Posts Tagged   recruiting

April 18, 1863

Charles Douglass — youngest son of Frederick Douglass — joined Company F of the regiment today.
This is Gooding ’s eighth letter to the Mercury:

Mercury, April 21, 1863 [OAF]
Camp Meigs, Readville, April 18

Messrs. Editors:

—The past week has been marked by nothing extraordinary with us here, excepting a share of fine weather, which must be considered out of the “common order of things” compared with the mud and mire experienced all spring. The total number of men in camp is now 674, making an increase of 60 men for the week; but they do not come fast enough for the boys who are here. We want to get the regiment full, and show that we are men. Certainly there are some here who would be as well suited if they were away, and the majority of the men would be very glad if they were drummed out. They differ none though, in that respect, from other regiments. So long as patriotism was made a purchaseable article there were plenty of men to fill the ranks, but now, when it is not a “paying concern” nobody cares much about going. But our people must consider that their position is a very delicate one; the least false step, at a moment like the present, may tell a dismal tale at some future day. Let them consider that a chance to obtain what they have “spouted” for in “convention assembled” now presents itself by works, not by words! And let them remember that the Greeks lost their liberties by “too much talk”; thinking that talking would accomplish more than fighting; but they saw their mistake when it was too late. Let our people beware. Their fate will be worse than that of the Greeks, if they do not put forth an effort now to save themselves.

As one of the race, I beseech you not to trust to a fancied security, laying comfort to your minds, that our condition will be bettered, because slavery must die. It depends on the free black men of the North, whether it will die or not — those who are in bonds must have some one to open the door; when the slave sees the white soldier approach, he dares not trust him and why? because he has heard that some have treated him worse than their owners in rebellion. But if the slave sees a black soldier, he knows he has got a friend; and through friendship, he that was once a slave can be made a soldier, to fight for his own liberty. But allow that slavery will die without the aid of our race to kill it — language cannot depict the indignity, the scorn, and perhaps violence, that will be heaped upon us; unthought of laws will be enacted, and put in force, to banish us from the land of our birth; and European governments, who now dare not recognize the Southern Confederacy, will call the ostracism a just measure. Now is the time to act — emulate the men of Pennsylvania, who have left their homes in numbers to shame the colored men of the “Old Bay State,” the “Cradle of Liberty.” This regiment should be filled now, with what is wanted to fill it, 326 more men, from Massachusetts; and if our people will only take hold of the matter in earnest it can be done. Let the young women drive all those young loungers off to the war, and if they won’t go, say “I’m no more gal of thine.” There are a plenty of young men in Boston, New Bedford, and other smaller places in the State to fill this regiment up in a very short time. We want them to feel as though they must go, not go purposely for a bounty, but go for honor, duty and liberty.

We were beautifully sold last Wednesday. It was rumored about the Camp that Governor Andrew was to visit the Camp; so the boys all thought of course they must have everything in apple-pie order; we had the barracks all cleaned and hung with holly, and everything looked splendidly. But it turned out that some of the companies wanted to prove which was the smartest.

J. H. G.

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April 15, 1863

Eleven men joined the regiment today. [BBR]

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April 11, 1863

This is Gooding ’s seventh letter to the Mercury:

Mercury, April 13, 1863[OAF]
Camp Meigs, Readville, April 11

Messrs. Editors.

—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.

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April 5, 1863


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April 4, 1863

Picture of Sergeant Henry F. Steward

From the Massachusetts Hist. Soc. collection
Henry F. Steward enlisted today as a sergeant in Company E.
Another recruiting exhortation by Douglass, published the April issue of Douglass’ Monthly:


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.

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April 3, 1863

Gooding ’s sixth letter to the Mercury and a letter from Shaw to his father:

[Mercury, April 6, 1863][OAF]

Camp Meigs, Readville, April 3

Messrs. Editors:‚

—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.

Readville [BCF]

April 3,1863

Dear Father,

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

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April 1, 1863

The second letter from Stephens and a letter from Shaw to his mother:

Philadelphia, [VT]
April 1,1863.

Mr. Editor.

—One of the most impudent assumptions of authority and a long string of the basest misrepresentations have been perpetuated by a number of white men under the leadership of one Frishmuth, an illiterate German, on the people of the State of Pennsylvania; men who possess no record on the question of anti-slavery, and have not the shadow of a claim to the confidence and support of the colored men of this State, and are regarded by every intelligent colored man in the city as irresponsible militarily, pecuniarily, politically, and socially. Many of these men claim to have held quite recently commissions in either the regular or volunteer service of the United States, and rumor, which seems to be well founded, says that at least three of these men were cashiered or dismissed from the service. It will be remembered that just as-soon as Gov. Andrew had obtained authority from the War Department at Washington to raise colored regiments, a simultaneous response of the colored men of every State in the North was made to the call of the noble old Bay State. Every one of us felt it to be a high and holy duty to organise the first regiment of the North at once, so that the irresistible argument of a first-class regiment of Northern colored men en route for the seat of war, might overwhelm or, if possible, scatter to the four winds the prejudice against enlisting colored men in the army, and at the same time giving cheer to the hearts of good and loyal men everywhere. But no sooner did that hateful political reptile, the copperhead, discover the generous response and patriotism which this call elicited, than the insidious and guilty work of counteracting or neutralizing these pure and earnest manifestations, commenced. Every influence has been applied to dishearten us; mobbed, as at Detroit and elsewhere, and in every town and village kicked, spit upon and insulted. The wily enemy knows full well that if they can impress on the minds of the masses the notion that the whites of the North are as bitter enemies as those of the South, it would be impossible to get a regiment of Northern colored men; then they would deride Massachusetts and the colored men, as they do Gen. Jim Lane of Kansas, for failing to realize certain promises and expectations regarding the promptness of our people to enlist, and yell like madmen, “niggers won’t fight!”

