Mercury, May 6, 1863 [OAF]
Camp Meigs, Readville, May 4
—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.
May 4, 1863
This is Gooding ’s tenth letter to the Mercury:
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