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Emancipation Proclamation: A Letter Home

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Envelop containing a letter from Samuel Cabble to his wife and mother, 06/1863; Compiled Military Service Record of Samuel Cabble of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, ca. 1861–ca. 1865; Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, 1890–1912; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762–1984, Record Group 94 (National Archives Identifier 5757351)

On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation brought freedom to the slaves in the Confederacy. By the war’s end, the U.S. Colored Troops Bureau had recruited hundreds of thousands of black soldiers, who fought for both their own and others’ freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation meant that their military victories resulted in the liberation of others.

Samuel Cabble served in the Massachusetts 55th Infantry. In a letter to his mother and his wife, Leah, Cabble expressed his desire to see his wife freed from slavery:

…though great is the present national difficulties yet I look foward 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 that now opreses you for in the course of three months you shall have your 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 an me yet we shall meet again and oh what a happy time that will be when this unGodly rebellion shall be put down and the curses of our land is trampled under our feet i am a soldier now and i shall use my utmost endeavers to strike at the rebellion and the heart of this system that so long has kept us in chains…

Letter from Samuel Cabble to His Wife, 06/1863; Compiled Military Service Record of Samuel Cabble of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, ca. 1861–ca. 1865; Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, 1890–1912; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762–1984, Record Group 94 (National Archives Identifier 5757351)

Samuel Cabble’s former owner Robert Cabble confiscated the letter before it reached Samuel’s wife and used it to apply for compensation, since the Union Government was providing up to $300 to loyal border state slaveholders for each slave released to the U.S. army. There is no evidence that Robert Cabble ever received compensation, though, probably because he failed to prove his loyalty to the Union and to meet other requirements.

Cabble’s regiment was sent to South Carolina, where he suffered a leg injury from a cannon discharge. He remained with the regiment, despite his injury, and served for three years until the 55th was mustered out in August 1865.

After being discharged, Cabble at last reunited with Leah. Both free, they could now be legally married. They had a son and headed west to Denver, Colorado.

The story of Samuel Cabble is featured in “The Meaning and Making of Emancipation,” a free eBook created by the National Archives. You can read it on your iPad, iPhone, Nook, or other electronic device.

The National Archives will also commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation with a special display of the original document at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, from Sunday, December 30, to Tuesday, January 1. The commemoration will include extended viewing hours, inspirational music, a dramatic reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, and family activities and entertainment for all ages.

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