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Title: Army Life in a Black Regiment
Author: Higginson, Thomas Wentworth, 1823-1911
Language: English
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Thomas Wentworth Higginson


Originally published 1869

Reprinted, 1900, by Riverside Press


CHAPTER 1 Introductory

CHAPTER 2 Camp Diary

CHAPTER 3 Up the St. Mary's

CHAPTER 4 Up the St. John's

CHAPTER 5 Out on Picket

CHAPTER 6 A Night in the Water

CHAPTER 7 Up the Edisto

CHAPTER 8 The Baby of the Regiment

CHAPTER 9 Negro Spirituals

CHAPTER 10 Life at Camp Shaw

CHAPTER 11 Florida Again?

CHAPTER 12 The Negro as a Soldier

CHAPTER 13 Conclusion


     A. Roster of Officers
     B. The First Black Soldiers
     C. General Saxton's Instructions
     D. The Struggle for Pay
     E. Farewell Address


Chapter 1. Introductory

These pages record some of the adventures of the First South Carolina
Volunteers, the first slave regiment mustered into the service of the
United States during the late civil war. It was, indeed, the first
colored regiment of any kind so mustered, except a portion of the troops
raised by Major-General Butler at New Orleans. These scarcely belonged
to the same class, however, being recruited from the free colored
population of that city, a comparatively self-reliant and educated race.
"The darkest of them," said General Butler, "were about the complexion
of the late Mr. Webster."

The First South Carolina, on the other hand, contained scarcely a
freeman, had not one mulatto in ten, and a far smaller proportion who
could read or write when enlisted. The only contemporary regiment of a
similar character was the "First Kansas Colored," which began recruiting
a little earlier, though it was not mustered in the usual basis of
military seniority till later. [_See Appendix_] These were the only
colored regiments recruited during the year 1862. The Second South
Carolina and the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts followed early in 1863.

This is the way in which I came to the command of this regiment. One
day in November, 1862, I was sitting at dinner with my lieutenants,
John Goodell and Luther Bigelow, in the barracks of the Fifty-First
Massachusetts, Colonel Sprague, when the following letter was put into
my hands:

BEAUFORT, S. C., November 5, 1862.


I am organizing the First Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers, with
every prospect of success. Your name has been spoken of, in connection
with the command of this regiment, by some friends in whose judgment I
have confidence. I take great pleasure in offering you the position of
Colonel in it, and hope that you may be induced to accept. I shall not
fill the place until I hear from you, or sufficient time shall have
passed for me to receive your reply. Should you accept, I enclose a
pass for Port Royal, of which I trust you will feel disposed to avail
yourself at once. I am, with sincere regard, yours truly,

R. SAXTON, _Brig.-Genl, Mil. Gov._

Had an invitation reached me to take command of a regiment of Kalmuck
Tartars, it could hardly have been more unexpected. I had always
looked for the arming of the blacks, and had always felt a wish to be
associated with them; had read the scanty accounts of General Hunter's
abortive regiment, and had heard rumors of General Saxton's renewed
efforts. But the prevalent tone of public sentiment was still opposed to
any such attempts; the government kept very shy of the experiment, and
it did not seem possible that the time had come when it could be fairly

For myself, I was at the head of a fine company of my own raising, and
in a regiment to which I was already much attached. It did not seem
desirable to exchange a certainty for an uncertainty; for who knew but
General Saxton might yet be thwarted in his efforts by the pro-slavery
influence that had still so much weight at head-quarters? It would be
intolerable to go out to South Carolina, and find myself, after all, at
the head of a mere plantation-guard or a day-school in uniform.

I therefore obtained from the War Department, through Governor Andrew,
permission to go and report to General Saxton, without at once resigning
my captaincy. Fortunately it took but a few days in South Carolina to
make it clear that all was right, and the return steamer took back a
resignation of a Massachusetts commission. Thenceforth my lot was cast
altogether with the black troops, except when regiments or detachments
of white soldiers were also under my command, during the two years

These details would not be worth mentioning except as they show this
fact: that I did not seek the command of colored troops, but it sought
me. And this fact again is only important to my story for this reason,
that under these circumstances I naturally viewed the new recruits
rather as subjects for discipline than for philanthropy. I had been
expecting a war for six years, ever since the Kansas troubles, and my
mind had dwelt on military matters more or less during all that time.
The best Massachusetts regiments already exhibited a high standard of
drill and discipline, and unless these men could be brought tolerably
near that standard, the fact of their extreme blackness would afford me,
even as a philanthropist, no satisfaction. Fortunately, I felt perfect
confidence that they could be so trained, having happily known, by
experience, the qualities of their race, and knowing also that they had
home and household and freedom to fight for, besides that abstraction
of "the Union." Trouble might perhaps be expected from white officials,
though this turned out far less than might have been feared; but there
was no trouble to come from the men, I thought, and none ever came. On
the other hand, it was a vast experiment of indirect philanthropy, and
one on which the result of the war and the destiny of the negro race
might rest; and this was enough to tax all one's powers. I had been an
abolitionist too long, and had known and loved John Brown too well, not
to feel a thrill of joy at last on finding myself in the position where
he only wished to be.

In view of all this, it was clear that good discipline must come first;
after that, of course, the men must be helped and elevated in all ways
as much as possible.

Of discipline there was great need, that is, of order and regular
instruction. Some of the men had already been under fire, but they were
very ignorant of drill and camp duty. The officers, being appointed from
a dozen different States, and more than as many regiments, infantry,
cavalry, artillery, and engineers, had all that diversity of methods
which so confused our army in those early days. The first need,
therefore, was of an unbroken interval of training. During this period,
which fortunately lasted nearly two months, I rarely left the camp, and
got occasional leisure moments for a fragmentary journal, to send home,
recording the many odd or novel aspects of the new experience. Camp-life
was a wonderfully strange sensation to almost all volunteer officers,
and mine lay among eight hundred men suddenly transformed from slaves
into soldiers, and representing a race affectionate, enthusiastic,
grotesque, and dramatic beyond all others. Being such, they naturally
gave material for description. There is nothing like a diary for
freshness, at least so I think, and I shall keep to the diary through
the days of camp-life, and throw the later experience into another form.
Indeed, that matter takes care of itself; diaries and letter-writing
stop when field-service begins.

I am under pretty heavy bonds to tell the truth, and only the truth; for
those who look back to the newspaper correspondence of that period
will see that this particular regiment lived for months in a glare of
publicity, such as tests any regiment severely, and certainly prevents
all subsequent romancing in its historian. As the scene of the only
effort on the Atlantic coast to arm the negro, our camp attracted a
continuous stream of visitors, military and civil. A battalion of black
soldiers, a spectacle since so common, seemed then the most daring of
innovations, and the whole demeanor of this particular regiment was
watched with microscopic scrutiny by friends and foes. I felt sometimes
as if we were a plant trying to take root, but constantly pulled up to
see if we were growing. The slightest camp incidents sometimes came
back to us, magnified and distorted, in letters of anxious inquiry from
remote parts of the Union. It was no pleasant thing to live under such
constant surveillance; but it guaranteed the honesty of any success,
while fearfully multiplying the penalties had there been a failure.
A single mutiny, such as has happened in the infancy of a hundred
regiments, a single miniature Bull Run, a stampede of desertions, and it
would have been all over with us; the party of distrust would have got
the upper hand, and there might not have been, during the whole contest,
another effort to arm the negro.

I may now proceed, without farther preparation to the Diary.

Chapter 2. Camp Diary

CAMP SAXTON, near Beaufort, S. C., November 24, 1862.

Yesterday afternoon we were steaming over a summer sea, the deck level
as a parlor-floor, no land in sight, no sail, until at last appeared one
light-house, said to be Cape Romaine, and then a line of trees and
two distant vessels and nothing more. The sun set, a great illuminated
bubble, submerged in one vast bank of rosy suffusion; it grew dark;
after tea all were on deck, the people sang hymns; then the moon set,
a moon two days old, a curved pencil of light, reclining backwards on a
radiant couch which seemed to rise from the waves to receive it; it sank
slowly, and the last tip wavered and went down like the mast of a vessel
of the skies. Towards morning the boat stopped, and when I came on deck,
before six,

  "The watch-lights glittered on the land,
  The ship-lights on the sea."

Hilton Head lay on one side, the gunboats on the other; all that was raw
and bare in the low buildings of the new settlement was softened into
picturesqueness by the early light. Stars were still overhead, gulls
wheeled and shrieked, and the broad river rippled duskily towards

The shores were low and wooded, like any New England shore; there were a
few gunboats, twenty schooners, and some steamers, among them the famous
"Planter," which Robert Small, the slave, presented to the nation. The
river-banks were soft and graceful, though low, and as we steamed up to
Beaufort on the flood-tide this morning, it seemed almost as fair as
the smooth and lovely canals which Stedman traversed to meet his negro
soldiers in Surinam. The air was cool as at home, yet the foliage seemed
green, glimpses of stiff tropical vegetation appeared along the banks,
with great clumps of shrubs, whose pale seed-vessels looked like tardy
blossoms. Then we saw on a picturesque point an old plantation, with
stately magnolia avenue, decaying house, and tiny church amid the woods,
reminding me of Virginia; behind it stood a neat encampment of white
tents, "and there," said my companion, "is your future regiment."

Three miles farther brought us to the pretty town of Beaufort, with its
stately houses amid Southern foliage. Reporting to General Saxton, I had
the luck to encounter a company of my destined command, marched in to
be mustered into the United States service. They were unarmed, and all
looked as thoroughly black as the most faithful philanthropist could
desire; there did not seem to be so much as a mulatto among them.
Their coloring suited me, all but the legs, which were clad in a lively
scarlet, as intolerable to my eyes as if I had been a turkey. I saw them
mustered; General Saxton talked to them a little, in his direct, manly
way; they gave close attention, though their faces looked impenetrable.
Then I conversed with some of them. The first to whom I spoke had been
wounded in a small expedition after lumber, from which a party had just
returned, and in which they had been under fire and had done very well.
I said, pointing to his lame arm,

"Did you think that was more than you bargained for, my man?"

His answer came promptly and stoutly,

"I been a-tinking, Mas'r, dot's jess what I went for."

I thought this did well enough for my very first interchange of dialogue
with my recruits.

November 27, 1862.

Thanksgiving-Day; it is the first moment I have had for writing during
these three days, which have installed me into a new mode of life so
thoroughly that they seem three years. Scarcely pausing in New York or
in Beaufort, there seems to have been for me but one step from the
camp of a Massachusetts regiment to this, and that step over leagues of

It is a holiday wherever General Saxton's proclamation reaches. The
chilly sunshine and the pale blue river seems like New England, but
those alone. The air is full of noisy drumming, and of gunshots; for the
prize-shooting is our great celebration of the day, and the drumming is
chronic. My young barbarians are all at play. I look out from the broken
windows of this forlorn plantation-house, through avenues of great
live-oaks, with their hard, shining leaves, and their branches hung with
a universal drapery of soft, long moss, like fringe-trees struck with
grayness. Below, the sandy soil, scantly covered with coarse grass,
bristles with sharp palmettoes and aloes; all the vegetation is stiff,
shining, semi-tropical, with nothing soft or delicate in its texture.
Numerous plantation-buildings totter around, all slovenly and
unattractive, while the interspaces are filled with all manner of wreck
and refuse, pigs, fowls, dogs, and omnipresent Ethiopian infancy. All
this is the universal Southern panorama; but five minutes' walk beyond
the hovels and the live-oaks will bring one to something so un-Southern
that the whole Southern coast at this moment trembles at the suggestion
of such a thing, the camp of a regiment of freed slaves.

One adapts one's self so readily to new surroundings that already the
full zest of the novelty seems passing away from my perceptions, and I
write these lines in an eager effort to retain all I can. Already I am
growing used to the experience, at first so novel, of living among
five hundred men, and scarce a white face to be seen, of seeing them go
through all their daily processes, eating, frolicking, talking, just as
if they were white. Each day at dress-parade I stand with the customary
folding of the arms before a regimental line of countenances so black
that I can hardly tell whether the men stand steadily or not; black is
every hand which moves in ready cadence as I vociferate, "Battalion!
Shoulder arms!" nor is it till the line of white officers moves forward,
as parade is dismissed, that I am reminded that my own face is not the
color of coal.

The first few days on duty with a new regiment must be devoted almost
wholly to tightening reins; in this process one deals chiefly with the
officers, and I have as yet had but little personal intercourse with the
men. They concern me chiefly in bulk, as so many consumers of rations,
wearers of uniforms, bearers of muskets. But as the machine comes into
shape, I am beginning to decipher the individual parts. At first, of
course, they all looked just alike; the variety comes afterwards, and
they are just as distinguishable, the officers say, as so many whites.
Most of them are wholly raw, but there are many who have already been
for months in camp in the abortive "Hunter Regiment," yet in that
loose kind of way which, like average militia training, is a doubtful
advantage. I notice that some companies, too, look darker than others,
though all are purer African than I expected. This is said to be partly
a geographical difference between the South Carolina and Florida men.
When the Rebels evacuated this region they probably took with them the
house-servants, including most of the mixed blood, so that the residuum
seems very black. But the men brought from Fernandina the other day
average lighter in complexion, and look more intelligent, and they
certainly take wonderfully to the drill.

It needs but a few days to show the absurdity of distrusting the
military availability of these people. They have quite as much average
comprehension as whites of the need of the thing, as much courage (I
doubt not), as much previous knowledge of the gun, and, above all,
a readiness of ear and of imitation, which, for purposes of drill,
counterbalances any defect of mental training. To learn the drill, one
does not want a set of college professors; one wants a squad of eager,
active, pliant school-boys; and the more childlike these pupils are the
better. There is no trouble about the drill; they will surpass whites
in that. As to camp-life, they have little to sacrifice; they are better
fed, housed, and clothed than ever in their lives before, and they
appear to have few inconvenient vices. They are simple, docile, and
affectionate almost to the point of absurdity. The same men who stood
fire in open field with perfect coolness, on the late expedition, have
come to me blubbering in the most irresistibly ludicrous manner on being
transferred from one company in the regiment to another.

In noticing the squad-drills I perceive that the men learn less
laboriously than whites that "double, double, toil and trouble," which
is the elementary vexation of the drill-master, that they more rarely
mistake their left for their right, and are more grave and sedate while
under instruction. The extremes of jollity and sobriety, being greater
with them, are less liable to be intermingled; these companies can
be driven with a looser rein than my former one, for they restrain
themselves; but the moment they are dismissed from drill every tongue
is relaxed and every ivory tooth visible. This morning I wandered about
where the different companies were target-shooting, and their glee was
contagious. Such exulting shouts of "Ki! ole man," when some steady
old turkey-shooter brought his gun down for an instant's aim, and then
unerringly hit the mark; and then, when some unwary youth fired his
piece into the ground at half-cock such guffawing and delight, such
rolling over and over on the grass, such dances of ecstasy, as made the
"Ethiopian minstrelsy" of the stage appear a feeble imitation.

Evening. Better still was a scene on which I stumbled to-night.
Strolling in the cool moonlight, I was attracted by a brilliant light
beneath the trees, and cautiously approached it. A circle of thirty or
forty soldiers sat around a roaring fire, while one old uncle, Cato by
name, was narrating an interminable tale, to the insatiable delight of
his audience. I came up into the dusky background, perceived only by a
few, and he still continued. It was a narrative, dramatized to the
last degree, of his adventures in escaping from his master to the Union
vessels; and even I, who have heard the stories of Harriet Tubman, and
such wonderful slave-comedians, never witnessed such a piece of
acting. When I came upon the scene he had just come unexpectedly upon a
plantation-house, and, putting a bold face upon it, had walked up to the

"Den I go up to de white man, berry humble, and say, would he please gib
ole man a mouthful for eat?

"He say he must hab de valeration ob half a dollar.

"Den I look berry sorry, and turn for go away.

"Den he say I might gib him dat hatchet I had.

"Den I say" (this in a tragic vein) "dat I must hab dat hatchet for
defend myself _from de dogs_!"

[Immense applause, and one appreciating auditor says, chuckling, "Dat
was your _arms_, ole man," which brings down the house again.]

"Den he say de Yankee pickets was near by, and I must be very keerful.

"Den I say, 'Good Lord, Mas'r, am dey?'"

Words cannot express the complete dissimulation with which these accents
of terror were uttered, this being precisely the piece of information he
wished to obtain.

Then he narrated his devices to get into the house at night and obtain
some food, how a dog flew at him, how the whole household, black and
white, rose in pursuit, how he scrambled under a hedge and over a high
fence, etc., all in a style of which Gough alone among orators can give
the faintest impression, so thoroughly dramatized was every syllable.

Then he described his reaching the river-side at last, and trying to
decide whether certain vessels held friends or foes.

"Den I see guns on board, and sure sartin he Union boat, and I pop my
head up. Den I been-a-tink [think] Seceshkey hab guns too, and my head
go down again. Den I hide in de bush till morning. Den I open my bundle,
and take ole white shut and tie him on ole pole and wave him, and
ebry time de wind blow, I been-a-tremble, and drap down in de bushes,"
because, being between two fires, he doubted whether friend or foe would
see his signal first. And so on, with a succession of tricks beyond
Moliere, of acts of caution, foresight, patient cunning, which were
listened to with infinite gusto and perfect comprehension by every

And all this to a bivouac of negro soldiers, with the brilliant fire
lighting up their red trousers and gleaming from their shining black
faces, eyes and teeth all white with tumultuous glee. Overhead, the
mighty limbs of a great live-oak, with the weird moss swaying in the
smoke, and the high moon gleaming faintly through.

Yet to-morrow strangers will remark on the hopeless, impenetrable
stupidity in the daylight faces of many of these very men, the solid
mask under which Nature has concealed all this wealth of mother-wit.
This very comedian is one to whom one might point, as he hoed lazily
in a cotton-field, as a being the light of whose brain had utterly gone
out; and this scene seems like coming by night upon some conclave
of black beetles, and finding them engaged, with green-room and
foot-lights, in enacting "Poor Pillicoddy." This is their university;
every young Sambo before me, as he turned over the sweet potatoes and
peanuts which were roasting in the ashes, listened with reverence to
the wiles of the ancient Ulysses, and meditated the same. It is Nature's
compensation; oppression simply crushes the upper faculties of the head,
and crowds everything into the perceptive organs. Cato, thou reasonest
well! When I get into any serious scrape, in an enemy's country, may I
be lucky enough to have you at my elbow, to pull me out of it!

The men seem to have enjoyed the novel event of Thanksgiving-Day; they
have had company and regimental prize-shootings, a minimum of speeches
and a maximum of dinner. Bill of fare: two beef-cattle and a thousand
oranges. The oranges cost a cent apiece, and the cattle were Secesh,
bestowed by General Saxby, as they all call him.

December 1, 1862.

How absurd is the impression bequeathed by Slavery in regard to these
Southern blacks, that they are sluggish and inefficient in labor! Last
night, after a hard day's work (our guns and the remainder of our tents
being just issued), an order came from Beaufort that we should be ready
in the evening to unload a steamboat's cargo of boards, being some of
those captured by them a few weeks since, and now assigned for their
use. I wondered if the men would grumble at the night-work; but the
steamboat arrived by seven, and it was bright moonlight when they went
at it. Never have I beheld such a jolly scene of labor. Tugging these
wet and heavy boards over a bridge of boats ashore, then across the
slimy beach at low tide, then up a steep bank, and all in one great
uproar of merriment for two hours. Running most of the time, chattering
all the time, snatching the boards from each other's backs as if they
were some coveted treasure, getting up eager rivalries between different
companies, pouring great choruses of ridicule on the heads of all
shirkers, they made the whole scene so enlivening that I gladly stayed
out in the moonlight for the whole time to watch it. And all this
without any urging or any promised reward, but simply as the most
natural way of doing the thing. The steamboat captain declared that they
unloaded the ten thousand feet of boards quicker than any white gang
could have done it; and they felt it so little, that, when, later in the
night, I reproached one whom I found sitting by a campfire, cooking a
surreptitious opossum, telling him that he ought to be asleep after such
a job of work, he answered, with the broadest grin, "O no, Gunnel, da's
no work at all, Gunnel; dat only jess enough for stretch we."

December 2, 1862.

I believe I have not yet enumerated the probable drawbacks to the
success of this regiment, if any. We are exposed to no direct annoyance
from the white regiments, being out of their way; and we have as yet no
discomforts or privations which we do not share with them. I do not as
yet see the slightest obstacle, in the nature of the blacks, to making
them good soldiers, but rather the contrary. They take readily to
drill, and do not object to discipline; they are not especially dull
or inattentive; they seem fully to understand the importance of the
contest, and of their share in it. They show no jealousy or suspicion
towards their officers.

