Posts Tagged   Gov John Andrew

May 18, 1863

Picture of the Regimental Flags of the 54th Massachusetts

The presentation of flags to the regiment occurred today. Gooding’s 13th letter to the Mercury described the ceremonies, as did Shaw’s brief letter to his mother, and Emilio provided an extended description including full quotes of the speeches; a picture of the flags dating from after the war appears at right:

Mercury, May 20, 1863
Camp Meigs, Readville, May 18 [OAF]

Messrs. Editors:

—Today the long talked of presentation of flags came off. At 11 o’clock the column was formed, ready to receive His Excellency the Governor. Between four and five hundred people were on the ground before the hour fixed for the parade; when the 11 A.M. train stopped, there was a motley mass of people emerging from the cars, among which were the ladies of Boston, who were the makers of the colors, and the donors. Arrived upon the ground, it was a long time before sufficient space could be made to carry out the formalities; the colonel was obliged to order the commanders of two companies to march their commands to the front to make room for forming the square. After all the preliminaries were settled, Rev. Mr. Grimes, of Boston, offered a very impressive prayer.30 The Governor and staff, Gen. Pierce and staff, with the whole regiment, during the prayer remained uncovered. The Governor then stepped forward and in substance spoke as follows:

Mr. Commander—Although the presentation of a stand of colors to a noble body of men is no new scene in this Commonwealth, this occasion is a novel and peculiar one—there is an importance attached to this occasion which never existed with any similar event. Today we recognize the right of every man in this Commonwealth to be a MAN and a citizen. We see before us a band of as noble men as ever came together for a great and glorious cause; they go not for themselves alone, but they go to vindicate a foul aspersion that they were not men; and I rejoice to see men from other states who have cast their lot in with ours—we welcome them as citizens of the Old Bay State. We not only see the germs of the elevation of a downtrodden and despised race, but a great and glorious future spread out before us, when the principles of right and justice shall govern our beloved country. You, Mr. Commander, have reason to be proud that you have the privilege of being the pioneer in this great and glorious cause, as the Chief of the Fifty Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers. And my earnest prayer is that you will ever have in view a lively interest in its efficiency and glory in the field, as you have thus far shown in its organization. I now have the honor, in behalf of the colored ladies of Boston, to present to you, sir, for the 54th regiment of Mass. volunteers, the American Flag; and before it shall ever be surrendered to the foes may its white stripes be spattered with the red blood of their brethren who bear it in the  field. I now have the honor of presenting the 54th, through you, sir, in behalf of the Commonwealth, the arms of the State of Massachusetts; and I say today, from the beginning of this rebellion to the present day, that banner has never been surrendered to the foe; fifty-three regiments have marched from the old Bay State, but we have yet to learn that they ever surrendered that noble banner. Hold on to the staff, if every thread is blown away, your glory will be the same. Here is a banner, bearing for its emblem the Goddess of Liberty; take this, sir, in behalf of the colored ladies of Boston and the Commonwealth, for the 54th regiment Mass. volunteers. May you and your men prove that this emblem was never carried by worthier hands. And here I have the solemn pleasure of presenting you, sir, in behalf of the near and dear relatives of one of Massachusetts noble soldier boys, who gave his life for his country’s cause, Lieut. Putnam, the emblem which it bears, the symbol of the Christian, a Cross. While in the battle’s rage, you cast your eyes on this Christian banner, remember, sir, the example of the gallant man who took it for his guide. Though you fall in your country’s defence, with a just and sincere appreciation of the teachings inculcated by that banner, your spirit will soar to that home in store for those who faithfully do their duty here to Humanity, their Country and their God! And now let me thank you, sir, Mr. Commander, and your assistant officers, for the faithful discharge of the trust reposed in you all. I declare to you today, that the 54th regiment of volunteers will ever be to me a source of solicitude; it is an undertaking, which if it fails, I fail with it; not only myself in my official capacity, but thousands in the old Bay State will watch its progress with earnest, heartfelt interest; if on the field, this noble Corps shall prove as valiant as it is proficient in discipline and drill, the fondest well wisher of this cause will be amply rewarded.

You Mr. Commander, have an important trust confided to you; your own honor as a man, and commander, the sound and wholesome discipline of a class unused to military life, that they as well as yourself, may add lustre to the glory of your native State. Your country’s honor, and the safety of these men, depend upon you; a nobler corps ne’er tread the soil of Massachusetts, and I am proud tosay, much is due you for the military spirit they exhibit to-day; again [illegible] the flag.

Colonel Shaw responded in a [illegible] as follows:

It will be my earnest endeavors to faithfully perform all that is possible for the honor and glory of the 54th regiment volunteers; I consider it an honor to lead men, although many of them not citizens of Massachusetts, who exhibit such unmistakable evidences of patriotism; and I will take this occasion to express my sincere thanks to the officers, and men, for their untiring efforts to assist me in maintaining order, and a faithful discharge of every duty.

Mr. I.D. Hall and Mr. John Goings will please accept the thanks of Company C, for a present of tobacco, two twenty-five pound boxes; we can assure them it is very acceptable, as many of us have not had any tobacco for some time.

