JUNE 1864 SOLDIER LETTER—PRIVATE ADAM KREPS, CO. A, 67TH US COLORED TROOPS, TO HIS FATHER

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Item Code: 945-427

Dated “Morganzia La June 25th 1864. Addressed to father, J.F. Kreps. 2 pp. in ink on unlined paper, 7.75 x 9.75.” Exhibits fold-marks and soiling along rear page fold-lines & slight smudging. Else VG. In protective sleeve.

Note: Adam Kreps served in three regiments, first mustering as a private into Co. “F”, 15th PA Cavalry, 8/22/1862, then transferring with Lieutenant’s commission into Co. “A”, 67th Regt. U.S.C.T., 2/24/1864, then transferring again into Co. “E”, 92nd Regt. U.S.C.T., mustering out of service, 12/31/, 1865 He served exclusively in the western theater and with the U.S.C.T. regiments mostly in Louisiana. His correspondence consists of letter to family, primarily to his father.

In this letter Adam Kreps describes a “Grand Review” by General Canby and the position of his regiment…”about a ¾ mile from the Mississippi and within two hundred yards of the rebel picket and if there should be an attack we would receive the first shock.” Far more interesting is Kreps’ lengthy and vehement defense of black troops opposing the sentiments of a letter he has received from someone at home. Excerpt as follows:

“I do not agree with the writer of the writer of the letter concerning negro troops…He says that the physical qualifications of the negro was no equal to the hardships of drill and fatigue. Now I defy that man or any others to bring me a white regiment in the U.S. service that ever had as hard work as has the negro troops at Port Hudson. No there is not double their number that has performed an equal amount of labor in the same time. Human endurance could not stand it. He also says they are not fit the service because many of them had the seed of sure an fatal disease in their systems. Why were men with such systems accepted. I know it is not allowed in regulations…

Now is it right to judge the whole when the great mortality is caused by taking such men. I can prove that such has been the case in this regiment. There was over one hundred men mustered who had been condemned by the surgeon as unfit for military duty. Go through the companies and one will find that it is such men that have died. He says that it costs more to keep these men in good condition than white troops. (that is camp clothing and garrison equipage) I deny it, for these men have been kept at fatigue work almost constantly and everyone knows there is bound to be destruction than going on guard duty. I have got to the first negro regiment [the 67th] that has had an equal chance with white regiments and if they do not come up to the expectations of the authorities is their [the authorities] fault for I consider they [67th] have been shamefully treated.

They were promised equal pay with white regiments, and they get about half that amount at the present time. I think it was wrong to give such promises but since they have done it they are duty bound to give it to them. If they think they will worth as they are very easily discouraged.”

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Born in 1806 in Lebanon, PA, J.F. Kreps established himself in Greencastle as an enterprising farmer and businessman, moving to West Newton/ Rostraver Township. An ardent Union patriot, Kreps raised troops and money, and served as a civilian Pennsylvania regimental commissioner, spending two months in that capacity visiting PA regiments serving with Gen. Rosecrans’ army at Stones River, TN, in late spring/early summer 1863; also visiting PA Army of the Potomac units in 1864.

He also contributed five sons to the Union army—John, Francis, Adam, William and David Dempsey (with John, Francis and Adam serving as officers), in five different regiments, all of whom would survive, though son John would be severely wounded at Liberty Gap, TN, and son Frank, captured at Chickamauga, would spend 14 months in various Confederate prisons before making an heroic and hair-raising escape from Columbia, S.C., in 1864.

The bulk of the letters in this first family grouping (27 letters dating from August 7, 1861 to July 1864) are from J.F. Kreps to son Adam (15th PA Cavalry, 67th Regt. U.S.C.T., 92nd Regt. U.S.C.T. Also letters to son Frank (77th PA Infy) and son George, and six to wife Eliza, most of which were written during J.F. Kreps tour of General Rosecrans’ army. Subsequent groups contain letters home from sons Adam, William, John and David Dempsey. Taken as a whole, the Kreps letters present a valuable and fascinating picture of the coming and goings of an American family at war.   [JP]  [ph:L]

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