LINCOLN, Abraham, President. Autograph letter signed ("A. Lincoln") as President, to Sec. of War [Edwin M. Stanton], Washington, D.C., 23 June 1863. 1 full page, 8vo, on Executive Mansion stationery, lightly browned, small strip along upper right margin torn away, clean partial fold separation.
AN OFFICER'S APPOINTMENT FOR A NEW BLACK REGIMENT
A letter directly concerned with the new regiments of African-Americans being raised for service in the Union Army in the wake of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued five months earlier. Although there had earlier been unsuccessful attempts to form black regiments, and several states had already called for the enlistment of black troops, it was not until after the Proclamation that Lincoln authorized the formation of four black regiments. By the end of the war, there were no fewer than 166 regiments, comprising a total of some 300,000 African-Americans, actively engaged in the struggle. Lincoln writes: "You remember that Hon. W.D. Kelley and others are engaged in raising or trying to raise some colored regiments in Philadelphia. The bearer of this, Wilton M. Herpert, is a friend of Judge Kelley as appears by the letter of the latter. He is a private in the 112th Penn. and has been disappointed in a reasonable expectation of one of the smaller offices. He now wants to be a Lieutenant in one of the colored regiments. If Judge Kelley will say in writing he wishes to so have him, I am willing for him to be discharged from his present position and be so appointed. If you approve, so endorse and let him carry this letter to Kelley."
Kelley, long an opponent of slavery, became one of the founders of the Republican party. During the Civil War he favored conscription, strongly urged Congress to use negro soldiers and supported all measures for the abolition of slavery and the extension of suffrage to freed slaves. (DAB). The roster of the 112th Pennsylvania lists no soldier by the name Wilton M. Herpert, but Private Milton L. Hupert of Battery A is listed as deserting on 8 August 1863. (Collected Works, 6:292).