came home and got his master to bring them home to keep them from starvation and too of the youngest had ate flesh of ther fingers   N B  Lucretia dont belong to you   I only gave her to you for wife dureing good behaviour and you have violated your plede,  my darkes olways tells me when they want to leve me   they will tell me   they say that if they ar to be deliberated they want it don honorable

this lettere was rote the 22 of December but taken it back to answer you my self I neglected to put it in the office till now this being the 10 of January 1865   But my darkes is as well now as they wer then and doing better than when you was hear   now, they ar wated on   when you was hear they had you to wait on   so no more

[Jerry Smith]

Private Aaron Oats to Hon. Ed. M. Stanton, 26 Jan. 1865, enclosing Lucrethia to Dar husban, 22 Dec. 1864, and [Jerry Smith] to Aaron Utz, 10 Jan. 1865, O-6 1865, Letters Received, series 360, Colored Troops Division, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, National Archives. The letter from Lucrethia and the unsigned letter from her owner are in the same handwriting, presumably that of the owner.

Published in The Black Military Experience, pp. 692–94, in Free at Last, pp. 505–7, and in Families and Freedom, pp. 160–61,163.