They do show these feelings, however, towards the Government itself; and
no one can wonder. Here lies the drawback to rapid recruiting. Were
this a wholly new regiment, it would have been full to overflowing, I
am satisfied, ere now. The trouble is in the legacy of bitter distrust
bequeathed by the abortive regiment of General Hunter, into which they
were driven like cattle, kept for several months in camp, and then
turned off without a shilling, by order of the War Department. The
formation of that regiment was, on the whole, a great injury to this
one; and the men who came from it, though the best soldiers we have in
other respects, are the least sanguine and cheerful; while those who
now refuse to enlist have a great influence in deterring others. Our
soldiers are constantly twitted by their families and friends with their
prospect of risking their lives in the service, and being paid nothing;
and it is in vain that we read them the instructions of the Secretary
of War to General Saxton, promising them the full pay of soldiers. They
only half believe it.*

*With what utter humiliation were we, their officers, obliged to confess
to them, eighteen months afterwards, that it was their distrust which
was wise, and our faith in the pledges of the United States Government
which was foolishness!

Another drawback is that some of the white soldiers delight in
frightening the women on the plantations with doleful tales of plans for
putting us in the front rank in all battles, and such silly talk,--the
object being perhaps, to prevent our being employed on active service
at all. All these considerations they feel precisely as white men
would,--no less, no more; and it is the comparative freedom from such
unfavorable influences which makes the Florida men seem more bold and
manly, as they undoubtedly do. To-day General Saxton has returned from
Fernandina with seventy-six recruits, and the eagerness of the captains
to secure them was a sight to see. Yet they cannot deny that some of the
very best men in the regiment are South Carolinians.

December 3, 1862.--7 P.M.

What a life is this I lead! It is a dark, mild, drizzling evening, and
as the foggy air breeds sand-flies, so it calls out melodies and strange
antics from this mysterious race of grown-up children with whom my lot
is cast. All over the camp the lights glimmer in the tents, and as I sit
at my desk in the open doorway, there come mingled sounds of stir and
glee. Boys laugh and shout,--a feeble flute stirs somewhere in some
tent, not an officer's,--a drum throbs far away in another,--wild
kildeer-plover flit and wail above us, like the haunting souls of dead
slave-masters,--and from a neighboring cook-fire comes the monotonous
sound of that strange festival, half pow-wow, half prayer-meeting,
which they know only as a "shout." These fires are usually enclosed in
a little booth, made neatly of palm-leaves and covered in at top, a
regular native African hut, in short, such as is pictured in books, and
such as I once got up from dried palm-leaves for a fair at home. This
hut is now crammed with men, singing at the top of their voices, in
one of their quaint, monotonous, endless, negro-Methodist chants,
with obscure syllables recurring constantly, and slight variations
interwoven, all accompanied with a regular drumming of the feet and
clapping of the hands, like castanets. Then the excitement spreads:
inside and outside the enclosure men begin to quiver and dance, others
join, a circle forms, winding monotonously round some one in the centre;
some "heel and toe" tumultuously, others merely tremble and stagger on,
others stoop and rise, others whirl, others caper sideways, all keep
steadily circling like dervishes; spectators applaud special strokes of
skill; my approach only enlivens the scene; the circle enlarges,
louder grows the singing, rousing shouts of encouragement come in,
half bacchanalian, half devout, "Wake 'em, brudder!" "Stan' up to 'em,
brudder!"--and still the ceaseless drumming and clapping, in perfect
cadence, goes steadily on. Suddenly there comes a sort of snap, and the
spell breaks, amid general sighing and laughter. And this not rarely and
occasionally, but night after night, while in other parts of the camp
the soberest prayers and exhortations are proceeding sedately.

A simple and lovable people, whose graces seem to come by nature, and
whose vices by training. Some of the best superintendents confirm the
first tales of innocence, and Dr. Zachos told me last night that on his
plantation, a sequestered one, "they had absolutely no vices." Nor have
these men of mine yet shown any worth mentioning; since I took command
I have heard of no man intoxicated, and there has been but one small
quarrel. I suppose that scarcely a white regiment in the army shows
so little swearing. Take the "Progressive Friends" and put them in red
trousers, and I verily believe they would fill a guard-house sooner
than these men. If camp regulations are violated, it seems to be usually
through heedlessness. They love passionately three things besides their
spiritual incantations; namely, sugar, home, and tobacco. This last
affection brings tears to their eyes, almost, when they speak of their
urgent need of pay; they speak of their last-remembered quid as if it
were some deceased relative, too early lost, and to be mourned forever.
As for sugar, no white man can drink coffee after they have sweetened it
to their liking.

I see that the pride which military life creates may cause the
plantation trickeries to diminish. For instance, these men make the most
admirable sentinels. It is far harder to pass the camp lines at night
than in the camp from which I came; and I have seen none of that
disposition to connive at the offences of members of one's own company
which is so troublesome among white soldiers. Nor are they lazy, either
about work or drill; in all respects they seem better material for
soldiers than I had dared to hope.

There is one company in particular, all Florida men, which I certainly
think the finest-looking company I ever saw, white or black; they range
admirably in size, have remarkable erectness and ease of carriage, and
really march splendidly. Not a visitor but notices them; yet they have
been under drill only a fortnight, and a part only two days. They have
all been slaves, and very few are even mulattoes.

December 4, 1862.

"Dwelling in tents, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." This condition
is certainly mine,--and with a multitude of patriarchs beside, not to
mention Caesar and Pompey, Hercules and Bacchus.

A moving life, tented at night, this experience has been mine in civil
society, if society be civil before the luxurious forest fires of
Maine and the Adirondack, or upon the lonely prairies of Kansas. But a
stationary tent life, deliberately going to housekeeping under canvas, I
have never had before, though in our barrack life at "Camp Wool" I often
wished for it.

The accommodations here are about as liberal as my quarters there,
two wall-tents being placed end to end, for office and bedroom, and
separated at will by a "fly" of canvas. There is a good board floor and
mop-board, effectually excluding dampness and draughts, and everything
but sand, which on windy days penetrates everywhere. The office
furniture consists of a good desk or secretary, a very clumsy and
disastrous settee, and a remarkable chair. The desk is a bequest of the
slaveholders, and the settee of the slaves, being ecclesiastical in its
origin, and appertaining to the little old church or "praise-house,"
now used for commissary purposes. The chair is a composite structure: I
found a cane seat on a dust-heap, which a black sergeant combined with
two legs from a broken bedstead and two more from an oak-bough. I sit
on it with a pride of conscious invention, mitigated by profound
insecurity. Bedroom furniture, a couch made of gun-boxes covered with
condemned blankets, another settee, two pails, a tin cup, tin basin
(we prize any tin or wooden ware as savages prize iron), and a valise,
regulation size. Seriously considered, nothing more appears needful,
unless ambition might crave another chair for company, and, perhaps,
something for a wash-stand higher than a settee.

To-day it rains hard, and the wind quivers through the closed canvas,
and makes one feel at sea. All the talk of the camp outside is fused
into a cheerful and indistinguishable murmur, pierced through at every
moment by the wail of the hovering plover. Sometimes a face, black or
white, peers through the entrance with some message. Since the light
readily penetrates, though the rain cannot, the tent conveys a feeling
of charmed security, as if an invisible boundary checked the pattering
drops and held the moaning wind. The front tent I share, as yet, with my
adjutant; in the inner apartment I reign supreme, bounded in a nutshell,
with no bad dreams.

In all pleasant weather the outer "fly" is open, and men pass and
repass, a chattering throng. I think of Emerson's Saadi, "As thou
sittest at thy door, on the desert's yellow floor,"--for these bare
sand-plains, gray above, are always yellow when upturned, and there
seems a tinge of Orientalism in all our life.

Thrice a day we go to the plantation-houses for our meals,
camp-arrangements being yet very imperfect. The officers board in
different messes, the adjutant and I still clinging to the household of
William Washington,--William the quiet and the courteous, the pattern
of house-servants, William the noiseless, the observing, the
discriminating, who knows everything that can be got, and how to cook
it. William and his tidy, lady-like little spouse Hetty--a pair of
wedded lovers, if ever I saw one--set our table in their one room,
half-way between an un glazed window and a large wood-fire, such as is
often welcome. Thanks to the adjutant, we are provided with the social
magnificence of napkins; while (lest pride take too high a flight)
our table-cloth consists of two "New York Tribunes" and a "Leslie's
Pictorial." Every steamer brings us a clean table-cloth. Here are we
forever supplied with pork and oysters and sweet potatoes and rice and
hominy and corn-bread and milk; also mysterious griddle-cakes of corn
and pumpkin; also preserves made of pumpkin-chips, and other
fanciful productions of Ethiop art. Mr. E. promised the
plantation-superintendents who should come down here "all the luxuries
of home," and we certainly have much apparent, if little real variety.
Once William produced with some palpitation something fricasseed,
which he boldly termed chicken; it was very small, and seemed in some
undeveloped condition of ante-natal toughness. After the meal he frankly
avowed it for a squirrel.

December 5, 1862.

Give these people their tongues, their feet, and their leisure, and they
are happy. At every twilight the air is full of singing, talking, and
clapping of hands in unison. One of their favorite songs is full of
plaintive cadences; it is not, I think, a Methodist tune, and I wonder
where they obtained a chant of such beauty.

 "I can't stay behind, my Lord, I can't stay behind!
  O, my father is gone, my father is gone,
  My father is gone into heaven, my Lord!
    I can't stay behind!
  Dere's room enough, room enough,
  Room enough in de heaven for de sojer:
    Can't stay behind!"

It always excites them to have us looking on, yet they sing these songs
at all times and seasons. I have heard this very song dimly droning on
near midnight, and, tracing it into the recesses of a cook-house, have
found an old fellow coiled away among the pots and provisions, chanting
away with his "Can't stay behind, sinner," till I made him leave his
song behind.

This evening, after working themselves up to the highest pitch, a party
suddenly rushed off, got a barrel, and mounted some man upon it, who
said, "Gib anoder song, boys, and I'se gib you a speech." After some
hesitation and sundry shouts of "Rise de sing, somebody," and "Stan'
up for Jesus, brud-der," irreverently put in by the juveniles, they got
upon the John Brown song, always a favorite, adding a jubilant verse
which I had never before heard,--"We'll beat Beauregard on de clare
battlefield." Then came the promised speech, and then no less than seven
other speeches by as many men, on a variety of barrels, each orator
being affectionately tugged to the pedestal and set on end by his
special constituency. Every speech was good, without exception; with the
queerest oddities of phrase and pronunciation, there was an invariable
enthusiasm, a pungency of statement, and an understanding of the points
at issue, which made them all rather thrilling. Those long-winded
slaves in "Among the Pines" seemed rather fictitious and literary in
comparison. The most eloquent, perhaps, was Corporal Price Lambkin, just
arrived from Fernandina, who evidently had a previous reputation among
them. His historical references were very interesting. He reminded them
that he had predicted this war ever since Fremont's time, to which
some of the crowd assented; he gave a very intelligent account of that
Presidential campaign, and then described most impressively the secret
anxiety of the slaves in Florida to know all about President Lincoln's
election, and told how they all refused to work on the fourth of March,
expecting their freedom to date from that day. He finally brought out
one of the few really impressive appeals for the American flag that I
have ever heard. "Our mas'rs dey hab lib under de flag, dey got dere
wealth under it, and ebryting beautiful for dere chilen. Under it dey
hab grind us up, and put us in dere pocket for money. But de fus' minute
dey tink dat ole flag mean freedom for we colored people, dey pull it
right down, and run up de rag ob dere own." (Immense applause). "But
we'll neber desert de ole flag, boys, neber; we hab lib under it for
eighteen hundred sixty-two years, and we'll die for it now." With which
overpowering discharge of chronology-at-long-range, this most effective
of stump-speeches closed. I see already with relief that there will be
small demand in this regiment for harangues from the officers; give the
men an empty barrel for a stump, and they will do their own exhortation.

December 11, 1862.

Haroun Alraschid, wandering in disguise through his imperial streets,
scarcely happened upon a greater variety of groups than I, in my evening
strolls among our own camp-fires.

Beside some of these fires the men are cleaning their guns or rehearsing
their drill,--beside others, smoking in silence their very scanty supply
of the beloved tobacco,--beside others, telling stories and shouting
with laughter over the broadest mimicry, in which they excel, and in
which the officers come in for a full share. The everlasting "shout"
is always within hearing, with its mixture of piety and polka, and
its castanet-like clapping of the hands. Then there are quieter
prayer-meetings, with pious invocations and slow psalms, "deaconed out"
from memory by the leader, two lines at a time, in a sort of wailing
chant. Elsewhere, there are _conversazioni_ around fires, with a woman
for queen of the circle,--her Nubian face, gay headdress, gilt necklace,
and white teeth, all resplendent in the glowing light. Sometimes the
woman is spelling slow monosyllables out of a primer, a feat which
always commands all ears,--they rightly recognizing a mighty spell,
equal to the overthrowing of monarchs, in the magic assonance of _cat,
hat, pat, bat_, and the rest of it. Elsewhere, it is some solitary old
cook, some aged Uncle Tiff, with enormous spectacles, who is perusing a
hymn-book by the light of a pine splinter, in his deserted cooking booth
of palmetto leaves. By another fire there is an actual dance, red-legged
soldiers doing right-and-left, and "now-lead-de-lady-ober," to the music
of a violin which is rather artistically played, and which may have
guided the steps, in other days, of Barnwells and Hugers. And yonder is
a stump-orator perched on his barrel, pouring out his exhortations to
fidelity in war and in religion. To-night for the first time I have
heard an harangue in a different strain, quite saucy, sceptical, and
defiant, appealing to them in a sort of French materialistic style, and
claiming some personal experience of warfare. "You don't know notin'
about it, boys. You tink you's brave enough; how you tink, if you stan'
clar in de open field,--here you, and dar de Secesh? You's got to hab
de right ting inside o' you. You must hab it 'served [preserved] in you,
like dese yer sour plums dey 'serve in de barr'l; you's got to harden
it down inside o' you, or it's notin'." Then he hit hard at the
religionists: "When a man's got de sperit ob de Lord in him, it weakens
him all out, can't hoe de corn." He had a great deal of broad sense in
his speech; but presently some others began praying vociferously close
by, as if to drown this free-thinker, when at last he exclaimed, "I mean
to fight de war through, an' die a good sojer wid de last kick, dat's
_my_ prayer!" and suddenly jumped off the barrel. I was quite interested
at discovering this reverse side of the temperament, the devotional side
preponderates so enormously, and the greatest scamps kneel and groan in
their prayer-meetings with such entire zest. It shows that there is some
individuality developed among them, and that they will not become too
exclusively pietistic.

Their love of the spelling-book is perfectly inexhaustible,--they
stumbling on by themselves, or the blind leading the blind, with the
same pathetic patience which they carry into everything. The chaplain is
getting up a schoolhouse, where he will soon teach them as regularly as
he can. But the alphabet must always be a very incidental business in a

December 14.

Passages from prayers in the camp:--

"Let me so lib dat when I die I shall _hab manners_, dat I shall know
what to say when I see my Heabenly Lord."

"Let me lib wid de musket in one hand an' de Bible in de oder,--dat if
I die at de muzzle ob de musket, die in de water, die on de land, I may
know I hab de bressed Jesus in my hand, an' hab no fear."

"I hab lef my wife in de land o' bondage; my little ones dey say eb'ry
night, Whar is my fader? But when I die, when de bressed mornin' rises,
when I shall stan' in de glory, wid one foot on de water an' one foot
on de land, den, O Lord, I shall see my wife an' my little chil'en once

These sentences I noted down, as best I could, beside the glimmering
camp-fire last night. The same person was the hero of a singular little
_contre-temps_ at a funeral in the afternoon. It was our first
funeral. The man had died in hospital, and we had chosen a picturesque
burial-place above the river, near the old church, and beside a little
nameless cemetery, used by generations of slaves. It was a regular
military funeral, the coffin being draped with the American flag, the
escort marching behind, and three volleys fired over the grave. During
the services there was singing, the chaplain deaconing out the hymn in
their favorite way. This ended, he announced his text,--"This poor
man cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his
trouble." Instantly, to my great amazement, the cracked voice of the
chorister was uplifted, intoning the text, as if it were the first verse
of another hymn. So calmly was it done, so imperturbable were all the
black countenances, that I half began to conjecture that the chaplain
himself intended it for a hymn, though I could imagine no prospective
rhyme for _trouble_ unless it were approximated by _debbil_, which is,
indeed, a favorite reference, both with the men and with his Reverence.
But the chaplain, peacefully awaiting, gently repeated his text after
the chant, and to my great relief the old chorister waived all further
recitative, and let the funeral discourse proceed.

Their memories are a vast bewildered chaos of Jewish history and
biography; and most of the great events of the past, down to the period
of the American Revolution, they instinctively attribute to Moses.
There is a fine bold confidence in all their citations, however, and the
record never loses piquancy in their hands, though strict accuracy may
suffer. Thus, one of my captains, last Sunday, heard a colored exhorter
at Beaufort proclaim, "Paul may plant, _and may polish wid water_, but
it won't do," in which the sainted Apollos would hardly have recognized

Just now one of the soldiers came to me to say that he was about to
be married to a girl in Beaufort, and would I lend him a dollar and
seventy-five cents to buy the wedding outfit? It seemed as if matrimony
on such moderate terms ought to be encouraged in these days; and so I
responded to the appeal.

December 16.

To-day a young recruit appeared here, who had been the slave of Colonel
Sammis, one of the leading Florida refugees. Two white companions came
with him, who also appeared to be retainers of the Colonel, and I asked
them to dine. Being likewise refugees, they had stories to tell, and
were quite agreeable: one was English born, the other Floridian, a dark,
sallow Southerner, very well bred. After they had gone, the Colonel
himself appeared, I told him that I had been entertaining his white
friends, and after a while he quietly let out the remark,--

"Yes, one of those white friends of whom you speak is a boy raised on
one of my plantations; he has travelled with me to the North, and passed
for white, and he always keeps away from the negroes."

Certainly no such suspicion had ever crossed my mind.

I have noticed one man in the regiment who would easily pass for
white,--a little sickly drummer, aged fifty at least, with brown eyes
and reddish hair, who is said to be the son of one of our commodores.
I have seen perhaps a dozen persons as fair, or fairer, among fugitive
slaves, but they were usually young children. It touched me far more
to see this man, who had spent more than half a lifetime in this
low estate, and for whom it now seemed too late to be anything but a
"nigger." This offensive word, by the way, is almost as common with them
as at the North, and far more common than with well-bred slaveholders.
They have meekly accepted it. "Want to go out to de nigger houses, Sah,"
is the universal impulse of sociability, when they wish to cross the
lines. "He hab twenty house-servants, an' two hundred head o' nigger,"
is a still more degrading form of phrase, in which the epithet is
limited to the field-hands, and they estimated like so many cattle.
This want of self-respect of course interferes with the authority of the
non-commissioned officers, which is always difficult to sustain, even in
white regiments. "He needn't try to play de white man ober me," was the
protest of a soldier against his corporal the other day. To counteract
this I have often to remind them that they do not obey their officers
because they are white, but because they are their officers; and guard
duty is an admirable school for this, because they readily understand
that the sergeant or corporal of the guard has for the time more
authority than any commissioned officer who is not on duty. It is
necessary also for their superiors to treat the non-commissioned
officers with careful courtesy, and I often caution the line officers
never to call them "Sam" or "Will," nor omit the proper handle to their
names. The value of the habitual courtesies of the regular army is
exceedingly apparent with these men: an officer of polished manners can
wind them round his finger, while white soldiers seem rather to prefer
a certain roughness. The demeanor of my men to each other is very
courteous, and yet I see none of that sort of upstart conceit which is
sometimes offensive among free negroes at the North, the dandy-barber
strut. This is an agreeable surprise, for I feared that freedom and
regimentals would produce precisely that.

They seem the world's perpetual children, docile, gay, and lovable,
in the midst of this war for freedom on which they have intelligently
entered. Last night, before "taps," there was the greatest noise in camp
that I had ever heard, and I feared some riot. On going out, I found the
most tumultuous sham-fight proceeding in total darkness, two companies
playing like boys, beating tin cups for drums. When some of
them saw me they seemed a little dismayed, and came and said,
beseechingly,--"Gunnel, Sah, you hab no objection to we playin',
Sah?"--which objection I disclaimed; but soon they all subsided, rather
to my regret, and scattered merrily. Afterward I found that some other
officer had told them that I considered the affair too noisy, so that
I felt a mild self-reproach when one said, "Cunnel, wish you had let
we play a little longer, Sah." Still I was not sorry, on the whole; for
these sham-fights between companies would in some regiments lead to real
ones, and there is a latent jealousy here between the Florida and South
Carolina men, which sometimes makes me anxious.

The officers are more kind and patient with the men than I should
expect, since the former are mostly young, and drilling tries the
temper; but they are aided by hearty satisfaction in the results already
attained. I have never yet heard a doubt expressed among the officers as
to the _superiority_ of these men to white troops in aptitude for drill
and discipline, because of their imitativeness and docility, and the
pride they take in the service. One captain said to me to-day, "I have
this afternoon taught my men to load-in-nine-times, and they do it
better than we did it in my former company in three months." I can
personally testify that one of our best lieutenants, an Englishman,
taught a part of his company the essential movements of the "school for
skirmishers" in a single lesson of two hours, so that they did them
very passably, though I feel bound to discourage such haste. However,
I "formed square" on the third battalion drill. Three fourths of drill
consist of attention, imitation, and a good ear for time; in the
other fourth, which consists of the application of principles, as, for
instance, performing by the left flank some movement before learned
by the right, they are perhaps slower than better educated men. Having
belonged to five different drill-clubs before entering the army, I
certainly ought to know something of the resources of human awkwardness,
and I can honestly say that they astonish me by the facility with which
they do things. I expected much harder work in this respect.

