Unknown African-American Man Ambrotype, circa 1851-1865
The Civil War repudiated the doctrine of secession and destroyed the institution of slavery. It also brought African Americans into the armed forces of the United States. Over 200,000 served in the U.S. Army and Navy, including former slave William Butler, in Company H, 2nd U.S. Colored Troops. This poignant letter from his wife Ann, dated January 1865, begs for news from William. She longs for his safe return, and sends news of their children, who are attending school. The letter was found in a knapsack near a dead soldier’s body, presumably William, at the Battle of Natural Bridge in Florida in March 1865. There were three quarters of a million casualties in the Civil War, including one newly freed soldier, beloved by his family, who died to help preserve the American Republic and extend the promise of the Declaration of Independence to all Americans.