Feb. 23, (Monday) 1863
We have opened the camp at Readville, got the barracks in good order, and sent twenty-seven men out there. I have a good quartermaster, who has got all the necessary stores out there, and seems to be attending to his business in the most satisfactory manner. Captain Edward Hallowell, a brother of the Lieutenant-Colonel, is in command of the camp. Day before yesterday he had the men all washed and uniformed, which pleased them amazingly. They are being drilled as much as is possible in-doors, for it is too cold out there to keep them in the open air for any length of time. These twenty-seven men are all from Philadelphia and Boston.
From other recruiting-offices we hear very good accounts, and the men seem to be enlisting quite fast. Governor Sprague has authorized a recruiting-office to be opened in Providence for this regiment. We have an officer at Fortress Monroe, but he has to be very secret about his work; and to-day three men are going on a campaign into Canada. By these different means we expect, or rather hope, to fill our ranks pretty rapidly. We are getting men from Pennsylvania, NewYork, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. So far, they are not of the best class, because the good ones are loath to leave their families, while there is a hope of getting a bounty later. Now, they receive only the $100 from the Federal government at the expiration of their term of enlistment.
Hallowell and I get along together in the pleasantest way. I like Governor Andrew more and more every day. As Charles Lowell says: “It was worth while to come home, if it were only to get acquainted with him.” … All my mornings are spent in the State-House; and as in-door, furnace-heated work does not agree with me, I shall get out to Readville as soon as possible.
Good bye for the present, my darling.
Always your loving Rob
Posts Tagged Gov John Andrew
Feby 20 1863
You have probably been looking for a letter from me for some days, but I have had so much to do that I couldn’t write. My interviews with the Govr have been very satisfactory — and we are getting along better than I expected we should. Cousin John helps us along a great deal with his advice — he has thought of several men for officers who I think will be the best we shall get. After discussing their characters, he will say “now, does any one know whether he’s enough nigger to him?” or “are his heels long eno’ for this work?”‘ He is very funny.
Evening. Your letter enclosing Mrs. Schuyler’s & Mr. Ward’s notes came this afternoon. Please thank them both when you see them. There was a meeting of the committee for the Col’d regt today and money was appropriated to aid enlistments in various places. We have got the camp going and shall send some men out tomorrow. At the meeting Richard Hallowell said it would please the coloured population to have some influential darkey on the committee‚—and Cousin John told him he would like to take in a nigger and turn him (H.) out, which naturally caused some merriment. I didn’t see the Governor’s mouth twitch, and I like him more every day. He is not only a liberal minded philanthropist, but a man of real practical good-sense, I think — and as kind-hearted as he can be. Some of the influential coloured men I have met please me very much. They are really so gentlemanlike & dignified. Please tell Father that I have been requested by the committee to ask him to find some responsible & respectable coloured men, who can help enlistments in New York & Brooklyn. As soon as he will notify me of his having met some such person or persons I will send him some tickets for their transportation to Massachusetts. They should be ascertained to be physically sound before being sent — and there should be no noise made about it, as N.Y authorities might object to our taking them from there. No recruiting office should be opened.
I shall write to you as often as ever dearest Mother, as I don’t intend to abandon you entirely for Annie, as you seem to think. Just now while I am so much engaged, my letters may be a little less frequent.
Ever your loving son,
Robert G. Shaw
Said nothing to C.S. The passage of the conscription act makes the raising of coloured troops less important, I think. I have received many notes of congratulation both on my engagement & my having taken the Regt. I have just been reading all the letters rec’d by Jim Savage’s family concerning him, and my head is full of those Cedar Mt. & Rappahannock days. Sad ones they were.
