Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files

By Elizabeth A. Regosin; Donald R. Shaffer | Go to book overview
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Appendix

Complete Sample Documents

Voices of Emancipation began by offering readers a glimpse of Charles Franklin Crosby's testimony in his Civil War pension file.1 We used Crosby's testimony, like the other excerpts featured in this book, to make a specific point about the kind of information, themes, and stories readers might find in former slaves' Civil War pension files. At first glance, reading Civil War pension files can seem a daunting, laborious task, especially if one sees them in their original form in the National Archives. Even transcribed documents can seem impenetrable at first. Once readers begin to make their way through the files, however, they discover the richness of the documentation, its vibrancy, and its insight into the lives of African Americans and middle-class Northern whites in the eras of slavery, emancipation, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and beyond. We designed Voices of Emancipation to serve as an introduction and a guide to these pension files. We used excerpts of former slaves' testimony to emphasize important themes that emerge from the files—those of family and identity, for example—and to bring to light former slaves' individual experiences during some of America's most tumultuous and transformative times.

Missing from this introductory approach to former slaves' Civil War pension files is the wonderful sense of raw discovery one experiences when reading such documents for the first time. Also, this approach does not give readers an overall sense of the documents or the context from which the insights they offer emerge. The purpose of this appendix is to present a number of complete transcriptions of testimony from special examinations and to allow readers to uncover their riches for themselves. We have chosen to present a selection of the more comprehensive special examinations in our possession, with an emphasis on those not

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