J. H. G.

Readville [BCF]
May 18,1863

Dearest Mother,

I am so sorry you were not here to-day. The presentation went off finely. The Governor made a beautiful speech.  My response was small potatoes. The day has been beautiful; and on the whole it was a success. After the ceremony, we had a Battalion drill, and then refreshments for guests at my head-quarters. The Governor handed me a telegram from the Secretary of War, saying, “The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts will report to General Hunter; make requisitions for transportation, so that they may go at once.”

As soon as the transports are ready, we shall be off; that may not be for a week, though. I shall find out to-morrow, if possible, and telegraph Father; if I don’t see you and Father before I go, I shall be terribly disappointed. Effie and Nellie are at Milton Hill to tea this evening. Cabot Russel and Wilkie James hired a large “carryall,” and drove them over. They thought the carryall more in accordance with your ideas of propriety, than separate buggies. You will wonder, no doubt, at our being taken from General Wilde.  General Hunter wanted us, and I told the Governor I thought the men would have a better chance for work than with Foster. The latter, as likely as not, would make us do all the digging of the department.

Always, dearest Mother,

Your loving Son

From [BBR], pp.25-31:

Friends [of the regiment] had procured flags, and it was determined to make the occasion of their presentation, on May 18, a memorable one. The day was fine and cloudless. Very early, friends of the command began to arrive in private carriages, and by the extra trains run to Readville. Many prominent persons were present, including Surgeon-General Dale, Hon. Thomas Russell, Professor Agassiz, Prof. William B. Rogers, Hon. Josiah Quincy, George S. Hale, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Samuel May, Rev. Dr. Neale, Frederick Douglass, and many others. The parade was thronged with white and colored people of both sexes, to the number of over a thousand.

Line was formed at eleven o’clock, and the regiment was broken into square by Colonel Shaw. Governor Andrew, with his military staff in full uniform, took position inside the square. Brilliant in color and of the finest texture, fluttering in the fresh breeze blowing, the flags destined for the regiment were ready for presentation. They were four in number, — a national flag, a State color, an emblematic banner of white silk with the figure of the Goddess of Liberty, and the motto, ” Liberty, Loyalty, and Unity,” and another with a cross upon a blue field, and the motto, In Hoc Signo Vinces. By invitation, the Rev. Mr. Grimes offered an appropriate prayer. Governor Andrew then stepped forward; and the flow of eloquent words delivered with the earnestness which characterized him, heightened by the occasion, will never be forgotten by those that heard his voice. Standing in plain attire, and facing Colonel Shaw, he spoke as follows: —

COLONEL SHAW : As the official representative of the Commonwealth, and by favor of various ladies and gentlemen, citizens of the Commonwealth, and friends of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, I have the honor and the satisfaction of being permitted to join you this morning for the purpose of presenting to your regiment the national flag, the State colors of Massachusetts, and the emblematic banners which the cordial, generous, and patriotic friendship of its patrons has seen fit to present to you. Two years of experience in all the trials and vicissitudes of war, attended with the repeated exhibition of Massachusetts regiments marching from home to the scenes of strife, have left little to be said or suggested which could give the interest of novelty to an occasion like this. But, Mr. Commander, one circumstance pertaining to the composition of the Fifty-fourth Regiment, exceptional in its character, when compared with anything we have seen before, gives to this hour an interest and importance, solemn and yet grand, because the occasion marks an era in the history of the war, of the Commonwealth, of the country, and of humanity. I need not dwell upon the fact that the enlisted men constituting the rank and file of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment are drawn from a race not hitherto connected with the fortunes of the war; and yet I cannot forbear to allude to the circumstance for a brief moment, since it is uppermost in your thoughts, and since this regiment, which for many months has been the desire of my own heart, is present now before this vast assembly of friendly citizens of Massachusetts, prepared to vindicate by its future, — as it has already begun to do by its brief history of camp life here, — to vindicate in its own person, and in the presence, I trust, of all who belong to it, the character, the manly character, the zeal, the manly zeal, of the colored citizens of Massachusetts, and of those other States which have cast their lot with ours. I owe to you, Mr. Commander, and to the officers who, associated with you, have assisted in the formation of this noble corps, composed of men selected from among their fellows for fine qualities of manhood, — I owe to you, sir, and to those of your associates who united with me in the original organization of this body, the heartiest and most emphatic expression of my cordial thanks. I shall follow you, Mr. Commander, your officers, and your men, with a friendly and personal solicitude, to say nothing of official care, which can hardly be said of any other corps which has marched from Massachusetts. My own personal honor, if I have any, is identified with yours. I stand or fall, as a man and a magistrate, with the rise or fall in the history of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment. I pledge not only in behalf of myself, but of all those whom I have the honor to represent to-day, the utmost generosity, the utmost kindness, the utmost devotion of hearty love, not only for the cause, but for you that represent it. We will follow your fortunes in the camp and in the field with the anxious eyes of brethren, and the proud hearts of citizens. To those men of Massachusetts and of surrounding States who have now made themselves citizens of Massachusetts, I have no word to utter fit to express the emotions of my heart. These men, sir, have now, in the Providence of God, given to them an opportunity which, while it is personal to themselves, is still an opportunity for a whole race of men. With arms possessed of might to strike a blow, they have found breathed into their hearts an inspiration of devoted patriotism and regard for their brethren of their own color, which has inspired them with a purpose to nerve that arm, that it may strike a blow which, while it shall help to raise aloft their country’s flag — their country’s flag, now, as well as ours—by striking down the foes which oppose it, strikes also the last shackle which binds the limbs of the bondmen in the Rebel States.I know not, Mr. Commander, when, in all human history, to any given thousand men in arms there has been committed a work at once so proud, so precious, so full of hope and glory as the work committed to you. And may the infinite mercy of Almighty God attend you every hour of every day through all the experiences and vicissitudes of that dangerous life in which you have embarked; may the God of our fathers cover your heads in the day of battle ; may He shield you with the arms of everlasting power ; may He hold you always— most of all, first of all, and last of all — up to the highest and holiest conception of duty, so that if, on the field of stricken fight, your souls shall be delivered from the thraldom of the flesh, your spirits shall go home to God, bearing aloft the exulting thought of duty well performed, of glory and reward won, even at the hands of the angels who shall watch over you from above !

