Archive for May, 2010

May 16, 1863

This is Gooding’s 12th letter to the Mercury:

Mercury, May 18, 1863 [OAF]

Camp Meigs, Readville, May 16

Messrs. Editors:

—As we fondly expected last week, the 54th is now full, and as “Artemas” expresses it, “it slopt over,” so the spilt ones are now the germ of another regiment, the 55th. The Journal of Commerce, some weeks since, derided the idea of raising a colored regiment in the whole of the loyal States, but it was as near right that time as when it predicted McClellan would have to be recalled to save the nation from anarchy and ruin. These old fogy sheets seem to think if they modify their opinions to the humane and progressive spirit of the times, they lay themselves open to the charge of inconsistency; they lose sight of the fact that to be thoroughly consistent with their position as journalists, they should support what is right, regardless of party ties or Southern patronage. One who has any idea of the manner of mercantile transactions conducted in “Gotham,”might suspect the mercantile mouth-piece was largely interested in the rise and fall of sugar, cotton, turpentine and other tropical commodities.

The battalion of cavalry left last Tuesday for Washington; that battalion was the first ever escorted by a black regiment, and I can assure you they seemed not ashamed of their escort. Gov. Andrew was down to see them off, and it was by his request that the 54th was detailed to give them a parting salute. Who says the world does not move?  Col. Maggi was at camp last Tuesday afternoon; he happened to be present during the battalion drill; he said the men drilled splendidly. I think he must be a competent judge. The papers say we are to leave here the 20th, but where we are going they seem to know no more than we do. We have got a band, or at least the instruments; there are fifteen men taken from the regiment to form a band; Professor Bond is the instructor; by the frequency of practice he is maintaining, he appears to be determined to make them equal to any band he has formed or taught during the war. W[h]arton A. Williams, one of our New Bedford boys, is to be Band Sergeant.

There is no more news of importance, so I will content myself till we march. The readers of the Mercury will be fully posted of our progress to our destination.

J. H. G.

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May 13-14, 1863

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May 11, 1863

The regiment reaches its full quota of 1,000 men today, and the overflow is used to start the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
A letter from Shaw to his father:

Readville [BCF]
May 11,1863

Dear Father,

I received your note, acknowledging my last from Lenox, this morning. Annie and I got to Boston, Saturday evening; coming the last part of the way with Mrs. Haggerty and Clem., having met them at Springfield. I found the regiment looking remarkably well; there are already one hundred men for the Fifty-fifth. Both the Hallowells refused the Colonelcy of it; but the Governor says Norwood must stay and help organize it, whether he wishes to or not; so he will be detailed by the War Department. I hope Mother and you will come on very soon. We shall get away next week without a doubt, if nothing unexpected turns up. General Wilde goes to New York Wednesday, and sails for Newbern on Friday.

We are settled at Mrs. Crehore’s, and ready to receive you whenever you can come. By this time, there must be some news from the coming baby.

Love to Mother and Nellie. I received Mother’s note at Lenox.

Your loving Son

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May 9, 1863

This is Gooding’s 11th letter to the Mercury

Mercury, May 11, 1863 Gooding
Camp Meigs, Readville, May 9

Messrs. Editors:

—The past week has been one of progress with the 54th: 68 more men will make it a full regiment, if all the men are retained, which I think is rather doubtful, as there is about a dozen or more who, by the trying effects of camp life, are not physically able to be retained as good able soldiers. So far as physical ability is concerned and qualities of endurance as a regiment, the 54th will compare favorably with any ever raised in the State; indeed had every man been received who has applied, the regiment would have been filled at least three weeks since. Those having the raising of the regiment in charge are entitled to praise in not enlisting all sorts of men, regardless of their fitness to bear the hardships of military life, a striking contrast to the manner in which some of our regiments were raised. If they could only get 1000 men, they never thought of the fact that good sound men, although recruited slowly, would be better for themselves in the end. A number of regiments in the field, thinned out by sickness more than battle, had to be consolidated, so that the high “comish” in some cases will have to follow the unheroic paths of commerce or law once more. Surgeon General Dale paid an official visit to the camp last Monday and reviewed the battalion. He appears to seem satisfied that the boys will do.