I am right glad that the black brigade is rolling up so bright a record. May they continue to drive before them the buzzard foe! You meet these copperheads at every step, and when violence is not resorted to, they come [with] the friendship and counsellor dodge. They ask, “Are you going to enlist in the army?” Of course, you answer “Yes!” They continue, “Any colored gentleman who will go down South to fight, is a fool. Every one of them that the rebels catch will be hanged, or sent into the Indigo mines, or cut up into mince-meat, or quartered and pickled, or spitted, or—or— What good is it going to do the colored people to go fight and lose their lives? Better stay home and keep out of harm’s way.”

These are the arguments that the copperheads insinuate into the ears of the credulous, the ignorant, and the timid. They do not tell you that the measure of the slaveholder’s iniquity is completed; that the accumulated wrongs of two centuries are a thousand-fold more horrible than two centuries of war and massacre. They do not tell you that it were “better to die free, than live slaves”—that your wronged and outraged sisters and brethren are calling on you to take up arms and place your interests and your lives in the balance against their oppressors—that “your dead fathers speak to you from their graves,” or “Heaven, as with a voice of thunder, calls on you to arise from the dust,” and smite with an avenging hand, the obdurate, cruel, and relentless enemy and traitor, who has trampled in the dust the flag of his country and whose life and sacred honor are pledged to wage an interminable war against your race. Oh no, to tell us these truths would be to nerve our arms and fire our hearts for the noble struggle for country and liberty. Men and brethren! for the sake of honor, manhood and courage—in the name of God, of country, and of race, spit upon the base sycophants who thus dare to insult you. But these are silent influences which are at work. The open, tangible, bolder ones are now at work in Pennsylvania. She presents a wide theater for operations. Her colored population is more numerous than that of any other Northern State; and if the copperheads can neutralize this State, half of the object has been accomplished and the system has been thoroughly organized. Ever since Frederick Douglass’ address appeared in the daily journals, these men have been holding meetings and stuffing the Philadelphia papers with false accounts of their glowing successes and influence over the colored people.

A few weeks ago they caused an article to appear in the Evening Bulletin which stated that sixty thousand dollars had been promised to them by colored men in this city. At a meeting of colored men held at Philadelphia Institute on last Wednesday two weeks ago, and upon which meeting Frishmuth and his associates introduced themselves, Mr. Rob’t Jones, the secretary of the meeting, read this article and demanded who the parties were that had subscribed this money. The whole gang were confounded. Not a name could be offered and not one colored man said that he reposed any confidence in those men. They forced themselves upon us, and spoke of the inadvisability of colored men enlisting in the Massachusetts regiment; that there would be authority given to them the next day to organize a colored brigade in Pennsylvania; that President Lincoln and Gov. Curtin were only arranging the preliminaries. Frishmuth said he loved the colored man and wanted to be “de Moses ob de cullerd population”—forgetting that Moses belonged to the race which he led out of the house of Egyptian bondage. There were many colored ladies present at the meeting, yet one of those unprincipled men used the most profane and disgusting language. They belong to that ignorant class of white men who, knowing nothing of the sentiments and intelligence of colored men, labor under the hallucination that they can lead where they will we should go, and that if a white man should say to us, “You are a good nigger,” we will be immediately overwhelmed with gratitude for the gracious condescension.