Mr. Commander, you, sir, and most of your officers, have been carefully selected from among the most intelligent and experienced officers who have already performed illustrious service upon the field during the two years of our national conflict. I need not say, sir, with how much confidence and with how much pride we contemplate the leadership which this regiment will receive at your hands. In yourself, sir, your staff and line officers, we are enabled to declare a confidence which knows no hesitation and no doubt. Whatever fortune may betide you, we know from the past that all will be done for the honor of the cause, for the protection of the flag, for the defence of the right, for the glory of your country, and for the safety and the honor of these men whom we commit to you, that shall he either in the human heart, or brain, or arm.

And now, Mr. Commander, it is my most agreeable duty and high honor to hand to you, as the representative of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, the American flag, “the star-spangled banner” of the Republic. Wherever its folds shall be unfurled, it will mark the path of glory. Let its stars be the inspiration of yourself, your officers, and your men. As the gift of the young ladies of the city of Boston to their brethren in arms, they will cherish it as the lover cherishes the recollection and fondness of his mistress; and the white stripes of its field will be red with their blood before it shall be surrendered to the foe.

I have also the honor, Mr. Commander, to present to you the State colors of Massachusetts, — the State colors of the old Bay State, borne already by fifty-three regiments of Massachusetts soldiers, white men thus far, now to be borne by the Fifty-fourth Regiment of soldiers, not less of Massachusetts than the others. Whatever may be said, Mr. Commander, of any other flag which has ever kissed the sunlight or been borne on any field, I have the pride and honor to be able to declare before you, your regiment, and these witnesses, that from the beginning till now, the State colors of Massachusetts have never been surrendered to any foe. The Fifty-fourth now holds in possession this sacred charge, in the performance of their duties as citizen soldiers. You will never part with that flag so long as a splinter of the staff or a thread of its web remains within your grasp. The State colors are presented to the Fifty-fourth by the Relief Society, composed of colored ladies of Boston.

And now let me commit to you this splendid emblematic banner. It is prepared for your acceptance by a large and patriotic committee, representing many others besides themselves, — ladies and gentlemen of Boston, to whose hearty sympathy and powerful cooperation and aid much of the success which has hitherto attended the organization of this regiment is due. The Goddess of Liberty erect in beautiful guise and form; Liberty, Loyalty, and Unity, — are the emblems it bears. The Goddess of Liberty shall be the lady-love, whose fair presence shall inspire your hearts; Liberty, Loyalty, Unity, the watchwords in the fight.

And now, Mr. Commander, the sacred, holy Cross, representing passion, the highest heroism, I scarcely dare trust myself to present to you. It is the emblem of Christianity. I have parted with the emblems of the State, of the nation, — heroic, patriotic emblems they are, dear, inexpressibly dear to all our hearts; but now In hoc signo vinces, — the Cross which represents the passion of our Lord, I now dare to pass into your soldier hands; for we are fighting now a battle, not merely for country, not merely for humanity, not only for civilization, but for the religion of our Lord itself. When this cause shall ultimately fail, if ever failure at the last shall be possible, it will only fail when the last patriot, the last philanthropist, and the last Christian shall have tasted death, and left no descendants behind them upon the soil of Massachusetts. This flag, Mr. Commander, has connected with its history the most touching and sacred memories. It comes to your regiment from the mother, sister, friends, family relatives, of one of the dearest and noblest boys of Massachusetts. I need not utter the name of Lieutenant Putnam in order to excite in every heart the tenderest emotions of fond regard, or the strongest feeling of patriotic fire. May you, sir, and these, follow not only on the field of battle, but in all the walks and ways of life, in camp and hereafter, when, on returning peace, you shall resume the more quiet and peaceful duties of citizens,— may you but follow the splendid example, the sweet devotion, mingled with manly, heroic character, of which the life and death of Lieutenant Putnam was one example ! How many more there are we know not, —the record is not yet complete ; but oh, how many there are of these Massachusetts sons, who, like him, have tasted death for this immortal cause! Inspired by such examples, fired by the heat and light of love and faith which illumined and warmed these heroic and noble hearts, may you, sir, and these march on to glory, to victory, and to every honor! This flag I present to you, Mr. Commander, and your regiment. In hoc signo vinces.