I spent last evening with Aunt Susan and family. It was very sad; they talked of Theodore a great deal, and seemed to find great comfort in it. They all bear the loss like true Christians; and when I think what a terrible blow it is to them, I cannot admire them sufficiently. The girls seemed lovely in their gentleness, and sweet way of speaking of Theodore. Uncle John is cheerful too; probably from feeling how much Aunt Susan has need of all the consolation he can give her. It is an immense comfort to them to talk of and remember Theodore’s beautiful and pure character. I shall go there again soon. They thought I had done a great thing in taking the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts. About this, I have had only good words from friends and foes of the project. As you say, the result is sure to be good when a man takes a firm stand for what he thinks is the right. Annie Agassiz, the Professor, and all the family, as well as many others, made the most complimentary remarks. I have spoken so much of this, not from egotism, but because the kindness of every one I have met, has made a great impression upon me. Tell Father, Homans has a
Second Lieutenancy in my regiment.
Your loving son
You will be astonished to hear, I suppose, (unless some one has mentioned it already) that I am engaged to Miss Annie Haggerty. Perhaps you remember that two years ago I told you she would be my “young woman” some time. Harry and I keep along pretty well together, don’t we? And we are both so unfortunate, as to have the prospect of being dragged off again to the tented field, when we want most horribly to stay at home. We are at home now together, he as Lieut. Col. of the 2d Mass. Cavalry, and I as a Nigger Col., for Gov. Andrew has given me the command of his black regiment. The conscription bill has passed so I advise Theodore not to come home, lest he be drafted. Tell him I will give him a position as chaplain if he would like to go into a good nigger concern.
I hope, dear Mimi, you and he and the baby are well, and are having a pleasant time. It seems as if we were to have continual war in this country. I pray God it may not be so, for there has been enough blood shed to atone for a great many sins.
Since I have been at home the misery and unhappiness caused by this war have struck me more forcibly than ever — for in active service one gets accustomed to think very lightly of such things. Last evening I went to see the Parkmans, and the way in which they bear Theodore’s loss is beautiful. You know how devoted they all were to him, and what a terrible blow his death must have been‚ — îand there are thousands of such cases on both sides.
Give my love to Theodore. I hope we shall see you safe at home before long‚ — before Harry and I go off again. All are well here.
Always your affectionate Cousin,
Robert G. Shaw
Much the larger number of recruits were obtained through the organization and by the means which will now be described. About February 15, Governor Andrew appointed a committee to superintend the raising of recruits for the colored regiment, consisting of George L. Stearns, Amos A. Lawrence, John M. Forbes, William I. Bowditch, Le Baron Russell, and Richard P. Hallowell, of Boston; Mayor Howland and James B. Congdon, of New Bedford; Willard P. Phillips, of Salem; and Francis G. Shaw, of New York. Subsequently the membership was increased to one hundred, and it became known as the “Black Committee.” It was mainly instrumental in procuring the men of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry, the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry, besides 3,967 other colored men credited to the State. All the gentlemen named were persons of prominence. Most of them had been for years in the van of those advanced thinkers and workers who had striven to help and free the slave wherever found. The first work of this committee was to collect money; and in a very short time five thousand dollars was received, Gerrit Smith, of New York, sending his check for five hundred dollars. Altogether nearly one hundred thousand dollars was collected, which passed through the hands of Richard P. Hallowell, the treasurer, who was a brother of the Hallowells commissioned in the Fifty-fourth. A call for recruits was published in a hundred journals from east to west. Friends whose views were known were communicated with, and their aid solicited; but the response was not for a time encouraging
With the need came the man. Excepting Governor Andrew, the highest praise for recruiting the Fifty-fourth belongs to George L. Stearns, who had been closely identified with the struggle in Kansas and John Brown’s projects. He was appointed agent for the committee, and about February 23 went west on his mission. Mr. Stearns stopped at Rochester, N. Y., to ask the aid of Fred Douglass, receiving hearty co-operation, and enrolling a son of Douglass as his first recruit. His headquarters were made at Buffalo, and a line of recruiting posts from Boston to St. Louis established.
Soon such success was met with in the work that after filling the Fifty-fourth the number of recruits was sufficient to warrant forming a sister regiment.
