Letter to My Father
Ayer MS 3188
Gift of Edward E. Ayer
In February of 1864, Chief Wanzopeah of the Miami West addressed a letter to President Abraham Lincoln. “My Father,” he begins, “I have not bothered you for the last ten years and now I have one little favor to ask.”
That favor, he explains, is the discharge of his tribesman, Eli Jebo (or Geboe). Jebo was stationed with the 12th Kansas Volunteers, halting the Confederate advance in Arkansas. A stream of tragic circumstances—particularly the death of his wife—required that he return home. His presence would be a much-needed safeguard against the depredations of Confederate guerillas. Battle-weary and disproportionately female, the Miami were acutely vulnerable to Missouri Bushwhackers, who, Chief Wanzopeah explains, were “very near [their] homes and could destroy and rob [them] at any time.”
Wanzopeah’s petition proved fruitful. Adorning the letter’s verso, in dark ink and a scrawling hand, is a short missive, which is signed and dated by President Lincoln, It reads, “Let this man be discharged, as requested.” Jebo was discharged per Special Order No. 125 on March 4, 1864—the very day that Lincoln had ordered it done.