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Collection Title: United States. Army. Provost-Marshal's Office (4th District, Richmond, VA.) Documents

Collection Number: M218

Dates: April 1865

Volume: 3 items

Provenance: Donated by Ernest A. Walen to the University of Southern Mississippi in October 1969.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

On December 8, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation granting amnesty to all citizens of the rebellious Southern states who would take an oath of loyalty to the Union. However, the declaration of amnesty did not specify who would administer the oath to those southerners who desired to take it. On March 26, 1864, Lincoln issued another proclamation which designated "any commissioned officer, civil, military, or naval in the service of the United States" to administer the oath, as well as those persons in the territories which were "not in insurrection who were by the laws therefore qualified for administering oaths." Those persons administering the oath were required to give certificates to those persons who took the oath. Records of the administering of the oath were to be transmitted at the earliest possible time to the Secretary of State where they were to be deposited in the government for safekeeping. The Secretary of State was required to keep a register and to furnish, on request to those who qualified, certificates constructed in proper official form.

The provost marshals stationed throughout the United States, and in the Southern states which had been occupied by Federal troops, were conveniently located and qualified to administer this oath. In 1863, the Provost Marshal General's office had been created to monitor the draft, oversee enlistments, and round up deserters. Provost marshals were appointed by the military commander in each Congressional district and sub-district. In order to qualify to administer the oath of enlistment to recruits, provost marshals were sworn in by the justice of the peace in their area.

The presidential proclamations of December 8 and March 26 declared that military prisoners and others held for crimes against the United States were not eligible for amnesty, but military personnel who deserted the Confederate Army and volunteered to take the oath were allowed to do so.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of two forms from the Federal Office of Provost-Marshal, 4th District, Richmond, Virginia, April 1865. Both forms have been partially completed.

One document (blue in color) was used to certify that a prisoner of war had taken the oath prescribed by Abraham Lincoln (December 8, 1863). The second document (tan in color) was used to certify that deserters from the Confederate forces had taken the Amnesty Oath issued under the President's Proclamation (December 8, 1863). The form also exempted such persons from military service against the rebel cause. In addition, the second document contains a statement of General Orders No. 64. These orders pertained to the treatment and processing of deserters from the rebel forces. These orders were issued February 18, 1864.

Finally, a copy of President Lincoln's proclamation, referred to above, is supplied.


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Revised: December 14, 2004