Contents and Arrangement

United States Army, Military Correspondence Regarding Accusations Against African American Soldiers in Tennessee, 1865 September 20-December 23

1 box

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Consists of United States military correspondence regarding accusations of "bad conduct" leveled by white Tennessee citizens against the African American troops stationed there in the months immediately following the American Civil War. An initial September 20, 1865, letter from newspaper writer and former Confederate soldier J.P. (John Polk) Pryor in Memphis, Tennessee, to President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) is accompanied by two clippings (September 17-20, 1865) from the Memphis Argus that contain circled articles about Johnson's Reconstruction policies, as well as an article titled "The Negro Soldiers" accusing African American soldiers stationed in Tennessee of threatening "white humanity." Notes on the back of the letter indicate that the contents were referred to Major General George Henry Thomas (1816-1870). Another cover sheet with notes from October 25 to November 9, 1865, indicates that the materials were referred to the Headquarters of the Department of Tennessee, Major General George Stoneman (1822-1894), and finally, to General John E. Smith (1816-1897) who later returned them along with a report regarding his investigation into the allegations. Smith's four-page report to Brevet Brigadier General A.J. Alexander (1833-1887), dated November 9, 1865, concludes that the complaints about African American soldiers published in the Memphis Argus were "greatly exaggerated" but nonetheless recommends discontinuing the deployment of African American troops in the South. There is an additional cover sheet with notes from November 9 to December 22, 1865, by Major General George H. Thomas and Assistant Adjutant General W.A. Nichols, circulating the report back to the President and the Secretary of War. The final item is a December 23, 1865, cover letter from Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton (1814-1869) to President Andrew Johnson.


Arranged alphabetically by the name of the creator or by the date of acquisition.

Collection History


AM 12182

Purchased in October 1940 .

This file was separated from the Princeton University Library Collection on Slavery in the Americas (C1210), formerly known as the Miscellaneous Slavery Collection, during 2017 reprocessing.


No material was separated during processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Lisa Yankowitz during the summer and fall of 2010 . The finding aid was written by Lisa Yankowitz in January 2011 and was regularly updated with new acquisitions by Faith Charlton, Kelly Bolding, Armando Suárez, Amy C. Vo, Kalliopi Balatsouka, and Lauren Williams.

Collection-level notes were revised by Faith Charlton in 2024 to more accurately describe the nature of this collection.

No additions will be made to this collection. Single item acquisitions will be added to Princeton University Library Single Item Acquisitions (C0140.1).

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

United States Army, Military Correspondence Regarding Accusations Against African American Soldiers in Tennessee; General Manuscripts Miscellaneous Collection, C0140, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (mss): Box 51

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Existence and Location of Copies

Parts of this collection are available on microfilm, cataloged separately as RCPXM-7497696.

Subject Terms:
African American soldiers -- Tennessee -- 19th century.
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- African Americans