Feb. 16,1863, Monday
I arrived here yesterday morning, after a very uncomfortable night in the sleeping-car. I have been at work all day, looking over papers with Hallowell, and talking with Governor Andrew. We have decided to go into camp at Readville, and not at Worcester. It is near enough to Boston to make the transportation of supplies an easy matter, and we see no reason to apprehend any trouble from the white soldiers stationed there. Now that it is decided that coloured troops shall be raised, people seem to look upon it as a matter of course, and I have seen no one who has not expressed the kindest wishes for the success of the project. Governor Andrew’s ideas please me extremely, for he takes the most common-sense view of the thing. He seems inclined to have me do just what I please.
With much affection, your
I arrived here yesterday morning. Things arc going along very well, and I think there is no doubt of our ultimate success. I took a long drive with the Governor, and liked him very much. His views about the regiment are just what I should wish. We have decided to go into camp at Readville; as we think it best to plunge in without regard to outsiders. We shall have to do it some time, and it is best to begin immediately; I do not apprehend any trouble out there. We have a great deal of work before us, but every one seems anxious to give us a helping hand, and applications for commissions come in, in shoals. The more money we can get, the better; the transportation of men from other States will cost a great deal.
I will write to Mother soon.
Your affectionate Son
In five days [after the Boston Journal ad] twenty-five men were secured; and Lieutenant Appleton’s work was vigorously prosecuted, with measurable success. It was not always an agreeable task, for the rougher element was troublesome and insulting. About fifty or sixty men were recruited at this office, which was closed about the last of March. Lieutenant Appleton then reported to the camp established and took command of Company A, made up of his recruits and others afterward obtained.
Early in February quite a number of colored men were recruited in Philadelphia, by Lieut. E. N. Hallowell, James M. Walton, who was subsequently commissioned in the Fifty-fourth, and Robert R. Corson, the Massachusetts State Agent. Recruiting there was attended with much annoyance. The gathering-place had to be kept secret, and the men sent to Massachusetts in small parties to avoid molestation or excitement. Mr. Corson was obliged to purchase railroad tickets himself, and get the recruits one at a time on the cars or under cover of darkness. The men sent and brought from Philadelphia went to form the major part of Company B.
New Bedford was also chosen as a fertile field. James W. Grace, a young business man of that place, was selected as recruiting officer, and commissioned February 10. He opened headquarters on Williams Street, near the post-office, and put out the United States flag across the street.Colored ministers of the city were informed of his plans; and Lieutenant Grace visited their churches to interest the people in his work. He arranged for William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass, and other noted men to address meetings. Cornelius Rowland, C. B. H. Fessenden, and James B. Congdon materially assisted and were good friends of the movement. While recruiting, Lieutenant Grace was often insulted by such remarks as, “There goes the captain of the Negro Company! He thinks the negroes will fight! They will turn and run at the first sight of the enemy! ” His little son was scoffed at in school because his father was raising a negro company to fight the white men.
At camp the New Bedford men, — some seventy-five in number,—with others from that place and elsewhere, became Company C, the representative Massachusetts company.
Watson W. Bridgee …[his] headquarters were at Springfield, and he worked in Western Massachusettts and Connecticut. When ordered to camp, about April 1, he had recruited some seventy men.
Captain Shaw arrived in Boston on February 15, and at once assumed the duties of his position. Captain Hallowell was already there, daily engaged in the executive business of the new organization; and about the middle of February, his brother, Edward N. Hallowell, who had served as a lieutenant in the Twentieth Massachusetts Infantry, also reported for duty, and was made major of the Fifty-fourth before its departure for the field.
