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Jourdon Anderson and Justice Scaffolded Primary Source

Text of Source

Dayton, Ohio August 7, 1865


To My Old Master, Colonel P. H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee


Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten [me], and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can… Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living…



  1. What did Colonel Anderston do when Jourdon Anderson sought his freedom?
  2. Do you think this would convince Jourdon to accept the Colonel’s offer to come back? Why or why not?
I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks call her Mrs. Anderson) and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. …Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again. Notes:


  1. How does Anderson describe his life in Ohio?
  2. What does Anderson want to know from Colonel Anderson before he considers moving his family back to Tennessee? 
As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680….If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future… Notes:


  1. How have Jourdon Anderson and his wife decided to test the sincerity of the Colonel’s offer?
In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up…You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.


Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.


From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson



  1. In his closing paragraph, what else did Jourdon Anderson state will influence his decision to move back to Tennessee?
  2. Do you think Jourdon Anderson seriously considered the Colonel’s offer? Why or why not?

Analysis Questions:

  1. How does Jourdon Anderson’s letter reflect his understanding of justice?
  2. How is his letter a reaction to the injustice of slavery?