22436Letter from a USCT
- Oct 29, 2000When doing research every now and then one stumbles across something so
powerful that you are taken aback and just sit and stare at it.
This is one of those times. I was sitting Friday in the Old Army Records
room at the National Archives. A professor from the University of Detroit
was being introduced to the Civil War CMSR and Pension records of the United
States Colored troops from a couple of staffers who have been working
extensively with the files.
The letter pasted below is in the file of Private Samuel Cabel (or �Cabelle�
as he spelled it), Co. G, 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Colored).
He enlisted on June 5, 1863 at Readville, MA and was described on the
company records as being 21 years old, light complexion, �grey� eyes, and
black hair. Cabel told the Massachusetts people that he was from Keokuk, IA,
but in reality he was an escaped slave from Brunswick, MO. His occupation
was given as a waiter.
On August 29, 1865, Pvt. Cabel was mustered out at Charleston, SC.
Included in his service file is a letter to his wife back in Missouri. As
you read it, remember that it was illegal for slaves to learn to read and
But not only could Cabel write but obviously his wife could read � and
write. And Cabel's handwriting is very clear and readable, even if he is a
little original in his spelling!
I questioned if someone else might have written the letter for him and the
NARA staffers informed us that they think the literacy rate among the
soldiers was a lot higher than has been previously thought. Almost all of
the men from slave states signed their enlistment papers with an �X� �
perhaps at that moment their trust level with whites was not very high.
But, the staff said, very quickly the men are writing letters and signing
documents. Now that Uncle Sam had actually put them in a blue uniform and
handed them a Springfield, the rules had changed.
The letter is undated but must be from June or July 1863.
It is reproduced as written � and my spell check did not like that one
JUDY AND BOB HUDDLESTON
10643 Sperry Street
Northglenn, CO 80234-3612
Dear wife i have enlisted in the army i am now in the state of Massachusetts
but before this letter reaches you i will be in north carolina and though
great in the present national difficulties yet i look forward to a brighter
day when i shall have the opertunity of seeing you in the full enjoyment of
freedom i would like to no if you are still in slavery if you are it will
not be long before we shall have crushed the system in that now opreses you
for in the course of three months you shall be at liberty. great is the
outpouring of the colored people that is now rallying with the hearts of
lions against that very curse that has separated you and me yet we shall
meet again and oh what happy time that will be when this ungodly rebellion
shall be put down and the curse of our land is trampled under our feet i am
a soldier endeavry to strike at the rebellion that so long has kept us in
chains. write to me just as soon as you get this letter tell me if you are
in the same cabin where you use to live. tell eliza i send her my best
respects and love ike and sully likewise i would send you some money but i
now it is impossible for you to get it i would like to see little Jenkins
now but i no it is impossible at present so no more but remain your own
afectionate husband until death
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