That flag presentation didn’t come off, and it is very probable it won’t, or else it is such a big one it takes a long time to make it. Well, I suppose it is, and it will be bigger before we see it. By the papers we see Richmond is not taken yet; it would be a little strange if the 54th were destined to tear down Jeff. Davis’ nest. I think our boys would like such a job as that; they might not do it so scientifically as some, but they would never know when they were whipped, and that is the feeling which should pervade every man in the Union armies. Let every man feel that he has got a personal or family interest in this war, as the leaders of the South have, and with the immense armies, means and fleets the government have got, the rebellion would be speedily crushed. The American people, as a nation, knew not what they were fighting for till recently, and many have different opinions now as to the ends and results of the contest. But there is but two results possible, one is slavery and poverty and the other is liberty and prosperity. The latter can be preserved by oneness and singleness of purpose in regard to this contest, or the former will be sure, if love of place, prejudice and partisanship blind them so that they cannot see their way. Let every man of color consider that he has an interest in this war as well as the white man, and it will be well with them.

J. H. G.

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May 7, 1863

A letter from Shaw to his sister:

Lenox [BCF]
May 7,1863

Dear Sue,

I have just received a telegram from Hallowell, saying that the Governor is going to send us off on the 20th. Please drop a line to Mother, and tell her this. We go down Saturday instead of Monday. O, how glum I feel! Colonel Hallowell remains at Readville to start the Fifty-fifth. If I lose the Major too, I don’t know what I shall do.

Give my love to Robert, and tell him his cigars are splendid. Annie sends her best love. I shall send this to Father, so you needn’t write to Mother.

Always dear Susie,

Your loving Brother


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May 6, 1863

A letter from Shaw to his sister:

Lenox [BCF]
May 6,1863

My Dear Effie,

Annie and I shall be in Boston on Monday. Will you please tell Mrs. Crehore to expect us on Tuesday?  No matter whether she wants us or not, we are coming. I was very glad to hear from Mother that Charley (”Katie”) had got to New York after all.  Harry and Mary are married by this time; I wish I could have been at the wedding; what a pity the weather is so bad; it has been beautiful up here until now. I have been in quite an angelic mood ever since we got here—as is becoming — and haven’t felt envious of any one. Excuse this short note, for I am dreadfully busy. Annie sends love to you and Charley. We haven’t seen a single soul until today, and we’ve only been off the place twice. We began to read “The Mill on the Floss,” but have only finished three or four chapters. We read it three years ago together, when I was here on a visit. Our own ideas are more interesting to us just now, than Miss Evans’.

Always your loving Brother

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May 4, 1863

This is Gooding ’s tenth letter to the Mercury:

Mercury, May 6, 1863 [OAF]
Camp Meigs, Readville, May 4

Messrs. Editors:
—The past week has been one of encouragement and interest to the 54th; our muster is now 868 men, and this week I hope to chronicle the pleasing intelligence, “the 54th is full.” We have sufficient reason to warrant us in saying that such will be the case. Fast Day was observed here by a respite from drilling in the forenoon, and a grand review in the afternoon. Indeed it looked like anything but a day of humiliation and prayer—it seemed more like a grand gala day, if judged by the number of visitors on the ground. The crowd was so great that the officers would allow no carriages within the fines. It would be safe to say that all Belknap street was here en masse. It was indeed a pleasant scene to see the “boys” who had friends to see them, demolishing the good things brought them with such a keen relish; you may be sure they thought not of fasting. In the afternoon Gov. Andrew and Secretary Chase visited the camp, which was the occasion of the review mentioned above. As the Governor entered the lines, attended by Brig. Gen. Pierce and staff, there arose a loud and enthusiastic cheer, long to be remembered. If there had been one present who asserts that black men are without military spirit, the spectacle in Camp Meigs last Thursday would have convinced him of his error.

