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Amnesty Petition of William S. Bradshaw, June 30, 1865


Amnesty Petition of William S. Bradshaw, June 30, 1865


An unpublished family genealogical record compiled by the late John W. Bradshaw of Alamance County, North Carolina, lists William Saurin Bradshaw as being born in Orange County, North Carolina in 1815. "Thompson Township 9", the civil that Bradshaw resided in, would later become part of what is known as Alamance County, which was officially formed in 1849. (Bradshaw n.d., 6-7) A husband and a father of six children, it is no doubt that the build-up, the battles, and the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War would have wreaked havoc on this small farmer and his large family. In spring of 1864, President Andrew Johnson issued "Proclamation 134" in he promised to grant amnesty to many citizens of the former Confederate States of the United States that petitioned for a pardon and could basically prove they did not "willingly" participate in the rebellion. (Johnson, quoted online by Woolley & Peters, of the American Presidency Project) William S. Bradshaw seemed to have a lot to answer for, when it came to his involvement in the Confederacy, though it seemed like he was more a victim of unfortunate circumstances both during and after the "War Between the States."

In his petition to the President, Mr. Bradshaw pleads for Johnson's "clemency," and "begs as a humble farmer" for his offenses to be forgiven. (Item 861) President Johnson's Amnesty Proclamation 134, required "civil or diplomatic officers or otherwise domestic or foreign agents of the pretended Confederate government" to swear allegiance to the Union and prove that they were not truly "pretenders" of the Confederate Government themselves. This rule would have extended over Bradshaw's tile of "Post Master," in Meadow Creek, Alamance County, North Carolina, a small town in the aforementioned Thompson Township 9. During the Civil War, post masters under Post Master General John H. Reagan developed their own Confederate Postal Service with postage stamps that differed from the Union's, but often "imprinted old U.S. Stamped indicate that the enclosed correspondence was the official business of the Confederate Post Office Department." ( The Confederate Postal Service, NPM) With "pretended" being the key word, petitioners who had formerly held the Post Master position were compelled (whether honestly or dishonestly), to describe their occupation as one of care for their local community, instead of duty to the Confederate States. For instance, in the petition itself, Bradshaw states that he, " ...did not accept the commission as post master as aforesaid for the compliments of the office; but simply as a convenience to the neighborhood in which he lies." (Item 861)

Bradshaw was certainly not alone in his plea, or in the way he justified his role in the Civil War. A neighboring Post Master in Mebanesville (what later would become what is known today as the City of Mebane) in Alamance County, was Thomas B. Thompson, who employed some of the exact same phrasing in his amnesty petition, stating, that he also "did not accept the commission...for compliments of the office" either. (Thompson 1865, 3) The only noticeable difference in these two petitions for Presidential pardon would be that Thompson directly acknowledges the "emancipation of the slaves" suggesting that he was word-for-word reciting the "oath" Johnson required, could have owned slaves himself, or had close relatives who did. (Thompson 1865, 3) Archived wills documenting the transfer of "negro property" to offspring, as well as a letter written in 1861 from Thompson's niece, Eliza, to her cousin that references a set of "darkies" keeping her sick sister "company by playing the piano" suggests that while Bradshaw is not known to have possessed slave property, many slightly larger and wealthier families in the same area of Alamance County, (specifically within the Townships of Melville and Thompson) did. (Bill & Ann Teer 1997, Intro, 10-19) Regardless of the differences in writing, both Bradshaw and Thompson seemed to be desperately covering up any former characteristics of their pre-war or "during-the-war" lifestyles that would have been contradictory to the "new" post-war America in their petitions.

With that being said, William S. Bradshaw, in his petition, also briefly mentions his military service during the Civil War, claiming he had never "held any office either civil or otherwise except when conscribed into military service, [where] he was elected captain of a company of Service Reserves." (Item 861) If one is to look deeper into Bradshaw's military career, it becomes evident that Bradshaw is again desperately trying to keep the President's focus on his role as a poor and unfortunate farmer, instead of his role in both commanding and fighting in several prominent battles across the state. The National Soldiers and Sailors database lists William S. Bradshaw as elected Captain of Company A of the Confederate North Carolina Senior Reserves, otherwise known as the "Seventh Reserves" or the "Seventy-Seventh Regiment." (Soldier Details, National Park Service) A regimental history written by First Lieutenant John G. Albright of Company A, who served under Bradshaw, places the Senior Reserves' in both the renowned battles of Averasboro and Bentonville, North Carolina, as well as in parts of Georgia during "Sherman's March to the Sea." Albright's overall account of the regiment's involvement is rather depressing, as he mentions being outnumbered and defeated multiple times, and even describes the scenario at Bentonville as being one in which "Captain Bradshaw....ordered [Lt]. Blalock to go forward and see if they were our own men who fired into us." (Albright in Clark 1901, 104) Though the Lieutenant does bring up being "marched up the Salkahatchie river to Buford's bridge to prevent Sherman's crossing", Albright begins his history by pointing out that the officers of the Senior Reserves were "never commissioned, but were ordered into service" in 1864, and ends his history by claiming that with the surrender of CSA General Johnson, "ended the connection of the Senior Reserves, of Alamance County, with 'The Lost Cause.' (Albright in Clark 1901, 99-105)

