A perplexing situation


After the Emancipation Proclamation, the stream of slaves running to freedom swelled to a flood. Gen. W. Sooy Smith, who commanded Union troops in Tennessee, faced a dilemma. Men loyal to the Union wanted their property returned. But Smith’s orders were to refuse such requests. This letter asks how to avoid “the charge of furnishing Asylum to the Servants of loyal men.” The War Department usually advised that runaways be employed by the Army.

National Archives, Records of U.S. Army Continental Commands, 1821–1920