Yesterday the men received their new arms. We are supplied with the Enfield rifle, made in 1853, so you may suppose they intend us to make good use of them; and I doubt not if the opportunity presents itself, they will be made good use of. There was quite a number of visitors here yesterday, including Gov. Berry, of New Hampshire.

We have a new style of cooking department here, to be experimented upon. It is a large wagon, covered similar to an omnibus, with a stove and all the appurtenances of a well ordered kitchen. It is intended to move on the march. It will be a very handy affair, if adopted. So the 54th will be supplied with all the modern improvements.

Last Thursday I could not but put the question to myself, when I saw so many strong, able-bodied looking young men, why are you not here? why come as spectators when there is ample chance for you to become actors? I felt a mingled feeling of joy and sorrow — joy, because I felt the men who stood as actors in the scene were superior, in the eyes of all patriotic men, to those who came to see the show; sorrow, because these men had the effrontery to come here and look patronizingly upon those who are on the eve of going to secure them a home hereafter. I must confess, it is enough to discourage real well wishers of the cause, to know that the “hub of the Universe” contributed only the small number of 80 men to a whole regiment. It is a fact though, and the only way to make it otherwise, is to send at least 100 more men here, whose interests are identified with the State. The regiment will be full; but it would be more credit to the State if it were filled by her own colored citizens. When the war is over, and those who are spared to return shall march through the grand thoroughfares of our principal cities, ragged, lame, shoeless, and a banner tattered and torn by hostile balls, they then will learn who holds the highest place in the affections of a grateful people. What better reward is possible to conceive than the blessings of those we left behind in sorrow and tears; time, that great solver of events, will teach them this; if they suffer now, they would suffer more in the future, if we do not try now to avert it. It is rumored we are to receive a flag today, but I cannot place any reliance in it. We have heard so many different rumors, about different subjects, that we are rather slow to believe anything we don’t see. (Money especially.)

J. H. G.

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May 3, 1863

A letter from Shaw to his friend Charles Fessenden Morse:

Lenox, Mass. [BCF]

May 3,1863

My dear Charley,

I can only guess at your whereabouts. The papers tell us that you are once more at work in good earnest. How I wish I were to take my share in this campaign, and that my future fighting were to be (if there is any in store for me) might be done alongside of my old companions. Think of me when you come into camp of a night, and lie down on your blanket, before a rail fire (the rails must be scarce in that neighbourhood though.)

Just now I am very differently occupied, for I was married yesterday and have just come up here to spend a week.The country is just beginning to look green & the weather is perfect. We are living at Pa Haggerty’s place, which is a remarkably pretty one, & I expect to have as nice a time as any one in the same circumstances ever did. Saddle horses & a light wagon are at hand, when we want to tide or drive, and a nice garden & pine grove near, to furnish pleasant walks. I feel very humble when I think of you fellows out there, but shan’t fret much, as I expect to be off myself in less than 30 days. I have got my minimum of enlisted men & received my Col’s commission.

Harry follows suit, & will be married next Wednesday, after asserting for six weeks that he should wait until he returned home again. I dined at your Father’s Sunday before last, and passed a most pleasant afternoon on the border of the pond. It made me think of your many adventures in the neighbourhood. I saw Miss Goreham and couldn’t but admire your brother’s good taste. Your Mother, I only saw for a moment, as some indisposition prevented her from coming down to dinner. I don’t think I ever saw a sweeter face than yout sister’s, and if her lameness has had anything to do with forming such a beautiful character as she must have, it is not a dear price to pay for it.

I hope this will find you alive & well. Please hand the enclosed slip to Tom Fox at earliest opportunity. Write me what is going on when you have a chance. Bangs is engaged to Miss Laura Pell— very handsome young lady, and one of the best amateur performers on the [one word illegible] in N. Y.  I didn’t send cards to the fellows in the regt because it didn’t seem worth while. If any one speaks of it please excuse me to them.

