Social History for Every Classroom


Social History for Every Classroom

menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

A Runaway Slave Predicts "Freedom Will Reign" (with text supports)

During the Civil War, John Boston took advantage of the nearby presence of Union troops to runaway. But in this case, Boston had run into a Union camp in Maryland, a slave state fighting on the side of the Union. This meant that the regiment from Brooklyn that was providing him sanctuary was defying Union policy. Boston's master was a loyal Unionist in a border state that had sided with the North. Maryland authorities seized this letter, either before or after Boston's wife received it. These officials then demanded that the Union Army return Boston to his owner. It is not known what happened to him. But the courage of John Boston—and that of thousands of others who fled to Union lines to escape slavery—became a tremendous moral example that helped move northern war policy from the goal of union to that of freedom.

Source | "Letter from John Boston, a runaway slave, to his wife, Elizabeth, January 12, 1862," National Archives, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s–1917; available online at "Eyewitness: American Originals from the National Archives,"
Creator | John Boston
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | John Boston, “A Runaway Slave Predicts "Freedom Will Reign" (with text supports),” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed February 27, 2024,

Print and Share