Reading The Claim
The Claim for Compensation for Enlisted Slave document looks vastly different from the condensed, thick black boxes and pages of instruction now common in modern-day government paperwork. The print is slightly smaller and not quite as bold, though clearly legible. Where modern-day government forms have black boxes with bold and capitalized print, this 1866 application only has dotted lines for which the applicant must provide information. Instead of providing a social security number and date of birth, Kingsbury simply had to write his name and declare his loyalty to his country. The claim is split into two halves—the first requiring all the information needed to prove that Kingsbury did indeed have a slave join the Union army. Kingsbury was required to list his own name and place of residence. He also had to include the name of his slave, Albert Cavanaugh, the place of enlistment, and the regiment with which Cavanaugh served—a piece of information that Kingsbury left completely blank. The second half of the document serves as insurance of Horace’s allegiance to the Union throughout the duration of the civil war. Horace attested that he had “never joined, or been concerned in any insurrection or rebellion…” and that he “will continue to support and defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” (“Application of Horace Kingsbury” 4). Kingsbury’s oath of allegiance was signed in Boonville, Missouri by two witnesses, presumably his business partners or friends.
Kingsbury crossed out the first line of the document: “I, a loyal citizen…” but instead wrote his name as “Horace Kingsbury, a Loyal citizen…” on the blank space following. Whether he did this out of confusion, or pride, or even to make the sentence structure more coherent is unclear. Considering that Albert Cavanaugh had enlisted almost two years prior to Kingsbury’s claim, it is likely that there was an incentive to cash in on Cavanaugh’s absence. After all the slaves were freed in 1865, Kingsbury “did incur the loss of the value of his slaves, and the cash value of his farm was recorded at half what it had been in 1860,” though, because he did not face an economic setback in terms of his agricultural operation, the financial outcome for his farm-based income was much more optimistic than on typical southern plantations (Derendinger 10). Kingsbury also unsurprisingly spelled “Cavanaugh” differently than is listed on all of Albert’s known records; as Cavanaugh was most likely illiterate, he would have only ever spoken his name to Kingsbury and any of the owners before him. Without knowing the exact way Cavanaugh’s name was spelled, anyone attempting to write it down would have had to rely on sound and assumption. On a record in which Horace Kingsbury grants power of attorney to Isaac C. Dodge, a faded note made in pencil indicates that Kingsbury’s request for compensation was rejected. The reason, even more illegible than the initial note, is listed directly below the verdict as “not enlisted,” because Cavanaugh was rejected from service four days after volunteering. After being turned away from the army, records of Cavanaugh disappear until 1866. Because it was known by the United States Colored Troops that Cavanaugh was not enlisted, it is improbable that Kingsbury knew about Albert’s dismissal. Regardless, the record of Horace Kingsbury’s application exists as a reminder that slaves were not people, they were property.