At the conclusion of the Governor’s remarks, when the applause had subsided, Colonel Shaw responded as follows: —

YOUR EXCELLENCY : We accept these flags with feelings of deep gratitude. They will remind us not only of the cause we are fighting for, and of our country, but of the friends we have left behind us, who have thus far taken so much interest in this regiment, and whom we know will follow us in our career. Though the greater number of men in this regiment are not Massachusetts men, I know there is not one who will not be proud to fight and serve under our flag. May we have an opportunity to show that you have not made a mistake in intrusting the honor of the State to a colored regiment, — the first State that has sent one to the war.

I am very glad to have this opportunity to thank the officers and men of the regiment for their untiring fidelity and devotion to their work from the very beginning. They have shown that sense of the importance of the undertaking without which we should hardly have attained our end.

After the command was reviewed by the Governor, the battalion was dismissed, and officers and men devoted themselves to the entertainment of their guests.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

May 16, 1863

This is Gooding’s 12th letter to the Mercury:

Mercury, May 18, 1863 [OAF]

Camp Meigs, Readville, May 16

Messrs. Editors:

—As we fondly expected last week, the 54th is now full, and as “Artemas” expresses it, “it slopt over,” so the spilt ones are now the germ of another regiment, the 55th. The Journal of Commerce, some weeks since, derided the idea of raising a colored regiment in the whole of the loyal States, but it was as near right that time as when it predicted McClellan would have to be recalled to save the nation from anarchy and ruin. These old fogy sheets seem to think if they modify their opinions to the humane and progressive spirit of the times, they lay themselves open to the charge of inconsistency; they lose sight of the fact that to be thoroughly consistent with their position as journalists, they should support what is right, regardless of party ties or Southern patronage. One who has any idea of the manner of mercantile transactions conducted in “Gotham,”might suspect the mercantile mouth-piece was largely interested in the rise and fall of sugar, cotton, turpentine and other tropical commodities.

The battalion of cavalry left last Tuesday for Washington; that battalion was the first ever escorted by a black regiment, and I can assure you they seemed not ashamed of their escort. Gov. Andrew was down to see them off, and it was by his request that the 54th was detailed to give them a parting salute. Who says the world does not move?  Col. Maggi was at camp last Tuesday afternoon; he happened to be present during the battalion drill; he said the men drilled splendidly. I think he must be a competent judge. The papers say we are to leave here the 20th, but where we are going they seem to know no more than we do. We have got a band, or at least the instruments; there are fifteen men taken from the regiment to form a band; Professor Bond is the instructor; by the frequency of practice he is maintaining, he appears to be determined to make them equal to any band he has formed or taught during the war. W[h]arton A. Williams, one of our New Bedford boys, is to be Band Sergeant.

There is no more news of importance, so I will content myself till we march. The readers of the Mercury will be fully posted of our progress to our destination.

J. H. G.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

No Comments

May 1, 1863

This is Stephens’s third letter to the Weekly Anglo-African:

Camp Meigs, Readville, Mass., [VT]
May 1, 1863.

There is quite a stir in the camp to-day. Mayday has adorned herself in sunshine and garlands of green. Hundreds are flocking here from Boston and its environs to witness the military evolutions of the 54th Reg. Mass. Vol., and never did they acquit themselves so admirably. They moved with the regularity and.precision of Regulars. The gay concourse of visitors of both classes of our citizens seemed stirred with admiration and pleasure at the rapid progress of this splendid regiment in this school of the soldier. I do not exaggerate when 1 say that there is no regiment superior, if equal to this in physique and aptitude of its men. I suppose, in the upwards of a thousand men now ready to be mustered into the service of the United States, there arc twelve men who will yield to the severest vigors of a campaign in the field. Out of upward of fourteen hundred men, these nine hundred or a thousand have been chosen; the rest have been rejected because they did not come up to the highest standard of mental and physical proficiency.

Governor Andrew visited our camp yesterday and reviewed the regiment, and with other distinguished citizens expressed great satisfaction at the condition of the men and the police of the camp. I noticed among the guests on this occasion our distinguished citizens Dr. J. B. Smith and Lewis Hayden Esq. I never saw a body of men who seem to be so perfectly at home in camp and have so many ways to divert and amuse themselves. Singing, dancing, foot-ball, cricket, wrestling and many innocent games with the parades and drills, dispel ennui and dull monotony and keep our camp in a perfect whirl of animating scenes..

There are a few essentials needed, however, to the comfort of these men, who have in the face of the most disheartening influences taken up arms in defence of their country and liberty. There are many of the essentials to the soldiers toilet which the government does not furnish to her troops: such as coarse towels, needles, pins and buttons, besides some items of reading matter, such as testaments (pocket), newspapers, tracts, etcetera. A great many of the friends furnish them at times with tobacco, pipes and some few dainties, but those things I have above enumerated are very essential, absolutely so. Will the fair friends at home withhold their regards from the noble 54th and refrain from giving them some few of these testimonials of their admiration and respect? The Social, Civil and Statistical Association of Philadelphia have made an appropriation to purchase some of these items. Fair readers of Philadelphia will you not form your Sewing Circles to make for these men whatever may be necessary? While that Governor Andrew has made this regiment one which will reflect honor to our race, and as it has become the representative of the men of color in the North, it becomes the indispensable duty of every one at home to cheer and encourage them with sympathy and esteem, and to give them a tangible earnest of a cheerful cooperation with and support to, in this good cause. Ladies it would be strong evidence of your patriotism, intelligence and noble heartedness, did you organize your Sewing Circles in every locality from whence your friends have come to unite their destinies with the 54th. We desire to have a goodly number of copies of the Anglo-African sent to the address of our chaplain, for this shall be the medium through which all of the affairs of the regiment of public interest, shall be made known. When any sickness, accident or anything else shall take place, the friends and relatives of those in it can know all, learn all, through the columns of the Anglo-African.

