Civil War letters to Lincoln

April 29, 2013

Buffalo July 31 1863

Excellent Sir

My good friend says I must write to you and she will send it My son went in the 54th regiment. I am a colored woman and my son was strong and able as any to fight for his country and the colored people have as much to fight for as any. My father was a Slave and escaped from Louisiana before I was born morn forty years agone I have but poor edication but I never went to schol, but I know just as well as any what is right between man and man. Now I know it is right that a colored man should go and fight for his country, and so ought to a white man. I know that a colored man ought to run no greater risques than a white, his pay is no greater his obligation to fight is the same. So why should not our enemies be compelled to treat him the same, Made to do it.

My son fought at Fort Wagoner but thank God he was not taken prisoner, as many were I thought of this thing before I let my boy go but then they said Mr. Lincoln will never let them sell our colored soldiers for slaves, if they do he will get them back quck he will rettallyate and stop it. Now Mr Lincoln dont you think you oght to stop this thing and make them do the same by the colored men they have lived in idleness all their lives on stolen labor and made savages of the colored people, but they now are so furious because they are proving themselves to be men, such as have come away and got some edication. It must not be so. You must put the rebels to work in State prisons to making shoes and things, if they sell our colored soldiers, till they let them all go. And give their wounded the same treatment. it would seem cruel, but their no other way, and a just man must do hard things sometimes, that show him to be a great man. They tell me some do you will take back the Proclamation, don’t do it. When you are dead and in Heaven, in a thousand years that action of yours will make the Angels sing your praises I know it. Ought one man to own another, law for or no, who made the law, surely the poor slave did not. so it is wicked and a horrible Outrage, there is no sense in it, because a man has lived by robbing all his life and his father before him, should he complain because the stolen things found on him are taken. Robbing the colored people of their labor is but a small part of the robbery their souls are almost taken, they are made bruits of often. You know all about this

Will you see that the colored men fighting now, are fairly treated. You ought to do this, and do it at once, Not let the thing run along meet it quickly and manfully, and stop this, mean cowardly cruelty. We poor oppressed ones, appeal to you, and as fair play. Yours for Christs sake

Hannah Johnson

[In another handwriting:] Hon. Mr. Lincoln The above speaks for itself. Carrie Coburn

Willard’s Hotel, May 15, 1863

President Lincoln

Not having either time or inclination to hang round waiting rooms among a wolfish crowd seeking admission to your presence for office or contracts or personal favors, I prefer stating in writing the substance of what I would say verbally. . . .

The country is impatient at the slow progress making in raising colored regiments. The blacks of our State are clamoring for the privilege of raising a regiment. So they are in Ind. So in Ohio. If you would give commissions in the West to white officers they would raise in the Western free states, in Missouri and West Tennessee ten to fifteen thousand able bodied, robust and brave colored soldiers. The opposition to colored soldiers has passed away. The Republicans are all loudly for them, and the Democrats have withdrawn their opposition. A hundred regiments of blacks can be raised between Chicago and New Orleans if you will resolve to have them. . . . If blacks are to be used at all why not let the Union cause have the full benefit of their powerful aid? The war is dragging too slowly. It is now in the third year. Twelve months hence we should be in the midst of another presidential struggle. If the Copperheads elect their ticket all the fruits of this bloody and costly war will go for naught; all will be undone . . . The value of time and concentration of our armed forces are not sufficiently appreciated . . .

The tide of war begins to turn in favor of the Union

Very Truly Yours,

J. Medill

Washington, Sept. 12 1863

My dear Sir

This is the season when you and I are apt to be afflicted with disordered bowels; & as my black berry cordial, like the rebellion, is pretty well “played out,” or “used up,” I send you for trial, an article which is highly reputed, but which I have not had occasion to try since its appearance in the shops. I hope you will find it beneficial. With good wishes & congratulations, I am

Most respectfully

N. Sargent

March 2, 1863

To his Excellency Abraham Lincoln

President of the United States

Enclosed you will find Eight hundred and sixty eight dollars which came by in a dishonest manner and which I return to the United States through you

Being tempted, in an unguarded moment, I consented to take it being very much in want of money but thanks to my Saviour I was led by the influence of the Holy Spirit to see my great sin and to return it to you as the representative of the United States

Hoping you will pardon, me in the name of the government you represent as I trust I will be pardoned by my Father who is in heaven (through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ his son) I remain

Your penitent supplicant

“Candide secure”

Brooklyn, March 2 1863

Please acknowledge receipt

Lincoln endorsed the envelope, “Stolen money returned,” then wrote out the following receipt in his own hand: “Received, March 5, 1863, of A. Lincoln, President of the United States the sum mentioned within, in ‘Green-backs.’ The receipt was then signed by F.E. Spinner, Treasurer of the United States.

More from the Civil War special section.

From “Free at Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom, and the Civil War,” edited by Ira Berlin, et al., and “Dear Mr. Lincoln: Letters to the President,” compiled and edited by Harold Holzer

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