—One of the most impudent assumptions of authority and a long string of the basest misrepresentations have been perpetuated by a number of white men under the leadership of one Frishmuth, an illiterate German, on the people of the State of Pennsylvania; men who possess no record on the question of anti-slavery, and have not the shadow of a claim to the confidence and support of the colored men of this State, and are regarded by every intelligent colored man in the city as irresponsible militarily, pecuniarily, politically, and socially. Many of these men claim to have held quite recently commissions in either the regular or volunteer service of the United States, and rumor, which seems to be well founded, says that at least three of these men were cashiered or dismissed from the service. It will be remembered that just as-soon as Gov. Andrew had obtained authority from the War Department at Washington to raise colored regiments, a simultaneous response of the colored men of every State in the North was made to the call of the noble old Bay State. Every one of us felt it to be a high and holy duty to organise the first regiment of the North at once, so that the irresistible argument of a first-class regiment of Northern colored men en route for the seat of war, might overwhelm or, if possible, scatter to the four winds the prejudice against enlisting colored men in the army, and at the same time giving cheer to the hearts of good and loyal men everywhere. But no sooner did that hateful political reptile, the copperhead, discover the generous response and patriotism which this call elicited, than the insidious and guilty work of counteracting or neutralizing these pure and earnest manifestations, commenced. Every influence has been applied to dishearten us; mobbed, as at Detroit and elsewhere, and in every town and village kicked, spit upon and insulted. The wily enemy knows full well that if they can impress on the minds of the masses the notion that the whites of the North are as bitter enemies as those of the South, it would be impossible to get a regiment of Northern colored men; then they would deride Massachusetts and the colored men, as they do Gen. Jim Lane of Kansas, for failing to realize certain promises and expectations regarding the promptness of our people to enlist, and yell like madmen, “niggers won’t fight!”
I am right glad that the black brigade is rolling up so bright a record. May they continue to drive before them the buzzard foe! You meet these copperheads at every step, and when violence is not resorted to, they come [with] the friendship and counsellor dodge. They ask, “Are you going to enlist in the army?” Of course, you answer “Yes!” They continue, “Any colored gentleman who will go down South to fight, is a fool. Every one of them that the rebels catch will be hanged, or sent into the Indigo mines, or cut up into mince-meat, or quartered and pickled, or spitted, or—or— What good is it going to do the colored people to go fight and lose their lives? Better stay home and keep out of harm’s way.”
These are the arguments that the copperheads insinuate into the ears of the credulous, the ignorant, and the timid. They do not tell you that the measure of the slaveholder’s iniquity is completed; that the accumulated wrongs of two centuries are a thousand-fold more horrible than two centuries of war and massacre. They do not tell you that it were “better to die free, than live slaves”—that your wronged and outraged sisters and brethren are calling on you to take up arms and place your interests and your lives in the balance against their oppressors—that “your dead fathers speak to you from their graves,” or “Heaven, as with a voice of thunder, calls on you to arise from the dust,” and smite with an avenging hand, the obdurate, cruel, and relentless enemy and traitor, who has trampled in the dust the flag of his country and whose life and sacred honor are pledged to wage an interminable war against your race. Oh no, to tell us these truths would be to nerve our arms and fire our hearts for the noble struggle for country and liberty. Men and brethren! for the sake of honor, manhood and courage—in the name of God, of country, and of race, spit upon the base sycophants who thus dare to insult you. But these are silent influences which are at work. The open, tangible, bolder ones are now at work in Pennsylvania. She presents a wide theater for operations. Her colored population is more numerous than that of any other Northern State; and if the copperheads can neutralize this State, half of the object has been accomplished and the system has been thoroughly organized. Ever since Frederick Douglass’ address appeared in the daily journals, these men have been holding meetings and stuffing the Philadelphia papers with false accounts of their glowing successes and influence over the colored people.
A few weeks ago they caused an article to appear in the Evening Bulletin which stated that sixty thousand dollars had been promised to them by colored men in this city. At a meeting of colored men held at Philadelphia Institute on last Wednesday two weeks ago, and upon which meeting Frishmuth and his associates introduced themselves, Mr. Rob’t Jones, the secretary of the meeting, read this article and demanded who the parties were that had subscribed this money. The whole gang were confounded. Not a name could be offered and not one colored man said that he reposed any confidence in those men. They forced themselves upon us, and spoke of the inadvisability of colored men enlisting in the Massachusetts regiment; that there would be authority given to them the next day to organize a colored brigade in Pennsylvania; that President Lincoln and Gov. Curtin were only arranging the preliminaries. Frishmuth said he loved the colored man and wanted to be “de Moses ob de cullerd population”—forgetting that Moses belonged to the race which he led out of the house of Egyptian bondage. There were many colored ladies present at the meeting, yet one of those unprincipled men used the most profane and disgusting language. They belong to that ignorant class of white men who, knowing nothing of the sentiments and intelligence of colored men, labor under the hallucination that they can lead where they will we should go, and that if a white man should say to us, “You are a good nigger,” we will be immediately overwhelmed with gratitude for the gracious condescension.
