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The Diary of James T. Ayers

Civil War Recruiter

introduction by John David Smith

176 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 4 halftones

Civil War

  Paperback / 9780807123935 / August 1999

A white Kentuckian, itinerant Methodist preacher, and antislavery spokesman, James T. Ayers moved to Illinois before the Civil War and, though nearly fifty-seven years old, enlisted in an Illinois regiment in 1862. In February 1864, he was dispatched as a recruiter for the U.S. Colored Troops in the Tennessee Valley and began this diary recounting his experiences, including his recruiting tactics, the difficulties he en-countered in enemy territory, and the lack of interest on the part of many slaves and freedmen in joining the U.S. Colored Troops.

Edited by John Hope Franklin, who conducted impressive research in then little-used sources at the National Archives, Ayers’s diary documents more than the black recruiting process. It also candidly reveals the complex attitudes of a northern white preacher regarding the war, race, and the Confederacy. For this edition, Franklin provides a preface and John David Smith offers a new introduction, explaining why Ayers’s poignant text remains a telling and important source in contemporary scholarship. 

John Hope Franklin (1915–2009) was James B. Duke Professor of History Emeritus and professor of legal history at Duke University. For many years he was the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Chicago. He served as president of the Southern Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, the American Studies Association, and the Society of Phi Beta Kappa. He received more than eighty honorary degrees. His books include From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans; Racial Equality in America; George Washington Williams: A Biography; and Race and History: Selected Essays, 1938–1988.

John David Smith, Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is the author of An Old Creed for the New South: Proslavery Ideology and Historiography, 18651918 and Black Judas: William Hannibal Thomas and The American Negro.

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