William S. Bradshaw's petition was pardoned in July of 1865. (Item 1) The North Carolina Cemetery census places Bradshaw in Randolph County at the time of his death in 1892, and his grave can be found in Asheboro, NC. A webpage of "Biographies" on the Alamance County Genealogical Society Website features William Gaston Bradshaw, a son of William Saurin Bradshaw, and the writer claims that William Saurin himself "...had nothing left save his lands, on which he placed himself and surviving boys, by strenuous toil, he accumulated... a surplus sufficient to give to each of his children a collegiate education." (Welcome to Alamance County: Biographies, Genealogy Trails) Whether or not Bradshaw was sincere, in his disdain for (or better yet, neutrality for) the "so-called Confederate States" in his petition to be "restored to the full rights of citizenship" (Item 861), Bradshaw's experiences do help paint a more complex picture of those "supporting" the Confederacy, especially citizens from North Carolina, who often varied from each other across the state in opinions on secession and the resulting war. Bradshaw's move to Randolph County, enrollment in Trinity College, and his son's later successful career as a doctor perhaps suggests that W. S. Bradshaw was ready to move on with his life after being granted amnesty, and leave the horrors of the Civil War behind. (Welcome to Alamance County: Biographies, Genealogy Trails)


Bradshaw, William S.


William S. Bradshaw, Amnesty Petition, June 30, 1865, Case Files of
Applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons (“Amnesty
Papers”), 1865-67, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s-1917, Record
Group 94, Publication M1003, National Archives, Washington, D.C.




Thompson, Katherine




Meadow Creek, North Carolina
Alamance County, North Carolina

Original Format

Government Document


[Page 1]:

"W. S. Bradshaw
Alamance County, NC
Pet. for Pardon
Officer & Post. Master
Received By:
W. R. Albright
W. A. Albright"
Executive Office W6
Raleigh, June 30, 1865.
I respectfully recommend that a pardon be granted in this case. W.W. Holder, Pres. Gov."

[Page 2]:

"To His Excellency, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States,

Your petitioner William S. Bradshaw, a citizen of Alamance County, and State of North Carolina, a farmer humbly begs and prays that your official [clemency] maybe extended (on/in) his behalf for the reason of having accepted from the Government of the so-called Confederate States, a commission as Post Master at Meadow Creek in the county of Alamance and State of North Carolina. Your petitioner has never sought for any office from the Government of the so-called Confederate States, nor has he ever held any office either [civil] or [otherwise] except when conscribed into military service. He was elected captain of a company of Service Reserves. Your petitioner did not accept the commission as post master as aforesaid for the compliments..."

[Page 3]:

"...of the office, but simply as a convenience to the neighborhood in which he lies.
Your petitioner prays that his offense may be pardoned by your Excellency and that he may be restored to the rights of citizenship."
[signed], William S. Bradshaw

[Page 4]:

"Graham, NC June 17th, 1865.
His Excellency of Gov. W.W. Holden,
The undersigned do endorse and approve of the petition of William S. Bradshaw, and know the facts stated therein to be true, and that the said Bradshaw has been and now is a true and [lawful] citizen and would respectfully and earnestly [pray] your Excellency to [get] his pardon as early as possible.


W.R. Albright
W.A. Albright


Albright, John A. "Seventy-Seventh Regiment: (Seventh Reserves)" in Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-65',vol. IV, edited by Walter Clark, pp. 99-105. Goldsboro: Nash Brothers, 1901.

Bradshaw, John W. Descendants of Thomas Bradshaw. Unpublished family record, n.d.

Bradshaw, William S. Amnesty Petition, June 30, 1865. Case Files of Applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons ("Amnesty Papers"), 1865-67; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94; Publication M1003, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Genealogy Trails. "Welcome To Alamance County: Biographies: 'B.'" Accessed March 23, 2014.

Johnson, Andrew. "Proclamation 134-Granting Amnesty to Participants in the Rebellion, with Certain Exceptions," May 29, 1865. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

National Park Service, The Civil War: Soldiers and Sailors Database. "Soldier Details:Bradshaw, W.S." Accessed March 20, 2014.

Smithsonian. National Postal Musuem. "The Confederate Postal System." Accessed March 20,2014.

Teer, Bill and Ann Teer. The Scotch-Irish & English Thompsons of Alamance/Orange County. Graham: Bill & Ann Teer, 1997.

Thompson, Thomas B. Amnesty Petition, July 12, 1865. Case Files of Applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons ("Amnesty Papers"), 1865-67; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94; Publication M1003, National Archives, Washington, D.C.


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Bradshaw, William S. , Amnesty Petition of William S. Bradshaw, June 30, 1865 , Civil War Era NC, accessed April 19, 2024,