Archives & Special Collections Gallery Exhibit




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Creation Date

Spring 2015


Artifact label:

“I humbly offer an objection to the starvation process…” ---Captain Charles H. Cole

Captain Charles H. Cole. Letter to Major Emil Smith, Camp Shiloh, Memphis, Tennessee, March 13, 1864 Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas. Response to Captain Cole’s Letter, Fort Pickering, Memphis, Tennessee, March 26, 1864

After President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, all slaves in rebellious states were said to be “forever free.” Before that could be realized, many former slaves soon found themselves in temporary camps and labeled as “contrabands.” The Union Army was expected to provide them with security, food, and shelter. However, this letter suggests expectations were not always met. Captain C.H. Cole cites U.S. Army regulation and pleads for rations to be provided for six hundred starving men, women, and children who lived within the confines of Camp Shiloh in Memphis, Tennessee. Instead of approving Cole’s request, Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas dismissively replies that “families of colored soldiers [are] on the same footing as other blacks and [he] shall require them to work for their living.”

-Mary Ludwig