A Soldiers Letter

The following comments and letter are printed with the approval and permission of Andrew Carroll editor of War Letters http://www.warletters.com/book/ and the founder of the Legacy Project. Mr. Carroll is also the editor of the national bestseller, Letters of a Nation. http://lettersofanation.com/

Samuel Cabble, an African-American Private in the Union Army,
Promises His Wife That Slavery, the “Curse of This Land”
Will Be Crushed

In the introduction to this letter Andrew Carroll writes:
“In the beginning of the Civil War African Americans pleaded with and even petitioned the government for the opportunity to fight. But it was to no avail. Political and military leaders feared it would only stimulate recruitment efforts in the South, and many held the racist view that blacks were cowardly, lazy, and untrainable. But as Union casualties escalated and the military command recognized the need for increased manpower, small regiments of black troops were formed starting in the summer of 1862. After the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln launched an aggressive campaign to recruit black soldiers. On July 18, 1863, the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth, the first all-black regiment organized in the North, demonstrated extraordinary courage against impossible odds during an attack on Fort Wagner in South Carolina. Other regiments would also shatter every stereotype hurled at them. Despite being underpaid, assigned menial tasks, and given inferior medical attention, young black men continued to volunteer in droves. An estimated 180,000 African-American soldiers served in the war, representing nearly one-tenth of the Union army, and over 37,000 of them died. Twenty-one-year-old Samuel Cabble (possibly Cabel), an escaped slave, enlisted in the Massachusetts Fifty-fifth Volunteer Infantry in June 1863. Soon after, Cabble sent the following letter to his wife back in Missouri. (Correspondences by slaves are exceedingly rare; slaves still in captivity were punished severely-even put to death-if they were caught writing or reading any materials, particularly letters.)”

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 opportunity of seeing you in the full enjoyment of freedom.

I would like to know if you are still in slavery. If you are it will not be long before we shall have crushed the system that now oppresses 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 as soon as you get this letter. Tell me if you are in the same cabin where you used to live. Tell Eliza I send her my best respects and love Ike and sully likewise.

I would send you some money but I know it is impossible for you to get it. I would like to see little Jemkins now but I know it is impossible at present so no more but remain your own affectionate husband until death.

Samuel Cabble

Samuel Cabble survived the war.War Letter book cover

Author’s Note:
Although Private Cabble was not trained at Camp William Penn, this letter is included on this site for two reasons. Letters from African-American soldiers who served in the Civil War, whether they were in the Union Army or the Confederate Army are extremely rare and the opportunity to reprint one of these letters as granted by the Editors of War Letters adds a more personal note to this project. In reprinting this letter from the book, we have made every effort to transcribe it as it was written by Private Cabble, mistakes and all. There is no intention to embarrass him but merely to capture his distinct personality and writing style.


The Legacy Project is still searching for letters. Those written by African-Americans who served in the Civil War are especially sought. This author encourages anyone who has a letter or letters from any soldier who was trained at Camp William Penn and served with any of the USCT regiments, to contact the Legacy Project. Information on how this is done is shown below:

Contributing Letters to the Legacy Project
If you would like to submit a war letter (or letters) to the Legacy Project, please send a legible photocopy or typed transcript of the material to:

” The Legacy Project
PO Box 53250
Washington, D.C. 20009

Please include information on the serviceman or woman who wrote the letter (e.g., where he or she served, his or her rank, and any important personal and/or background information), and include your phone number and an address where we can contact you.

Do not send original letters, unless you are planning to dispose of the material otherwise and/or do not want the originals returned. It is not necessary to send us a query asking if we are interested in your correspondence. Due to staff and time constraints, it is very difficult for us to respond to these queries or return anything sent to us. If the material fits the criteria mentioned above, please assume we will be interested.

Although we appreciate the generosity of those who have offered, the Legacy Project does not accept monetary donations–only letters. Nor do we solicit grants, government funding, or any other form of financial assistance. Our expenses are minimal, and the Legacy Project is able to support itself thanks to the assistance of the unpaid staff, who donate both their time and the necessary financial resources to cover all administrative costs.

Please note: We are a very small, all-volunteer organization, and due to the enormous volume of mail we receive it can take us several months or longer to respond. If you have sent material to the Legacy Project and not received a reply, it is because we have been overwhelmed with letters. We appreciate every letter sent to us, and we will continue to try to respond to every submission.
©Copyright the Legacy Project 2001

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