John Boston fled slavery in Maryland and found refuge with a New York regiment in Upton Hill, Virginia, where he wrote to his wife, who remained in Owensville. At the moment of celebrating his freedom, his highest hope and aspiration was to be reunited with his family:
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 14th Regiment of Brooklyn … this Day i can Adress you thank god as a free man 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 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 heven Whare Jesas ranes …
There is no evidence that Elizabeth Boston ever received this letter.
It was intercepted and eventually forwarded to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton by Major General George B. McClellan, providing evidence to the War Department and Lincoln administration of the refugee issue.
John Boston’s letter to his wife is featured in our new, free eBook: The Meaning and Making of Emancipation.
The National Archives will also commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation with a special display of the original document.
Image: Page 2 of a letter sent by John Boston to his wife Elizabeth, January 12, 1862, enclosed in a letter from Major General George B. McClellan to the Honorable Edwin Stanton; Letters Received, 1805–1889; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1762–1984, Record Group 94; National Archives Identifier 783102.