[Mercury, March 24, 1863][OAF]
Camp Meigs, Readville, March 21
The glorious 54th (that is to be) is getting on nicely, there being now in camp 368 men, two companies, A and B, being full, and C and D wanting a few more men to fill them up, which can easily be done in a very few days. We have five men in our company who are enlisted, but expect them to be discharged, on account of physical disability; indeed, if every man had been received who applied, I think it would very near have filled five companies.
The men appear to be all very well satisfied, except a few in Cos. A and B, who are of a class to be satisfied with nothing. Two of them attempted to skedaddle last Friday night, but were brought to by feeling a bayonet in the rear, as Co. C had sentinels posted at the time. They say their grounds for trying to desert are that they have received no bounty, as was represented they should as soon as they had enlisted and been sworn in. I think the men who are about the country recruiting should not misrepresent the conditions, but leave it more to the judgment and patriotism of men to enlist, simply providing conveyance to the camp, as, I think, they are authorized to do. As regards the men who came from New Bedford in this company, they do not seem to think so much about any bounty, but, by the vote of the City Council, a sum of money was appropriated for the relief of the families of colored citizens enlisted in the 54th regiment, and some of the men fear their families are suffering now for the want of their customary support.
You, Messrs. Editors, may be well aware that colored men generally, as a class, have nothing to depend upon but their daily labor; so, consequently, when they leave their labors and take up arms in defence of their country, their homes are left destitute of those little necessities which their families must enjoy as well as those of white men; and as the city has passed a resolution to pay them a sum, they would rather their families received it than become objects of public charity. We are all determined to act like men, and fight, money or not; but we think duty to our families will be a sufficient excuse for adverting to the subject.
John H. Atkinson, of New Bedford, is in the hospital, very sick. I could not ascertain exactly what his complaint is, but think it is the effect of cold. With that exception the health of the men is very good.
We have a very pleasant time in our barracks every evening, having music, singing, and sometimes dancing. We have two musicians who regale us with very fine music—a great deal better than a ‘feller’ pays to hear sometimes.
The ladies of the Relief Society will please accept the thanks of Co. C. for those shirts, socks and handkerchiefs, which should have been expressed in the last letter. God bless the ladies.
J. H. G.
PS. Wm. T. Boyd, of Pa., died this day (23d). He was in the hospital but two days. He was a member of Co. B.
J. H. G.
Posts Tagged James Gooding
[Mercury, March 18, 1863][OAF]
Camp Meigs, Readville, March 15
—Presuming a few lines from this locality would prove interesting to some of your many readers, I have taken upon myself the task of penning them. Among the men in this camp the New Bedford men stand A No. 1, in military bearing, cleanliness and morality; not because I happen to belong to the New Bedford company do I assert this, for if the other companies proved to be better ordered than ours, I should be proud to confirm it. All the men appear to regard Capt. Grace with (I might say) veneration; for he presents that uncommon combination of a man strict in military discipline, but always tempered with kindness; a man who will go to the utmost length of his military power to assist or benefit an inferior. A better man, in my judgment, could not have been placed in command of a company of colored men; for he seems to have studied the peculiar modes of thought, action and disposition of the colored men so well, that there is the most cheerful obedience rendered to the most imperative command. These opinions are not hastily formed, but are arrived at by a close and careful observation of things as they are.
We have prayers every morning and evening, most of the men taking part in them; and I need not add that there is a great degree of fervor exhibited vide Bethel Church, Kempton street. As for myself I find it somewhat dull when I am not on duty, as I have nothing to read, although it is a source of amusement to watch some of the odd capers or listen to some of the equally ludicrous speeches, so peculiar to some of our class of people. They are all anxious to perfect themselves in drill that they may the sooner meet the Rebs, and they all feel determined to fight; they all say that is their wish, and I cannot doubt it, for there seems to be a sort of preternatural earnestness about their expressions which no one can mistake. They do not, some of them, yet exactly comprehend the future benefits of enlisting, but they have an impulse equally as great, so far as they are capable of understanding it, and that is revenge. Hoping the Relief Committee have paid the money to the families of those who are here in camp, for I know some who needed it very much, I will close.
J. H. G.
[Mercury, March 7, 1863]
Camp Meigs, Readville, March 6
Messrs. Editors: —Immediately upon our arrival here on Wednesday afternoon, we marched to the barracks, where we found a nice warm fire and a good supper in readiness for us. During the evening the men were all supplied with uniforms, and now they are looking quite like soldiers. They all seem contented, and appear in the best spirits. We have drill morning and afternoon, and the men are taking hold with a great degree of earnestness.
Col. Shaw is on the ground, doing all he can for the comfort of those now in camp. Lieut. Dexter has been appointed to the New Bedford company, but has not yet made his appearance. The men from New Bedford are the largest in camp and it is desired to fill up the company from our city, which can and ought to be done. Lieut. Grace will be in the city tomorrow and he wants to bring a squad back with him.
[Mercury, March 3, 1863]
—As the time draws near for the departure of the men Capt. Grace has recruited, for camp, and there is not a sufficient number to form a whole company, does it not behoove every colored man in this city to consider, rationally with himself, whether he cannot be one of the glorious 54th? Are the colored men here in New Bedford, who have the advantage of education, so blind to their own interest, in regard to their social development, that through fear of some double dealing, they will not now embrace probably the only opportunity that will ever be offered them to make themselves a people. There are a great many I must confess, who, Micawber-like, “are waiting for something to turn up”; but they will have to learn sooner or later, that if anything does “turn up” to their advantage, they will have to be the means of turning it up themselves; they must learn that there is more dignity in carrying a musket in defence of liberty and right than there is in shaving a man’s face, or waiting on somebody’s table. — Not that it is any degradation to perform those offices, but those who perform them are considered nothing but appendages to society; for in either case, the recipients of these favors could perform them for themselves on a “pinch.” Another class are those who argue “it won’t pay to go for a soger”; but I think there are not nine out of ten who will realize as much in a year here at home as a man will in the army in the same length of time. And again, if the colored man proves to be as good a soldier as it is confidently expected he will, there is a permanent field of employment opened to him, with all the chances of promotion in his favor. Such an event is not unlikely in this country, any more than it is in India and other colonial dependencies of England. In India the native militia is considered equal if not superior to the English soldiery in tactics and bravery, and there are natives holding the highest military positions. Our people must know that if they are ever to attain to any position in the eyes of the civilized world, they must forego comfort, home, fear, and above all, superstition, and fight for it; make up their minds to become something more than hewers of wood and drawers of water all their lives. Consider that on this continent, at least, their race and name will be totally obliterated unless they put forth some effort now to save themselves.
G. — One of the 54th