The habit of carrying burdens on the head gives them erectness of
figure, even where physically disabled. I have seen a woman, with a
brimming water-pail balanced on her head, or perhaps a cup, saucer,
and spoon, stop suddenly, turn round, stoop to pick up a missile, rise
again, fling it, light a pipe, and go through many evolutions with
either hand or both, without spilling a drop. The pipe, by the way,
gives an odd look to a well-dressed young girl on Sunday, but one often
sees that spectacle. The passion for tobacco among our men continues
quite absorbing, and I have piteous appeals for some arrangement
by which they can buy it on credit, as we have yet no sutler. Their
imploring, "Cunnel, we can't _lib_ widout it, Sah," goes to my heart;
and as they cannot read, I cannot even have the melancholy satisfaction
of supplying them with the excellent anti-tobacco tracts of Mr. Trask.

December 19.

Last night the water froze in the adjutant's tent, but not in mine.
To-day has been mild and beautiful. The blacks say they do not feel
the cold so much as the white officers do, and perhaps it is so, though
their health evidently suffers more from dampness. On the other hand,
while drilling on very warm days, they have seemed to suffer more from
the heat than their officers. But they dearly love fire, and at night
will always have it, if possible, even on the minutest scale,--a
mere handful of splinters, that seems hardly more efficacious than a
friction-match. Probably this is a natural habit for the short-lived
coolness of an out-door country; and then there is something delightful
in this rich pine, which burns like a tar-barrel. It was, perhaps,
encouraged by the masters, as the only cheap luxury the slaves had at

As one grows more acquainted with the men, their individualities emerge;
and I find, first their faces, then their characters, to be as distinct
as those of whites. It is very interesting the desire they show to do
their duty, and to improve as soldiers; they evidently think about it,
and see the importance of the thing; they say to me that we white men
cannot stay and be their leaders always and that they must learn to
depend on themselves, or else relapse into their former condition.

Beside the superb branch of uneatable bitter oranges which decks my
tent-pole, I have to-day hung up a long bough of finger-sponge, which
floated to the river-bank. As winter advances, butterflies gradually
disappear: one species (a _Vanessa_) lingers; three others have vanished
since I came. Mocking-birds are abundant, but rarely sing; once or twice
they have reminded me of the red thrush, but are inferior, as I have
always thought. The colored people all say that it will be much cooler;
but my officers do not think so, perhaps because last winter was so
unusually mild,--with only one frost, they say.

December 20.

Philoprogenitiveness is an important organ for an officer of colored
troops; and I happen to be well provided with it. It seems to be the
theory of all military usages, in fact, that soldiers are to be treated
like children; and these singular persons, who never know their own age
till they are past middle life, and then choose a birthday with such
precision,--"Fifty year old, Sah, de fus' last April,"--prolong the
privilege of childhood.

I am perplexed nightly for countersigns,--their range of proper names is
so distressingly limited, and they make such amazing work of every new
one. At first, to be sure, they did not quite recognize the need of any
variation: one night some officer asked a sentinel whether he had the
countersign yet, and was indignantly answered, "Should tink I hab 'em,
hab 'em for a fortnight"; which seems a long epoch for that magic word
to hold out. To-night I thought I would have "Fredericksburg," in honor
of Burnside's reported victory, using the rumor quickly, for fear of a
contradiction. Later, in comes a captain, gets the countersign for
his own use, but presently returns, the sentinel having pronounced it
incorrect. On inquiry, it appears that the sergeant of the guard, being
weak in geography, thought best to substitute the more familiar word,
"Crockery-ware"; which was, with perfect gravity, confided to all the
sentinels, and accepted without question. O life! what is the fun of
fiction beside thee?

I should think they would suffer and complain these cold nights; but
they say nothing, though there is a good deal of coughing. I should
fancy that the scarlet trousers must do something to keep them warm, and
wonder that they dislike them so much, when they are so much like their
beloved fires. They certainly multiply firelight in any case. I often
notice that an infinitesimal flame, with one soldier standing by it,
looks like quite a respectable conflagration, and it seems as if a group
of them must dispel dampness.

December 21.

To a regimental commander no book can be so fascinating as the
consolidated Morning Report, which is ready about nine, and tells how
many in each company are sick, absent, on duty, and so on. It is one's
newspaper and daily mail; I never grow tired of it. If a single recruit
has come in, I am always eager to see how he looks on paper.

To-night the officers are rather depressed by rumors of Burnside's being
defeated, after all. I am fortunately equable and undepressible; and it
is very convenient that the men know too little of the events of the
war to feel excitement or fear. They know General Saxton and me,--"de
General" and "de Gunnel,"--and seem to ask no further questions. We
are the war. It saves a great deal of trouble, while it lasts, this
childlike confidence; nevertheless, it is our business to educate them
to manhood, and I see as yet no obstacle.

As for the rumor, the world will no doubt roll round, whether Burnside
is defeated or succeeds.

Christmas Day.

    "We'll fight for liberty
  Till de Lord shall call us home;
    We'll soon be free
  Till de Lord shall call us home."

This is the hymn which the slaves at Georgetown, South Carolina, were
whipped for singing when President Lincoln was elected. So said a little
drummer-boy, as he sat at my tent's edge last night and told me his
story; and he showed all his white teeth as he added, "Dey tink _'de
Lord'_ meant for say de Yankees."

Last night, at dress-parade, the adjutant read General Saxton's
Proclamation for the New Year's Celebration. I think they understood it,
for there was cheering in all the company-streets afterwards. Christmas
is the great festival of the year for this people; but, with New Year's
coming after, we could have no adequate programme for to-day, and so
celebrated Christmas Eve with pattern simplicity. We omitted, namely,
the mystic curfew which we call "taps," and let them sit up and burn
their fires, and have their little prayer-meetings as late as they
desired; and all night, as I waked at intervals, I could hear them
praying and "shouting" and clattering with hands and heels. It seemed to
make them very happy, and appeared to be at least an innocent Christmas
dissipation, as compared with some of the convivialities of the
"superior race" hereabouts.

December 26.

The day passed with no greater excitement for the men than
target-shooting, which they enjoyed. I had the private delight of the
arrival of our much-desired surgeon and his nephew, the captain, with
letters and news from home. They also bring the good tidings that
General Saxton is not to be removed, as had been reported.

Two different stands of colors have arrived for us, and will be
presented at New Year's,--one from friends in New York, and the other
from a lady in Connecticut. I see that "Frank Leslie's Illustrated
Weekly" of December 20th has a highly imaginative picture of the
muster-in of our first company, and also of a skirmish on the late

I must not forget the prayer overheard last night by one of the
captains: "O Lord! when I tink ob dis Kismas and las' year de Kismas.
Las' Kismas he in de Secesh, and notin' to eat but grits, and no salt
in 'em. Dis year in de camp, and too much victual!" This "too much" is
a favorite phrase out of their grateful hearts, and did not in this case
denote an excess of dinner,--as might be supposed,--but of thanksgiving.

December 29.

Our new surgeon has begun his work most efficiently: he and the chaplain
have converted an old gin-house into a comfortable hospital, with ten
nice beds and straw pallets. He is now, with a hearty professional
faith, looking round for somebody to put into it. I am afraid the
regiment will accommodate him; for, although he declares that these men
do not sham sickness, as he expected, their catarrh is an unpleasant
reality. They feel the dampness very much, and make such a coughing
at dress-parade, that I have urged him to administer a dose of
cough-mixture, all round, just before that pageant. Are the colored
race _tough?_ is my present anxiety; and it is odd that physical
insufficiency, the only discouragement not thrown in our way by the
newspapers, is the only discouragement which finds any place in our
minds. They are used to sleeping indoors in winter, herded before fires,
and so they feel the change. Still, the regiment is as healthy as the
average, and experience will teach us something.*

* A second winter's experience removed all this solicitude, for they
learned to take care of themselves. During the first February the
sick-list averaged about ninety, during the second about thirty, this
being the worst month in the year for blacks.

December 30.

On the first of January we are to have a slight collation, ten oxen or
so, barbecued,--or not properly barbecued, but roasted whole. Touching
the length of time required to "do" an ox, no two housekeepers appear
to agree. Accounts vary from two hours to twenty-four. We shall happily
have enough to try all gradations of roasting, and suit all tastes, from
Miss A.'s to mine. But fancy me proffering a spare-rib, well done, to
some fair lady! What ever are we to do for spoons and forks and plates?
Each soldier has his own, and is sternly held responsible for it by
"Army Regulations." But how provide for the multitude? Is it customary,
I ask you, to help to tenderloin with one's fingers? Fortunately, the
Major is to see to that department. Great are the advantages of military
discipline: for anything perplexing, detail a subordinate.

New Year's Eve.

My housekeeping at home is not, perhaps, on any very extravagant scale.
Buying beefsteak, I usually go to the extent of two or three pounds. Yet
when, this morning at daybreak, the quartermaster called to inquire how
many cattle I would have killed for roasting, I turned over in bed, and
answered composedly, "Ten,--and keep three to be fatted."

Fatted, quotha! Not one of the beasts at present appears to possess
an ounce of superfluous flesh. Never were seen such lean kine. As they
swing on vast spits, composed of young trees, the firelight glimmers
through their ribs, as if they were great lanterns. But no matter, they
are cooking,--nay, they are cooked.

One at least is taken off to cool, and will be replaced tomorrow to warm
up. It was roasted three hours, and well done, for I tasted it. It is
so long since I tasted fresh beef that forgetfulness is possible; but
I fancied this to be successful. I tried to imagine that I liked
the Homeric repast, and certainly the whole thing has been far more
agreeable than was to be expected. The doubt now is, whether I have made
a sufficient provision for my household. I should have roughly guessed
that ten beeves would feed as many million people, it has such a
stupendous sound; but General Saxton predicts a small social party of
five thousand, and we fear that meat will run short, unless they prefer
bone. One of the cattle is so small, we are hoping it may turn out veal.

For drink we aim at the simple luxury of molasses-and-water, a barrel
per company, ten in all. Liberal housekeepers may like to know that for
a barrel of water we allow three gallons of molasses, half a pound of
ginger, and a quart of vinegar,--this last being a new ingredient for my
untutored palate, though all the rest are amazed at my ignorance.
Hard bread, with more molasses, and a dessert of tobacco, complete the
festive repast, destined to cheer, but not inebriate.

On this last point, of inebriation, this is certainly a wonderful camp.
For us it is absolutely omitted from the list of vices. I have never
heard of a glass of liquor in the camp, nor of any effort either to
bring it in or to keep it out. A total absence of the circulating medium
might explain the abstinence,--not that it seems to have that effect
with white soldiers,--but it would not explain the silence. The craving
for tobacco is constant, and not to be allayed, like that of a mother
for her children; but I have never heard whiskey even wished for, save
on Christmas-Day, and then only by one man, and he spoke with a hopeless
ideal sighing, as one alludes to the Golden Age. I am amazed at this
total omission of the most inconvenient of all camp appetites. It
certainly is not the result of exhortation, for there has been no
occasion for any, and even the pledge would scarcely seem efficacious
where hardly anybody can write.

I do not think there is a great visible eagerness for tomorrow's
festival: it is not their way to be very jubilant over anything this
side of the New Jerusalem. They know also that those in this Department
are nominally free already, and that the practical freedom has to be
maintained, in any event, by military success. But they will enjoy it
greatly, and we shall have a multitude of people.

January 1, 1863 (evening).

A happy New Year to civilized people,--mere white folks. Our festival
has come and gone, with perfect success, and our good General has been
altogether satisfied. Last night the great fires were kept smouldering
in the pit, and the beeves were cooked more or less, chiefly
more,--during which time they had to be carefully watched, and the
great spits turned by main force. Happy were the merry fellows who were
permitted to sit up all night, and watch the glimmering flames that
threw a thousand fantastic shadows among the great gnarled oaks. And
such a chattering as I was sure to hear whenever I awoke that night!

My first greeting to-day was from one of the most stylish sergeants, who
approached me with the following little speech, evidently the result of
some elaboration:--

"I tink myself happy, dis New Year's Day, for salute my own Cunnel.
Dis day las' year I was servant to a Gunnel ob Secesh; but now I hab de
privilege for salute my own Cunnel."

That officer, with the utmost sincerity, reciprocated the sentiment.

About ten o'clock the people began to collect by land, and also by
water,--in steamers sent by General Saxton for the purpose; and from
that time all the avenues of approach were thronged. The multitude were
chiefly colored women, with gay handkerchiefs on their heads, and a
sprinkling of men, with that peculiarly respectable look which these
people always have on Sundays and holidays. There were many white
visitors also,--ladies on horseback and in carriages, superintendents
and teachers, officers, and cavalry-men. Our companies were marched to
the neighborhood of the platform, and allowed to sit or stand, as at the
Sunday services; the platform was occupied by ladies and dignitaries,
and by the band of the Eighth Maine, which kindly volunteered for the
occasion; the colored people filled up all the vacant openings in the
beautiful grove around, and there was a cordon of mounted visitors
beyond. Above, the great live-oak branches and their trailing moss;
beyond the people, a glimpse of the blue river.

The services began at half past eleven o'clock, with prayer by our
chaplain, Mr. Fowler, who is always, on such occasions, simple,
reverential, and impressive. Then the President's Proclamation was
read by Dr. W. H. Brisbane, a thing infinitely appropriate, a South
Carolinian addressing South Carolinians; for he was reared among these
very islands, and here long since emancipated his own slaves. Then
the colors were presented to us by the Rev. Mr. French, a chaplain who
brought them from the donors in New York. All this was according to the
programme. Then followed an incident so simple, so touching, so utterly
unexpected and startling, that I can scarcely believe it on recalling,
though it gave the keynote to the whole day. The very moment the speaker
had ceased, and just as I took and waved the flag, which now for the
first time meant anything to these poor people, there suddenly arose,
close beside the platform, a strong male voice (but rather cracked and
elderly), into which two women's voices instantly blended, singing, as
if by an impulse that could no more be repressed than the morning note
of the song-sparrow.--

  "My Country, 'tis of thee,
  Sweet land of liberty,
  Of thee I sing!"

People looked at each other, and then at us on the platform, to see
whence came this interruption, not set down in the bills. Firmly and
irrepressibly the quavering voices sang on, verse after verse; others of
the colored people joined in; some whites on the platform began, but I
motioned them to silence. I never saw anything so electric; it made
all other words cheap; it seemed the choked voice of a race at last
unloosed. Nothing could be more wonderfully unconscious; art could
not have dreamed of a tribute to the day of jubilee that should be so
affecting; history will not believe it; and when I came to speak of it,
after it was ended, tears were everywhere. If you could have heard how
quaint and innocent it was! Old Tiff and his children might have sung
it; and close before me was a little slave-boy, almost white, who seemed
to belong to the party, and even he must join in. Just think of it!--the
first day they had ever had a country, the first flag they had ever seen
which promised anything to their people, and here, while mere spectators
stood in silence, waiting for my stupid words, these simple souls burst
out in their lay, as if they were by their own hearths at home! When
they stopped, there was nothing to do for it but to speak, and I went
on; but the life of the whole day was in those unknown people's song.

Receiving the flags, I gave them into the hands of two fine-looking
men, jet black, as color-guard, and they also spoke, and very
effectively,--Sergeant Prince Rivers and Corporal Robert Sutton. The
regiment sang "Marching Along," and then General Saxton spoke, in his
own simple, manly way, and Mrs. Francis D. Gage spoke very sensibly to
the women, and Judge Stickney, from Florida, added something; then some
gentleman sang an ode, and the regiment the John Brown song, and then
they went to their beef and molasses. Everything was very orderly, and
they seemed to have a very gay time. Most of the visitors had far to go,
and so dispersed before dress-parade, though the band stayed to enliven
it. In the evening we had letters from home, and General Saxton had a
reception at his house, from which I excused myself; and so ended one
of the most enthusiastic and happy gatherings I ever knew. The day was
perfect, and there was nothing but success.

I forgot to say, that, in the midst of the services, it was announced
that General Fremont was appointed Commander-in-Chief,--an announcement
which was received with immense cheering, as would have been almost
anything else, I verily believe, at that moment of high tide. It was
shouted across by the pickets above,--a way in which we often receive
news, but not always trustworthy.

January 3, 1863.

Once, and once only, thus far, the water has frozen in my tent; and
the next morning showed a dense white frost outside. We have still
mocking-birds and crickets and rosebuds, and occasional noonday baths in
the river, though the butterflies have vanished, as I remember to have
observed in Fayal, after December. I have been here nearly six weeks
without a rainy day; one or two slight showers there have been, once
interrupting a drill, but never dress-parade. For climate, by day,
we might be among the isles of Greece,--though it may be my constant
familiarity with the names of her sages which suggests that impression.
For instance, a voice just now called, near my tent,--"Cato, whar's
Plato?" The men have somehow got the impression that it is essential to
the validity of a marriage that they should come to me for permission,
just as they used to go to the master; and I rather encourage these
little confidences, because it is so entertaining to hear them. "Now,
Cunnel," said a faltering swam the other day, "I want for get me one
good lady," which I approved, especially the limitation as to number.
Afterwards I asked one of the bridegroom's friends whether he thought
it a good match. "O yes, Cunnel," said he, in all the cordiality of
friendship, "John's gwine for marry Venus." I trust the goddess will
prove herself a better lady than she appeared during her previous career
upon this planet. But this naturally suggests the isles of Greece again.

January 7.

On first arriving, I found a good deal of anxiety among the officers as
to the increase of desertions, that being the rock on which the "Hunter
Regiment" split. Now this evil is very nearly stopped, and we are every
day recovering the older absentees. One of the very best things that
have happened to us was the half-accidental shooting of a man who
had escaped from the guard-house, and was wounded by a squad sent in
pursuit. He has since died; and this very eve-rung another man, who
escaped with him, came and opened the door of my tent, after being five
days in the woods, almost without food. His clothes were in rags, and he
was nearly starved, poor foolish fellow, so that we can almost dispense
with further punishment. Severe penalties would be wasted on these
people, accustomed as they have been to the most violent passions on the
part of white men; but a mild inexorableness tells on them, just as it
does on any other children. It is something utterly new to me, and it
is thus far perfectly efficacious. They have a great deal of pride as
soldiers, and a very little of severity goes a great way, if it be firm
and consistent. This is very encouraging.

The single question which I asked of some of the plantation
superintendents, on the voyage, was, "Do these people appreciate
_justice_?" If they did it was evident that all the rest would be easy.
When a race is degraded beyond that point it must be very hard to deal
with them; they must mistake all kindness for indulgence, all strictness
for cruelty. With these freed slaves there is no such trouble, not a
particle: let an officer be only just and firm, with a cordial, kindly
nature, and he has no sort of difficulty. The plantation superintendents
and teachers have the same experience, they say; but we have an immense
advantage in the military organization, which helps in two ways: it
increases their self-respect, and it gives us an admirable machinery for
discipline, thus improving both the fulcrum and the lever.

The wounded man died in the hospital, and the general verdict seemed to
be, "Him brought it on heself." Another soldier died of pneumonia on
the same day, and we had the funerals in the evening. It was very
impressive. A dense mist came up, with a moon behind it, and we had only
the light of pine-splinters, as the procession wound along beneath the
mighty, moss-hung branches of the ancient grove. The groups around the
grave, the dark faces, the red garments, the scattered lights, the
misty boughs, were weird and strange. The men sang one of their own wild
chants. Two crickets sang also, one on either side, and did not cease
their little monotone, even when the three volleys were fired above the
graves. Just before the coffins were lowered, an old man whispered to me
that I must have their position altered,--the heads must be towards the
west; so it was done,--though they are in a place so veiled in woods
that either rising or setting sun will find it hard to spy them.

We have now a good regimental hospital, admirably arranged in a deserted
gin-house,--a fine well of our own digging, within the camp lines,--a
full allowance of tents, all floored,--a wooden cook-house to every
company, with sometimes a palmetto mess-house beside,--a substantial
wooden guard-house, with a fireplace five feet "in de clar," where
the men off duty can dry themselves and sleep comfortably in bunks
afterwards. We have also a great circular school-tent, made of condemned
canvas, thirty feet in diameter, and looking like some of the Indian
lodges I saw in Kansas. We now meditate a regimental bakery. Our
aggregate has increased from four hundred and ninety to seven hundred
and forty, besides a hundred recruits now waiting at St. Augustine, and
we have practised through all the main movements in battalion drill.

Affairs being thus prosperous, and yesterday having been six weeks since
my last and only visit to Beaufort, I rode in, glanced at several camps,
and dined with the General. It seemed absolutely like re-entering the
world; and I did not fully estimate my past seclusion till it occurred
to me, as a strange and novel phenomenon, that the soldiers at the other
camps were white.

January 8.