Another item of interest is that the regiment is now fully armed with new Springfield Rifles. They were only partly supplied with old Harpers Ferry Muskets. The men can be seen everywhere going through the manual of arms, in which they are already quite proficient. There are already two colored men who are commissioned and attached to this regiment: Dr. John V. De Grasse of Boston, and Rev. Wm. Jackson of New-Bedford, recently of Philadelphia and a Baptist by profession of faith. Dr. De Grasse is only to be temporarily connected, it is understood, with the regiment, to be detached for some other field of action,- and, it is expected that Dr. Bachus, the previous acting Hospital Steward, will be commissioned as assistant surgeon of the regiment. So the great pathway to honor and emolument is opening wide to colored men.

The health of the men is good, particularly so. There are in the hospital the week ending to-day, Clark, Wellesly, Harrison, Chas. Owens, Miller, Toote, Shorter, and Phillips, and these are all the cases of ordinary diseases and are nearly all convalescent.

G. E. S.

Tags: , , , ,

No Comments

April 8, 1863

A letter from Shaw to his mother:

Boston [BCF]
April 8,1863

Dearest Mother,

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.

Tags: , , , ,

No Comments

April 7, 1863

A letter from Shaw to his mother:

Readville [BCF]

April 7 1863

Dearest Mother,

I didn’t mean to worry you by what I said of our being sent away suddenly. I really thought you knew the officers of coloured regiments were supposed to be in rather a ticklish situation, if caught by the Rebels—and it was not any feeling of annoyance at your letter which made me speak of it.

The Governor has permission to organize a brigade at Newbern, and wants to start our four companies off immediately. So that I am just now in the midst of much correspondence on the subject. If they do Edward Hallowell will be in command of them. I hope that they will be left though, unless there is some great benefit to be gained by sending them away, as I want to march & arrive at our destination, with a full & well organized regiment. At Newbern they would serve as a nucleus for the Brigade, which might then be started a little sooner.

Love to Susie. In haste

Your loving son

Col. Wild of the 35 Mass. will probably command the Brigade, though I want Barlow very much.

Tags: , , , ,

No Comments

April 2, 1863

Two letters from Shaw, to his brother-in-law George Curtis (married to Shaw’s sister Anna), and to his father:

Readville [BCF]
April 2/63

Dear George,

Your letter of the 31 March reached me yesterday. I have already seen Mr. Guerrier several times. I liked him very well, but didn’t think him one of the best on our list of applicants. Now, we are absolutely full, but I may have a 2d Lieut.’s vacancy, before we start. There are other men from my own regiment though, whom I want to take very much, and whom I am sure of, as regards qualifications.

I wish I could serve Mr. Ricketson, but see very little chance of it, now. I am sorry that your only recommendation should not have met with more success. I didn’t think Mr. Phillips particularly well qualified to give an opinion as to the merits of an officer.  A great many men have come with such recommendations & with papers from the Common Councilmen of their towns, but I never pay any attention to such, & call for recommendations from their superior officers, if they have been in service.

The other day I called on Mr. Josiah Quincy Seniorissimo, and had a very interesting visit. He told me to say to you, that he often heard of you in Boston, but hadn’t seen you lately and that if you didn’t go to see him the next time you came, he should drop you from his books. His memory is evidently failing him, and he talked principally of events which happened in the last century, which of course I was delighted to hear about. He had an engraving of Uncle Sam hanging at the head of his bed, and referred to him continually during my visit. He seemed to recollect him with a sort of veneration. He said “I shook hands with him last, on the wharf, when he sailed for China, in 17 hundred & something.” What a beautiful head & face Mr Quincy has! I sat & looked at him in perfect wonder, as I thought of the men he had known & the events he had an active part in.

They showed me some of the most interesting relics I ever saw. Some of Washington’s hair, letters, gloves & documents & letters from hosts of celebrated men & women. They have a metal plate like this [drawing included here] which Washington wore, with the arms of Virginia engraved on it & with the ribbon with which he hung it round his neck.

Give my best love to dear Anna. God bless you both, and may you get happily through this month.

I see Annie every evening almost, and feel more & more satisfied every day, as I learn to know her better. Effie & Charley are well & enjoying each other.

