Grant, Lincoln and the Freedmen

Reminiscences of the Civil War by John Eaton

  • Author(s): Smith, John David and Micheal J. Larson, editors
  • Series: Voices of the Civil War
  • Imprint: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2022-05-20
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Hardcover - Printed Case: Price $55.00 | Buy Now
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“John Eaton’s recollections of it long have been an important resource for historians. Grant, Lincoln, and the Freedmen is well worth reading and long has needed a thoroughly, thoughtfully, carefully annotated version. Now we have one.” —Michael Green, author of Freedom, Union, and Power: Lincoln and His Party during the Civil War


In 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant appointed one of his regimental chaplains, John Eaton of Ohio, as general superintendent of contrabands for the Department of the Tennessee. As the American Civil War raged, the former chaplain’s approach to humanitarian aid and education for the newly freed people marked one of the first attempts to consider how an entire population of formerly enslaved people would be assimilated into and become citizens of the postwar Union. General superintendent Eaton chronicled these pioneering efforts in his 1907 memoir, Grant, Lincoln, and the Freedmen: Reminiscences of the Civil War, a work that for more than a century has been an invaluable primary source for historians of the Civil War era.

In this long-awaited scholarly edition, editors John David Smith and Micheal J. Larson provide a detailed introduction and chapter-by-chapter annotations to highlight the lasting significance of Eaton’s narrative. These robust supplements to the 1907 volume contextualize important events, unpack the complexities of inter-agency relationships during the war and postwar periods, and present Eaton’s view that the military should determine how best to assimilate the freed people into the reunited Union.

Grant, Lincoln, and the Freedmen presents a firsthand account of the challenges Grant, Lincoln, and Eaton himself faced in serving and organizing the integration of the newly freed people. This heavily annotated reprint reminds us just how important Eaton’s recollections remain to the historiography of the emancipation process and the Civil War era.


JOHN DAVID SMITH is Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is the author of We Ask Only for Even-Handed Justice: Black Voices from Reconstruction, and coeditor, with Micheal J. Larson, of Dear Delia: The Civil War Letters of Captain Henry F. Young, Seventh Wisconsin Infantry.

MICHEAL J. LARSON formerly taught history in three Wisconsin school districts. He currently is an Adjunct Faculty member at Northwood Technical College, Rice Lake, Wisconsin, where he teaches U.S. History and Government.