Line-officers were commissioned from persons nominated by commanders of regiments in the field, by tried friends of the movement, the field officers, and those Governor Andrew personally desired to appoint. This freedom of selection, — unhampered by claims arising from recruits furnished or preferences of the enlisted men, so powerful in officering white regiments, — secured for this organization a corps of officers who brought exceptional character, experience, and ardor to their allotted work. Of the twenty-nine who took the field, fourteen were veteran soldiers from three-years regiments, nine from nine-months regiments, and one from the militia; six had previously been commissioned. They included representatives of well-known families; several were Harvard men; and some, descendants of officers of the Revolution and the War of 1812. Their average age was about twenty-three years.
Stafford C.H.,Va. [BCF]
You know by this time, perhaps, that I have changed my mind about the black regiment. After Father left, I began to think I had made a mistake in refusing Governor Andrew’s offer. Mother has telegraphed to me that you would not disapprove of it, and that makes me feel much more easy about having taken it. Going for another three years is not nearly so bad a thing for a colonel as a captain; as the former can much more easily get a furlough. Then, after I have undertaken this work, I shall feel that what I have to do is to prove that a negro can be made a good soldier, and, that being established, it will not be a point of honour with me to see the war through, unless I really occupied a position of importance in the army. Hundreds of men might leave the army, you know, without injuring the service in the slightest degree.
Last night I received your letter of last Sunday, February i st. You must be at Susie’s house now,—at least I judge so from Mother’s telegram. As I may not receive my order to leave here for some days, do promise to stay there until I get to New York. You do not know how I shall feel if I find you are gone. It is needless for me to overwhelm you with a quantity of arguments in favour of the negro troops; because you arc with Mother, the warmest advocate the cause can have. I am inclined to think that the undertaking will not meet with so much opposition as was at first supposed. All sensible men in the army, of all parties, after a little thought, say that it is the best thing that can be done; and surely those at home, who are not brave or patriotic enough to enlist, should not ridicule, or throw obstacles in the way of men who are going to fight for them. There is a great prejudice against it; but now that it has become a government matter, that will probably wear away. At any rate, I shan’t be frightened out of it by its unpopularity; and I hope you won’t care if it is made fun of.
Dear Annie, the first thing I thought of, in connection with it, was how you would feel, and I trust, now I have taken hold of it, I shall find you agree with me and all of our family, in thinking I was right. You know how many eminent men consider a negro army of the greatest importance to our country at this time. If it turns out to be so, how fully repaid the pioneers in the movement will be, for what they may have to go through! And at any rate I feel convinced I shall never regret having taken this step, as far as I myself am concerned; for while I was undecided I felt ashamed of myself, as if I were cowardly.
Good bye, dear Annie. I hope that when I arrive at Sue’s door you will not be very far off.
With a great deal of love, (more every day) your
Stafford Court-House, Va. [BCF]
Yours from Willard’s, enclosing Mother’s and Effie’s, was received to-day.Please tell Nellie I received hers of 17th January last night. I telegraphed you yesterday that I couldn’t get away from here without an order or furlough. It will have to come from Hooker or the War Department, and the Governor will have to get it for me. He knows what is needful, though, for he procured the necessary papers when Harry and I went home. If I have to wait some time, don’t let Annie go away until I get to New York, will you?
Tell Mother I have not wavered at all, since my final decision. I feel that if we can get the men, all will go right.
With love to all,
Your affectionate son,
Robert G. Shaw
Stafford Court-House, Va. [BCF]
My Dear Annie,
Your two letters, of the 25th and 29th of January, have reached me at last, and I was glad enough to get them. By this time you are on your way to New York, where you will find my last letter. I sent it to Father, thinking that you were going to Susie’s.
I did not read General Hitchcock’s testimony in McDowell’s case. Holt’s summing up of the testimony for and against Porter, seemed to me very poor, for a man of his ability; and if I could persuade myself that the court (composed as it was, of officers of honourable standing) could be dishonest, I should think there had been foul play. Several officers have been dismissed for uttering the like sentiments; so I think I had better keep my opinion to myself. I was much surprised to hear, the other day, from a regular officer in Porter’s Corps, that, though they considered the latter a fine officer, he was not personally liked. I have hitherto heard just the contrary. .
