Archive for March, 2010
In consequence of the cold weather there was some suffering in the regimental camp. When this became known, a meeting was held at a private residence on March 10, and a committee of six ladies and four gentlemen was appointed to procure comforts, necessities, and a flag. Colonel Shaw was present, and gave an account of progress. To provide a fund, a levee was held at Chickering Hall on the evening of March 20, when speeches were made by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wendell Phillips, Rev. Dr. Neale, Rev. Father Taylor, Judge Russell, and Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell. Later, through the efforts of Colonel Shaw and Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell, a special fund of five hundred dollars was contributed to purchase musical instruments and to instruct and equip a band.
[Mercury, March 7, 1863]
Camp Meigs, Readville, March 6
Messrs. Editors: —Immediately upon our arrival here on Wednesday afternoon, we marched to the barracks, where we found a nice warm fire and a good supper in readiness for us. During the evening the men were all supplied with uniforms, and now they are looking quite like soldiers. They all seem contented, and appear in the best spirits. We have drill morning and afternoon, and the men are taking hold with a great degree of earnestness.
Col. Shaw is on the ground, doing all he can for the comfort of those now in camp. Lieut. Dexter has been appointed to the New Bedford company, but has not yet made his appearance. The men from New Bedford are the largest in camp and it is desired to fill up the company from our city, which can and ought to be done. Lieut. Grace will be in the city tomorrow and he wants to bring a squad back with him.
I have just received yours of the 3d inst. Governor Andrew says that all Colonel Higginson’s men, and the Colonel himself, wish to get into the regular United States uniform; and strongly advises our sticking to it. We are getting men very fast. There has been a hitch in the Rhode Island recruiting, but we hope to get it going in a day or two.
I trust — — will do something more practical than having meetings, and will manage to send some recruits. What do you think? Had we better send an officer on there to work?
Your loving Son
p.S. —Enclosed is another private letter for Mother.
My dear Charley,
Your letter of the 23d Feb. reached me today. In future address to 44 Beacon St. Though I shall be in camp after this I can get my letters sooner there.
I got yours just as I returned from visiting your Mother & sister at Jamaica Plain. I should have gone there long ago, if I could have found time — and shall certainly make them another visit as soon as I can. Greely Curtis is at home as you know, and his engagement is all right.
I had an invitation to visit the Somerset Club whenever I wished, and the other evening I went there. A great many of them are “bloody Copperheads” but no one made any disagreeable remarks while I was there. It would be a good thing for Greely to go in and give some of them a soaping down.
My regiment is making pretty good headway. We have nearly 150 men in camp, and they come in pretty fast. There are several among them, who have been well drilled, & who are acting sergeants. They drill their squads with a great deal of snap, and I think we shall have some good soldiers. Thirty four came up from New Bedford this afternoon, and marched with a drum & fife creating the greatest enthusiasm among the rest. We have them examined, sworn in, washed & uniformed as soon as they arrive — and when they get into their buttons they feel about as good as a man can. It is very laughable to hear the sergeants explain the drill to the men, as they use words long enough for a Doctor of Divinity or anything else.
The heel question is not a fabulous one — for some of them are wonderful in that line. One man has them so long that they actually prevent him from making the facings properly. Since you were here, I think there has come a change over the public mind, in regard to the war. That feeling which we noticed, was a sort of reaction from the early enthusiasm, and I believe it is fast passing.
The conscription act has encouraged me very much, and must show the Rebels and European Powers, that we have no thought of giving in. If it is enforced we are safe, but if the Government gives in to rebellious demonstrations in the North, it is lost, because that will be a test of its power — don’t you think so? I hope the 2d New Hampshire is only one of many old regiments coming home, to enforce conscription. It can never be done, I think, in many states without military aid. But the talk of resistance may turn out to be mere bluster after all.
I came out to Readeviile yesterday for good — and it seems like Camp Andrew over again. Everything topsy turvy. Nothing to eat and the coldest possible barracks.
George Bangs is in a state of despondency difficult to describe or even imagine. He says he thinks sometimes that he is going to become insane — and if he doesn’t take up another train of thought, I think there is some danger in it.
I saw Sam Quincy on Monday, just before he left. He may be able to keep the field, but he will need a great deal of pluck to do it. Charley Mudge seems very ill indeed. Between the two, you and Bangs stand a good chance of being Field officers. I hope to hear of your promotion before long, and in the mean time it is good you are in such comfortable quarters & pleasant company.
It has been a subject of wonder to me that the nigger concern meets with so little opposition here. Almost everyone, even those who do not favour it, says that it is a good thing to try. Even such fellows as Bill Horton, now they see that we are not tabooed, by what he considers respectable society, talk of wanting to go into it.
Perhaps though, there may be something rough for us to go through yet, in the way of abuse. It is a matter of chance, which way the public sentiment may take a turn — Especially in the army.
I have been to a dinner or small party almost every day since I got to Boston, and have enjoyed myself amazingly — though my mind wanders sometimes to a certain person in N. Y.
Powdered hair is coming in again. The gayety in N. Y. & Boston is greater than ever.
Postman waits. Good bye & God bless you my dear fellow.
Always afftcly yours,
R. G. S.
[Mercury, March 3, 1863]
—As the time draws near for the departure of the men Capt. Grace has recruited, for camp, and there is not a sufficient number to form a whole company, does it not behoove every colored man in this city to consider, rationally with himself, whether he cannot be one of the glorious 54th? Are the colored men here in New Bedford, who have the advantage of education, so blind to their own interest, in regard to their social development, that through fear of some double dealing, they will not now embrace probably the only opportunity that will ever be offered them to make themselves a people. There are a great many I must confess, who, Micawber-like, “are waiting for something to turn up”; but they will have to learn sooner or later, that if anything does “turn up” to their advantage, they will have to be the means of turning it up themselves; they must learn that there is more dignity in carrying a musket in defence of liberty and right than there is in shaving a man’s face, or waiting on somebody’s table. — Not that it is any degradation to perform those offices, but those who perform them are considered nothing but appendages to society; for in either case, the recipients of these favors could perform them for themselves on a “pinch.” Another class are those who argue “it won’t pay to go for a soger”; but I think there are not nine out of ten who will realize as much in a year here at home as a man will in the army in the same length of time. And again, if the colored man proves to be as good a soldier as it is confidently expected he will, there is a permanent field of employment opened to him, with all the chances of promotion in his favor. Such an event is not unlikely in this country, any more than it is in India and other colonial dependencies of England. In India the native militia is considered equal if not superior to the English soldiery in tactics and bravery, and there are natives holding the highest military positions. Our people must know that if they are ever to attain to any position in the eyes of the civilized world, they must forego comfort, home, fear, and above all, superstition, and fight for it; make up their minds to become something more than hewers of wood and drawers of water all their lives. Consider that on this continent, at least, their race and name will be totally obliterated unless they put forth some effort now to save themselves.
G. — One of the 54th
Private Alexander H. Johnson joined the regiment on 2 March 1863.