They have printed circulars scattered among the colored people in Philadelphia and adjoining counties, calling on them to join the 1st Colored Penn. Brigade. They hold “officers’ meetings” and report their proceedings to the daily papers. They told a friend this morning that they had not yet received authority to enlist colored men. Of course not. By what authority do they thus call upon the men of color of Pennsylvania to take up arms and thus mislead them and deceive the public? By these misrepresentations all through the State, the efforts of our people, in a military point of view, have been neutralized. Even so far west as Pittsburgh, the copperhead bait has been successful. Even Geo. B. Vashon has been gulled into participating in a war meeting in Pittsburgh, in response to what they were led to believe by the Philadelphia press, was a genuine call of Pennsylvania. We shall tear the curtain away, and expose to the people these gross frauds, and base attempts to deceive and mislead them. Many men were disposed to regard these men favorably, but all sympathy was lost when they placed themselves in opposition to Massachusetts, the cradle in which the sickly puling infancy of American liberty was nursed; who has made colored men equal before her laws; who has been the protectress and benefactress of the race; who in the darkest hour of adversity, when every other State seemed bound, hand and foot, at the feet of slavery, proclaimed the right of petition against slavery; whose representatives have been insulted, abused, and their persons violated, in the halls of Congress for thundering against the citadel of Human Wrong the burnished shafts of truth and eloquence, and for her unswerving devotion to liberty, the rebel sympathizing democracy, conscious of the irresistibility of truth and justice, and that this noble old State will never furl her banner of right while a single vestige of human wrong shall disgrace the country, are now striving to reconstruct the Union, leaving her and her sister States of New England out in the cold. Now, these men can see no potency in these claims of Massachusetts. When these facts are presented to them, they claim that we should have “State pride.” I would to God that they could have heard Isaiah C. Wears’ and Prof. Green’s scathing rebukes to even the presumption of State pride for Pennsylvania in the breasts of colored men—a State which, instead of restoring our stolen rights, stripped us of the elective franchise, and even within the last two weeks, passed in one branch of the legislature a law excluding colored men from the State. There is no meaner State in the Union than this. She has treated the families of her soldiers worse than any other State, and with her confirmed negrophobia could we expect the treatment of dogs at her hands? But in spite of all this, if such men as J. Miller McKim, Judge Kelley, or Col. Wm. F. Small should obtain authority to raise a regiment or brigade in Pennsylvania, I would give my heart and hand to it; but knowing, as I do, that no other colored regiment will be raised in the North until the Massachusetts one is placed in the field, I say, let every man lend his influence to Massachusetts. If, by any means, the 54th should fail, it will be a blow from which we Northern men would never recover. We would be ranked with the most depraved and cowardly of men. Our enemies, infuriated as they are beyond measure, would hunt us down like so many wild beasts, while our friends, shamed and humiliated by our criminal cowardice and imbecility, would be compelled to become passive witnesses of their unbridled violence.

Look at our brethren in the South! Those who have endured all of the horrors of the Southern prison-house, defying the menaces of the besotted tyranny, taking up arms to achieve with their valor those rights which Providence has designed that all men should enjoy. Has freedom stultified our sterner aspirations, and made us forget our duty? Has the Copperhead obtained an influence over us? If we thought that of what little freedom, we of the North enjoy, has had a tendency to nourish a disregard for our own and the rights of our fellow men, it were better that the mob-fiend drive us from off the face of the earth, to give place to those noble freedmen who are now bravely and victoriously fighting the battles of their country and liberty. We have more to gain, if victorious, or more to lose, if defeated, than any other class of men. Not abstract political rights, or religious and civil liberty, but with all these our personal liberties are to he secured. Many of us are insensible to the stern realities of the present hour, but they are here thundering at our very doors, and the sooner we awaken to their inexorable demands upon us, the better for the race, the better for the country, the better for our families, and the better for ourselves.

G. E. Stephens.

Readville [BCF]

April 1, 1863

Dear Mother,

I received your letter last evening, and you must excuse me for saying, I didn’t think your arguments very powerful. If I thought that being married were going to make me neglect my duty, I should think it much better never to have been engaged. As for Annie’s going out with me, I don’t think such a thing would ever enter my head. It is the last thing I should desire, as I have seen the evil consequences of it very often. The chances of my coming home in six months are very small; for, if we are put on the service we expect, we shall get into the interior before long. Indeed, one reason for my wishing to be married is, that we are going to undertake a very dangerous piece of work, and I feel that there are more chances than ever of my not getting back.

I know I should go away more happy and contented if we were married. I showed Annie your letter, and she wants to show it to Aunt Anna; to which I suppose you have no objection.

We have had another snow-storm, which makes drilling very uncomfortable, as there is little room in the barracks. Tell Father that Dr. Stone has gone to Buffalo to examine a hundred men there, so that his man Jackson cannot be put through immediately. As soon as he is, I will let him know.

Your loving Son

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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

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March 27, 1863

A letter from Shaw to his mother:

Readville [BCF]
March 27,1863

Dear Mother,

Annie and I got to Boston last evening. Will you please tell me exactly what you think of our being married before I go away? I want to have your opinion about it, and Father’s too. Please ask him to write me what he thinks of it; and make a point of it yourself, will you?

We received thirty men yesterday and to-day. The snow has almost disappeared, and the camp is fast getting dry. I am sorry I wrote you what I did about punishments in my regiment, and it may have seemed to you more important than it really is; what made me speak of it was a letter from the Surgeon-General of the State, asking what punishments were inflicted, and I thought some one had been complaining; but I can’t find that such is the fact, though.

Your loving Son

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March 24, 1863

This is Gooding’s fourth letter to the New Bedford Mercury:

[Mercury, March 24, 1863][OAF]
Camp Meigs, Readville, March 21
Messrs. Editors:–

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.

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