This morning I went to Beaufort again, on necessary business, and by
good luck happened upon a review and drill of the white regiments. The
thing that struck me most was that same absence of uniformity, in minor
points, that I noticed at first in my own officers. The best regiments
in the Department are represented among my captains and lieutenants, and
very well represented too; yet it has cost much labor to bring them
to any uniformity in their drill. There is no need of this; for the
prescribed "Tactics" approach perfection; it is never left discretionary
in what place an officer shall stand, or in what words he shall give his
order. All variation would seem to imply negligence. Yet even West Point
occasionally varies from the "Tactics,"--as, for instance, in requiring
the line officers to face down the line, when each is giving the order
to his company. In our strictest Massachusetts regiments this is not

It needs an artist's eye to make a perfect drill-master. Yet the small
points are not merely a matter of punctilio; for, the more perfectly
a battalion is drilled on the parade-ground the more quietly it can be
handled in action. Moreover, the great need of uniformity is this: that,
in the field, soldiers of different companies, and even of different
regiments, are liable to be intermingled, and a diversity of orders may
throw everything into confusion. Confusion means Bull Run.

I wished my men at the review to-day; for, amidst all the rattling and
noise of artillery and the galloping of cavalry, there was only one
infantry movement that we have not practised, and that was done by only
one regiment, and apparently considered quite a novelty, though it is
easily taught,

--forming square by Casey's method: forward on centre. It is really just
as easy to drill a regiment as a company,

--perhaps easier, because one has more time to think; but it is just as
essential to be sharp and decisive, perfectly clearheaded, and to put
life into the men. A regiment seems small when one has learned how to
handle it, a mere handful of men; and I have no doubt that a brigade
or a division would soon appear equally small. But to handle either
_judiciously_, ah, that is another affair!

So of governing; it is as easy to govern a regiment as a school or a
factory, and needs like qualities, system, promptness, patience, tact;
moreover, in a regiment one has the aid of the admirable machinery of
the army, so that I see very ordinary men who succeed very tolerably.

Reports of a six months' armistice are rife here, and the thought is
deplored by all. I cannot believe it; yet sometimes one feels very
anxious about the ultimate fate of these poor people. After the
experience of Hungary, one sees that revolutions may go backward; and
the habit of injustice seems so deeply impressed upon the whites, that
it is hard to believe in the possibility of anything better. I dare not
yet hope that the promise of the President's Proclamation will be kept.
For myself I can be indifferent, for the experience here has been its
own daily and hourly reward; and the adaptedness of the freed slaves for
drill and discipline is now thoroughly demonstrated, and must soon be
universally acknowledged. But it would be terrible to see this regiment
disbanded or defrauded.

January 12.

Many things glide by without time to narrate them. On Saturday we had a
mail with the President's Second Message of Emancipation, and the next
day it was read to the men. The words themselves did not stir them very
much, because they have been often told that they were free, especially
on New Year's Day, and, being unversed in politics, they do not
understand, as well as we do, the importance of each additional
guaranty. But the chaplain spoke to them afterwards very effectively,
as usual; and then I proposed to them to hold up their hands and pledge
themselves to be faithful to those still in bondage. They entered
heartily into this, and the scene was quite impressive, beneath the
great oak-branches. I heard afterwards that only one man refused to
raise his hand, saying bluntly that his wife was out of slavery with
him, and he did not care to fight. The other soldiers of his company
were very indignant, and shoved him about among them while marching back
to their quarters, calling him "Coward." I was glad of their exhibition
of feeling, though it is very possible that the one who had thus the
moral courage to stand alone among his comrades might be more reliable,
on a pinch, than some who yielded a more ready assent. But the whole
response, on their part, was very hearty, and will be a good thing
to which to hold them hereafter, at any time of discouragement or
demoralization,--which was my chief reason for proposing it. With
their simple natures it is a great thing to tie them to some definite
committal; they never forget a marked occurrence, and never seem
disposed to evade a pledge.

It is this capacity of honor and fidelity which gives me such entire
faith in them as soldiers. Without it all their religious demonstration
would be mere sentimentality. For instance, every one who visits the
camp is struck with their bearing as sentinels. They exhibit, in this
capacity, not an upstart conceit, but a steady, conscientious devotion
to duty. They would stop their idolized General Saxton, if he attempted
to cross their beat contrary to orders: I have seen them. No feeble or
incompetent race could do this. The officers tell many amusing instances
of this fidelity, but I think mine the best.

It was very dark the other night, an unusual thing here, and the rain
fell in torrents; so I put on my India-rubber suit, and went the rounds
of the sentinels, incognito, to test them. I can only say that I shall
never try such an experiment again and have cautioned my officers
against it. Tis a wonder I escaped with life and limb,--such a charging
of bayonets and clicking of gun-locks. Sometimes I tempted them by
refusing to give any countersign, but offering them a piece of tobacco,
which they could not accept without allowing me nearer than the
prescribed bayonet's distance. Tobacco is more than gold to them, and it
was touching to watch the struggle in their minds; but they always did
their duty at last, and I never could persuade them. One man, as if
wishing to crush all his inward vacillation at one fell stroke, told
me stoutly that he never used tobacco, though I found next day that he
loved it as much as any one of them. It seemed wrong thus to tamper with
their fidelity; yet it was a vital matter to me to know how far it could
be trusted, out of my sight. It was so intensely dark that not more than
one or two knew me, even after I had talked with the very next sentinel,
especially as they had never seen me in India-rubber clothing, and I can
always disguise my voice. It was easy to distinguish those who did make
the discovery; they were always conscious and simpering when their turn
came; while the others were stout and irreverent till I revealed myself,
and then rather cowed and anxious, fearing to have offended.

It rained harder and harder, and when I had nearly made the rounds I had
had enough of it, and, simply giving the countersign to the challenging
sentinel, undertook to pass within the lines.

"Halt!" exclaimed this dusky man and brother, bringing down his bayonet,
"de countersign not correck."

Now the magic word, in this case, was "Vicksburg," in honor of a rumored
victory. But as I knew that these hard names became quite transformed
upon their lips, "Carthage" being familiarized into Cartridge, and
"Concord" into Corn-cob, how could I possibly tell what shade of
pronunciation my friend might prefer for this particular proper name?

"Vicksburg," I repeated, blandly, but authoritatively, endeavoring, as
zealously as one of Christy's Minstrels, to assimilate my speech to any
supposed predilection of the Ethiop vocal organs.

"Halt dar! Countersign not correck," was the only answer.

The bayonet still maintained a position which, in a military point of
view, was impressive.

I tried persuasion, orthography, threats, tobacco, all in vain. I
could not pass in. Of course my pride was up; for was I to defer to
an untutored African on a point of pronunciation? Classic shades of
Harvard, forbid! Affecting scornful indifference, I tried to edge away,
proposing to myself to enter the camp at some other point, where my
elocution would be better appreciated. Not a step could I stir.

"Halt!" shouted my gentleman again, still holding me at his bayonet's
point, and I wincing and halting.

I explained to him the extreme absurdity of this proceeding, called his
attention to the state of the weather, which, indeed, spoke for itself
so loudly that we could hardly hear each other speak, and requested
permission to withdraw. The bayonet, with mute eloquence, refused the

There flashed into my mind, with more enjoyment in the retrospect than
I had experienced at the time, an adventure on a lecturing tour in other
years, when I had spent an hour in trying to scramble into a country
tavern, after bed-time, on the coldest night of winter. On that occasion
I ultimately found myself stuck midway in the window, with my head in a
temperature of 80 degrees, and my heels in a temperature of -10 degrees,
with a heavy windowsash pinioning the small of my back. However, I had
got safe out of that dilemma, and it was time to put an end to this one,

"Call the corporal of the guard," said I at last, with dignity,
unwilling to make a night of it or to yield my incognito.

"Corporal ob de guard!" he shouted, lustily,--"Post Number Two!" while
I could hear another sentinel chuckling with laughter. This last was a
special guard, placed over a tent, with a prisoner in charge. Presently
he broke silence.

"Who am dat?" he asked, in a stage whisper. "Am he a buckra [white

"Dunno whether he been a buckra or not," responded, doggedly, my
Cerberus in uniform; "but I's bound to keep him here till de corporal ob
de guard come."

Yet, when that dignitary arrived, and I revealed myself, poor Number Two
appeared utterly transfixed with terror, and seemed to look for nothing
less than immediate execution. Of course I praised his fidelity, and
the next day complimented him before the guard, and mentioned him to his
captain; and the whole affair was very good for them all. Hereafter, if
Satan himself should approach them in darkness and storm, they will take
_him_ for "de Cunnel," and treat him with special severity.

January 13.

In many ways the childish nature of this people shows itself. I have
just had to make a change of officers in a company which has constantly
complained, and with good reason, of neglect and improper treatment.
Two excellent officers have been assigned to them; and yet they sent a
deputation to me in the evening, in a state of utter wretchedness. "We's
bery grieved dis evening, Cunnel; 'pears like we couldn't bear it, to
lose de Cap'n and de Lieutenant, all two togeder." Argument was useless;
and I could only fall back on the general theory, that I knew what was
best for them, which had much more effect; and I also could cite the
instance of another company, which had been much improved by a new
captain, as they readily admitted. So with the promise that the new
officers should not be "savage to we," which was the one thing they
deprecated, I assuaged their woes. Twenty-four hours have passed, and I
hear them singing most merrily all down that company street.

I often notice how their griefs may be dispelled, like those of
children, merely by permission to utter them: if they can tell their
sorrows, they go away happy, even without asking to have anything done
about them. I observe also a peculiar dislike of all _intermediate_
control: they always wish to pass by the company officer, and deal with
me personally for everything. General Saxton notices the same thing
with the people on the plantations as regards himself. I suppose this
proceeds partly from the old habit of appealing to the master against
the overseer. Kind words would cost the master nothing, and he could
easily put off any non-fulfilment upon the overseer. Moreover, the
negroes have acquired such constitutional distrust of white people, that
it is perhaps as much as they can do to trust more than one person at
a tune. Meanwhile this constant personal intercourse is out of the
question in a well-ordered regiment; and the remedy for it is to
introduce by degrees more and more of system, so that their immediate
officers will become all-sufficient for the daily routine.

It is perfectly true (as I find everybody takes for granted) that
the first essential for an officer of colored troops is to gain
their confidence. But it is equally true, though many persons do not
appreciate it, that the admirable methods and proprieties of the regular
army are equally available for all troops, and that the sublimest
philanthropist, if he does not appreciate this, is unfit to command

Another childlike attribute in these men, which is less agreeable, is a
sort of blunt insensibility to giving physical pain. If they are cruel
to animals, for instance, it always reminds me of children pulling off
flies' legs, in a sort of pitiless, untaught, experimental way. Yet I
should not fear any wanton outrage from them. After all their wrongs,
they are not really revengeful; and I would far rather enter a
captured city with them than with white troops, for they would be more
subordinate. But for mere physical suffering they would have no fine
sympathies. The cruel things they have seen and undergone have helped to
blunt them; and if I ordered them to put to death a dozen prisoners, I
think they would do it without remonstrance.

Yet their religious spirit grows more beautiful to me in living longer
with them; it is certainly far more so than at first, when it seemed
rather a matter of phrase and habit. It influences them both on the
negative and the positive side. That is, it cultivates the feminine
virtues first,--makes them patient, meek, resigned. This is very evident
in the hospital; there is nothing of the restless, defiant habit of
white invalids. Perhaps, if they had more of this, they would resist
disease better. Imbued from childhood with the habit of submission,
drinking in through every pore that other-world trust which is the one
spirit of their songs, they can endure everything. This I expected;
but I am relieved to find that their religion strengthens them on the
positive side also,--gives zeal, energy, daring. They could easily be
made fanatics, if I chose; but I do not choose. Their whole mood is
essentially Mohammedan, perhaps, in its strength and its weakness; and
I feel the same degree of sympathy that I should if I had a Turkish
command,--that is, a sort of sympathetic admiration, not tending towards
agreement, but towards co-operation. Their philosophizing is often the
highest form of mysticism; and our dear surgeon declares that they are
all natural transcendentalists. The white camps seem rough and secular,
after this; and I hear our men talk about "a religious army," "a Gospel
army," in their prayer-meetings. They are certainly evangelizing the
chaplain, who was rather a heretic at the beginning; at least, this is
his own admission. We have recruits on their way from St. Augustine,
where the negroes are chiefly Roman Catholics; and it will be
interesting to see how their type of character combines with that elder
creed. It is time for rest; and I have just looked out into the night,
where the eternal stars shut down, in concave protection, over the yet
glimmering camp, and Orion hangs above my tent-door, giving to me the
sense of strength and assurance which these simple children obtain from
their Moses and the Prophets. Yet external Nature does its share in
their training; witness that most poetic of all their songs, which
always reminds me of the "Lyke-Wake Dirge" in the "Scottish Border

  "I know moon-rise, I know star-rise;
    Lay dis body down.
  I walk in de moonlight, I walk in de starlight,
    To lay dis body down.
  I'll walk in de graveyard, I'll walk through de graveyard,
    To lay dis body down.
  I'll lie in de grave and stretch out my arms;
    Lay dis body down.
  I go to de Judgment in de evening ob de day
    When I lay dis body down;
  And my soul and your soul will meet in de day
    When I lay dis body down."

January 14.

In speaking of the military qualities of the blacks, I should add, that
the only point where I am disappointed is one I have never seen raised
by the most incredulous newspaper critics,--namely, their
physical condition. To be sure they often look magnificently to
my gymnasium-trained eye; and I always like to observe them when
bathing,--such splendid muscular development, set off by that smooth
coating of adipose tissue which makes them, like the South-Sea Islanders
appear even more muscular than they are. Their skins are also of finer
grain than those of whites, the surgeons say, and certainly are smoother
and far more free from hair. But their weakness is pulmonary; pneumonia
and pleurisy are their besetting ailments; they are easily made
ill,--and easily cured, if promptly treated: childish organizations
again. Guard-duty injures them more than whites, apparently; and
double-quick movements, in choking dust, set them coughing badly. But
then it is to be remembered that this is their sickly season, from
January to March, and that their healthy season will come in summer,
when the whites break down. Still my conviction of the physical
superiority of more highly civilized races is strengthened on the whole,
not weakened, by observing them. As to availability for military drill
and duty in other respects, the only question I ever hear debated among
the officers is, whether they are equal or superior to whites. I have
never heard it suggested that they were inferior, although I expected
frequently to hear such complaints from hasty or unsuccessful officers.

Of one thing I am sure, that their best qualities will be wasted by
merely keeping them for garrison duty. They seem peculiarly fitted for
offensive operations, and especially for partisan warfare; they have so
much dash and such abundant resources, combined with such an Indian-like
knowledge of the country and its ways. These traits have been often
illustrated in expeditions sent after deserters. For instance, I
despatched one of my best lieutenants and my best sergeant with a squad
of men to search a certain plantation, where there were two separate
negro villages. They went by night, and the force was divided. The
lieutenant took one set of huts, the sergeant the other. Before the
lieutenant had reached his first house, every man in the village was
in the woods, innocent and guilty alike. But the sergeant's mode of
operation was thus described by a corporal from a white regiment who
happened to be in one of the negro houses. He said that not a sound was
heard until suddenly a red leg appeared in the open doorway, and a voice
outside said, "Rally." Going to the door, he observed a similar pair of
red legs before every hut, and not a person was allowed to go out,
until the quarters had been thoroughly searched, and the three deserters
found. This was managed by Sergeant Prince Rivers, our color-sergeant,
who is provost-sergeant also, and has entire charge of the prisoners
and of the daily policing of the camp. He is a man of distinguished
appearance, and in old times was the crack coachman of Beaufort,
in which capacity he once drove Beauregard from this plantation to
Charleston, I believe. They tell me that he was once allowed to present
a petition to the Governor of South Carolina in behalf of slaves, for
the redress of certain grievances; and that a placard, offering two
thousand dollars for his recapture, is still to be seen by the wayside
between here and Charleston. He was a sergeant in the old "Hunter
Regiment," and was taken by General Hunter to New York last spring,
where the _chevrons_ on his arm brought a mob upon him in Broadway, whom
he kept off till the police interfered. There is not a white officer
in this regiment who has more administrative ability, or more absolute
authority over the men; they do not love him, but his mere presence has
controlling power over them. He writes well enough to prepare for me
a daily report of his duties in the camp; if his education reached a
higher point, I see no reason why he should not command the Army of the
Potomac. He is jet-black, or rather, I should say, _wine-black_; his
complexion, like that of others of my darkest men, having a sort of
rich, clear depth, without a trace of sootiness, and to my eye very
handsome. His features are tolerably regular, and full of command, and
his figure superior to that of any of our white officers,--being six
feet high, perfectly proportioned, and of apparently inexhaustible
strength and activity. His gait is like a panther's; I never saw such a
tread. No anti-slavery novel has described a man of such marked ability.
He makes Toussaint perfectly intelligible; and if there should ever be a
black monarchy in South Carolina, he will be its king.

January 15.

This morning is like May. Yesterday I saw bluebirds and a butterfly;
so this whiter of a fortnight is over. I fancy there is a trifle less
coughing in the camp. We hear of other stations in the Department where
the mortality, chiefly from yellow fever, has been frightful. Dr.
---- is rubbing his hands professionally over the fearful tales of the
surgeon of a New York regiment, just from Key West, who has had two
hundred cases of the fever. "I suppose he is a skilful, highly educated
man," said I. "Yes," he responded with enthusiasm. "Why, he had seventy
deaths!"--as if that proved his superiority past question.

January 19.

"And first, sitting proud as a lung on his throne, At the head of them
all rode Sir Richard Tyrone."

But I fancy that Sir Richard felt not much better satisfied with his
following than I to-day. J. R. L. said once that nothing was quite
so good as turtle-soup, except mock-turtle; and I have heard officers
declare that nothing was so stirring as real war, except some exciting
parade. To-day, for the first time, I marched the whole regiment through
Beaufort and back,--the first appearance of such a novelty on any
stage. They did march splendidly; this all admit. M----'s prediction
was fulfilled: "Will not ---- be in bliss? A thousand men, every one
as black as a coal!" I confess it. To look back on twenty broad
double-ranks of men (for they marched by platoons),--every polished
musket having a black face beside it, and every face set steadily to the
front,--a regiment of freed slaves marching on into the future,--it was
something to remember; and when they returned through the same streets,
marching by the flank, with guns at a "support," and each man covering
his file-leader handsomely, the effect on the eye was almost as fine.
The band of the Eighth Maine joined us at the entrance of the town,
and escorted us in. Sergeant Rivers said ecstatically afterwards, in
describing the affair, "And when dat band wheel in before us, and march
on,--my God! I quit dis world altogeder." I wonder if he pictured to
himself the many dusky regiments, now unformed, which I seemed to see
marching up behind us, gathering shape out of the dim air.

I had cautioned the men, before leaving camp, not to be staring about
them as they marched, but to look straight to the front, every man;
and they did it with their accustomed fidelity, aided by the sort of
spontaneous eye-for-effect which is in all their melodramatic natures.
One of them was heard to say exultingly afterwards, "We didn't look to
de right nor to de leff. I didn't see notin' in Beaufort. Eb'ry step was
worth a half a dollar." And they all marched as if it were so. They knew
well that they were marching through throngs of officers and soldiers
who had drilled as many months as we had drilled weeks, and whose eyes
would readily spy out every defect. And I must say, that, on the whole,
with a few trivial exceptions, those spectators behaved in a manly
and courteous manner, and I do not care to write down all the handsome
things that were said. Whether said or not, they were deserved; and
there is no danger that our men will not take sufficient satisfaction in
their good appearance. I was especially amused at one of our recruits,
who did not march in the ranks, and who said, after watching the
astonishment of some white soldiers, "De buckra sojers look like a man
who been-a-steal a sheep,"--that is, I suppose, sheepish.

After passing and repassing through the town, we marched to the
parade-ground, and went through an hour's drill, forming squares and
reducing them, and doing other things which look hard on paper, and are
perfectly easy in fact; and we were to have been reviewed by General
Saxton, but he had been unexpectedly called to Ladies Island, and did
not see us at all, which was the only thing to mar the men's enjoyment.
Then we marched back to camp (three miles), the men singing the "John
Brown Song," and all manner of things,--as happy creatures as one can
well conceive.

It is worth mentioning, before I close, that we have just received an
article about "Negro Troops," from the _London Spectator_, which is so
admirably true to our experience that it seems as if written by one of
us. I am confident that there never has been, in any American newspaper,
a treatment of the subject so discriminating and so wise.

January 21.

To-day brought a visit from Major-General Hunter and his staff, by
General Saxton's invitation,--the former having just arrived in the
Department. I expected them at dress-parade, but they came during
battalion drill, rather to my dismay, and we were caught in our old
clothes. It was our first review, and I dare say we did tolerably;
but of course it seemed to me that the men never appeared so ill
before,--just as one always thinks a party at one's own house a failure,
even if the guests seem to enjoy it, because one is so keenly sensitive
to every little thing that goes wrong. After review and drill, General
Hunter made the men a little speech, at my request, and told them that
he wished there were fifty thousand of them. General Saxton spoke to
them afterwards, and said that fifty thousand muskets were on their way
for colored troops. The men cheered both the generals lustily; and they
were complimentary afterwards, though I knew that the regiment could not
have appeared nearly so well as on its visit to Beaufort. I suppose I
felt like some anxious mamma whose children have accidentally appeared
at dancing-school in their old clothes.

