DescriptionAbraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Edwin Stanton Endorsed Field Pass Signed. Measuring 5.25" x 3" and issued to Frederick Tompkins, secretary of the National Freedmen's Aid Society of London, from the War Department on February 27, 1865, this pass allows Tompkins to travel to "Norfolk, Va., Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga. and return with transportation at half rates on a Govt. transport." On the verso, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton has written: "Transportation free [signed] E M Stanton Sec of War." Directly below Stanton, President Abraham Lincoln has placed his endorsement, in full: "I heartily commend Dr. Tomkin's object, and bid him God-speed in it. [signed] A. Lincoln Feb. 27. 1865." To allow ease of travel, General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of all Union forces, writes directly below Lincoln: "Pass Mr. F. Tompkins through all parts of the Armies of the U. States. [signed] U.S. Grant Lt. Gen. City Point, Va. March 2d 1865." Two punch cancellations do not affect the text or the signatures on the verso. Staining along the edges touches the date in Grant's inscription, but it remains wholly legible. Overall a fine piece.
On January 1, 1863, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. While its immediate impact was slight (the proclamation only freed those slaves in Confederate territory and not those in the Union border states of Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland, and Missouri), the freedom of enslaved peoples in the South slowly became a reality as the Union Army gained a foothold. As a result, questions arose as to how to properly care for these newly freed people. Congress approved a plan to establish the Freedmen's Bureau in 1865, but the small agency would not be able to support the financial burden of so many people. The U.S. government would need to rely on aid from private citizens and charities, both domestic and foreign.
The aforementioned National Freedmen's Aid Society of London was one such foreign charity. In an effort to provide aid, they sent Frederick Tompkins and C.C. Leigh to Norfolk, Charleston, and Savannah, Confederate cities now under Union control, on a fact finding mission in early 1865 to assess the situation and best determine how they could help. Because of the ongoing war, travel to the South was difficult, but Tompkins had friends in high places. Tompkins' contact in New York, noted abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, brother to Uncle Tom's Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe, sent a letter of recommendation to the president saying, "The bearer Mr. Fred. Tompkins is a fast friend of the north, tho an Englishman. He has been restlessly active in England for us. He comes not to collect facts about the freedmen that he may aid us still more on his return. He is worthy of entire confidence." (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, page 321) A similar pass was granted to Tompkins' travel companion, C.C. Leigh, with similar endorsements.
Reference: Roy P. Basler, editor. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume VIII. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1953.
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