Andrew Johnson was a U.S. Senator from Tennessee, and when his home state seceded, Johnson had done something very unusual: he stayed loyal to the Union. When Johnson's term ended in March 1862, Abraham Lincoln made him Militry Governor of Tennessee, much of which was under Union military control by the end of that year. With the decision having been made to recruit Negro troops for the Union Army, Andrew Johnson became in effect the chief recruiter in an area filled with thousands of men now eligible for military service.
Hon. Andrew Johnson
My dear Sir:
I am told you have at least thought of raising a negro military force. In my opinion the country now needs no specific thing so much as some man of your ability, and position, to go to this work. When I speak of your position, I mean that of an eminent citizen of a slave-state, and himself a slave-holder. The colored population is the great available and yet unavailed of, force for restoring the Union. The bare sight of fifty thousand armed, and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi, would end the rebellion at once. And who doubts that we can present that sight, if we but take hold in earnest? If you have been thinking of it please do not dismiss the thought.