We are tolerably comfortable here now, as our log-huts arc going up again, and we have come across a sutler who furnishes the officers with means to keep a very good mess.
Father has just left here. He came down yesterday, and brought me an offer from Governor Andrew of the Colonelcy of his new black regiment. The Governor considers it a most important command; and I could not help feeling, from the tone of his letter, that he did me a great honour in offering it to me. My Father will tell you some of the reasons why I thought I ought not to accept it. If I had taken it, it would only have been from a sense of duty; for it would have been anything but an agreeable task. Please tell me, without reserve, what you think about it; for I am very anxious to know. I should have decided much sooner than I did, if I had known before. I am afraid Mother will think I am shirking my duty; but I had some good practical reasons for it, besides the desire to be at liberty to decide what to do when my three years have expired.
You asked me in one of your letters whether I was a Unitarian. Since I have been old enough to think for myself, I have considered I had better not try to decide about sects. I always like to go to church, and I like to hear a good sermon, whether it is preached in an Episcopal or a Methodist church. The only Sunday school I ever went to, was Episcopal, and I have been to the Unitarian church less than to any other. While I am on this subject, I must remind you of the Bible you are going to send me.
I like the name Robert much better than Bob, and shall be very glad to have you call me so. Father, Mother, and Effie always call me “Rob,” which slight change of a letter makes a great difference in the name.
There does not seem to be much enthusiasm for Hooker. The cry in the army is still for McClellan. I wonder whether he will ever get his old command again! I don’t think he is doing himself any good by having public receptions in Boston.
The hills about Lenox would be a very welcome sight to me, whether they were covered with snow, with grass, or with nothing at all; though just now, I had rather be in New York. I want to see you horribly (that is the only word I can think of for it), but I have to console myself by looking at the vignette. Did you manage to have some work done on the place before you left?
Our chaplain is an “Orthodox” clergyman, and is much superior to most in the army, I think, though he does get into very lazy habits. Camp life gives no incentive to activity or energy.
I have about a dozen acquaintances in the South. Most of them classmates of mine, with a few of whom I was on most intimate terms. Two of them were captured in North Carolina by another classmate, a captain in the Forty-fourth Massachusetts. He invited them to dinner, and after having had a jolly time together, they were paroled and sent home. We heard, from some prisoners taken at Antietam, that some of our friends were in a regiment that was opposed to ours in that battle. I don’t think I know any one in Richmond. Being officer of the day, to-day, and having several little affairs to attend to in consequence, I must close. So good-bye, dear Annie, with a great deal of love.
Your affectionate Rob
P.S.—Do you know of a woman in Lenox named McDonald? Whether she is very poor, or anything about het? Her son is in my company, and is always getting punished; but when the men’s families are poor we do not like to cut down their pay, which is the most effectual punishment.
Governor Andrew decided to offer the colonelcy of the 54th to (then) Captain R.G. Shaw, and wrote to Shaw’s father to enlist his aid in convincing Shaw to accept the commision; this is followed by the Governor’s letter to Shaw himself:
BOSTON, Jan. 30, 1863.
FRANCIS G. SHAW, Esq., Staten Island, N. Y.
—As you may have seen by the newspapers, I am about to raise a colored regiment in Massachusetts. This I cannot but regard as perhaps the most important corps to be organized during the whole war, in view of what must be the composition of our new levies ; and therefore I am very anxious to organize it judiciously, in order that it may be a model for all future colored regiments. I am desirous to have for its officers — particularly for its field-officers — young men of military experience, of firm antislavery principles, ambitious, superior to a vulgar contempt for color, and having faith in the capacity of colored men for military service. Such officers must necessarily be gentlemen of the highest tone and honor; and I shall look for them in those circles of educated antislavery society which, next to the colored race itself, have the greatest interest in this experiment.
