Signed Oath of Allegiance by Ex-Confederate Soldier

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This document is an oath if allegiance signed by Stokes A. Hopkins in June of 1865. Stokes Hopkins was a native of the southwestern portion of Randolph County, North Carolina. He served in the 38th North Carolina with the Army of Northern Virginia from November of 1861 until his capture by Union troops in March of 1865 at Petersburg, Virginia, shortly before the surrender of Confederate forces at Appomattox. After his capture he was sent to a Union P.O.W. camp at Point Lookout, Maryland, where he remained until his release the following June. Like many of his former comrades-in-arms he was then forced to make the trek home on foot. The world into which these veterans emerged was a new world, where everything they had ever known to be true had suddenly shifted. These veterans would have to learn to cope with this new world, as well as the memory of their defeat.

This document is indicative of the steps taken following the Civil War to mend a nation divided. The South had to be somehow reinstated into the Union on terms that were acceptable to both the victorious North and the recently defeated and chastised South. If the country was to ever mend itself this process would need to be carried out with as little strife and ill-feeling as possible. The nation was to be whole again, and these oaths taken by ex-Confederates were some of the first measures taken by the U.S. government to bring southerners back into the fold. This oath was made possible by the broad amnesty that President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after his assassination, granted on May 29th 1865. This sweeping pardon essentially forgave southerners who had rebelled against the Union, and restored all of their former rights, save that of the right to own slaves. This oath of allegiance was the document, whose signing was required for the granting of this pardon. Johnson allowed most ex-Confederates to sign this oath, with the only exception being high-ranking officers and state officials, and all individuals with taxable property worth $20,000 or more. This move was an attempt by Johnson to restore the rights of the most important part of the ex-Confederacy, the common soldier.

Posted by Tristan Routh

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