April 14 1863
Annie received your note this morning, and showed it to me. I am very glad, of course, that you feel perfectly satisfied about our marriage. She and I agree that it is much better to have it as quiet as possible. If it were to be a Show Wedding, I should wear my uniform, as you wish, but under the circumstances it would be very inconvenient, as I should have to change it before we went away. You don’t seem to appreciate how unpleasant it is to wear a uniform in public. If I were not on duty here, I shouldn’t wear one in Boston, ever.
Everything, as regards the regiment, is going on swimmingly, as usual. We have 630 men, and shall probably have over 700 before the week is out. I don’t remember whether I told you that Col. Wild has been ordered to raise, and take command of a brigade of coloured troops at Newbern. He is an excellent man. He lost his arm at Antietam and, I am afraid, may not be able to remain in active service, though he is determined to try it.
We have decided to have the wedding on Saturday 2d of May—and I think, by that time, there will be no objection to my taking a week’s vacation. Edward Hallowell, who has just returned from Philadelphia, says he heard Susie was at Uncle Robert’s. Is it so? I suppose Robert M. will be home before long. Mrs. Haggerty and Clem arc here, and the change of air is doing them a great deal of good. I am getting very fond of them. When we come back from Lenox, I hope Uncle Henry Grew, will invite Annie to stay at his house a little while, as it is close to my camp.
Ever your loving son,
Robert G. Shaw
P.S. Tell Father I bought a good horse today for $300. The reason I have drawn so much money is because I have had to pay several times for the regt.
Posts Tagged Charleston Harbor
Mercury, April 13, 1863[OAF]
Camp Meigs, Readville, April 11
—Since my last weekly epistle, we have received 315 recruits, making the total number 614, and more expected daily. The ground about the barracks has dried enough now to make walking quite a pleasure. Our company have been presented with a couple of foot-balls by Lieut. Grace, and they are a source of amusement and recreation to the whole regiment. The regiment attracts considerable attention, if judged by the number of visitors we have, including a goodly portion of ladies.
Rev. Wm. Jackson desires to say through the MERCURY, in order to clear up some false impressions which have obtained, through the Pastor of the A. M. E. Church, that he did NOT apply, either in person or by letter to the governor, for the chaplaincy of the 54th; that the appointment was made at the suggestion of some friends of his in Boston; furthermore, it was unnecessary for the Pastor of the “Bethel Church” to publish his resignation when he never held any position to resign. Mr. Jackson has in his possession a letter from Secretary Hayden, which will substantiate the above statement. I think myself, Mr. Jackson has been the victim of prejudice—all we want for him is fair play.13
The camp was visited yesterday by Surgeon General Dale,14 who expressed himself well satisfied with [the] physical appearance of the men. Surgeon Stone, acting in this regiment, had all the men vaccinated yesterday, as a preventive against small pox.15 There is not much sickness in camp, considering the number of men present, there being but three men unable to walk out of doors. The men are growing fat, rugged, but not saucy.
Tell the ladies that our boys think there are no women anywhere so good as the New Bedford ladies; and one, who belongs to our company but not to New Bedford, said, “I guess them New Bedford wimmin must be mighty good lookin’” “Why so?” says one. “Cause they are allers sendin’ us somethin’.” After that speech the boys gave three cheers for the ladies of the Relief Society, expressive of thanks for sewing purses containing needles, thread, buttons, yarn, a thimble and paper of pins, one for each man.
J. H. G.
Your note, enclosing Uncle George’s, arrived to-day. I hope you will get over your idea that I was so annoyed with your letter. I knew very well that you would not be in favour of our marrying now, and was not disappointed or annoyed. I assure you that’s the truth. The Governor is very anxious to get us away in a month. He has given up the notion of sending off part of the regiment; and Stanton telegraphed yesterday, that he should by no means do anything that would injure the progress or completion of the regiment. Mr. and Mrs. Haggerty seem to have changed their mind about the marriage. I really should feel very much dissatisfied, if I went away for an indefinitely long time—as I shall — without having it all settled. Don’t feel uneasy about its keeping me from my work, dear Mother; I am sure it will not. Annie wants us to go to New York and be married in church, and very privately. Do you know if there is any publishing of banns (or whatever you call them) required by law in New York?
Your loving Son
p.s. — The Governor says General Wool wants us to go through New York, and promised to have all the troops in the harbour up, if there were danger of any row. I told him (the Governor) that if they would warn innocent people to stay at home, we should be happy to handle any New York mob without assistance, whereat he laughed very much. I don’t think I ever heard a jollier laugh than his. He is in New York now, and I hope you will see him.
WHY SHOULD A COLORED MAN ENLIST?
This question has been repeatedly put to us while raising men for the 54th Massachusetts regiment during the past five weeks, and perhaps we cannot at present do a better service to the cause of our people or to the cause of the country than by giving a few of the many reasons why a colored man should enlist.
