Sometimes, war really can bring freedom. It did, at least, in the winter 1862, for a slave named John Boston. "this Day i can Adress you thank god as a free man," Boston wrote to his wife, Elizabeth, in a longhand letter, excerpted below. "I had a little truble in giting away But as the lord led the Children of Isrel to the land of Canon So he led me to a land Whare freedom Will rain in spite Of earth and hell." The land was Upton Hill, Virginia, where Boston had joined a Brooklyn-based regiment of the Union Army.
Thousands of other slaves made similar moves during the four years of civil war. Many fugitives were caught or killed in the process; others, like Boston, had better luck. As workers, informants, and soldiers in the Union Army, they put their lives on the line one more time. But at least they were free.
Elizabeth Boston may never have learned her husband was one of the lucky ones. Before it reached Owensville, authorities intercepted Boston's letter, and its final possessor was not Elizabeth but Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War. "I trust the time Will come When We Shal meet again," Boston ended his letter. "And if We don't met on earth We Will Meet in heven Whare Jesus ranes."
Upton Hill January the 12 1862
My Dear Wife it is with grate joy I take this time to let you know whare I am I am now in Safety in the 121th Regiment of Brooklyn this Day I can Address you thank god as a free man I had a little trouble in giting away but as the lord led the Children of Israel to the land of Canon So he led me to a land whare fredom will rain in spite Of earth and hell Dear you must make your Self content I am free from al the Slavers Lash and as you have chose the wise plan Of Serving the lord I hope you will pray Much and I will try by the help of God To Serv him with all my hart I am with a very nice man and have All that hart can wish But my Dear I Cant express my grate desire that I have to See you I trust the time will come when we Shal meet again And if we dont met on earth we will Meet in heaven whare Jesus ranes.