They have printed circulars scattered among the colored people in Philadelphia and adjoining counties, calling on them to join the 1st Colored Penn. Brigade. They hold “officers’ meetings” and report their proceedings to the daily papers. They told a friend this morning that they had not yet received authority to enlist colored men. Of course not. By what authority do they thus call upon the men of color of Pennsylvania to take up arms and thus mislead them and deceive the public? By these misrepresentations all through the State, the efforts of our people, in a military point of view, have been neutralized. Even so far west as Pittsburgh, the copperhead bait has been successful. Even Geo. B. Vashon has been gulled into participating in a war meeting in Pittsburgh, in response to what they were led to believe by the Philadelphia press, was a genuine call of Pennsylvania. We shall tear the curtain away, and expose to the people these gross frauds, and base attempts to deceive and mislead them. Many men were disposed to regard these men favorably, but all sympathy was lost when they placed themselves in opposition to Massachusetts, the cradle in which the sickly puling infancy of American liberty was nursed; who has made colored men equal before her laws; who has been the protectress and benefactress of the race; who in the darkest hour of adversity, when every other State seemed bound, hand and foot, at the feet of slavery, proclaimed the right of petition against slavery; whose representatives have been insulted, abused, and their persons violated, in the halls of Congress for thundering against the citadel of Human Wrong the burnished shafts of truth and eloquence, and for her unswerving devotion to liberty, the rebel sympathizing democracy, conscious of the irresistibility of truth and justice, and that this noble old State will never furl her banner of right while a single vestige of human wrong shall disgrace the country, are now striving to reconstruct the Union, leaving her and her sister States of New England out in the cold. Now, these men can see no potency in these claims of Massachusetts. When these facts are presented to them, they claim that we should have “State pride.” I would to God that they could have heard Isaiah C. Wears’ and Prof. Green’s scathing rebukes to even the presumption of State pride for Pennsylvania in the breasts of colored men—a State which, instead of restoring our stolen rights, stripped us of the elective franchise, and even within the last two weeks, passed in one branch of the legislature a law excluding colored men from the State. There is no meaner State in the Union than this. She has treated the families of her soldiers worse than any other State, and with her confirmed negrophobia could we expect the treatment of dogs at her hands? But in spite of all this, if such men as J. Miller McKim, Judge Kelley, or Col. Wm. F. Small should obtain authority to raise a regiment or brigade in Pennsylvania, I would give my heart and hand to it; but knowing, as I do, that no other colored regiment will be raised in the North until the Massachusetts one is placed in the field, I say, let every man lend his influence to Massachusetts. If, by any means, the 54th should fail, it will be a blow from which we Northern men would never recover. We would be ranked with the most depraved and cowardly of men. Our enemies, infuriated as they are beyond measure, would hunt us down like so many wild beasts, while our friends, shamed and humiliated by our criminal cowardice and imbecility, would be compelled to become passive witnesses of their unbridled violence.
Look at our brethren in the South! Those who have endured all of the horrors of the Southern prison-house, defying the menaces of the besotted tyranny, taking up arms to achieve with their valor those rights which Providence has designed that all men should enjoy. Has freedom stultified our sterner aspirations, and made us forget our duty? Has the Copperhead obtained an influence over us? If we thought that of what little freedom, we of the North enjoy, has had a tendency to nourish a disregard for our own and the rights of our fellow men, it were better that the mob-fiend drive us from off the face of the earth, to give place to those noble freedmen who are now bravely and victoriously fighting the battles of their country and liberty. We have more to gain, if victorious, or more to lose, if defeated, than any other class of men. Not abstract political rights, or religious and civil liberty, but with all these our personal liberties are to he secured. Many of us are insensible to the stern realities of the present hour, but they are here thundering at our very doors, and the sooner we awaken to their inexorable demands upon us, the better for the race, the better for the country, the better for our families, and the better for ourselves.
G. E. Stephens.
April 1, 1863
I received your letter last evening, and you must excuse me for saying, I didn’t think your arguments very powerful. If I thought that being married were going to make me neglect my duty, I should think it much better never to have been engaged. As for Annie’s going out with me, I don’t think such a thing would ever enter my head. It is the last thing I should desire, as I have seen the evil consequences of it very often. The chances of my coming home in six months are very small; for, if we are put on the service we expect, we shall get into the interior before long. Indeed, one reason for my wishing to be married is, that we are going to undertake a very dangerous piece of work, and I feel that there are more chances than ever of my not getting back.
I know I should go away more happy and contented if we were married. I showed Annie your letter, and she wants to show it to Aunt Anna; to which I suppose you have no objection.
We have had another snow-storm, which makes drilling very uncomfortable, as there is little room in the barracks. Tell Father that Dr. Stone has gone to Buffalo to examine a hundred men there, so that his man Jackson cannot be put through immediately. As soon as he is, I will let him know.
Your loving Son