Goodbye dear George & believe me,

Always your loving brother

April 2 1863

Dear Father,

Jackson has been examined & passed by the Surgeon. Yours of 31st ulto. received. I hardly think that a man of 46 would pass. Still if he were perfectly sound in every other respect he might. In my opinion Dr. Stone is not too strict in his examinations. In fact I have continually urged him to be particular—and the committee here have complained of it very much, because the expense of sending men home is so great. The consequence is that we have an empty hospital, while that of the cavalry opposite, is full — though they have only 60 or 70 men in camp. To accept a man who is doubtful, is, in my opinion, cheating the Government, wronging the man, & harming the regiment. The standard of most surgeons is very low, because it has been so difficult lately to fill the town quotas — and in consequence our regiments dwindle away very fast, and the Govt hospitals are full of men who never did a day’s duty. In the 2d, I have seen several recruits die from mere fatigue & exposure. Stone has gone to Buffalo to examine a large squad, & set the Surgeon there on the right track. He will afterwards probably go to Philadelphia. We have another man who comes out from Boston every day.

Edward Hallowell will undoubtedly be major. The Govr promised me as much day before yesterday. I myself shall be mustered in a major this week in order to leave a vacancy in the 2d. My name ought to be Sam for a little while. The Governor has written to the Secretary of War, asking to have my regt sent to Newbern, to form the nucleus of a brigade — also recommending Barlow, very strongly, for the command. The latter wants it, and I have done all I could to get him for a commander. Charley Lowell too has been writing & talking to a great many people, for the same object. I think if the thing works we can do a good work in that way.

Give my love to Mother & Susie.
Your loving son
p.s. We have accepted men over age, but they were physically perfect. Col. Frank Lee says a brigade of coloured men could be easily raised in North Carolina. The country there is more easy to operate in, than South Carolina.

Tags: , , , ,

No Comments

March 30, 1863

Picture of Luis F. Emilio

Luis F. Emilio joined Company E of the regiment today as a second lieutenant. He became Captain of Company E on May 23, 1863.
Gooding ’s fifth letter to the Mercury, and a letter from Shaw to his father:

[Mercury, March 31, 1863]
Camp Meigs, Readville, March 30

Messrs. Editors:‚

—As the week begins anew, I have condensed my notes of the past week to lay them before the readers of the Mercury. In my last I stated the number of men in camp to be 368; today the number is 439, an increase of 71 men in one week, one more company having been organized, making five companies. During the past week things have assumed a more military shape than ever before, owing to the fine state of the weather, permitting out-door drilling. Since the men have been in camp the drilling has been conducted in empty barracks, until the past week. It is quite enlivening to see squads of men in the open field, a little distance from the barracks, going through their evolutions; especially when they acquit themselves so creditably as the officers say they do.

And here I may remark that every officer in camp appears to take an interest in the speedy and correct discipline of the men; neither are they lacking in regard for the religious welfare of the men, receiving the proffers of religious men willingly, who desire to make any remarks beneficial to the men. Rev. Wm. Jackson is here, and is to act as chaplain pro tem. Mr. Rickers, City Missionary, from Boston, preached yesterday forenoon, and Rev. Mr. Jackson in the afternoon.

I see a rumor in the Boston Herald that the conscription act will be put in force by taking the Northern colored people first. If it be true, the young, able bodied colored men of New Bedford would do well to come up here to Readville, “out of the cold.” The New York World thinks Gov. Andrew is exasperated because the colored people won’t enlist. There may be more truth than sarcasm in the hint.

The Editors of the MERCURY will please accept the thanks of Company C, for a bundle of magazines, and serials. Also, some unknown friends, for towels, looking glasses, blacking and brushes, and three barrels of apples. These acts of kindness make us all feel that we are not forgotten by the good people of New Bedford. If those we left behind fare in proportion as well as we do, we are content.

J. H. G.

Readville [BCF]
March 30,1863

Dear Father,

Caraway should not have received a pass. He was away on leave, and should have paid his own expenses. We have had four companies mustered in to-day. There is another one half full, and sixty men on their way from Buffalo. In a month I think we shall be full.

Thank you for your answer to my question about our being married. There is no reason why it should interfere with my duties as an officer.

I hope all the coloured people will be as sensible as Downing; I didn’t know he had been here. The mustering-officer, who was here to-day, is a Virginian, and has always thought it was a great joke to try to make soldiers of “niggers”; but he told me to-day, that he had never mustered in so fine a set of men, though about twenty thousand had passed through his hands since September last. The sceptics need only come out here now, to be converted.

I hope to find a letter from Mother when I go in town to-morrow afternoon. Give my love to her. Annie has not been well since she came here. In one way it has been very fortunate, for we have had several quiet evenings together. I don’t know what her Mother will say to our plan of being married before I go, but I hope she will come into it.

Your loving son,

Robert G. Shaw

Tags: , , , , , ,

No Comments

March 23, 1863

A letter from Shaw to his friend Charles Fessenden Morse, and a letter from Governor John A. Andrew:

Readeville [BCF]
March 23,1863

My dear Charley,

I received yours of the 19th today, and was very glad to hear your account of the review of 12th Corps, by Hooker. I have been expecting it for some time, as you said in yout last, that it was going to take place. I can imagine your feelings very easily, when the old regiment was complimented by the General, for I felt just so when Pope reviewed us at Little Washington, and I was on Gordon’s Staff. It sent a thrill through me to see their steady marching & well closed ranks. It is very encouraging to hear your favourable account of Hooker. It really seems as if he must do something this Spring. The army will start, at any rate, in better condition and spirits than ever before. Oh, how I wish I were going to be with you! I should like to make one successful & brilliant campaign with the 2d and the Army of the Potomac.