General Hunter promises us all we want,--pay when the funds arrive,
Springfield rifled muskets, and blue trousers. Moreover, he has
graciously consented that we should go on an expedition along the coast,
to pick up cotton, lumber, and, above all, recruits. I declined an offer
like this just after my arrival, because the regiment was not drilled or
disciplined, not even the officers; but it is all we wish for now.

  "What care I how black I be?
  Forty pounds will marry me,"

quoth Mother Goose. _Forty rounds_ will marry us to the American Army,
past divorcing, if we can only use them well. Our success or failure may
make or mar the prospects of colored troops. But it is well to remember
in advance that military success is really less satisfactory than any
other, because it may depend on a moment's turn of events, and that
may be determined by some trivial thing, neither to be anticipated nor
controlled. Napoleon ought to have won at Waterloo by all reasonable
calculations; but who cares? All that one can expect is, to do one's
best, and to take with equanimity the fortune of war.

Chapter 3. Up the St. Mary's

If Sergeant Rivers was a natural king among my dusky soldiers, Corporal
Robert Sutton was the natural prime-minister. If not in all respects the
ablest, he was the wisest man in our ranks. As large, as powerful, and
as black as our good-looking Color-Sergeant, but more heavily built and
with less personal beauty, he had a more massive brain and a far more
meditative and systematic intellect. Not yet grounded even in the
spelling-book, his modes of thought were nevertheless strong, lucid, and
accurate; and he yearned and pined for intellectual companionship beyond
all ignorant men whom I have ever met. I believe that he would have
talked all day and all night, for days together, to any officer
who could instruct him, until his companions, at least, fell asleep
exhausted. His comprehension of the whole problem of Slavery was more
thorough and far-reaching than that of any Abolitionist, so far as its
social and military aspects went; in that direction I could teach him
nothing, and he taught me much. But it was his methods of thought which
always impressed me chiefly: superficial brilliancy he left to others,
and grasped at the solid truth.

Of course his interest in the war and in the regiment was unbounded; he
did not take to drill with especial readiness, but he was insatiable
of it, and grudged every moment of relaxation. Indeed, he never had
any such moments; his mind was at work all the time, even when he was
singing hymns, of which he had endless store. He was not, however, one
of our leading religionists, but his moral code was solid and reliable,
like his mental processes. Ignorant as he was, the "years that bring the
philosophic mind" had yet been his, and most of my young officers seemed
boys beside him. He was a Florida man, and had been chiefly employed in
lumbering and piloting on the St. Mary's River, which divides Florida
from Georgia. Down this stream he had escaped in a "dug-out," and after
thus finding the way, had returned (as had not a few of my men in other
cases) to bring away wife and child. "I wouldn't have left my child,
Cunnel," he said, with an emphasis that sounded the depths of his strong
nature. And up this same river he was always imploring to be allowed to
guide an expedition.

Many other men had rival propositions to urge, for they gained
self-confidence from drill and guard-duty, and were growing impatient of
inaction. "Ought to go to work, Sa,--don't believe in we lyin' in camp
eatin' up de perwisions." Such were the quaint complaints, which I heard
with joy. Looking over my note-books of that period, I find them filled
with topographical memoranda, jotted down by a flickering candle, from
the evening talk of the men,--notes of vulnerable points along
the coast, charts of rivers, locations of pickets. I prized these
conversations not more for what I thus learned of the country than for
what I learned of the men. One could thus measure their various degrees
of accuracy and their average military instinct; and I must say that in
every respect, save the accurate estimate of distances, they stood the
test well. But no project took my fancy so much, after all, as that of
the delegate from the St. Mary's River.

The best peg on which to hang an expedition in the Department of the
South, in those days, was the promise of lumber. Dwelling in the very
land of Southern pine, the Department authorities had to send North for
it, at a vast expense. There was reported to be plenty in the enemy's
country, but somehow the colored soldiers were the only ones who had
been lucky enough to obtain any, thus far, and the supply brought in by
our men, after flooring the tents of the white regiments and our own,
was running low. An expedition of white troops, four companies, with two
steamers and two schooners, had lately returned empty-handed, after a
week's foraging; and now it was our turn. They said the mills were all
burned; but should we go up the St. Mary's, Corporal Sutton was prepared
to offer more lumber than we had transportation to carry. This made
the crowning charm of his suggestion. But there is never any danger of
erring on the side of secrecy, in a military department; and I resolved
to avoid all undue publicity for our plans, by not finally deciding on
any until we should get outside the bar. This was happily approved by
my superior officers, Major-General Hunter and Brigadier-General Saxton;
and I was accordingly permitted to take three steamers, with four
hundred and sixty-two officers and men, and two or three invited
guests, and go down the coast on my own responsibility. We were, in
short, to win our spurs; and if, as among the Araucanians, our spurs
were made of lumber, so much the better. The whole history of the
Department of the South had been defined as "a military picnic," and now
we were to take our share of the entertainment.

It seemed a pleasant share, when, after the usual vexations and delays,
we found ourselves (January 23, 1863) gliding down the full waters of
Beaufort River, the three vessels having sailed at different hours, with
orders to rendezvous at St. Simon's Island, on the coast of Georgia.
Until then, the flagship, so to speak, was to be the "Ben De Ford,"
Captain Hallet,--this being by far the largest vessel, and carrying most
of the men. Major Strong was in command upon the "John Adams," an army
gunboat, carrying a thirty-pound Parrott gun, two ten-pound Parrotts,
and an eight-inch howitzer. Captain Trowbridge (since promoted
Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment) had charge of the famous "Planter,"
brought away from the Rebels by Robert Small; she carried a ten-pound
Parrott gun, and two howitzers. The John Adams was our main reliance.
She was an old East Boston ferry-boat, a "double-ender," admirable for
river-work, but unfit for sea-service. She drew seven feet of water; the
Planter drew only four; but the latter was very slow, and being obliged
to go to St. Simon's by an inner passage, would delay us from the
beginning. She delayed us so much, before the end, that we virtually
parted company, and her career was almost entirely separated from our

From boyhood I have had a fancy for boats, and have seldom been without
a share, usually more or less fractional, in a rather indeterminate
number of punts and wherries. But when, for the first time, I found
myself at sea as Commodore of a fleet of armed steamers,--for even the
Ben De Ford boasted a six-pounder or so,--it seemed rather an unexpected
promotion. But it is a characteristic of army life, that one adapts
one's self, as coolly as in a dream, to the most novel responsibilities.
One sits on court-martial, for instance, and decides on the life of a
fellow-creature, without being asked any inconvenient questions as to
previous knowledge of Blackstone; and after such an experience, shall
one shrink from wrecking a steamer or two in the cause of the nation? So
I placidly accepted my naval establishment, as if it were a new form of
boat-club, and looked over the charts, balancing between one river and
another, as if deciding whether to pull up or down Lake Quinsigamond. If
military life ever contemplated the exercise of the virtue of humility
under any circumstances this would perhaps have been a good opportunity
to begin its practice. But as the "Regulations" clearly contemplated
nothing of the kind, and as I had never met with any precedent which
looked in that direction, I had learned to check promptly all such weak

Captain Hallett proved the most frank and manly of sailors, and did
everything for our comfort. He was soon warm in his praises of the
demeanor of our men, which was very pleasant to hear, as this was the
first time that colored soldiers in any number had been conveyed on
board a transport, and I know of no place where a white volunteer
appears to so much disadvantage. His mind craves occupation, his body is
intensely uncomfortable, the daily emergency is not great enough to call
out his heroic qualities, and he is apt to be surly, discontented, and
impatient even of sanitary rules. The Southern black soldier, on the
other hand, is seldom sea-sick (at least, such is my experience), and,
if properly managed, is equally contented, whether idle or busy; he is,
moreover, so docile that all needful rules are executed with cheerful
acquiescence, and the quarters can therefore be kept clean and
wholesome. Very forlorn faces were soon visible among the officers in
the cabin, but I rarely saw such among the men.

Pleasant still seemed our enterprise, as we anchored at early morning in
the quiet waters of St. Simon's Sound, and saw the light fall softly on
the beach and the low bluffs, on the picturesque plantation-houses which
nestled there, and the graceful naval vessels that lay at anchor before
us. When we afterwards landed the air had that peculiar Mediterranean
translucency which Southern islands wear; and the plantation we visited
had the loveliest tropical garden, though tangled and desolate, which I
have ever seen in the South. The deserted house was embowered In great
blossoming shrubs, and filled with hyacinthine odors, among which
predominated that of the little Chickasaw roses which everywhere bloomed
and trailed around. There were fig-trees and date-palms, crape-myrtles
and wax-myrtles, Mexican agaves and English ivies, japonicas, bananas,
oranges, lemons, oleanders, jonquils, great cactuses, and wild Florida
lilies. This was not the plantation which Mrs. Kemble has since made
historic, although that was on the same island; and I could not waste
much sentiment over it, for it had belonged to a Northern renegade,
Thomas Butler King. Yet I felt then, as I have felt a hundred
times since, an emotion of heart-sickness at this desecration of a
homestead,--and especially when, looking from a bare upper window of the
empty house upon a range of broad, flat, sunny roofs, such as children
love to play on, I thought how that place might have been loved by yet
Innocent hearts, and I mourned anew the sacrilege of war.

I had visited the flag-ship Wabash ere we left Port Royal Harbor, and
had obtained a very kind letter of introduction from Admiral Dupont,
that stately and courtly potentate, elegant as one's ideal French
marquis; and under these credentials I received polite attention from
the naval officers at St. Simon's,--Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Budd, of
the gunboat Potomska, and Acting Master Moses, of the barque Fernandina.
They made valuable suggestions in regard to the different rivers along
the coast, and gave vivid descriptions of the last previous trip up the
St. Mary's undertaken by Captain Stevens, U.S.N., in the gunboat Ottawa,
when he had to fight his way past batteries at every bluff in descending
the narrow and rapid stream. I was warned that no resistance would be
offered to the ascent, but only to our return; and was further cautioned
against the mistake, then common, of underrating the courage of the
Rebels. "It proved impossible to dislodge those fellows from the banks,"
my informant said; "they had dug rifle-pits, and swarmed like hornets,
and when fairly silenced in one direction they were sure to open upon us
from another." All this sounded alarming, but it was nine months since
the event had happened; and although nothing had gone up the river
meanwhile, I counted on less resistance now. And something must be
risked anywhere.

We were delayed all that day in waiting for our consort, and
improved our time by verifying certain rumors about a quantity of new
railroad-iron which was said to be concealed in the abandoned Rebel
forts on St. Simon's and Jekyll Islands, and which would have much value
at Port Royal, if we could unearth it. Some of our men had worked upon
these very batteries, so that they could easily guide us; and by the
additional discovery of a large flat-boat we were enabled to go to work
in earnest upon the removal of the treasure. These iron bars, surmounted
by a dozen feet of sand, formed an invulnerable roof for the magazines
and bomb-proofs of the fort, and the men enjoyed demolishing them far
more than they had relished their construction. Though the day was the
24th of January, 1863, the sun was very oppressive upon the sands; but
all were in the highest spirits, and worked with the greatest zeal. The
men seemed to regard these massive bars as their first trophies; and if
the rails had been wreathed with roses, they could not have been got out
in more holiday style. Nearly a hundred were obtained that day,
besides a quantity of five-inch plank with which to barricade the very
conspicuous pilot-houses of the John Adams. Still another day we were
delayed, and could still keep at this work, not neglecting some foraging
on the island from which horses, cattle, and agricultural implements
were to be removed, and the few remaining colored families transferred
to Fernandina. I had now become quite anxious about the missing
steamboat, as the inner passage, by which alone she could arrive, was
exposed at certain points to fire from Rebel batteries, and it would
have been unpleasant to begin with a disaster. I remember that, as I
stood on deck, in the still and misty evening, listening with strained
senses for some sound of approach, I heard a low continuous noise from
the distance, more wild and desolate than anything in my memory can
parallel. It came from within the vast girdle of mist, and seemed like
the cry of a myriad of lost souls upon the horizon's verge; it was Dante
become audible: and yet it was but the accumulated cries of innumerable
seafowl at the entrance of the outer bay.

Late that night the Planter arrived. We left St. Simon's on the
following morning, reached Fort Clinch by four o'clock, and there
transferring two hundred men to the very scanty quarters of the John
Adams, allowed the larger transport to go into Fernandina, while the
two other vessels were to ascend the St. Mary's River, unless (as proved
inevitable in the end) the defects in the boiler of the Planter should
oblige her to remain behind. That night I proposed to make a sort of
trial-trip up stream, as far as Township landing, some fifteen miles,
there to pay our respects to Captain Clark's company of cavalry, whose
camp was reported to lie near by. This was included in Corporal Sutton's
programme, and seemed to me more inviting, and far more useful to
the men, than any amount of mere foraging. The thing really desirable
appeared to be to get them under fire as soon as possible, and to teach
them, by a few small successes, the application of what they had learned
in camp-.

I had ascertained that the camp of this company lay five miles from
the landing, and was accessible by two roads, one of which was a
lumber-path, not commonly used, but which Corporal Sutton had helped to
construct, and along which he could easily guide us. The plan was to go
by night, surround the house and negro cabins at the landing (to prevent
an alarm from being given), then to take the side path, and if all went
well, to surprise the camp; but if they got notice of our approach,
through their pickets, we should, at worst, have a fight, in which the
best man must win.

The moon was bright, and the river swift, but easy of navigation thus
far. Just below Township I landed a small advance force, to surround
the houses silently. With them went Corporal Sutton; and when, after
rounding the point, I went on shore with a larger body of men, he met
me with a silent chuckle of delight, and with the information that there
was a negro in a neighboring cabin who had just come from the Rebel
camp, and could give the latest information. While he hunted up this
valuable auxiliary, I mustered my detachment, winnowing out the men who
had coughs (not a few), and sending them ignominiously on board again: a
process I had regularly to perform, during this first season of catarrh,
on all occasions where quiet was needed. The only exception tolerated at
this time was in the case of one man who offered a solemn pledge, that,
if unable to restrain his cough, he would lie down on the ground,
scrape a little hole, and cough into it unheard. The ingenuity of this
proposition was irresistible, and the eager patient was allowed to pass

It was after midnight when we set off upon our excursion. I had about
a hundred men, marching by the flank, with a small advanced guard,
and also a few flankers, where the ground permitted. I put my Florida
company at the head of the column, and had by my side Captain Metcalf,
an excellent officer, and Sergeant Mclntyre, his first sergeant. We
plunged presently in pine woods, whose resinous smell I can still
remember. Corporal Sutton marched near me, with his captured negro
guide, whose first fear and sullenness had yielded to the magic news of
the President's Proclamation, then just issued, of which Governor Andrew
had sent me a large printed supply;--we seldom found men who could read
it, but they all seemed to feel more secure when they held it in their
hands. We marched on through the woods, with no sound but the peeping of
the frogs in a neighboring marsh, and the occasional yelping of a
dog, as we passed the hut of some "cracker." This yelping always made
Corporal Sutton uneasy; dogs are the detective officers of Slavery's

We had halted once or twice to close up the ranks, and had marched some
two miles, seeing and hearing nothing more. I had got all I could out of
our new guide, and was striding on, rapt in pleasing contemplation.
All had gone so smoothly that I had merely to fancy the rest as being
equally smooth. Already I fancied our little detachment bursting out
of the woods, in swift surprise, upon the Rebel quarters,--already
the opposing commander, after hastily firing a charge or two from his
revolver (of course above my head), had yielded at discretion, and was
gracefully tendering, in a stage attitude, his unavailing sword,--when

There was a trampling of feet among the advanced guard as they came
confusedly to a halt, and almost at the same instant a more ominous
sound, as of galloping horses in the path before us. The moonlight
outside the woods gave that dimness of atmosphere within which is more
bewildering than darkness, because the eyes cannot adapt themselves to
it so well. Yet I fancied, and others aver, that they saw the leader
of an approaching party mounted on a white horse and reining up in the
pathway; others, again, declare that he drew a pistol from the holster
and took aim; others heard the words, "Charge in upon them! Surround
them!" But all this was confused by the opening rifle-shots of our
advanced guard, and, as clear observation was impossible, I made the
men fix their bayonets and kneel in the cover on each side the pathway,
and I saw with delight the brave fellows, with Sergeant Mclntyre at
their head, settling down in the grass as coolly and warily as if wild
turkeys were the only game. Perhaps at the first shot a man fell at
my elbow. I felt it no more than if a tree had fallen,--I was so busy
watching my own men and the enemy, and planning what to do next. Some of
our soldiers, misunderstanding the order, "Fix bayonets," were actually
_charging_ with them, dashing off into the dim woods, with nothing to
charge at but the vanishing tail of an imaginary horse,--for we could
really see nothing. This zeal I noted with pleasure, and also with
anxiety, as our greatest danger was from confusion and scattering; and
for infantry to pursue cavalry would be a novel enterprise. Captain
Metcalf stood by me well in keeping the men steady, as did Assistant
Surgeon Minor, and Lieutenant, now Captain, Jackson. How the men in the
rear were behaving I could not tell,--not so coolly, I afterwards found,
because they were more entirely bewildered, supposing, until the shots
came, that the column had simply halted for a moment's rest, as had
been done once or twice before. They did not know who or where their
assailants might be, and the fall of the man beside me created a
hasty rumor that I was killed, so that it was on the whole an alarming
experience for them. They kept together very tolerably, however, while
our assailants, dividing, rode along on each side through the open
pine-barren, firing into our ranks, but mostly over the heads of
the men. My soldiers in turn fired rapidly,--too rapidly, being yet
beginners,--and it was evident that, dim as it was, both sides had
opportunity to do some execution.

I could hardly tell whether the fight had lasted ten minutes or an hour,
when, as the enemy's fire had evidently ceased or slackened, I gave the
order to cease firing. But it was very difficult at first to make them
desist: the taste of gunpowder was too intoxicating. One of them was
heard to mutter, indignantly, "Why de Cunnel order _Cease firing_, when
de Secesh blazin' away at de rate ob ten dollar a day?" Every incidental
occurrence seemed somehow to engrave itself upon my perceptions, without
interrupting the main course of thought. Thus I know, that, in one of
the pauses of the affair, there came wailing through the woods a cracked
female voice, as if calling back some stray husband who had run out to
join in the affray, "John, John, are you going to leave me, John? Are
you going to let me and the children be killed, John?" I suppose the
poor thing's fears of gunpowder were very genuine; but it was such
a wailing squeak, and so infinitely ludicrous, and John was probably
ensconced so very safely in some hollow tree, that I could see some of
the men showing all their white teeth in the very midst of the fight.
But soon this sound, with all others, had ceased, and left us in
peaceful possession of the field.

I have made the more of this little affair because it was the first
stand-up fight in which my men had been engaged, though they had been
under fire, in an irregular way, in their small early expeditions. To me
personally the event was of the greatest value: it had given us all an
opportunity to test each other, and our abstract surmises were changed
into positive knowledge. Hereafter it was of small importance what
nonsense might be talked or written about colored troops; so long
as mine did not flinch, it made no difference to me. My brave young
officers, themselves mostly new to danger, viewed the matter much as
I did; and yet we were under bonds of life and death to form a correct
opinion, which was more than could be said of the Northern editors, and
our verdict was proportionately of greater value.

I was convinced from appearances that we had been victorious, so far,
though I could not suppose that this would be the last of it. We knew
neither the numbers of the enemy, nor their plans, nor their present
condition: whether they had surprised us or whether we had surprised
them was all a mystery. Corporal Sutton was urgent to go on and complete
the enterprise. All my impulses said the same thing; but then I had
the most explicit injunctions from General Saxton to risk as little as
possible in this first enterprise, because of the fatal effect on public
sentiment of even an honorable defeat. We had now an honorable victory,
so far as it went; the officers and men around me were in good spirits,
but the rest of the column might be nervous; and it seemed so important
to make the first fight an entire success, that I thought it wiser to
let well alone; nor have I ever changed this opinion. For one's self,
Montrose's verse may be well applied, "To win or lose it all." But one
has no right to deal thus lightly with the fortunes of a race, and that
was the weight which I always felt as resting on our action. If my raw
infantry force had stood unflinchingly a night-surprise from "de
boss cavalry," as they reverentially termed them, I felt that a good
beginning had been made. All hope of surprising the enemy's camp was now
at an end; I was willing and ready to fight the cavalry over again, but
it seemed wiser that we, not they, should select the ground.

