Paymaster Usher arrived in camp September 27, ready to pay the men #10 per month from enlistment, less $3 per month deducted for clothing. Upon the non-commissioned officers being assembled, they with great unanimity declined the reduced payment for themselves and their comrades. The paymaster again came on the 30th to renew his offer. It was on this date that Colonel Montgomery appeared and made the men a remarkable and characteristic address, which Sergeant Stephens of Company B has given in substance as follows: —
” Men: the paymaster is here to pay you. You must remember you have not proved yourselves soldiers. You must take notice that the Government has virtually paid you a thousand dollars apiece for setting you free. Nor should you expect to be placed on the same footing with white men. Any one listening to your shouting and singing can see how grotesquely ignorant you are. I am your friend and the friend of the negro. I was the first person in the country to employ nigger soldiers in the United States Army. I was out in Kansas. I was short of men. I had a lot of niggers and a lot of mules ; and you know a nigger and a mule go very well together. I therefore enlisted the niggers, and made teamsters of them. In refusing to take the pay offered you, and what you are only legally entitled to, you are guilty of insubordination and mutiny, and can be tried and shot by court-martial.”
Montgomery besides made some gross and invidious insinuations and reflections because the Fifty-fourth men were so light-colored, which it would be improper to repeat. The colonel seemed to be unaware that his remarks were insulting, and most of the men he addressed born free. Sergt. Henry Stewart, of Company E, a faithful soldier who had actively engaged in recruiting the regiment, died of disease September 27, and was buried with proper honors. His and other deaths, with an increased sick list, called for sanitary measures about this time. No radical change of camp was possible, as the ground available for such purposes was limited; but tents were struck so that the air and sun could reach the ground beneath, and a daily inspection of streets, sinks, and the cooked food instituted.
The Sanitary Commission furnished ice, raspberry vinegar, pickles, and other needed supplies; but there was a lack of fresh vegetables. Early in October, however, Mr. Reuben Tomlinson brought a large supply for the Fifty-fourth, — a present from the contrabands about Beaufort; and similar welcome gifts followed from the same source from time to time. Tobacco, dried apples, lime-juice, writing-paper, brushes, etc., were purchased with the company funds, as the men had no money.
September 27, 1863
Emilio describes another incident in the on-going pay disputes, which would last until the U.S. Congress took action on September 28, 1864 ( [BBR] pp.130-131):
Comments are closed.