Theodore Tilton, in a communication to the Boston “Journal,” dated New York, Dec. 12, 1863, quotes from a letter received by him “from a Massachusetts soldier in the Fifty-fourth “: —“A strange misapprehension exists as to the matter of pay, and it pains us deeply. We came forward at the call of Governor Andrew, in which call he distinctly told us that we were to be subsisted, clothed, paid, and treated in all respects the same as other Massachusetts soldiers. Again, on the presentation of flags to the regiment at Camp Meigs, the Governor reiterated this promise, on the strength of which we marched through Boston, holding our heads high as men and as soldiers. Nor did we grumble because we were not paid the portion of United States bounty paid to other volunteer regiments in advance. Now that we have gained some reputation, we claim the right to be heard.
“Three times have we been mustered in for pay. Twice have we swallowed the insult offered us by the. United States paymaster, contenting ourselves with a simple refusal to acknowledge ourselves different from other Massachusetts soldiers. Once, in the face of insult and intimidation such as no body of men and soldiers were ever subjected to before, we quietly refused and continued to do our duty. For four months we have been steadily working night and day under fire. And such work! Up to our knees in mud half the time, causing the tearing and wearing out of more than the volunteer’s yearly allowance of clothing, denied time to repair and wash (what we might by that means have saved), denied time to drill and perfect ourselves in soldierly qualities, denied the privilege of burying our dead decently. All this we’ve borne patiently, waiting for justice.
“Imagine our surprise and disappointment on the receipt by the last mail of the Governor’s address to the General Court, to find him making a proposition to them to pay this regiment the difference between what the United States Government offers us and what they are legally bound to pay us, which, in effect, advertises us to the world as holding out for money and not from principle, — that we sink our manhood in consideration of a few more dollars. How has this come about? What false friend has been misrepresenting us to the Governor, to make him think that our necessities outweigh our self-respect? I am sure no representation of ours ever impelled him to that action.”
To the letter Theodore Tilton added some forcible sentences. Among other things he wrote, —“They are not willing that the Federal Government should throw mud upon them, even though Massachusetts stands ready to wipe it off. And perhaps it is not unsoldierly in a soldier, white or black, to object to being insulted by a government which he heroically serves. The regiment whose bayonets pricked the name of Colonel Shaw into the roll of immortal honor can afford to be cheated out of their money, but not out of their manhood.”
December 9-11, 1863
Comments are closed.