First. You are a man, although a colored man. If you were only a horse or an ox, incapable of deciding whether the rebels are right or wrong, you would have no responsibility, and might like the horse or the ox go on eating your corn or grass, in total indifference, as to which side is victorious or vanquished in this conflict. You are however no horse, and no ox, but a man, and whatever concerns man should interest you. He who looks upon a conflict between right and wrong, and does not help the right against the wrong, despises and insults his own nature, and invites the contempt of mankind. As between the North and South, the North is clearly in the right and the South is flagrantly in the wrong. You should therefore, simply as a matter of right and wrong, give your utmost aid to the North. In presence of such a contest there is no neutrality for any man. You are either for the Government or against the Government. Manhood requires you to take sides, and you are mean or noble according to how you choose between action and inaction.—If you are sound in body and mind, there is nothing in your color to excuse you from enlisting in the service of the republic against its enemies. If color should not be a criterion of rights, neither should it be a standard of duty. The whole duty of a man, belongs alike to white and black.
“A man’s a man for a’ that.”
Second. You are however, not only a man, but an American citizen, so declared by the highest legal adviser of the Government, and you have hitherto expressed in various ways, not only your willingness but your earnest desire to fulfil any and every obligation which the relation of citizenship imposes. Indeed, you have hitherto felt wronged and slighted, because while white men of all other nations have been freely enrolled to serve the country, you a native born citizen have been coldly denied the honor of aiding in defense of the land of your birth. The injustice thus done you is now repented of by the Government and you are welcomed to a place in the army of the nation. Should you refuse to enlist now, you will justify the past contempt of the Government towards you and lead it to regret having honored you with a call to take up arms in its defense. You cannot but see that here is a good reason why you should promptly enlist.
Third. A third reason why a colored man should enlist is found in the fact that every Negro-hater and slavery-lover in the land regards the arming of Negroes as a calamity and is doing his best to prevent it. Even now all the weapons of malice, in the shape of slander and ridicule, are used to defeat the filling up of the 54th Massachusetts (colored) regiment. In nine cases out of ten, you will find it safe to do just what your enemy would gladly have you leave undone. What helps you hurts him. Find out what he does not want and give him a plenty of it.
Fourth. You should enlist to learn the use of arms, to become familiar with the means of securing, protecting and defending your own liberty. A day may come when men shall learn war no more, when justice shall be so clearly apprehended, so universally practiced, and humanity shall be so profoundly loved and respected, that war and bloodshed shall be confined only to beasts of prey. Manifestly however, that time has not yet come, and while all men should labor to hasten its coming, by the cultivation of all the elements conducive to peace, it is plain that for the present no race of men can depend wholly upon moral means for the maintenance of their rights. Men must either be governed by love or by fear. They must love to do right or fear to do wrong. The only way open to any race to make their rights respected is to learn how to defend them. When it is seen that black men no more than white men can be enslaved with impunity, men will be less inclined to enslave and oppress them. Enlist therefore, that you may learn the art and assert the ability to defend yourself and your race.
Fifth. You are a member of a long enslaved and despised race. Men have set down your submission to Slavery and insult, to a lack of manly courage. They point to this fact as demonstrating your fitness only to be a servile class. You should enlist and disprove the slander, and wipe out the reproach. When you shall be seen nobly defending the liberties of your own country against rebels and traitors— brass itself will blush to use such arguments imputing cowardice against you.
Sixth. Whether you are or are not, entitled to all the rights of citizenship in this country has long been a matter of dispute to your prejudice. By enlisting in the service of your country at this trial hour, and upholding the National Flag, you stop the mouths of traducers and win applause even from the iron lips of ingratitude. Enlist and you make this your country in common with all other men born in the country or out of it.
Seventh. Enlist for your own sake. Decried and derided as you have been and still are, you need an act of this kind by which to recover your own self-respect. You have to some extent rated your value by the estimate of your enemies and hence have counted yourself less than you are. You owe it to yourself and your race to rise from your social debasement and take your place among the soldiers of your country, a man among men. Depend upon it, the subjective effect of this one act of enlisting will be immense and highly beneficial. You will stand more erect, walk more assured, feel more at ease, and be less liable to insult than you ever were before. He who fights the battles of America may claim America as his country—and have that claim respected. Thus in defending your country now against rebels and traitors you are defending your own liberty, honor, manhood and self-respect.