Attending to the wounded, therefore, and making as we best could
stretchers for those who were to be carried, including the remains
of the man killed at the first discharge (Private William Parsons of
Company G), and others who seemed at the point of death, we marched
through the woods to the landing,--expecting at every moment to be
involved in another fight. This not occurring, I was more than ever
satisfied that we had won a victory; for it was obvious that a mounted
force would not allow a detachment of infantry to march two miles
through open woods by night without renewing the fight, unless they
themselves had suffered a good deal. On arrival at the landing, seeing
that there was to be no immediate affray, I sent most of the men on
board, and called for volunteers to remain on shore with me and hold the
plantation-house till morning. They eagerly offered; and I was glad to
see them, when posted as sentinels by Lieutenants Hyde and Jackson, who
stayed with me, pace their beats as steadily and challenge as coolly
as veterans, though of course there was some powder wasted on imaginary
foes. Greatly to my surprise, however, we had no other enemies to
encounter. We did not yet know that we had killed the first lieutenant
of the cavalry, and that our opponents had retreated to the woods in
dismay, without daring to return to their camp. This at least was the
account we heard from prisoners afterwards, and was evidently the tale
current in the neighborhood, though the statements published in Southern
newspapers did not correspond. Admitting the death of Lieutenant Jones,
the Tallahassee Floridian of February 14th stated that "Captain Clark,
finding the enemy in strong force, fell back with his command to camp,
and removed his ordnance and commissary and other stores, with twelve
negroes on their way to the enemy, captured on that day."

In the morning, my invaluable surgeon, Dr. Rogers, sent me his report
of killed and wounded; and I have been since permitted to make the
following extracts from his notes: "One man killed instantly by ball
through the heart, and seven wounded, one of whom will die. Braver men
never lived. One man with two bullet-holes through the large muscles of
the shoulders and neck brought off from the scene of action, two miles
distant, two muskets; and not a murmur has escaped his lips. Another,
Robert Sutton, with three wounds,--one of which, being on the skull, may
cost him his life,--would not report himself till compelled to do so by
his officers. While dressing his wounds, he quietly talked of what they
had done, and of what they yet could do. To-day I have had the Colonel
_order_ him to obey me. He is perfectly quiet and cool, but takes this
whole affair with the religious bearing of a man who realizes that
freedom is sweeter than life. Yet another soldier did not report himself
at all, but remained all night on guard, and possibly I should not
have known of his having had a buck-shot in his shoulder, if some duty
requiring a sound shoulder had not been required of him to-day." This
last, it may be added, had persuaded a comrade to dig out the buck-shot,
for fear of being ordered on the sick-list. And one of those who were
carried to the vessel--a man wounded through the lungs--asked only if I
were safe, the contrary having been reported. An officer may be pardoned
some enthusiasm for such men as these.

The anxious night having passed away without an attack, another problem
opened with the morning. For the first time, my officers and men found
themselves in possession of an enemy's abode; and though there was but
little temptation to plunder, I knew that I must here begin to draw
the line. I had long since resolved to prohibit absolutely all
indiscriminate pilfering and wanton outrage, and to allow nothing to
be taken or destroyed but by proper authority. The men, to my great
satisfaction, entered into this view at once, and so did (perhaps a
shade less readily, in some cases) the officers. The greatest trouble
was with the steamboat hands, and I resolved to let them go ashore as
little as possible. Most articles of furniture were already, however,
before our visit, gone from the plantation-house, which was now used
only as a picket-station. The only valuable article was a pianoforte,
for which a regular packing-box lay invitingly ready outside. I had made
up my mind, in accordance with the orders given to naval commanders in
that department,* to burn all picket-stations, and all villages from
which I should be covertly attacked, and nothing else; and as this house
was destined to the flames, I should have left the piano in it, but for
the seductions of that box. With such a receptacle all ready, even to
the cover, it would have seemed like flying in the face of Providence
not to put the piano in. I ordered it removed, therefore, and afterwards
presented it to the school for colored children at Fernandina. This
I mention because it was the only article of property I ever took,
or knowingly suffered to be taken, in the enemy's country, save for
legitimate military uses, from first to last; nor would I have taken
this, but for the thought of the school, and, as aforesaid, the
temptation of the box. If any other officer has been more rigid, with
equal opportunities, let him cast the first stone.

* "It is my desire to avoid the destruction of private property, unless
used for picket or guard-stations, or for other military purposes, by
the enemy.... Of course, if fired upon from any place, it is your duty,
if possible, to destroy it." Letter of ADMIRAL DUPONT, commanding South
Atlantic Squadron, to LIEUTENANT-COMMANDER HUGHES of United States
Gunboat Mohawk, Fernandina Harbor.

I think the zest with which the men finally set fire to the house at
my order was enhanced by this previous abstemiousness; but there is a
fearful fascination in the use of fire, which every child knows in the
abstract, and which I found to hold true in the practice. On our way
down river we had opportunity to test this again.

The ruined town of St. Mary's had at that time a bad reputation,
among both naval and military men. Lying but a short distance above
Fernandina, on the Georgia side, it was occasionally visited by our
gunboats. I was informed that the only residents of the town were
three old women, who were apparently kept there as spies,--that, on
our approach, the aged crones would come out and wave white
handkerchiefs,--that they would receive us hospitably, profess to be
profoundly loyal, and exhibit a portrait of Washington,--that they
would solemnly assure us that no Rebel pickets had been there for
many weeks,--but that in the adjoining yard we should find fresh
horse-tracks, and that we should be fired upon by guerillas the moment
we left the wharf. My officers had been much excited by these tales; and
I had assured them that, if this programme were literally carried out,
we would straightway return and burn the town, or what was left of it,
for our share. It was essential to show my officers and men that, while
rigid against irregular outrage, we could still be inexorable against
the enemy.

We had previously planned to stop at this town, on our way down river,
for some valuable lumber which we had espied on a wharf; and gliding
down the swift current, shelling a few bluffs as we passed, we soon
reached it. Punctual as the figures in a panorama appeared the old
ladies with their white handkerchiefs. Taking possession of the town,
much of which had previously been destroyed by the gunboats, and
stationing the color-guard, to their infinite delight, in the cupola
of the most conspicuous house, I deployed skirmishers along the exposed
suburb, and set a detail of men at work on the lumber. After a stately
and decorous interview with the queens of society of St. Mary's,--is
it Scott who says that nothing improves the manners like piracy?--I
peacefully withdrew the men when the work was done. There were faces of
disappointment among the officers,--for all felt a spirit of mischief
after the last night's adventure,--when, just as we had fairly swung out
into the stream and were under way, there came, like the sudden burst of
a tropical tornado, a regular little hail-storm of bullets into the open
end of the boat, driving every gunner in an instant from his post, and
surprising even those who were looking to be surprised. The shock was
but for a second; and though the bullets had pattered precisely like
the sound of hail upon the iron cannon, yet nobody was hurt. With very
respectable promptness, order was restored, our own shells were flying
into the woods from which the attack proceeded, and we were steaming up
to the wharf again, according to promise.

Who shall describe the theatrical attitudes assumed by the old ladies
as they reappeared at the front-door,--being luckily out of direct
range,--and set the handkerchiefs in wilder motion than ever? They
brandished them, they twirled them after the manner of the domestic
mop, they clasped their hands, handkerchiefs included. Meanwhile their
friends in the wood popped away steadily at us, with small effect; and
occasionally an invisible field-piece thundered feebly from another
quarter, with equally invisible results. Reaching the wharf, one
company, under Lieutenant (now Captain) Danil-son, was promptly deployed
in search of our assailants, who soon grew silent. Not so the old
ladies, when I announced to them my purpose, and added, with extreme
regret, that, as the wind was high, I should burn only that half of
the town which lay to leeward of their house, which did not, after
all, amount to much. Between gratitude for this degree of mercy, and
imploring appeals for greater, the treacherous old ladies manoeuvred
with clasped hands and demonstrative handkerchiefs around me, impairing
the effect of their eloquence by constantly addressing me as "Mr.
Captain"; for I have observed, that, while the sternest officer is
greatly propitiated by attributing to him a rank a little higher than
his own, yet no one is ever mollified by an error in the opposite
direction. I tried, however, to disregard such low considerations,
and to strike the correct mean between the sublime patriot and the
unsanctified incendiary, while I could find no refuge from weak
contrition save in greater and greater depths of courtesy; and so
melodramatic became our interview that some of the soldiers still
maintain that "dem dar ole Secesh women been a-gwine for kiss de
Cunnel," before we ended. But of this monstrous accusation I wish to
register an explicit denial, once for all.

Dropping down to Fernandina unmolested after this affair, we were kindly
received by the military and naval commanders,--Colonel Hawley, of
the Seventh Connecticut (now Brigadier-General Hawley), and
Lieutenant-Commander Hughes, of the gunboat Mohawk. It turned out very
opportunely that both of these officers had special errands to suggest
still farther up the St. Mary's, and precisely in the region where I
wished to go. Colonel Hawley showed me a letter from the War Department,
requesting him to ascertain the possibility of obtaining a supply
of brick for Fort Clinch from the brickyard which had furnished the
original materials, but which had not been visited since the perilous
river-trip of the Ottawa. Lieutenant Hughes wished to obtain information
for the Admiral respecting a Rebel steamer,--the Berosa,--said to
be lying somewhere up the river, and awaiting her chance to run the
blockade. I jumped at the opportunity. Berosa and brickyard,--both were
near Wood-stock, the former home of Corporal Sutton; he was ready
and eager to pilot us up the river; the moon would be just right that
evening, setting at 3h. 19m. A.M.; and our boat was precisely the one
to undertake the expedition. Its double-headed shape was just what was
needed in that swift and crooked stream; the exposed pilot-houses had
been tolerably barricaded with the thick planks from St. Simon's; and
we further obtained some sand-bags from Fort Clinch, through the aid of
Captain Sears, the officer in charge, who had originally suggested the
expedition after brick. In return for this aid, the Planter was sent
back to the wharf at St. Mary's, to bring away a considerable supply
of the same precious article, which we had observed near the wharf.
Meanwhile the John Adams was coaling from naval supplies, through the
kindness of Lieutenant Hughes; and the Ben De Ford was taking in
the lumber which we had yesterday brought down. It was a great
disappointment to be unable to take the latter vessel up the river; but
I was unwillingly convinced that, though the depth of water might be
sufficient, yet her length would be unmanageable in the swift current
and sharp turns. The Planter must also be sent on a separate cruise,
as her weak and disabled machinery made her useless for my purpose. Two
hundred men were therefore transferred, as before, to the narrow hold
of the John Adams, in addition to the company permanently stationed on
board to work the guns. At seven o'clock on the evening of January 29th,
beneath a lovely moon, we steamed up the river.

Never shall I forget the mystery and excitement of that night. I know
nothing in life more fascinating than the nocturnal ascent of an unknown
river, leading far into an enemy's country, where one glides in the
dim moonlight between dark hills and meadows, each turn of the channel
making it seem like an inland lake, and cutting you off as by a
barrier from all behind,--with no sign of human life, but an occasional
picket-fire left glimmering beneath the bank, or the yelp of a dog from
some low-lying plantation. On such occasions every nerve is strained to
its utmost tension; all dreams of romance appear to promise immediate
fulfilment; all lights on board the vessel are obscured, loud voices
are hushed; you fancy a thousand men on shore, and yet see nothing; the
lonely river, unaccustomed to furrowing keels, lapses by the vessel with
a treacherous sound; and all the senses are merged in a sort of anxious
trance. Three tunes I have had in full perfection this fascinating
experience; but that night was the first, and its zest was the keenest.
It will come back to me in dreams, if I live a thousand years.

I feared no attack during our ascent,--that danger was for our return;
but I feared the intricate navigation of the river, though I did not
fully know, till the actual experience, how dangerous it was. We passed
without trouble far above the scene of our first fight,--the Battle
of the Hundred Pines, as my officers had baptized it; and ever, as we
ascended, the banks grew steeper, the current swifter, the channel more
tortuous and more encumbered with projecting branches and drifting wood.
No piloting less skilful than that of Corporal Sutton and his mate,
James Bezzard, could have carried us through, I thought; and no
side-wheel steamer less strong than a ferry-boat could have borne the
crash and force with which we struck the wooded banks of the river. But
the powerful paddles, built to break the Northern ice, could crush the
Southern pine as well; and we came safely out of entanglements that at
first seemed formidable. We had the tide with us, which makes steering
far more difficult; and, in the sharp angles of the river, there was
often no resource but to run the bow boldly on shore, let the stern
swing round, and then reverse the motion. As the reversing machinery
was generally out of order, the engineer stupid or frightened, and
the captain excited, this involved moments of tolerably concentrated
anxiety. Eight times we grounded in the upper waters, and once lay
aground for half an hour; but at last we dropped anchor before the
little town of Woodstock, after moonset and an hour before daybreak,
just as I had planned, and so quietly that scarcely a dog barked, and
not a soul in the town, as we afterwards found, knew of our arrival.

As silently as possible, the great flat-boat which we had brought from
St. Simon's was filled with men. Major Strong was sent on shore with
two companies,--those of Captain James and Captain Metcalf,--with
instructions to surround the town quietly, allow no one to leave it,
molest no one, and hold as temporary prisoners every man whom he found.
I watched them push off into the darkness, got the remaining force ready
to land, and then paced the deck for an hour in silent watchfulness,
waiting for rifle-shots. Not a sound came from the shore, save
the barking of dogs and the morning crow of cocks; the time seemed
interminable; but when daylight came, I landed, and found a pair of
scarlet trousers pacing on their beat before every house in the village,
and a small squad of prisoners, stunted and forlorn as Falstaff's ragged
regiment, already hi hand. I observed with delight the good demeanor
of my men towards these forlorn Anglo-Saxons, and towards the more
tumultuous women. Even one soldier, who threatened to throw an old
termagant into the river, took care to append the courteous epithet

I took a survey of the premises. The chief house, a pretty one with
picturesque outbuildings, was that of Mrs. A., who owned the mills
and lumber-wharves adjoining. The wealth of these wharves had not been
exaggerated. There was lumber enough to freight half a dozen steamers,
and I half regretted that I had agreed to take down a freight of
bricks instead. Further researches made me grateful that I had already
explained to my men the difference between public foraging and private
plunder. Along the river-bank I found building after building crowded
with costly furniture, all neatly packed, just as it was sent up from
St. Mary's when that town was abandoned. Pianos were a drug; china,
glass-ware, mahogany, pictures, all were here. And here were my men, who
knew that their own labor had earned for their masters these luxuries,
or such as these; their own wives and children were still sleeping on
the floor, perhaps, at Beaufort or Fernandina; and yet they submitted,
almost without a murmur, to the enforced abstinence. Bed and bedding
for our hospitals they might take from those store-rooms,--such as the
surgeon selected,--also an old flag which we found in a corner, and an
old field-piece (which the regiment still possesses),--but after this
the doors were closed and left unmolested. It cost a struggle to some
of the men, whose wives were destitute, I know; but their pride was very
easily touched, and when this abstinence was once recognized as a rule,
they claimed it as an honor, in this and all succeeding expeditions.
I flatter myself that, if they had once been set upon wholesale
plundering, they would have done it as thoroughly as their betters; but
I have always been infinitely grateful, both for the credit and for
the discipline of the regiment,--as well as for the men's subsequent
lives,--that the opposite method was adopted.

When the morning was a little advanced, I called on Mrs. A., who
received me in quite a stately way at her own door with "To what am
I indebted for the honor of this visit, Sir?" The foreign name of
the family, and the tropical look of the buildings, made it seem (as,
indeed, did all the rest of the adventure) like a chapter out of "Amyas
Leigh"; but as I had happened to hear that the lady herself was a
Philadelphian, and her deceased husband a New-Yorker, I could not feel
even that modicum of reverence due to sincere Southerners. However, I
wished to present my credentials; so, calling up my companion, I said
that I believed she had been previously acquainted with Corporal Robert
Sutton? I never saw a finer bit of unutterable indignation than came
over the face of my hostess, as she slowly recognized him. She drew
herself up, and dropped out the monosyllables of her answer as if they
were so many drops of nitric acid. "Ah," quoth my lady, "we called him

It was a group for a painter. The whole drama of the war seemed to
reverse itself in an instant, and my tall, well-dressed, imposing,
philosophic Corporal dropped down the immeasurable depth into a mere
plantation "Bob" again. So at least in my imagination; not to that
person himself. Too essentially dignified in his nature to be moved by
words where substantial realities were in question, he simply turned
from the lady, touched his hat to me, and asked if I would wish to see
the slave-jail, as he had the keys in his possession.

If he fancied that I was in danger of being overcome by blandishments,
and needed to be recalled to realities, it was a master-stroke.

I must say that, when the door of that villanous edifice was thrown open
before me, I felt glad that my main interview with its lady proprietor
had passed before I saw it. It was a small building, like a Northern
corn-barn, and seemed to have as prominent and as legitimate a place
among the outbuildings of the establishment. In the middle of the door
was a large staple with a rusty chain, like an ox-chain, for fastening
a victim down. When the door had been opened after the death of the late
proprietor, my informant said, a man was found padlocked in that chain.
We found also three pairs of stocks of various construction, two of
which had smaller as well as larger holes, evidently for the feet of
women or children. In a building near by we found something far more
complicated, which was perfectly unintelligible till the men explained
all its parts: a machine so contrived that a person once imprisoned in
it could neither sit, stand, nor lie, but must support the body
half raised, in a position scarcely endurable. I have since bitterly
reproached myself for leaving this piece of ingenuity behind; but it
would have cost much labor to remove it, and to bring away the other
trophies seemed then enough. I remember the unutterable loathing with
which I leaned against the door of that prison-house; I had thought
myself seasoned to any conceivable horrors of Slavery, but it seemed as
if the visible presence of that den of sin would choke me. Of course
it would have been burned to the ground by us, but that this would have
involved the sacrifice of every other building and all the piles of
lumber, and for the moment it seemed as if the sacrifice would be
righteous. But I forbore, and only took as trophies the instruments of
torture and the keys of the jail.

We found but few colored people in this vicinity; some we brought away
with us, and an old man and woman preferred to remain. All the white
males whom we found I took as hostages, in order to shield us, if
possible, from attack on our way down river, explaining to them that
they would be put on shore when the dangerous points were passed. I
knew that their wives could easily send notice of this fact to the
Rebel forces along the river. My hostages were a forlorn-looking set of
"crackers," far inferior to our soldiers in _physique_, and yet quite
equal, the latter declared, to the average material of the Southern
armies. None were in uniform, but this proved nothing as to their being
soldiers. One of them, a mere boy, was captured at his own door, with
gun in hand. It was a fowling-piece, which he used only, as his mother
plaintively assured me, "to shoot little birds with." As the guileless
youth had for this purpose loaded the gun with eighteen buck-shot, we
thought it justifiable to confiscate both the weapon and the owner, in
mercy to the birds.

We took from this place, for the use of the army, a flock of some thirty
sheep, forty bushels of rice, some other provisions, tools, oars, and
a little lumber, leaving all possible space for the bricks which we
expected to obtain just below. I should have gone farther up the river,
but for a dangerous boom which kept back a great number of logs in a
large brook that here fell into the St. Mary's; the stream ran with
force, and if the Rebels had wit enough to do it, they might in ten
minutes so choke the river with drift-wood as infinitely to enhance
our troubles. So we dropped down stream a mile or two, found the very
brickyard from which Fort Clinch had been constructed,--still stored
with bricks, and seemingly unprotected. Here Sergeant Rivers again
planted his standard, and the men toiled eagerly, for several hours, in
loading our boat to the utmost with the bricks. Meanwhile we questioned
black and white witnesses, and learned for the first tune that the
Rebels admitted a repulse at Township Landing, and that Lieutenant Jones
and ten of their number were killed,--though this I fancy to have been
an exaggeration. They also declared that the mysterious steamer Berosa
was lying at the head of the river, but was a broken-down and worthless
affair, and would never get to sea. The result has since proved this;
for the vessel subsequently ran the blockade and foundered near shore,
the crew barely escaping with their lives. I had the pleasure, as it
happened, of being the first person to forward this information
to Admiral Dupont, when it came through the pickets, many months
after,--thus concluding my report on the Berosa.

Before the work at the yard was over the pickets reported mounted men in
the woods near by, as had previously been the report at Woodstock.
This admonished us to lose no time; and as we left the wharf, immediate
arrangements were made to have the gun crews all in readiness, and to
keep the rest of the men below, since their musketry would be of little
use now, and I did not propose to risk a life unnecessarily. The chief
obstacle to this was their own eagerness; penned down on one side, they
popped up on the other; their officers, too, were eager to see what was
going on, and were almost as hard to cork down as the men. Add to this,
that the vessel was now very crowded, and that I had to be chiefly
on the hurricane-deck with the pilots. Captain Clifton, master of the
vessel, was brave to excess, and as much excited as the men; he could no
more be kept in the little pilot-house than they below; and when we had
passed one or two bluffs, with no sign of an enemy, he grew more and
more irrepressible, and exposed himself conspicuously on the upper deck.
Perhaps we all were a little lulled by apparent safety; for myself, I
lay down for a moment on a settee in a state-room, having been on my
feet, almost without cessation, for twenty-four hours.

