John Eubanks

Tony and Becky Eubanks enslaved John Eubanks during the period described in this excerpt.  The Eubanks family supported the Union during the Civil War and allowed the men they enslaved to join the Union army, which John Eubanks chose to do, joining Company K of the 108th Kentucky Infantry Regiment – a unit of Black soldiers who volunteered to fight. At the time of the interview, John Eubanks was the only surviving Civil War veteran in his town. In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts John Eubanks’s experiences during the Civil War in the third person.    

The excerpts below provide teachers a unique opportunity to consider perspective and decisions made by an interviewer. The interviewer Archie Koritz submitted two separate documents for his interview with John Eubanks.  

The first, featured in “Part 1” below is written in the third person.  In the excerpt, Archie Koritz lists John Eubanks experiences as a Union soldier during the Civil War. 

The second interview is labeled “Part 2” and is written in the first person.  The excerpt from this interview covers the same content as that in “Part 1.” The reader can speculate that “Part 2” is similar to a transcript of the interview and “Part 1” is closer to a report of the interview submitted by interviewer Archie Koritz.  

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [redacted].  See more information.
See full document • Visit the Library of Congress to see the original document
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
John Eubanks1836 or 1839 (approx 98)Archie KoritzEverett Family, Tony Eubanks
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Gary, ININGlasgow, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, Emancipation, InterviewerBarron County, First Person, Third Person, Dialect, Whipped, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Union Troops, Veteran or Widow, Notable


…Shortly after the beginning of the Civil War, when the north seemed to be losing, someone conceived the idea of forming… [Black] regiments and as an inducement to the slaves, they offered them freedom if they would join the Union forces. John’s mistress and master told him that if he wished to join the Union forces, he had their consent and would not have to run away like other slaves were doing. At the beginning of the war, John was twenty-one years of age. When Lincoln freed the slaves by his Emancipation Proclamation, John was promptly given his freedom by his master and mistress.

John decided to join the northern army which was located at Bowling Green, Kentucky, a distance of thirty-five miles from Glasgow where John was living. He had to walk the entire thirty-five miles. Although he fails to remember all the units that he was attached to, he does remember that it was part of [Union] General Sherman’s army. His regiment started with Sherman on his famous march through Georgia, but for some reason unknown to John, shortly after the campaign was on its way, his regiment was recalled and sent elsewhere.

His regiment was near Vicksburg, Mississippi, at the time [Confederate General] Lee surrendered…When Lee surrendered there was much shouting among the troops and John was one of many put to work loading cannons on boats to be shipped up the river…

When [Confederate] General Morgan, the famous southern raider, crossed the Ohio on his raid across southern Indiana, John was one of the…[Black] fighters who after heavy fighting, forced Morgan to recross the river and retreat back to the south. He also participated in several skirmishes with the cavalry troops commanded by the famous [Confederate General] Nathan Bedfored Forrest, and was a member of the…[Black] garrison at Fort Pillow, on the Mississippi which was assaulted and captured. This resulted in a massacre of the [redacted] soldiers. John was in several other fights, but as he says, “Never once got a skin hurt.”…

[Part 2: What follows is a different version of the interview, recorded by the same interviewer, but this time in the first person. Below are excerpts that cover the same topics described in Part 1.]  

…I was twenty-one when war broke out. Master Eubanks said to me, ‘You all don’t need to run away if you all want to join up with the army.’ He’d say, ‘There would be a fine if slaves ran off. You all don’t have to run off, go right on and I do not pay that fine.’ He said, ‘Enlist in the army but don’t run off.’…

We were infantry and pretty soon we got into plenty of fights, but not a scratch hit me. We chased the cavalry. We ran them all night and next morning the Captain said, ‘They broke down.’ When we rest, he says ‘See they don’t trick you.’ I say, ‘We got all the army men together. We’ll hold them back ’til help comes.’

We didn’t have any tents, slept on naked ground in wet and cold and rain. Most of the time we were hungry, But we win the war and Master Eubanks tells us we are no more his property, we’re free now…