Eighth. You should enlist because your doing so will be one of the most certain means of preventing the country from drifting back into the whirlpool of Pro-Slavery Compromise at the end of the war, which is now our greatest danger. He who shall witness another Compromise with Slavery in this country will see the free colored man of the North more than ever a victim of the pride, lust, scorn and violence of all classes of white men. The whole North will be but another Detroit, where every white fiend may with impunity revel in unrestrained beastliness towards people of color; they may burn their houses, insult their wives and daughters, and kill indiscriminately. If you mean to live in this country now is the time for you to do your full share in making it a country where you and your children after you can live in comparative safety. Prevent a compromise with the traitors, compel them to come back to the Union whipped and humbled into obedience and all will be well. But let them come back as masters and all their hate and hellish ingenuity will be exerted to stir up the ignorant masses of the North to hate, hinder and persecute the free colored people of the North. That most inhuman of all modern enactments, with its bribed judges, and summary process, the Fugitive Slave Law, with all its infernal train of canting divines, preaching the gospel of kidnapping, as twelve years ago, will be revived against the free colored people of the North. One or two black brigades will do much to prevent all this.
Ninth. You should enlist because the war for the Union, whether men so call it or not, is a war for Emancipation. The salvation of the country, by the inexorable relation of cause and effect, can be secured only by the complete abolition of Slavery. The President has already proclaimed emancipation to the Slaves in the rebel States which is tantamount to declaring Emancipation in all the States, for Slavery must exist everywhere in the South in order to exist anywhere in the South. Can you ask for a more inviting, ennobling and soul enlarging work, than that of making one of the glorious Band who shall carry Liberty to your enslaved people? Remember that identified with the Slave in color, you will have a power that white soldiers have not, to attract them to your lines and induce them to take up arms in a common cause. One black Brigade will, for this work, be worth more than two white ones. Enlist, therefore, enlist without delay, enlist now, and forever put an end to the human barter and butchery which have stained the whole South with the warm blood of your people, and loaded its air with their groans. Enlist, and deserve not only well of your country, and win for yourselves, a name and a place among men, but secure to yourself what is infinitely more precious, the fast dropping tears of gratitude of your kith and kin marked out for destruction, and who are but now ready to perish.
When time’s ample curtain shall fall upon our national tragedy, and our hillsides and valleys shall neither redden with the blood nor whiten with the bones of kinsmen and countrymen who have fallen in the sanguinary and wicked strife; when grim visaged war has smoothed his wrinkled front and our country shall have regained its normal condition as a leader of nations in the occupation and blessings of peace—and history shall record the names of heroes and martyrs who bravely answered the call of patriotism and Liberty—against traitors, thieves and assassins—let it not be said that in the long list of glory, composed of men of all nations—there appears the name of no colored man.
[Mercury, April 6, 1863][OAF]
Camp Meigs, Readville, April 3
—The 54th progresses daily. This week past the men who have been in camp the longest time have been practicing in the manual of arms. It really makes one’s heart pulsate with pride as he looks upon those stout and brawny men, fully equipped with Uncle Sam’s accoutrements upon them, to feel that these noble men are practically refuting the base assertions reiterated by copperheads and traitors that the black race are incapable of patriotism, valor or ambition. Officers of distinction, whose judgements are not warped by prejudice, pronounce this regiment to be the nucleus of an army equaling in discipline and material the Imperial Hosts of Europe. I, for one, hope their liberal assumptions will in the end prove true—and it is merely a question of time to make it so. Our first dress parade took place this afternoon, and those who know say the men behaved admirably, for so short a period in drilling.
Last Monday all the organized companies on the ground were mustered in the State service; after this was consummated, some of the “boys” in Co. B became a little clamorous for their “bounty”; in fact, it seemed as though they were inclined to be “muzzy,” but a slight intimation from the Colonel about the “guard house,” wearing patent bracelets, and sundry other terrors in store for pugnacious gentlemen, under Uncle Sam’s tuition, tended to quiet them wonderfully. They appear to have forgotten all about their grievances, in the emulation of the other companies in drilling — which I think is very good. The sanitary condition of the men is very good, considering the location of the camp, it being situated in a valley, and consequently very damp. During the wet weather we had last month, colds and coughs were very prevalent among the men; but now those complaints are most wholly ended, owing no doubt to the improvement in the weather, and becoming accustomed to the locality.
Rev. Wm. Jackson has been laboring very faithfully the past week among us, but the fruits of his labor are yet to be tested. I hope they will prove successful, and I have no doubt in some instances they will. The number of men in camp is 459; there is a barrack being fitted up now, which is, I presume, for the reception of expected recruits. Tell the young men in New Bedford there is an ample chance for them to get in the 54th yet; not to hang back because there is no recruiting office open in the city; but come “right up to the scratch”; don’t let the boys who are here get all the honor, but come, and we will share it with them.
J. H. G.
April 4th. This morning we have an addition of 40 men. They came into camp with colors flying, and were received with three hearty cheers. This makes our number 499 men, a half regiment lacking a few men.
J. H. G.
I received yours of 1st to-day. As regards our being married, Mr. and Mrs. Haggerty seem as much opposed to it as Mother. The reason I should like to have it, is the very one that Mother gives for opposing it; namely, that I am going away. I can’t help feeling that, if we are not married before I go, I shall feel very much dissatisfied and discontented. For the sake of Annie’s and my own peace of mind, I want it.
Your loving son,
Robert G. Shaw