A Letter from Jourdan Anderson to Col. PH Anderson

I just read the most amazing letter! Okay. It’s probably not the most amazing letter ever written. There have been some truly incredible letters written in the past, but this one does deserve mention. This is one of those things that I would love to print out and share with so many people, but it would probably get me shot and/or stabbed. Fortunately, kind readers, I don’t have to worry about that from you!

The letter is from Jourdan Anderson to Col. PH Anderson. Here’s a little background. The date is 1865. The Civil War has just ended a few months before. Col. PH Anderson served in the Confederate army. He lived in Big Spring, Tennessee, where he had owned slaves. One of those slaves was Jourdan Anderson. Since the Emancipation Proclamation was declared in 1862 and stated that all slaves from places of rebellion would be freed upon presenting themselves to the Union army beginning January 1, 1863. Jourdan Anderson was declared officially free in 1864, and he had paperwork from the army’s Department of Nashville stating as much.

It seems that Col. Anderson kindly requested Jourdan and his family to return to Big Spring to work on his farm. Jourdan responded by stating that he and his family were quite happy in Ohio. His children were receiving an education. He was earning good wages (more than the army paid white enlisted men at any time during the war). He responded that he would be happy to return to the man who had held his family in slavery and tried to shoot him twice on a few conditions. He wanted to make sure that he would be paid at least as well as he was in Ohio. He wanted to be sure his children could attend a school in Big Spring. He also said that he expected back pay for the time he and his wife had spent working as slaves in return for considering Col. Anderson’s offer of employment. His calculations for his thirty-two years and his wife’s twenty years of labor would amount to $11,680 plus interest. He asked that this be forwarded to him through an attorney in Dayton, OH.

In case you’re wondering, that’s $172,026.09 plus interest adjusted for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index estimates I was able to find for 1865. I’m pretty sure that told Col. Anderson where he could stick his offer! If only I could show this letter to some of my die-hard pro-southern friends, who for some reason find a need to try to cast a positive light on slavery!

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2 Comments on “A Letter from Jourdan Anderson to Col. PH Anderson”

  1. jesse Says:

    Typical Northern propaganda from the time period. 97% of southerns of the era never owned slaves. Furthermore, I doubt you have any southern friends especially any that would advocate slavery.

  2. Andrew Says:

    According to the 1860 census, 1.5% of Americans were slave owners, which accounted for 8% of American households. However, when free states are removed from that number, there are 33% of households in slave states that owned one or more slaves according to the 1860 census. I live in a state where it’s estimated that at the outbreak of the Civil War, over 40% of households owned at least one slave, although there was a relatively small number of households owning large numbers of slaves.

    I’m from the south, although some from Alabama or Mississippi might say it’s not far enough south to count! I have friends from nearly every state that joined the Confederacy, many of whom are Confederate Civil War reenactors and several of whom I can’t discuss the issue of slavery or causes of the war with because they feel the need to defend slavery as a right to the way of life in the Southern states.

    If you take some time and read more of my blog, you’ll probably see that I have experience and knowledge in the history of the antebellum and Civil War periods (as well as reconstruction, but nobody ever cares to read about that) even if you don’t agree what I have to say. I’m my research, I’ve noticed that the greatest portion of the revision of history happened in the South between 1865 and 1880. It seems the Civil War is an exception to the rule that the victors write the history.


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