Your afffc friend,


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May 1, 1863

This is Stephens’s third letter to the Weekly Anglo-African:

Camp Meigs, Readville, Mass., [VT]
May 1, 1863.

There is quite a stir in the camp to-day. Mayday has adorned herself in sunshine and garlands of green. Hundreds are flocking here from Boston and its environs to witness the military evolutions of the 54th Reg. Mass. Vol., and never did they acquit themselves so admirably. They moved with the regularity and.precision of Regulars. The gay concourse of visitors of both classes of our citizens seemed stirred with admiration and pleasure at the rapid progress of this splendid regiment in this school of the soldier. I do not exaggerate when 1 say that there is no regiment superior, if equal to this in physique and aptitude of its men. I suppose, in the upwards of a thousand men now ready to be mustered into the service of the United States, there arc twelve men who will yield to the severest vigors of a campaign in the field. Out of upward of fourteen hundred men, these nine hundred or a thousand have been chosen; the rest have been rejected because they did not come up to the highest standard of mental and physical proficiency.

Governor Andrew visited our camp yesterday and reviewed the regiment, and with other distinguished citizens expressed great satisfaction at the condition of the men and the police of the camp. I noticed among the guests on this occasion our distinguished citizens Dr. J. B. Smith and Lewis Hayden Esq. I never saw a body of men who seem to be so perfectly at home in camp and have so many ways to divert and amuse themselves. Singing, dancing, foot-ball, cricket, wrestling and many innocent games with the parades and drills, dispel ennui and dull monotony and keep our camp in a perfect whirl of animating scenes..

There are a few essentials needed, however, to the comfort of these men, who have in the face of the most disheartening influences taken up arms in defence of their country and liberty. There are many of the essentials to the soldiers toilet which the government does not furnish to her troops: such as coarse towels, needles, pins and buttons, besides some items of reading matter, such as testaments (pocket), newspapers, tracts, etcetera. A great many of the friends furnish them at times with tobacco, pipes and some few dainties, but those things I have above enumerated are very essential, absolutely so. Will the fair friends at home withhold their regards from the noble 54th and refrain from giving them some few of these testimonials of their admiration and respect? The Social, Civil and Statistical Association of Philadelphia have made an appropriation to purchase some of these items. Fair readers of Philadelphia will you not form your Sewing Circles to make for these men whatever may be necessary? While that Governor Andrew has made this regiment one which will reflect honor to our race, and as it has become the representative of the men of color in the North, it becomes the indispensable duty of every one at home to cheer and encourage them with sympathy and esteem, and to give them a tangible earnest of a cheerful cooperation with and support to, in this good cause. Ladies it would be strong evidence of your patriotism, intelligence and noble heartedness, did you organize your Sewing Circles in every locality from whence your friends have come to unite their destinies with the 54th. We desire to have a goodly number of copies of the Anglo-African sent to the address of our chaplain, for this shall be the medium through which all of the affairs of the regiment of public interest, shall be made known. When any sickness, accident or anything else shall take place, the friends and relatives of those in it can know all, learn all, through the columns of the Anglo-African.

Another item of interest is that the regiment is now fully armed with new Springfield Rifles. They were only partly supplied with old Harpers Ferry Muskets. The men can be seen everywhere going through the manual of arms, in which they are already quite proficient. There are already two colored men who are commissioned and attached to this regiment: Dr. John V. De Grasse of Boston, and Rev. Wm. Jackson of New-Bedford, recently of Philadelphia and a Baptist by profession of faith. Dr. De Grasse is only to be temporarily connected, it is understood, with the regiment, to be detached for some other field of action,- and, it is expected that Dr. Bachus, the previous acting Hospital Steward, will be commissioned as assistant surgeon of the regiment. So the great pathway to honor and emolument is opening wide to colored men.

The health of the men is good, particularly so. There are in the hospital the week ending to-day, Clark, Wellesly, Harrison, Chas. Owens, Miller, Toote, Shorter, and Phillips, and these are all the cases of ordinary diseases and are nearly all convalescent.

G. E. S.

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