Title: Petition of Joshua Morsell, 28 June 1862

Date: June 28, 1862

Source Text: A microfilm reproduction of the original document held at the National Archives and Records Administration, Microcopy 520, Reel 5. The original document is held in the Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, 1775–1978, National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 217.6.5. Within the National Archives' Archival Description Catalog, see ARC Identifier 4644616 / MLR Number A1 347 (http://arcweb.archives.gov).

Civil War Washington ID: cww.00785

TEI/XML: cww.00785.xml



To the Commissioners under the act of Congress approved the 16th of April, 1862, entitled "An act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia."

Your Petitioner, Joshua Morsell of Washington D.C. by this his petition in writing, represents and states, that he is a person loyal to the United States, who, at the time of the passage of the said act of Congress, held a claim to service or labor against three persons of African descent of the names of Elizabeth Hays Lewis Presten Hays & Davy Hays for and during the life of said persons and that by said act of Congress said persons were discharged and freed of and from all claim of your petitioner to such service or labor; that at the time of said discharge said persons were was of the ages of and of the personal description following:(1)

  • Elizabeth Hays—aged 38 years—Dark Brown
  • Lewis P. Hays—aged 12 years—Light Brown
  • Davy Hays—aged 7 years—very dark


That your petitioner acquired his claim to the aforesaid service or labor of said persons in manner following:(2) By the will of Jane Chesley, the mother of your petitioner's wife, Jane Gray Morsell, in whose right he became the owner of said persons under the laws of the District of Columbia; a certified abstract of which said will is herewith filed, marked "Exhibit A." Said Elizabeth Hays is mentioned in said will by the name of "Betty". Said Lewis Preston Hays are her issue; Davy having been born since the death of said testatrix.

That your petitioner's claim to the service or labor of said persons was, at the time of said discharge therefrom, of the value of sixteen hundred dollars in money.(3)

  • Elizabeth Hays is a good cook and washerwoman
  • Lewis Preston Hays is a good house servant
  • Davy Hayes is a healthy child and likely.
All the said persons are free from any moral, mental or bodily infirmity or defect.

Your petitioner hereby declares that he bears true and faithful allegiance to the Government of the United States, and that he has not borne arms against the United States in the present rebellion, nor in any way given aid or comfort thereto.

And your petitioner further states and alleges, that he has not brought said persons into the District of Columbia since the passage of said act of Congress; and that, at the time of the passage thereof, said persons were was held to service or labor therein under and by virtue of your petitioner's claim to such service or labor.

Your petitioner further states and alleges, that his said claim to the service or labor of said persons does not originate in or by virtue of any transfer heretofore made by any person who has in any manner aided or sustained the present rebellion against the Government of the United States.

And your petitioner prays the said Commissioners to investigate and determine the validity of his said claim to the service or labor of said persons herein above set forth; and if the same be found to be valid, that they appraise and apportion the value of said claim in money, and report the same to the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, in conformity to the provisions of said act of Congress.

(Signed by)
Joshua Morsell
Extract of the
Jane Chesley
Cost 43 c​ paid

Exhibit A

Extract of the will of Jane Chesley

"Item, I give and bequest to my daughter Jane Gray Morsell my negro woman Betsey, her two daughters Sally Ann and Elizabeth Jane, with all their future increase and children, also Betsey's two sons (John and Lewis Preston) also I give my said daughter Jane, my negro Boy William (Dinah's Son) and all my furniture which my said daughter Jane has in her possession."

In testimony that the above is a true and correct extract taken from the Will of Jane Chesley of Anne Arundel County Maryland deceased, duly executed, admitted to probate and Recorded in this office in Liber B E G no 1 folio 268 one of the Record Books of Wills.

I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed the seal of my office this nineteenth day of June in the year Eighteen hundred and Sixty two

Test Benj E [Gault?] Register of Wills
AA​ County

[Form of the Oath for the Verification of the Petition.]

I, Joshua Morsell being duly sworn, do depose and say, that all the several matters and things which are set forth and stated in the foregoing petition, as of my own knowledge, are true in substance and in fact; and that all the several other matters and things therein set forth and stated, as from the information of others, I believe to be true in substance and in fact.

(Signed by)
Joshua Morsell

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 28th day of June A. D. 1862.

(Signed by)
H. Naylor J Peace
Petition of
Joshua Morsell.
Filed June 28, 1862
Rezin Arnold,
Henry Naylor.

 Note (1.)-- Here describe the person, so as to identify him or her; and if there be more than one slave, describe each one separately.

 Note (2.)-- Here state how the claim was acquired, when, from whom, and for what price or consideration; and, if held under any written evidence of title, make exhibit thereof, or refer to the public record where the same may be found.

 Note (3.)-- Here state such facts, if any there be, touching the value of the petitioner's claim to the service or labor of the person, as may enhance the same, and also such facts, if any, touching the moral, mental, and bodily infirmities or defects of said person, as impair the value of the petitioner's claim to such service or labor, and conclude such statement with an averment that the petitioner knows of no other infirmities or defects of said person which impair the value of petitioner's claim to such service or labor, and that he believes none other to exist. If the petitioner specify no such infirmity or defect, then his statement touching the value of his claim should conclude with an averment that he has no knowledge of any such infirmity or defect.

Transcription and encoding: Susan C. Lawrence, Janel Cayer, Courtney Geerhart, and Brittany Jones.