Gooding’s 14th letter to the Mercury is the last to be written from the camp at Readville:

Mercury, May 26, 1863 [OAF]
Camp Meigs, Readville, May 24, 1863

Messrs. Editors:

—My last letter I had supposed would be the last to be written from this camp, but so much for “newspaper yarns,” we are still here. This week has been in the estimation of the men, the greatest in the history of regiments, the presentation of colors, an excursion, and last, but not least, the payment of the State bounty. We had almost despaired of ever getting the last mentioned excitement, but it has come, and many a wife and widowed mother will have for a little while, at least something to purchase bread; on the whole, I think, there has more money been sent home to relatives of men in this regiment than any other which has been paid their bounty. But of course among a thousand men, there must be a large amount of money wasted; the sutler, patent jewelry venders, watch pedlars and many other kinds of pedlars are reaping a rich harvest. Why, it is enough to make a “feller” love “human natur” to see how very obliging the said pedlars are; they will even condescend to sell a pair of boots worth $4 for the moderate sum of $8, and other traders ask a proportionate sum. Gen. Pierce put a veto on them though, after he found out how the cat was jumping; he told one man he should sell nothing to the men unless he received an order from himself and agree[d] to conform to a reasonable price, the General to determine the price. The men will appreciate his kindness after their greenbacks are gone.

We have received marching orders; the order was read at dress parade last Thursday, so next Sunday I think we shall be on our way to Dixie. We have crowds of visitors daily, drawn, no doubt, by the great reputation the regiment is gaining for proficiency in drill. The band is a success. It is only ten days since they first commenced practice, but they have played on dress parade three times. It seems that most every man in the regiment vies with each other in excellence in whatever they undertake. It is, I think, one of the best guarantees that the 54th will be a credit to old Massachusetts wherever it goes. The citizens of this Commonwealth need not be ashamed of the 54th now; and if the regiment will be allowed a chance, I feel confident the Colored Volunteers will add glory to her already bright name. There is not a man in the regiment who does not appreciate the difficulties, the dangers, and maybe ignoble death that awaits him, if captured by the foe, and they will die upon the field rather than be hanged like a dog; and when a thousand men are fighting for a very existence, who dare say them men won’t fight determinedly?  The greatest difficulty will be to stop them.

J. H. G.