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A white Kentuckian, itinerant Methodist preacher, and antislavery spokesman, James T. Ayers moved to Illinois before the Civil War and, though nearly fifty-seven years old, enlisted in an Illinois regiment in 1862. In February 1864, he was dispatched as a recruiter for the U.S. Colored Troops in the Tennessee Valley and began this diary recounting his experiences, including his recruiting tactics, the difficulties he en-countered in enemy territory, and the lack of interest on the part of many slaves and freedmen in joining the U.S. Colored Troops.
Edited by John Hope Franklin, who conducted impressive research in then little-used sources at the National Archives, Ayers's diary documents more than the black recruiting process. It also candidly reveals the complex attitudes of a northern white preacher regarding the war, race, and the Confederacy. For this edition, Franklin provides a preface and John David Smith offers a new introduction, explaining why Ayers's poignant text remains a telling and important source in contemporary scholarship.