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107th U.S. Colored Troops Archive
of White Officer Charles B. Safford
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Things are getting along here pretty nicely since the President’s Proclamation declaring all slaves free after the first of January 1863. The niggers are leaving quite fast and it does make their owners so mad. There is nothing scarcely that pleases me so well as to see how awful ugly it makes them feel to see their darkies toddle.

A substantial and well written collection during and around the Civil War from an Illinois soldier and later officer of the active 107th U.S. Colored Troops Infantry. Despite the racist language, Safford was strongly anti-slavery and volunteered to lead colored troops.

[CIVIL WAR – UNION]. Archive of letters from and to Charles B. Safford, written from 1859–1866, including 51 letters from Safford to his wife Clara between June 1862 and October 1866, detailing his enlistment, experiences in camp in the western theater, his wounding and convalescence in army hospitals, his commission as a captain in the U.S.C.T., and his experiences in Virginia after the war in mustering soldiers out, participating in courts martial, and leading a company of African-American troops. Also included are 2 letters from Edward P. Safford, Charles’ brother and fellow soldier, to Clara; 11 letters from Clara to Charles, all from 1865; and 8 letters from his mother and other relatives in Massachusetts to Charles in 1865. Notable as well is the response to Clara Safford’s February 1865 letter to Abraham Lincoln, requesting her husband’s discharge. The army denied the request in April 1865. Postwar letters include 39 love letters from Thomas Brooks to Clara Safford from 1870-1871, shortly before he became her second husband; 11 letters from Mary L. Estabrook, Clara’s former mother-in-law, to Clara and her grandson, 1870-1876, and assorted other family letters. The collection also includes a 1/9 plate ambrotype, two cdvs (possibly of Clara), and two mounted photos, c. 1885 of two men.

Inventory #22376       Price: $8,800

Excerpts [Additional excerpts available on request]:

Unless otherwise noted, these excerpts are written by Charles B. Safford.

Gallatin, Tenn., February 22, 1863. “Today is Washington’s birthday and they are firing cannon at a great rate from the fort.”

Gallatin, Tenn., April 5, 1863. “Now I guess you made a mistake, think you must have meant to say that you would not live with me if I deserted. The deserters who have returned have been tried and their sentence is to be put on hard labor on the fort for 30 days and 4 months pay to be taken from them but some deserters in Indiana troops are served worse than that, whose sentence was to be branded on the right cheek with the letter D, their head shaved, and in this predicament to be drummed through the camps of the whole division bare-headed.

Gallatin Tenn., April 24, 1863. Things are getting along here pretty nicely since the President’s Proclamation declaring all slaves free after the first of January 1863. The niggers are leaving quite fast and it does make their owners so mad. There is nothing scarcely that pleases me so well as to see how awful ugly it makes them feel to see their darkies toddle. For instance there is a man down here by the Cumberland by the name of Pat Anderson who owns about a hundred slaves and half a dozen sections of land who always told his slaves to leave if they wanted to, but they knew that the first one who did would be shot. Well one day a company of our soldiers came along and the Captain went up to Pat and told him to call up his niggers, so they came up and the Captain told them not to be afraid but if they wanted to be free to say so, if not they could stay. So Pat spoke up to the first one an old man and said ‘Well Jake you dont want to leave, your old master do you.’ The colored gentleman just turned his back on his master, and they all voted to leave at once, and did leave taking all the mules and horses on the place and before they started they burnt about three miles of his rail fence. If you could be here and know how how mean and ugly the Secesh act down here, you would not blame the soldiers for anything they do in the confiscating line.”

Murfreesboro, Tenn., July 6, 1863. [half a year after the Battle at Murfreesboro was fought, on December 31, 1862; it was considered to be the bloodiest battle of the Civil War]. “Blackbirds are thick round here and so are dead rebels for proper care was not used in burying them as their limbs are occasionally seen protruding from the ground, and one is to be seen hanging in the tree where he was shot while amusing himself picking off our men one by one with his rifle. One of our men thinking it a poor rule that dont work both ways returned the favor. I dont know but it would be a good thing for us to be put into battle more for some of the boys are getting mischievous, so much so that the Provost Marshall was constrained [to] place the offender in an upright position on a cracker box stood up end ways like a youngster at school in which position he was to remain eight hours a day to the admiration of the regiment.

Fort Negley, Nashville, Tenn., August 21, 1863. “You will see by this letter that we have moved again and are now in Nashville, and in a fort at that This is a very strong fort and capable of defending the city against any amount of men.  Four companies of our regiment are inside viz: B, H, E, K, while companies A, F, D, J, C, G, are detailed on the outside. I think this is the best place we have been in yet We can see all over Nashville from this place. The Tenth Illinois was stationed here before us, and they were ordered to leave for the front so as to get some other regiment in this place because they did not keep their quarters clean and neat, as is very necessary in a large Fort.

