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Amnesty Petition of Peterson Dunn, June 30, 1865


Amnesty Petition of Peterson Dunn, June 30, 1865


After the North’s military victory of the Civil War, the difficult task of reforming the Union began. In order to facilitate the readmission of citizens of the former Confederacy, President Johnson issued a sweeping pardon for many of the South’s citizens. Excluded from this pardon were high ranking military officers and civil servants of the Confederacy. Those excluded had to individually petition the President for amnesty. The hesitancy to provide amnesty to high ranking military officials who fought against the North and thus perpetuated the war that resulted in heavy losses of life and property is understandable. Somewhat vaguer is the reasoning behind excluding participants in Confederate government especially at local levels. The subject of this paper was one of those low level officials. Peterson Dunn was a local postmaster in Wake County, North Carolina. By the terms of the Presidential pardon, Dunn was excluded due to his participation in the Confederate government. Though Dunn was not particularly instrumental to the Confederate war effort nor was he in fact an early supporter of secession, by analyzing his place in the Confederacy it can be seen why the North directed punishment specifically towards Dunn and similar civil servants.

The postal service was a critical part of the war effort for both the North and the South due to its impact on morale, intelligence and supplies. For the soldiers fighting on the front lines, the mail system was there connection to home and the rest of the country in general. This connection provided an important flow of information and sentiments that allowed a better understanding of the war from both the point of view of the soldiers and citizens. ( "National Postal Museum") The Confederate postal service could be seen as especially instrumental to the support of the Confederacy because it represented its legitimacy by providing the means of presenting official service and symbols such as the stamp that depicted President Jefferson Davis. ( "National Postal Museum") The postal system was also instrumental in the flow of intelligence and supplies. Due to the Union blockade of the South, the flow of much needed supplies was highly impeded. Because of this functioning ports were crucial to the war effort of the Confederacy. North Carolina in particular was in important state for international trade for the South as Wilmington was one of few functioning ports and for some months was in fact the only operating international port in the Confederacy. ("North Carolina History" 2014) Therefore, the significance of postal workers like Dunn, especially those in North Carolina, becomes apparent.

In Dunn’s personal plea for amnesty, he puts forth several factors in his defense. Most importantly Dunn pleas that he was not a supporter of secession, specifically Dunn states he,”…did all in my power both by my votes and influence to prevent the secession...”. ( “Amnesty Petition” 1865) Therefore, he did all reasonable possible with the powers given to him by the democratic institution to prevent the breakup of the Union and can claim an allegiance to the United States. Though his profession led him to be a representative of the Confederacy, it is hardly unreasonable for him to continue his profession even though it represents a personal abandonment of the government of the United States and an acceptance of the Confederacy. Dunn also claims that he was not instrumental in the war effort and only contributed to the support of the soldiers and their families not only by service provide by his profession but by specifically providing food, clothing and money to poor soldiers. ( “Amnesty Petition” 1865) Therefore, Dunn defends himself by stating that not only was he an opponent to secession but during the war he supported the war effort only in so far as supporting less fortunate soldiers.

The resolution of military action of the Civil War left a substantial problem of how to reform the United States. To accomplish this as quickly as possible a sweeping pardon of most citizens of the Confederacy was enacted. Former high ranking military officers and participants of the Confederate government were specifically excluded from these pardons. The postal service was an important part of the Confederacy in that it supported it function by allowing the flow of information and supplies and by perpetuating its legitimacy. In Dunn’s case, though he participated in the Confederate government and could be seen as part of an important institution for its legitimacy and health, he personally was against secession and acted only as he thought right in supporting the men and women of his country.


Dunn, Peterson


Peterson Dunn, 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.




Wahl, Brian




Raleigh, North Carolina

Original Format

Government Document


To his Excellency Andrew Johnson, President of the United States

For I respectfully ask for amnesty and pardon according to the provision of your proclamation of the 29th of May under the following statement of facts. I am a citizen of the County of Wake and in the 46th year of my age.

Although, no politician, I did everything in my power before the war both by votes and influence to prevent the attempted secession of North Carolina to the 20th of May 1864, but after that attempt, I felt bound to take the fate of my State. And during the progress of the rebellion I was desirous of peace and a speedy settlement of the difficulties. I am rejoiced at the restoration of peace, desires to be restored to full citizenship and of becoming peaceful and law abiding citizen, and of doing all in my power to place the national authority upon a sure footing. I have voluntarily participated in the rebellion only in heading the Office of Post Master at a county post office for the convenience of the neighborhood and not for profit in being Superintendence on the Raleigh and ... in voting, in having taxes and in furnishing supplies of food, clothing and money to poor soldiers and their families and in no other way as I am advised and believe. I have taken the oath prescribed and ... a copy upon this application.

Very Respectfully,
P. A. Dunn


Dunn, Peterson. 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.

North Carolina History Project. "North Carolina History." Last modified 2014.

Smithsonian. "National Postal Museum."


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Dunn, Peterson, Amnesty Petition of Peterson Dunn, June 30, 1865, Civil War Era NC, accessed June 16, 2024,