Suddenly there swept down from a bluff above us, on the Georgia side, a
mingling of shout and roar and rattle as of a tornado let loose; and
as a storm of bullets came pelting against the sides of the vessel, and
through a window, there went up a shrill answering shout from our own
men. It took but an instant for me to reach the gun-deck. After all my
efforts the men had swarmed once more from below, and already, crowding
at both ends of the boat, were loading and firing with inconceivable
rapidity, shouting to each other, "Nebber gib it up!" and of course
having no steady aim, as the vessel glided and whirled in the swift
current. Meanwhile the officers in charge of the large guns had their
crews in order, and our shells began to fly over the bluffs, which, as
we now saw, should have been shelled in advance, only that we had to
economize ammunition. The other soldiers I drove below, almost by main
force, with the aid of their officers, who behaved exceedingly well,
giving the men leave to fire from the open port-holes which lined
the lower deck, almost at the water's level. In the very midst of the
_melee_ Major Strong came from the upper deck, with a face of horror,
and whispered to me, "Captain Clifton was killed at the first shot by my

If he had said that the vessel was on fire the shock would hardly have
been greater. Of course, the military commander on board a steamer is
almost as helpless as an unarmed man, so far as the risks of water go. A
seaman must command there. In the hazardous voyage of last night, I
had learned, though unjustly, to distrust every official on board the
steamboat except this excitable, brave, warm-hearted sailor; and now,
among these added dangers, to lose him! The responsibility for his life
also thrilled me; he was not among my soldiers, and yet he was killed. I
thought of his wife and children, of whom he had spoken; but one learns
to think rapidly in war, and, cautioning the Major to silence, I went up
to the hurricane-deck and drew in the helpless body, that it should be
safe from further desecration, and then looked to see where we were.

We were now gliding past a safe reach of marsh, while our assailants
were riding by cross-paths to attack us at the next bluff. It was Reed's
Bluff where we were first attacked, and Scrubby Bluff, I think, was
next. They were shelled in advance, but swarmed manfully to the banks
again as we swept round one of the sharp angles of the stream beneath
their fire. My men were now pretty well imprisoned below in the hot and
crowded hold, and actually fought each other, the officers afterwards
said, for places at the open port-holes, from which to aim. Others
implored to be landed, exclaiming that they "supposed de Cunnel knew
best," but it was "mighty mean" to be shut up down below, when they
might be "fightin' de Secesh _in de clar field_." This clear field, and
no favor, was what they thenceforward sighed for. But in such difficult
navigation it would have been madness to think of landing, although one
daring Rebel actually sprang upon the large boat which we towed astern,
where he was shot down by one of our sergeants. This boat was soon after
swamped and abandoned, then taken and repaired by the Rebels at a later
date, and finally, by a piece of dramatic completeness, was seized by
a party of fugitive slaves, who escaped in it to our lines, and some of
whom enlisted in my own regiment.

It has always been rather a mystery to me why the Rebels did not fell
a few trees across the stream at some of the many sharp angles where we
might so easily have been thus imprisoned. This, however, they did
not attempt, and with the skilful pilotage of our trusty
Corporal,--philosophic as Socrates through all the din, and occasionally
relieving his mind by taking a shot with his rifle through the high
portholes of the pilot-house,--we glided safely on. The steamer did not
ground once on the descent, and the mate in command, Mr. Smith, did his
duty very well. The plank sheathing of the pilot-house was penetrated by
few bullets, though struck by so many outside that it was visited as a
curiosity after our return; and even among the gun-crews, though they
had no protection, not a man was hurt. As we approached some wooded
bluff, usually on the Georgia side, we could see galloping along the
hillside what seemed a regiment of mounted riflemen, and could see our
shell scatter them ere we approached. Shelling did not, however, prevent
a rather fierce fusilade from our old friends of Captain dark's company
at Waterman's Bluff, near Township Landing; but even this did no serious
damage, and this was the last.

It was of course impossible, while thus running the gauntlet, to put our
hostages ashore, and I could only explain to them that they must thank
their own friends for their inevitable detention. I was by no means
proud of their forlorn appearance, and besought Colonel Hawley to take
them off my hands; but he was sending no flags of truce at that time,
and liked their looks no better than I did. So I took them to Port
Royal, where they were afterwards sent safely across the lines. Our
men were pleased at taking them back with us, as they had already said,
regretfully, "S'pose we leave dem Secesh at Fernandina, General Saxby
won't see 'em,"--as if they were some new natural curiosity, which
indeed they were. One soldier further suggested the expediency of
keeping them permanently in camp, to be used as marks for the guns of
the relieved guard every morning. But this was rather an ebullition of
fancy than a sober proposition.

Against these levities I must put a piece of more tragic eloquence,
which I took down by night on the steamer's deck from the thrilling
harangue of Corporal Adam Allston, one of our most gifted prophets,
whose influence over the men was unbounded. "When I heard," he said,
"de bombshell a-screamin' troo de woods like de Judgment Day, I said to
myself, 'If my head was took off to-night, dey couldn't put my soul
in de torments, perceps [except] God was my enemy!' And when de
rifle-bullets came whizzin' across de deck, I cried aloud, 'God help my
congregation! Boys, load and fire!'"

I must pass briefly over the few remaining days of our cruise. At
Fernandina we met the Planter, which had been successful on her separate
expedition, and had destroyed extensive salt-works at Crooked River,
under charge of the energetic Captain Trowbridge, efficiently aided by
Captain Rogers. Our commodities being in part delivered at Fernandina,
our decks being full, coal nearly out, and time up, we called once more
at St. Simon's Sound, bringing away the remainder of our railroad-iron,
with some which the naval officers had previously disinterred, and then
steamed back to Beaufort. Arriving there at sunrise (February 2, 1863),
I made my way with Dr. Rogers to General Saxton's bedroom, and laid
before him the keys and shackles of the slave-prison, with my report
of the good conduct of the men,--as Dr. Rogers remarked, a message from
heaven and another from hell.

Slight as this expedition now seems among the vast events of the war,
the future student of the newspapers of that day will find that it
occupied no little space in their columns, so intense was the interest
which then attached to the novel experiment of employing black troops.
So obvious, too, was the value, during this raid, of their local
knowledge and their enthusiasm, that it was impossible not to find in
its successes new suggestions for the war. Certainly I would not have
consented to repeat the enterprise with the bravest white troops,
leaving Corporal Sutton and his mates behind, for I should have expected
to fail. For a year after our raid the Upper St. Mary's remained
unvisited, till in 1864 the large force with which we held Florida
secured peace upon its banks; then Mrs. A. took the oath of allegiance,
the Government bought her remaining lumber, and the John Adams again
ascended with a detachment of my men under Lieutenant Parker, and
brought a portion of it to Fernandina. By a strange turn of fortune,
Corporal Sutton (now Sergeant) was at this time in jail at Hilton Head,
under sentence of court-martial for an alleged act of mutiny,--an affair
in which the general voice of our officers sustained him and condemned
his accusers, so that he soon received a full pardon, and was restored
in honor to his place in the regiment, which he has ever since held.

Nothing can ever exaggerate the fascinations of war, whether on the
largest or smallest scale. When we settled down into camp-life again, it
seemed like a butterfly's folding its wings to re-enter the chrysalis.
None of us could listen to the crack of a gun without recalling
instantly the sharp shots that spilled down from the bluffs of the
St. Mary's, or hear a sudden trampling of horsemen by night without
recalling the sounds which startled us on the Field of the Hundred
Pines. The memory of our raid was preserved in the camp by many legends
of adventure, growing vaster and more incredible as time wore on,--and
by the morning appeals to the surgeon of some veteran invalids, who
could now cut off all reproofs and suspicions with "Doctor, I's been
a sickly pusson eber since de _expeditious_." But to me the most vivid
remembrancer was the flock of sheep which we had "lifted." The Post
Quartermaster discreetly gave us the charge of them, and they rilled a
gap in the landscape and in the larder,--which last had before presented
one unvaried round of impenetrable beef. Mr. Obabiah Oldbuck, when he
decided to adopt a pastoral life, and assumed the provisional name of
Thyrsis, never looked upon his flocks and herds with more unalloyed
contentment than I upon that fleecy family. I had been familiar, in
Kansas, with the metaphor by which the sentiments of an owner were
credited to his property, and had heard of a proslavery colt and an
antislavery cow. The fact that these sheep were but recently converted
from "Se-cesh" sentiments was their crowning charm. Methought they
frisked and fattened in the joy of their deliverance from the shadow
of Mrs. A.'s slave-jail, and gladly contemplated translation into
mutton-broth for sick or wounded soldiers. The very slaves who once,
perchance, were sold at auction with yon aged patriarch of the flock,
had now asserted their humanity, and would devour him as hospital
rations. Meanwhile our shepherd bore a sharp bayonet without a crook,
and I felt myself a peer of Ulysses and Rob Roy,--those sheep-stealers
of less elevated aims,--when I met in my daily rides these wandering
trophies of our wider wanderings.

Chapter 4. Up the St. John's

There was not much stirring in the Department of the South early in
1863, and the St. Mary's expedition had afforded a new sensation. Of
course the few officers of colored troops, and a larger number who
wished to become such, were urgent for further experiments in the same
line; and the Florida tax-commissioners were urgent likewise. I well
remember the morning when, after some preliminary correspondence, I
steamed down from Beaufort, S. C., to Hilton Head, with General Saxton,
Judge S., and one or two others, to have an interview on the matter with
Major-General Hunter, then commanding the Department.

Hilton Head, in those days, seemed always like some foreign military
station in the tropics. The long, low, white buildings, with piazzas
and verandas on the water-side; the general impression of heat and
lassitude, existence appearing to pulsate only with the sea-breeze; the
sandy, almost impassable streets; and the firm, level beach, on which
everybody walked who could get there: all these suggested Jamaica or the
East Indies. Then the head-quarters at the end of the beach, the Zouave
sentinels, the successive anterooms, the lounging aids, the good-natured
and easy General,--easy by habit and energetic by impulse,--all had a
certain air of Southern languor, rather picturesque, but perhaps not
altogether bracing. General Hunter received us, that day, with his usual
kindliness; there was a good deal of pleasant chat; Miles O'Reilly was
called in to read his latest verses; and then we came to the matter in

Jacksonville, on the St. John's River, in Florida, had been
already twice taken and twice evacuated; having been occupied by
Brigadier-General Wright, in March, 1862, and by Brigadier-General
Brannan, in October of the same year. The second evacuation was by
Major-General Hunter's own order, on the avowed ground that a garrison
of five thousand was needed to hold the place, and that this force could
not be spared. The present proposition was to take and hold it with
a brigade of less than a thousand men, carrying, however, arms and
uniforms for twice that number, and a month's rations. The claim was,
that there were fewer rebel troops in the Department than formerly,
and that the St. Mary's expedition had shown the advantage possessed by
colored troops, in local knowledge, and in the confidence of the loyal
blacks. It was also urged, that it was worth while to risk something, in
the effort to hold Florida, and perhaps bring it back into the Union.

My chief aim in the negotiation was to get the men into action, and
that of the Florida Commissioners to get them into Florida. Thus far
coinciding, we could heartily co-operate; and though General Hunter made
some reasonable objections, they were yielded more readily than I had
feared; and finally, before half our logical ammunition was exhausted,
the desired permission was given, and the thing might be considered as

We were now to leave, as we supposed forever, the camp which had thus
far been our home. Our vast amount of surplus baggage made a heavy job
in the loading, inasmuch as we had no wharf, and everything had to be
put on board by means of flat-boats. It was completed by twenty-four
hours of steady work; and after some of the usual uncomfortable delays
which wait on military expeditions, we were at last afloat.

I had tried to keep the plan as secret as possible, and had requested
to have no definite orders, until we should be on board ship. But this
larger expedition was less within my own hands than was the St. Mary's
affair, and the great reliance for concealment was on certain counter
reports, ingeniously set afloat by some of the Florida men. These
reports rapidly swelled into the most enormous tales, and by the time
they reached the New York newspapers, the expedition was "a great
volcano about bursting, whose lava will burn, flow, and destroy," "the
sudden appearance in arms of no less than five thousand negroes,"
"a liberating host," "not the phantom, but the reality, of servile
insurrection." What the undertaking actually was may be best seen in the
instructions which guided it.*


March 5, 1863.

COLONEL,--You will please proceed with your command, the First and
Second Regiments South Carolina Volunteers, which are now embarked upon
the steamers John Adams, Boston, and Burn-side, to Fernandina, Florida.

Relying upon your military skill and judgment. I shall give you no
special directions as to your procedure after you leave Fernandina.
I expect, however, that you will occupy Jacksonville, Florida, and
intrench yourselves there.

The main objects of your expedition are to carry the proclamation of
freedom to the enslaved; to call all loyal men into the service of the
United States; to occupy as much of the State of Florida as possible
with the forces under your command; and to neglect no means consistent
with the usages of civilized warfare to weaken, harass, and annoy those
who are in rebellion against the Government of the United States.

Trusting that the blessing of our Heavenly Father will rest upon your
noble enterprise,

I am yours, sincerely,


Brig.-Gen., Mil. Gov. Dept. of the South. Colonel Higginson, Comdg.
Expeditionary Corps.

In due time, after touching at Fernandina, we reached the difficult
bar of the St. John's, and were piloted safely over. Admiral Dupont had
furnished a courteous letter of introduction.* and we were cordially
received by Commander Duncan of the Norwich, and Lieutenant Watson,
commanding the Uncas. Like all officers on blockade duty, they were
impatient of their enforced inaction, and gladly seized the opportunity
for a different service. It was some time since they had ascended as
high as Jacksonville, for their orders were strict, one vessel's coal
was low, the other was in infirm condition, and there were rumors of
cotton-clads and torpedoes. But they gladly agreed to escort us up
the river, so soon as our own armed gunboat, the John Adams, should
arrive,--she being unaccountably delayed.


PORT ROYAL HARBOR, S. C., March 6, 1863. SIR,--I am informed by
Major-General Hunter that he is sending Colonel Higginson on an
important mission in the southerly part of his Department.

I have not been made acquainted with the objects of this mission, but
any assistance that you can offer Colonel Higginson, which will not
interfere with your other duties, you are authorized to give.

Respectfully your obedient servant,

S. F. DUPONT, Rear-Adm. Comdg. S. Atl. Block. Squad.

To the Senior Officer at the different Blockading Stations on the Coast
of Georgia and Florida.

We waited twenty-four hours for her, at the sultry mouth of that glassy
river, watching the great pelicans which floated lazily on its tide, or
sometimes shooting one, to admire the great pouch, into which one of
the soldiers could insert his foot, as into a boot. "He hold one quart,"
said the admiring experimentalist. "Hi! boy," retorted another quickly,
"neber you bring dat quart measure in _my_ peck o' corn." The protest
came very promptly, and was certainly fair; for the strange receptacle
would have held nearly a gallon.

We went on shore, too, and were shown a rather pathetic little garden,
which the naval officers had laid out, indulging a dream of vegetables.
They lingered over the little microscopic sprouts, pointing them out
tenderly, as if they were cradled babies. I have often noticed this
touching weakness, in gentlemen of that profession, on lonely stations.

We wandered among the bluffs, too, in the little deserted hamlet called
"Pilot Town." The ever-shifting sand had in some cases almost buried
the small houses, and had swept around others a circular drift, at a few
yards' distance, overtopping then: eaves, and leaving each the untouched
citadel of this natural redoubt. There was also a dismantled lighthouse,
an object which always seems the most dreary symbol of the barbarism
of war, when one considers the national beneficence which reared and
kindled it. Despite the service rendered by this once brilliant light,
there were many wrecks which had been strown upon the beach, victims of
the most formidable of the Southern river-bars. As I stood with my foot
on the half-buried ribs of one of these vessels,--so distinctly traced
that one might almost fancy them human,--the old pilot, my companion,
told me the story of the wreck. The vessel had formerly been in the
Cuba trade; and her owner, an American merchant residing in Havana,
had christened her for his young daughter. I asked the name, and was
startled to recognize that of a favorite young cousin of mine, besides
the bones of whose representative I was thus strangely standing, upon
this lonely shore.

It was well to have something to relieve the anxiety naturally felt at
the delay of the John Adams,--anxiety both for her safety and for the
success of our enterprise, The Rebels had repeatedly threatened to
burn the whole of Jacksonville, in case of another attack, as they had
previously burned its mills and its great hotel. It seemed as if the
news of our arrival must surely have travelled thirty miles by this
time. All day we watched every smoke that rose among the wooded hills,
and consulted the compass and the map, to see if that sign announced the
doom of our expected home. At the very last moment of the tide, just
in time to cross the bar that day, the missing vessel arrived; all
anxieties vanished; I transferred my quarters on board, and at two the
next morning we steamed up the river.

Again there was the dreamy delight of ascending an unknown stream,
beneath a sinking moon, into a region where peril made fascination.
Since the time of the first explorers, I suppose that those Southern
waters have known no sensations so dreamy and so bewitching as those
which this war has brought forth. I recall, in this case, the faintest
sensations of our voyage, as Ponce de Leon may have recalled those
of his wandering search, in the same soft zone, for the secret of the
mystic fountain. I remember how, during that night, I looked for the
first time through a powerful night-glass. It had always seemed a thing
wholly inconceivable, that a mere lens could change darkness into light;
and as I turned the instrument on the preceding gunboat, and actually
discerned the man at the wheel and the others standing about him,--all
relapsing into vague gloom again at the withdrawal of the glass,--it
gave a feeling of childish delight. Yet it seemed only in keeping
with the whole enchantment of the scene; and had I been some Aladdin,
convoyed by genii or giants, I could hardly have felt more wholly a
denizen of some world of romance.

But the river was of difficult navigation; and we began to feel
sometimes, beneath the keel, that ominous, sliding, grating, treacherous
arrest of motion which makes the heart shudder, as the vessel does.
There was some solicitude about torpedoes, also,--a peril which became
a formidable thing, one year later, in the very channel where we found
none. Soon one of our consorts grounded, then another, every vessel
taking its turn, I believe, and then in turn getting off, until the
Norwich lay hopelessly stranded, for that tide at least, a few miles
below Jacksonville, and out of sight of the city, so that she could not
even add to our dignity by her visible presence from afar.

This was rather a serious matter, as the Norwich was our main naval
reliance, the Uncas being a small steamer of less than two hundred tons,
and in such poor condition that Commander Duncan, on finding himself
aground, at first quite declined to trust his consort any farther alone.
But, having got thus far, it was plainly my duty to risk the remainder
with or without naval assistance; and this being so, the courageous
officer did not long object, but allowed his dashing subordinate to
steam up with us to the city. This left us one naval and one army
gunboat; and, fortunately, the Burn-side, being a black propeller,
always passed for an armed vessel among the Rebels, and we rather
encouraged that pleasing illusion.

We had aimed to reach Jacksonville at daybreak; but these mishaps
delayed us, and we had several hours of fresh, early sunshine, lighting
up the green shores of that lovely river, wooded to the water's edge,
with sometimes an emerald meadow, opening a vista to some picturesque
house,--all utterly unlike anything we had yet seen in the South, and
suggesting rather the Penobscot or Kennebec. Here and there we glided
by the ruins of some saw-mill burned by the Rebels on General Wright's
approach; but nothing else spoke of war, except, perhaps, the silence.
It was a delicious day, and a scene of fascination. Our Florida men were
wild with delight; and when we rounded the point below the city, and saw
from afar its long streets, its brick warehouses, its white cottages,
and its overshadowing trees,--all peaceful and undisturbed by
flames,--it seemed, in the men's favorite phrase, "too much good," and
all discipline was merged, for the moment, in a buzz of ecstasy.

The city was still there for us, at any rate; though none knew what
perils might be concealed behind those quiet buildings. Yet there were
children playing on the wharves; careless men, here and there, lounged
down to look at us, hands in pockets; a few women came to their doors,
and gazed listlessly upon us, shading their eyes with their hands. We
drew momently nearer, in silence and with breathless attention. The
gunners were at their posts, and the men in line. It was eight o'clock.
We were now directly opposite the town: yet no sign of danger was seen;
not a rifle-shot was heard; not a shell rose hissing in the air.
The Uncas rounded to, and dropped anchor in the stream; by previous
agreement, I steamed to an upper pier of the town, Colonel Montgomery
to a lower one; the little boat-howitzers were run out upon the wharves,
and presently to the angles of the chief streets; and the pretty town
was our own without a shot. In spite of our detention, the surprise had
been complete, and not a soul in Jacksonville had dreamed of our coming.

The day passed quickly, in eager preparations for defence; the people
could or would give us no definite information about the Rebel camp,
which was, however, known to be near, and our force did not permit our
going out to surprise it. The night following was the most anxious I
ever spent. We were all tired out; the companies were under arms, in
various parts of the town, to be ready for an attack at any moment. My
temporary quarters were beneath the loveliest grove of linden-trees,
and as I reclined, half-dozing, the mocking-birds sang all night like
nightingales,--their notes seeming to trickle down through the sweet air
from amid the blossoming boughs. Day brought relief and the sense of due
possession, and we could see what we had won.