Hospital No. 15, Nashville, June 11, 1864 [he was wounded on May 15]. “You ask if I fell on the battlefield. When I was hit I thought I had been struck, when clapping my hand to the spot I felt the blood running down my leg at a rate that warned me that the sooner I got to the rear the better. And (as it proved) none too soon for when I had got about 20 rods from the line (hobbling along as best I could) I found myself falling, where I laid till some men came along and took me to the ambulances. After all getting wounded is nothing after you get used to it, although it takes the flesh off amazingly to lay here and let these surgeons fumble around our sore spots, though they give us all the whiskey we want, two or three times a day, to make up I suppose for what we suffer, otherwise.”

Charles B. Safford (1833-1868) – A native of Gilmanton, New Hampshire, Safford was the son of Rev. Dr. Charles G. Safford (1804-1846), a graduate of Dartmouth College and Andover Theological Seminary, and Mary Lancaster Brigham (1808-1882), who remarried in 1849, to Charles H. Estabrook. Charles G. Safford married Clara Safford on September 25, 1860, and they settled in Malta, De Kalb County, Illinois. When the 105th Illinois Infantry organized at Dixon on Sept. 2, 1862, Safford enlisted as a private. By the end of the month, he and his company were hastening to Louisville, Kentucky. For almost the first year and half of their service, Safford’s regiment served in Ward’s Brigade, relatively far from the center of action. Writing regularly to his wife Clara at home, Safford seems to have spent a good deal of his energy managing her mood and expectations, pleading with her to believe that he has never been untrue to her since their marriage nor while in the army and attempting to impress upon her that once enlisted, his service was not voluntary.

Safford had relatively strong antislavery views, and his experiences in the South may have strengthened them. After the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, the federal army began to raise “colored” regiments.  Even while in the reserve, Safford witnessed the impact of war. The 105th Illinois was eventually called into action during the Atlanta Campaign, charging the enemy’s works at Resaca on May 13, 1864, and engaging in nearly constant combat for two weeks following. Safford was wounded during the campaign, and wrote to his wife describing the gore in some detail. While recuperating, Safford applied for a commission in a Colored Regiment and was temporarily assigned to the 116th USCT before finally receiving a commission as Captain of Co. H., 107th USCT on Dec. 30, 1864. Organized at Louisville in the late spring and summer 1864, Safford’s new outfit was transferred to the Army of James in October 1864, and then to North Carolina from January through August 1865. They were not an idle regiment. During their service, the 107th took part in the Siege of Petersburg, the expeditions to Fort Fisher in Dec. 1864 and Jan. 1865, the capture of Wilmington (Feb. 22, 1865), and the Carolinas Campaign (Mar-Apr. 1865), including Kinston, Goldsboro, and the advance on Raleigh. They witnessed the surrender of Johnson’s forces in Raleigh. For his part, Safford earned a brevet promotion to Major for meritorious service on March 13, 1865.

From September 1865 until he mustered out in late November 1866, Safford worked at Camp Distribution, Va., shuffling paperwork, completing muster out rolls, and similar bureaucratic necessities of the post-war army. Although he apparently tried to win a commission in the regular army, he did not succeed and wrote that he thought he would return home and paint houses again. Two years after doing so, he died at home in Malta, Illinois, on Oct. 4, 1868.

Clara S. Safford (1845-1926) was born in Massachusetts. In September 1860, fifteen-year-old Clara married Charles Benjamin Brigham Safford, with whom she had three children between 1862 and 1868. Her namesake daughter, born just two weeks prior to her father’s death, lived only five months. Clara Safford remarried in March 1871, to Thomas Brooks (1826-), with whom she had one son in 1881. They lived in Richland township in Marshall County, Illinois. The last portion of the collection centers around Clara’s life in that marriage. By 1900, she lived with her son in Chicago.

Edward P. Safford (1837-1919) was born in New Hampshire, the younger brother of Charles B. Safford. In 1860, he was deputy sheriff to his uncle Sheriff Henry Safford in Sycamore, Illinois. He enlisted in Company A of the 105th Illinois Infantry as a private in August 1862 and was mustered into service on September 2. He received a promotion to Captain of Company F of the 14th U.S.C. Infantry, on November 1, 1863. He was wounded in action at Decatur, Alabama, on October 28, 1864, and was honorably discharged for disability on April 4, 1865. In December 1866, he married Sarah F. Safford in De Kalb County, Illinois.


Good condition with expected wear and signs of age.

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