I don’t think the conscription will stop the raising of negro regiments, for every one seems to go in for having them drafted too. And then they are destined for a peculiar service, I think, that of drawing off the blacks from the plantations, and making the Proclamation of Emancipation a reality. People lately from England say the change of feeling there, is a wonder — and they attribute it almost entirely to the Proclamation.

I have been meaning to write to you, for the last week, especially to urge you, if you are offered a position on Slocum’s, or any other good man’s Staff not to refuse it out of feeling for the regiment. You must reflect that this war may last a long time, and that you owe it to yourself and to your friends & relatives to get the best rank and position you honourably can. If you get on a good Staff, you will be sure to rise, and if a military man doesn’t continually look for promotion, what interest can he have in his profession?

We have 350 men in camp today and expect to get 100 or more during the week. I think we shall be full in a month—unless something occurs to stop the recruiting. That is not likely though, as $50 bounty has just been offered, while hitherto we have had none.

Let me hear from you regularly, my dear Charley, as I depend upon it. Tom Robeson & Grafton are here, but I have not seen them yet.  Miss Haggerty is coming to Boston to stay with one of my Aunts, so that my prospects for the next few weeks is pleasant.

Your sincere friend,

Robert G. Shaw

p.s. I saw Miss Nellie Low today & had a walk & a talk with her. She asked after you with much interest.

Emilio discussed the Confederate outlaw proclamation and reactions to it ([BBR, p.16-17],

In the proclamation of outlawry issued by Jefferson Davis, Dec. 23, 1862, against Major-General Butler, was the following clause: —

“Third. That all negro slaves captured in arms be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong, to be dealt with according to the laws of said States.”

The act passed by the Confederate Congress previously referred to contained a section which extended the same penalty to negroes or mulattoes captured, or who gave aid or comfort to the enemies of the Confederacy. Those who enlisted in the Fifty-fourth did so under these acts of outlawry bearing the penalties provided. Aware of these facts, confident in the protection the Government would and should afford, but desirous of having official assurances, George T. Downing wrote regarding the status of the Fifty-fourth men, and received the following reply:—

Black abolitionist George T. Downing wrote to Gov. Andrew concerning the status of recruits to the 54th Regiement. This is Gov. Andrew’s reply:


BOSTON, March 23, 1863.


DEAR SIR, —In reply to your inquiries made as to the position of colored men who may be enlisted into the volunteer service of the United States, I would say that their position in respect to pay, equipments, bounty, or any aid or protection when so mustered ia that of any and all other volunteers. I desire further to state to you that when I was in Washington on one occasion, in an interview with Mr. Stanton, the Secretary of War, he stated in the most emphatic manner that he would never consent that free colored men should be accepted into the service to serve as soldiers in the South, until he should be assured that the Government of the United States was prepared to guarantee and defend to the last dollar and the last man, to these men, all the rights, privileges, and immunities that are given by the laws of civilized warfare to other soldiers. Their present acceptance and muster-in as soldiers pledges the honor of the nation in the same degree and to the same rights with all. They will be soldiers of the Union, nothing less and nothing different. I believe they will earn for themselves an honorable fame, vindicating their race and redressing their future from the aspersions of the past.

I am, yours truly,


Tags: , , , , , ,

No Comments

March 17, 1863

Two letters from Shaw, one to his mother and one to his fiance.

Readville [BCF]

March 17,1863

Dearest Mother,

Your note of Sunday reached me to-day. I am sorry it was a mistake about your visit to Boston, though I was astonished at there being any thought of your leaving Anna just now.

I had a pleasant time at Lenox. Annie and I went to see Mrs. Charles and Willie Sedgwick. The day before the battle of Antietam her husband spent with us, and I had a great deal to tell them about him. His little girl wanted to hear all about her father. His mother is one of the most patriotic women I have seen, and seemed to feel proud that her son had died for his country.

The regiment continues to flourish. Men come in every day. Mr. Stearns, who is at home for a few days from Canada, says we can get more men than we want from there. The Governor thinks of getting authority to raise some more coloured regiments. If he does, I hope Frank Barlow can get the command. He is just the man for it, and I should like to be under him. Yesterday we had several officers out to take a look at the men; they all went away very much pleased. Some were very sceptical about it before, but say, now, that they shall have no more doubts of negroes making good soldiers. The Massachusetts Legislature has passed a bill appropriating $75,000 for each new regiment, ours included. The men will receive $50 bounty, and the rest will be used for recruiting purposes.

Love to Father and Susie,

Your loving son,


Readville [BCF]
March 17,1863

My Dear Annie,
Your note of Monday reached me to-day. If I hadn’t written you such a very contemptible one yesterday, I should have thought yours was altogether too short.
To-night we received quite a large squad of men from Pittsfield. They seem to be very patriotic up there. We are beginning to get our men from Western New York and Canada now. Our recruiting agent up there says he can get enough to make two or three regiments, if the Governor is authorized to raise them; at any rate, we can fill ours up.

Effie will be here to-morrow, and I wish, dear Annie, you were coming too. However, a week is not a very long time. If you put off coming I shall begin to feel very melancholy. . ..