Reviewing the young men of the character I have described, now in the Massachusetts service, it occurs to me to offer the colonelcy to your son, Captain Shaw, of the Second Massachusetts Infantry, and the lieutenant-colonelcy to Captain Hallowell of the Twentieth Massachusetts Infantry, the son of Mr. Morris L. Hallowell of Philadelphia. With my deep conviction of the importance of this undertaking, in view of the fact that it will be the first colored regiment to be raised in the free States, and that its success or its failure will go far to elevate or depress the estimation in which the character of the colored Americans will be held throughout the world, the command of such a regiment seems to me to be a high object of ambition for any officer. How much your son may have reflected upon such a subject I do not know, nor have I any information of his disposition for such a task except what I have derived from his general character and reputation; nor should I wish him to undertake it unless he could enter upon it with a full sense of its importance, with an earnest determination for its success, and with the assent and sympathy and support of the opinions of his immediate family. I therefore enclose you the letter in which I make him the offer of this commission; and I will be obliged to you if you will forward it to him, accompanying it with any expression to him of your own views, and if you will also write to me upon the subject.
My mind is drawn towards Captain Shaw by many considerations. I am sure he would attract the support, sympathy, and active co-operation of many among his immediate family relatives. The more ardent, faithful, and true Republicans and friends of liberty would recognize in him a scion from a tree whose fruit and leaves have always contributed to the strength and healing of our generation. So it is with Captain Hallowell. His father is a Quaker gentleman of Philadelphia, two of whose sons are officers in our army, and another is a merchant in Boston. Their house in Philadelphia is a hospital and home for Massachusetts officers; and the family are full of good works; and he was the adviser and confidant of our soldiery when sick or on duty in that city. I need not add that young Captain Hallowell is a gallant and fine fellow, true as steel to the cause of humanity, as well as to the flag of the country.
I wish to engage the field-officers, and then get their aid in selecting those of the line. I have offers from Oliver T. Beard of Brooklyn, N. Y., late Lieutenant-Colonel of the Forty-eighth New York Volunteers, who says he can already furnish six hundred men; and from others wishing to furnish men from New York and from Connecticut; but I do not wish to start the regiment under a stranger to Massachusetts. If in any way, by suggestion or otherwise, you can aid the purpose which is the burden of this letter, I shall receive your co-operation with the heartiest gratitude. I do not wish the office to go begging; and if the offer is refused, 1 would prefer it being kept reasonably private.
Hoping to hear from you immediately on receiving this letter,
I am, with high regard,
Your obedient servant and friend,
JOHN A. ANDREW.
( From [BBR,pp.3-5])
I am about to organize in Massachusetts a Colored Regiment as part of the volunteer quota of this State – the commissioned officers to be white men. I have today written your Father expressing to him my sense of the importance of this undertaking, and requesting him to forward to you this letter, in which I offer to you the commission of Colonel over it. The Lieutenant Colonelcy I have offerred to Captain Hallowell of the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment. It is important to the organization of this regiment that I should receive your reply to this offer at the earliest day consistent with your ability to arrive at a deliberate conclusion on the subject.
Respectfully and very truly yours,
John A. Andrew
(From [BCF], p.23)
John A. Andrew, the war Governor of Massachusetts, very early advocated the enlistment of colored men to aid in suppressing the Rebellion. The General Government having at last adopted this policy, he visited Washington in January, 1863, and as the result of a conference with Secretary Stanton, received the following order, under which the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was organized:
WASHINGTON CITY, Jan. 26, 1863.
Ordered : That Governor Andrew of Massachusetts is authorized, until further orders, to raise such number of volunteers, companies of artillery for duty in the forts of Massachusetts and elsewhere, and such corps of infantry for the volunteer military service as he may find convenient, such volunteers to be enlisted for three years, or until sooner discharged, and may include persons of African descent, organized into special corps. He will make the usual needful requisitions on the appropriate staff bureaus and officers, for the proper transportation, organization, supplies, subsistence, arms and equipments of such volunteers.
Secretary of War.