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SHS Papers: Volume 9: An Official Paper which was Never Sent — Letter from Colonel Keatley

An Official Paper which was Never Sent.1

The following letter explains itself. We should be glad to learn something more concerning the lieutenants who wrote the document quoted:

Council Bluffs, Iowa, February 11, 1881.

Dr. J. W. Jones, Secretary Southern Historical Society:

Dear Sir,—In the winter of 1864 and the spring of 1865 I served in the Army of the Potomac, in front of Petersburg, and was present

during the last gallant efforts of the Army of Northern Virginia. Upon reaching the inside of the Confederate works in the vicinity of the point where the Weldon railroad crossed the trenches I saw a bunch of papers, the one corner of which lay in a pool of blood. Near by was also the shattered carriage of a gun, indicating that one of our shells had dismounted it. Everywhere were the signs of a desperate struggle, though the dead and wounded had been removed. I picked up the package of papers, supposing that some poor fellow had dropped them as he fell, and they might lead to a clue. There was nothing of [illegible] except one, a copy of which I give you. I preserved it, but [illegible] no historical society in the South in 1873 with which I was [illegible] to which to send it, and therefore that year I placed it among the archives of the Iowa Historical Society for safe keeping, and p[?]ication was made of it among the transactions for that year. When I last saw it it had a large blood stain and a number of earth stains from the yellow clay in which I found it. It was written on coarse foolscap paper, in a delicate hand, and evidently had been prepared for transmission through the regular military channels to the War Department at Richmond. The following is the document:

Camp Sixty-first Alabama Regiment,
March 31, 1865.

General,—We have the honor to request of you authority to raise ten companies of colored troops in the vicinity of Montgomery, Ala. We feel confident that this can be done, with the help of influential friends; both of us having many in and around the city.

We are, General, very respectfully,

Your obedient servants,

Thomas T. Greene,

First Lieut. and Adjt. Sixty-first Ala. Regt. Inf.

De Witt Dillard,

First Lieut. Co. “A” Sixty-first Ala. Regt. Inf.

To General S. Cooper, A. and I. G.

I have always had a personal interest in the fate of these gallant soldiers, and I give you the copy for what it is worth. There is no doubt of the genuiness [sic] of the paper, as I picked it up and did not receive it from any second hand.

Yours fraternally,

John H. Keatley.


  1. Keatley, John H. “An Official Paper which was Never Sent.Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 9, pp. 88-89
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