The other day I dined at H. Mason’s with seventeen officers, four of whom had to have their food cut up for them,being badly wounded in the arm, and several others had wounds in other parts. We had a very interesting time in talking over events of rhe past year. I have got the pup which Captain Scott brought me from Virginia, out here, and if he grows up to be a nice dog, I will leave him with you when I go off Yesterday I bought a full-bred English terrier, which is a beauty. . . .

There is a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, white-skinned, black preacher out here, who has great influence among the blacks. He wants to go as chaplain, and I think I shall take him; he looks so much like a white man, that I don’t believe there would be much prejudice against it. I think I should care very little for public opinion, if it did no harm to the regiment. It would be out of the question to have any black, field or line, officers at present, because of public
sentiment. It ruined the efficiency of the Louisiana coloured regiments. . . .

Good night, dearest Annie.
your affectionate Rob

Our men are to have $50 bounty from the State, according to a bill which has just passed the Legislature.

Tags: , , , ,

No Comments

March 4, 1863

Two letters from Shaw, to his father and to his friend Charles Fessenden Morse:

Readville [BCF]
March 4,1863

Dear Father,

I have just received yours of the 3d inst. Governor Andrew says that all Colonel Higginson’s men, and the Colonel himself, wish to get into the regular United States uniform; and strongly advises our sticking to it. We are getting men very fast. There has been a hitch in the Rhode Island recruiting, but we hope to get it going in a day or two.

I trust — — will do something more practical than having meetings, and will manage to send some recruits. What do you think? Had we better send an officer on there to work?

Your loving Son
p.S. —Enclosed is another private letter for Mother.

Readeviile [BCF]
March 4,1863

My dear Charley,

Your letter of the 23d Feb. reached me today. In future address to 44 Beacon St. Though I shall be in camp after this I can get my letters sooner there.

I got yours just as I returned from visiting your Mother & sister at Jamaica Plain. I should have gone there long ago, if I could have found time — and shall certainly make them another visit as soon as I can. Greely Curtis is at home as you know, and his engagement is all right.

I had an invitation to visit the Somerset Club whenever I wished, and the other evening I went there. A great many of them are “bloody Copperheads” but no one made any disagreeable remarks while I was there. It would be a good thing for Greely to go in and give some of them a soaping down.

My regiment is making pretty good headway. We have nearly 150 men in camp, and they come in pretty fast. There are several among them, who have been well drilled, & who are acting sergeants. They drill their squads with a great deal of snap, and I think we shall have some good soldiers. Thirty four came up from New Bedford this afternoon, and marched with a drum & fife creating the greatest enthusiasm among the rest. We have them examined, sworn in, washed & uniformed as soon as they arrive — and when they get into their buttons they feel about as good as a man can. It is very laughable to hear the sergeants explain the drill to the men, as they use words long enough for a Doctor of Divinity or anything else.

The heel question is not a fabulous one — for some of them are wonderful in that line. One man has them so long that they actually prevent him from making the facings properly. Since you were here, I think there has come a change over the public mind, in regard to the war. That feeling which we noticed, was a sort of reaction from the early enthusiasm, and I believe it is fast passing.

The conscription act has encouraged me very much, and must show the Rebels and European Powers, that we have no thought of giving in. If it is enforced we are safe, but if the Government gives in to rebellious demonstrations in the North, it is lost, because that will be a test of its power — don’t you think so? I hope the 2d New Hampshire is only one of many old regiments coming home, to enforce conscription. It can never be done, I think, in many states without military aid. But the talk of resistance may turn out to be mere bluster after all.

I came out to Readeviile yesterday for good — and it seems like Camp Andrew over again. Everything topsy turvy. Nothing to eat and the coldest possible barracks.

George Bangs is in a state of despondency difficult to describe or even imagine.  He says he thinks sometimes that he is going to become insane — and if he doesn’t take up another train of thought, I think there is some danger in it.

I saw Sam Quincy on Monday, just before he left. He may be able to keep the field, but he will need a great deal of pluck to do it. Charley Mudge seems very ill indeed. Between the two, you and Bangs stand a good chance of being Field officers. I hope to hear of your promotion before long, and in the mean time it is good you are in such comfortable quarters & pleasant company.

It has been a subject of wonder to me that the nigger concern meets with so little opposition here. Almost everyone, even those who do not favour it, says that it is a good thing to try. Even such fellows as Bill Horton, now they see that we are not tabooed, by what he considers respectable society, talk of wanting to go into it.

Perhaps though, there may be something rough for us to go through yet, in the way of abuse. It is a matter of chance, which way the public sentiment may take a turn — Especially in the army.

I have been to a dinner or small party almost every day since I got to Boston, and have enjoyed myself amazingly — though my mind wanders sometimes to a certain person in N. Y.

Powdered hair is coming in again. The gayety in N. Y. & Boston is greater than ever.

Postman waits. Good bye & God bless you my dear fellow.

Always afftcly yours,
R. G. S.

Tags: , , ,

No Comments
  • Joined on This Day

  • Archives


    Subscribe: RSS RSS Feed     Atom RSS Feed
    Feed for all comments: Comments Feed
  • Support this site

  • Meta