Jacksonville was now a United States post again: the only post on the
main-land in the Department of the South. Before the war it had three or
four thousand inhabitants, and a rapidly growing lumber-trade, for which
abundant facilities were evidently provided. The wharves were capacious,
and the blocks of brick warehouses along the lower street were utterly
unlike anything we had yet seen in that region, as were the neatness and
thrift everywhere visible. It had been built up by Northern enterprise,
and much of the property was owned by loyal men. It had been a great
resort for invalids, though the Rebels had burned the large hotel
which once accommodated them. Mills had also been burned; but the
dwelling-houses were almost all in good condition. The quarters for the
men were admirable; and I took official possession of the handsome brick
house of Colonel Sunder-land, the established head-quarters through
every occupation, whose accommodating flag-staff had literally and
repeatedly changed its colors. The seceded Colonel, reputed author of
the State ordinance of Secession, was a New-Yorker by birth, and we
found his law-card, issued when in practice in Easton, Washington
County, New York. He certainly had good taste in planning the inside of
a house, though time had impaired its condition. There was a neat office
with ample bookcases and no books, a billiard-table with no balls,
gas-fixtures without gas, and a bathing-room without water. There was
a separate building for servants' quarters, and a kitchen with every
convenience, even to a few jars of lingering pickles. On the whole,
there was an air of substance and comfort about the town, quite alien
from the picturesque decadence of Beaufort.

The town rose gradually from the river, and was bounded on the rear by a
long, sluggish creek, beyond which lay a stretch of woods, affording an
excellent covert for the enemy, but without great facilities for attack,
as there were but two or three fords and bridges. This brook could
easily be held against a small force, but could at any time and at
almost any point be readily crossed by a large one. North of the town
the land rose a little, between the river and the sources of the brook,
and then sank to a plain, which had been partially cleared by a previous
garrison. For so small a force as ours, however, this clearing must be
extended nearer to the town; otherwise our lines would be too long for
our numbers.

This deficiency in numbers at once became a source of serious anxiety.
While planning the expedition, it had seemed so important to get the men
a foothold in Florida that I was willing to risk everything for it.
But this important post once in our possession, it began to show
some analogies to the proverbial elephant in the lottery. To hold it
permanently with nine hundred men was not, perhaps, impossible, with the
aid of a gunboat (I had left many of my own regiment sick and on duty
in Beaufort, and Colonel Montgomery had as yet less than one hundred and
fifty); but to hold it, and also to make forays up the river, certainly
required a larger number. We came in part to recruit, but had found
scarcely an able-bodied negro in the city; all had been removed farther
up, and we must certainly contrive to follow them. I was very unwilling
to have, as yet, any white troops under my command, with the blacks.
Finally, however, being informed by Judge S. of a conversation with
Colonel Hawley, commanding at Fernandina, in which the latter had
offered to send four companies and a light battery to swell our
force,--in view of the aid given to his position by this more advanced
post, I decided to authorize the energetic Judge to go back to
Fernandina and renew the negotiation, as the John Adams must go thither
at any rate for coal.

Meanwhile all definite display of our force was avoided; dress-parades
were omitted; the companies were so distributed as to tell for the
utmost; and judicious use was made, here and there, of empty tents. The
gunboats and transports moved impressively up and down the river,
from time to time. The disposition of pickets was varied each night to
perplex the enemy, and some advantage taken of his distrust, which might
be assumed as equalling our own. The citizens were duly impressed by our
supply of ammunition, which was really enormous, and all these things
soon took effect. A loyal woman, who came into town, said that the Rebel
scouts, stopping at her house, reported that there were "sixteen hundred
negroes all over the woods, and the town full of them besides." "It was
of no use to go in. General Finnegan had driven them into a bad place
once, and should not do it again." "They had lost their captain and
their best surgeon in the first skirmish, and if the Savannah people
wanted the negroes driven away, they might come and do it themselves."
Unfortunately, we knew that they could easily come from Savannah at any
time, as there was railroad communication nearly all the way; and
every time we heard the steam-whistle, the men were convinced of their
arrival. Thus we never could approach to any certainty as to their
numbers, while they could observe, from the bluffs, every steamboat that
ascended the river.

To render our weak force still more available, we barricaded the
approaches to the chief streets by constructing barriers or felling
trees. It went to my heart to sacrifice, for this purpose, several of my
beautiful lindens; but it was no time for aesthetics. As the giants lay
on the ground, still scenting the air with their abundant bloom, I used
to rein up my horse and watch the children playing hide-and-seek amongst
their branches, or some quiet cow grazing at the foliage. Nothing
impresses the mind in war like some occasional object or association
that belongs apparently to peace alone.

Among all these solicitudes, it was a great thing that one particular
anxiety vanished in a day. On the former expedition the men were upon
trial as to their courage; now they were to endure another test, as to
their demeanor as victors. Here were five hundred citizens, nearly all
white, at the mercy of their former slaves. To some of these whites it
was the last crowning humiliation, and they were, or professed to be,
in perpetual fear. On the other hand, the most intelligent and lady-like
woman I saw, the wife of a Rebel captain, rather surprised me by saying
that it seemed pleasanter to have these men stationed there, whom they
had known all their lives, and who had generally borne a good character,
than to be in the power of entire strangers. Certainly the men deserved
the confidence, for there was scarcely an exception to their good
behavior. I think they thoroughly felt that their honor and dignity were
concerned in the matter, and took too much pride in their character
as soldiers,--to say nothing of higher motives,--to tarnish it by any
misdeeds. They watched their officers vigilantly and even suspiciously,
to detect any disposition towards compromise; and so long as we pursued
a just course it was evident that they could be relied on. Yet the
spot was pointed out to me where two of our leading men had seen their
brothers hanged by Lynch law; many of them had private wrongs to avenge;
and they all had utter disbelief in all pretended loyalty, especially on
the part of the women.

One citizen alone was brought to me in a sort of escort of honor by
Corporal Prince Lambkin,--one of the color-guard, and one of our ablest
men,--the same who had once made a speech in camp, reminding his hearers
that they had lived under the American flag for eighteen hundred and
sixty-two years, and ought to live and die under it. Corporal Lambkin
now introduced his man, a German, with the highest compliment in his
power, "He hab true colored-man heart." Surrounded by mean, cajoling,
insinuating white men and women who were all that and worse, I was quite
ready to appreciate the quality he thus proclaimed. A colored-man heart,
in the Rebel States, is a fair synonyme for a loyal heart, and it is
about the only such synonyme. In this case, I found afterwards that the
man in question, a small grocer, had been an object of suspicion to the
whites from his readiness to lend money to the negroes, or sell to
them on credit; in which, perhaps, there may have been some mixture of
self-interest with benevolence.

I resort to a note-book of that period, well thumbed and pocket-worn,
which sometimes received a fragment of the day's experience.

"March 16, 1863.

"Of course, droll things are constantly occurring. Every white
man, woman, and child is flattering, seductive, and professes Union
sentiment; every black ditto believes that every white ditto is a
scoundrel, and ought to be shot, but for good order and military
discipline. The Provost Marshal and I steer between them as blandly as
we can. Such scenes as succeed each other! Rush of indignant Africans.
A white man, in woman's clothes, has been seen to enter a certain
house,--undoubtedly a spy. Further evidence discloses the Roman
Catholic priest, a peaceful little Frenchman, in his professional
apparel.--Anxious female enters. Some sentinel has shot her cow by
mistake for a Rebel. The United States cannot think of paying the
desired thirty dollars. Let her go to the Post-Quartermaster and select
a cow from his herd. If there is none to suit her (and, indeed, not one
of them gave a drop of milk,--neither did hers), let her wait till
the next lot comes in,--that is all.--Yesterday's operations gave the
following total yield: Thirty 'contrabands,' eighteen horses, eleven
cattle, ten saddles and bridles, and one new army-wagon. At this rate we
shall soon be self-supporting _cavalry_.

"Where complaints are made of the soldiers, it almost always turns out
that the women have insulted them most grossly, swearing at them, and
the like. One unpleasant old Dutch woman came in, bursting with wrath,
and told the whole narrative of her blameless life, diversified with

"'Last January I ran off two of my black people from St. Mary's to
Fernandina,' (sob,)--'then I moved down there myself, and at Lake City I
lost six women and a boy,' (sob,)--'then I stopped at Baldwin for one
of the wenches to be confined,' (sob,)--'then I brought them all here
to live in a Christian country' (sob, sob). "Then the blockheads'
[blockades, that is, gunboats] 'came, and they all ran off with the
blockheads,' (sob, sob, sob,) 'and left me, an old lady of forty-six,
obliged to work for a living.' (Chaos of sobs, without cessation.)

"But when I found what the old sinner had said to the soldiers I rather
wondered at their self-control in not throttling her."

Meanwhile skirmishing went on daily in the outskirts of the town.
There was a fight on the very first day, when our men killed, as before
hinted, a Rebel surgeon, which was oddly metamorphosed in the Southern
newspapers into their killing one of ours, which certainly never
happened. Every day, after this, they appeared in small mounted squads
in the neighborhood, and exchanged shots with our pickets, to which the
gunboats would contribute their louder share, their aim being rather
embarrassed by the woods and hills. We made reconnoissances, too, to
learn the country in different directions, and were apt to be fired upon
during these. Along the farther side of what we called the "Debatable
Land" there was a line of cottages, hardly superior to negro huts,
and almost all empty, where the Rebel pickets resorted, and from whose
windows they fired. By degrees all these nests were broken up and
destroyed, though it cost some trouble to do it, and the hottest
skirmishing usually took place around them.

Among these little affairs was one which we called "Company K's
Skirmish," because it brought out the fact that this company, which was
composed entirely of South Carolina men, and had never shone in drill
or discipline, stood near the head of the regiment for coolness and
courage,--the defect of discipline showing itself only in their extreme
unwillingness to halt when once let loose. It was at this time that the
small comedy of the Goose occurred,--an anecdote which Wendell Phillips
has since made his own.

One of the advancing line of skirmishers, usually an active fellow
enough, was observed to move clumsily and irregularly. It soon appeared
that he had encountered a fine specimen of the domestic goose, which had
surrendered at discretion. Not wishing to lose it, he could yet find no
way to hold it but between his legs; and so he went on, loading, firing,
advancing, halting, always with the goose writhing and struggling and
hissing in this natural pair of stocks. Both happily came off unwounded,
and retired in good order at the signal, or some time after it; but I
have hardly a cooler thing to put on record.

Meanwhile, another fellow left the field less exultingly; for, after a
thoroughly courageous share in the skirmish, he came blubbering to his
captain, and said,--"Cappen, make Caesar gib me my cane." It seemed
that, during some interval of the fighting, he had helped himself to an
armful of Rebel sugar-cane, such as they all delighted in chewing. The
Roman hero, during another pause, had confiscated the treasure; whence
these tears of the returning warrior. I never could accustom myself to
these extraordinary interminglings of manly and childish attributes.

Our most untiring scout during this period was the chaplain of my
regiment,--the most restless and daring spirit we had, and now exulting
in full liberty of action. He it was who was daily permitted to
stray singly where no other officer would have been allowed to go, so
irresistible was his appeal, "You know I am only a chaplain." Methinks I
see our regimental saint, with pistols in belt and a Ballard rifle slung
on shoulder, putting spurs to his steed, and cantering away down some
questionable wood-path, or returning with some tale of Rebel haunt
discovered, or store of foraging. He would track an enemy like an
Indian, or exhort him, when apprehended, like an early Christian. Some
of our devout soldiers shook their heads sometimes over the chaplain's
little eccentricities. "Woffor Mr. Chapman made a preacher for?" said
one of them, as usual transforming his title into a patronymic. "He's
_de fightingest more Yankee_ I eber see in all my days."

And the criticism was very natural, though they could not deny that,
when the hour for Sunday service came, Mr. F. commanded the respect and
attention of all. That hour never came, however, on our first Sunday
in Jacksonville; we were too busy and the men too scattered; so the
chaplain made his accustomed foray beyond the lines instead.

"Is it not Sunday?" slyly asked an unregenerate lieutenant. "Nay," quoth
his Reverence, waxing fervid; "it is the Day of Judgment"

This reminds me of a raid up the river, conducted by one of our senior
captains, an enthusiast whose gray beard and prophetic manner always
took me back to the Fifth-Monarchy men. He was most successful that day,
bringing back horses, cattle, provisions, and prisoners; and one of the
latter complained bitterly to me of being held, stating that Captain R.
had promised him speedy liberty. But that doughty official spurned
the imputation of such weak blandishments, in this day of triumphant

"Promise him!" said he, "I promised him nothing but the Day of Judgment
and Periods of Damnation!"

Often since have I rolled beneath my tongue this savory and solemn
sentence, and I do not believe that since the days of the Long
Parliament there has been a more resounding anathema.

In Colonel Montgomery's hands these up-river raids reached the dignity
of a fine art. His conceptions of foraging were rather more Western and
liberal than mine, and on these excursions he fully indemnified himself
for any undue abstinence demanded of him when in camp. I remember being
on the wharf, with some naval officers, when he came down from his first
trip. The steamer seemed an animated hen-coop. Live poultry hung from
the foremast shrouds, dead ones from the mainmast, geese hissed from
the binnacle, a pig paced the quarter-deck, and a duck's wings were
seen fluttering from a line which was wont to sustain duck trousers. The
naval heroes, mindful of their own short rations, and taking high views
of one's duties in a conquered country, looked at me reproachfully,
as who should say, "Shall these things be?" In a moment or two the
returning foragers had landed.

"Captain ----," said Montgomery, courteously, "would you allow me to
send a remarkably fine turkey for your use on board ship?"

"Lieutenant ----," said Major Corwin, "may I ask your acceptance of a
pair of ducks for your mess?"

Never did I behold more cordial relations between army and navy than
sprang into existence at those sentences. So true it is, as Charles
Lamb says, that a single present of game may diffuse kindly sentiments
through a whole community. These little trips were called "rest"; there
was no other rest during those ten days. An immense amount of picket and
fatigue duty had to be done. Two redoubts were to be built to command
the Northern Valley; all the intervening grove, which now afforded
lurking-ground for a daring enemy, must be cleared away; and a few
houses must be reluctantly razed for the same purpose. The fort on the
left was named Fort Higginson, and that built by my own regiment, in
return, Fort Montgomery. The former was necessarily a hasty work, and
is now, I believe, in ruins; the latter was far more elaborately
constructed, on lines well traced by the Fourth New Hampshire during the
previous occupation. It did great credit to Captain Trowbridge, of my
regiment (formerly of the New York Volunteer Engineers), who had charge
of its construction.

How like a dream seems now that period of daily skirmishes and nightly
watchfulness! The fatigue was so constant that the days hurried by.
I felt the need of some occasional change of ideas, and having just
received from the North Mr. Brook's beautiful translation of Jean Paul's
"Titan," I used to retire to my bedroom for some ten minutes every
afternoon, and read a chapter or two. It was more refreshing than a nap,
and will always be to me one of the most fascinating books in the world,
with this added association. After all, what concerned me was not so
much the fear of an attempt to drive us out and retake the city,--for
that would be against the whole policy of the Rebels in that region,--as
of an effort to fulfil their threats and burn it, by some nocturnal
dash. The most valuable buildings belonged to Union men, and the upper
part of the town, built chiefly of resinous pine, was combustible to
the last degree. In case of fire, if the wind blew towards the river,
we might lose steamers and all. I remember regulating my degree of
disrobing by the direction of the wind; if it blew from the river, it
was safe to make one's self quite comfortable; if otherwise, it was best
to conform to Suwarrow's idea of luxury, and take off one spur.

So passed our busy life for ten days. There were no tidings of
reinforcements, and I hardly knew whether I wished for them,--or rather,
I desired them as a choice of evils; for our men were giving out from
overwork, and the recruiting excursions, for which we had mainly come,
were hardly possible. At the utmost, I had asked for the addition
of four companies and a light battery. Judge of my surprise when two
infantry regiments successively arrived! I must resort to a scrap from
the diary. Perhaps diaries are apt to be thought tedious; but I would
rather read a page of one, whatever the events described, than any more
deliberate narrative,--it gives glimpses so much more real and vivid.


"March 20, 1863, Midnight.

"For the last twenty-four hours we have been sending women and children
out of town, in answer to a demand by flag of truce, with a threat of
bombardment. [N. B. I advised them not to go, and the majority declined
doing so.] It was designed, no doubt, to intimidate; and in our
ignorance of the force actually outside, we have had to recognize the
possibility of danger, and work hard at our defences. At any time, by
going into the outskirts, we can have a skirmish, which is nothing but
fun; but when night closes in over a small and weary garrison, there
sometimes steals into my mind, like a chill, that most sickening of all
sensations, the anxiety of a commander. This was the night generally set
for an attack, if any, though I am pretty well satisfied that they have
not strength to dare it, and the worst they could probably do is to burn
the town. But to-night, instead of enemies, appear friends,--our devoted
civic ally, Judge S., and a whole Connecticut regiment, the Sixth, under
Major Meeker; and though the latter are aground, twelve miles below, yet
they enable one to breathe more freely. I only wish they were black; but
now I have to show, not only that blacks can fight, but that they and
white soldiers can act in harmony together."

That evening the enemy came up for a reconnoissance, in the deepest
darkness, and there were alarms all night. The next day the Sixth
Connecticut got afloat, and came up the river; and two days after, to
my continued amazement, arrived a part of the Eighth Maine, under
Lieutenant-Colonel Twichell. This increased my command to four
regiments, or parts of regiments, half white and half black. Skirmishing
had almost ceased,--our defences being tolerably complete, and looking
from without much more effective than they really were. We were safe
from any attack by a small force, and hoped that the enemy could
not spare a large one from Charleston or Savannah. All looked bright
without, and gave leisure for some small anxieties within.

It was the first time in the war (so far as I know) that white and black
soldiers had served together on regular duty. Jealousy was still felt
towards even the officers of colored regiments, and any difficult
contingency would be apt to bring it out. The white soldiers, just from
ship-board, felt a natural desire to stray about the town; and no attack
from an enemy would be so disastrous as the slightest collision between
them and the black provost-guard. I shudder, even now, to think of
the train of consequences, bearing on the whole course of subsequent
national events, which one such mishap might then have produced. It is
almost impossible for us now to remember in what a delicate balance
then hung the whole question of negro enlistments, and consequently
of Slavery. Fortunately for my own serenity, I had great faith in the
intrinsic power of military discipline, and also knew that a common
service would soon produce mutual respect among good soldiers; and so
it proved. But the first twelve hours of this mixed command were to me a
more anxious period than any outward alarms had created.

Let us resort to the note-book again.

"JACKSONVILLE, March 22, 1863.

"It is Sunday; the bell is ringing for church, and Rev. Mr. F.,
from Beaufort, is to preach. This afternoon our good quartermaster
establishes a Sunday-school for our little colony of 'contrabands,' now
numbering seventy.

"Sunday Afternoon.

"The bewildering report is confirmed; and in addition to the Sixth
Connecticut, which came yesterday, appears part of the Eighth Maine. The
remainder, with its colonel, will be here to-morrow, and, report says,
Major-General Hunter. Now my hope is that we may go to some point higher
up the river, which we can hold for ourselves. There are two other
points [Magnolia and Pilatka], which, in themselves, are as favorable as
this, and, for getting recruits, better. So I shall hope to be allowed
to go. To take posts, and then let white troops garrison them,--that is
my programme.

"What makes the thing more puzzling is, that the Eighth Maine has only
brought ten days' rations, so that they evidently are not to stay here;
and yet where they go, or why they come, is a puzzle. Meanwhile we can
sleep sound o' nights; and if the black and white babies do not quarrel
and pull hair, we shall do very well."

Colonel Rust, on arriving, said frankly that he knew nothing of
the plans prevailing in the Department, but that General Hunter was
certainly coming soon to act for himself; that it had been reported at
the North, and even at Port Royal, that we had all been captured and
shot (and, indeed, I had afterwards the pleasure of reading my own
obituary in a Northern Democratic journal), and that we certainly needed
reinforcements; that he himself had been sent with orders to carry
out, so far as possible, the original plans of the expedition; that
he regarded himself as only a visitor, and should remain chiefly on
shipboard,--which he did. He would relieve the black provost-guard by
a white one, if I approved,--which I certainly did. But he said that
he felt bound to give the chief opportunities of action to the colored
troops,--which I also approved, and which he carried out, not quite to
the satisfaction of his own eager and daring officers.

I recall one of these enterprises, out of which we extracted a good deal
of amusement; it was baptized the Battle of the Clothes-Lines. A white
company was out scouting in the woods behind the town, with one of my
best Florida men for a guide; and the captain sent back a message that
he had discovered a Rebel camp with twenty-two tents, beyond a creek,
about four miles away; the officers and men had been distinctly seen,
and it would be quite possible to capture it. Colonel Rust at once
sent me out with two hundred men to do the work, recalling the original
scouts, and disregarding the appeals of his own eager officers. We
marched through the open pine woods, on a delightful afternoon, and met
the returning party. Poor fellows! I never shall forget the longing eyes
they cast on us, as we marched forth to the field of glory, from which
they were debarred. We went three or four miles out, sometimes halting
to send forward a scout, while I made all the men lie down in the long,
thin grass and beside the fallen trees, till one could not imagine that
there was a person there. I remember how picturesque the effect was,
when, at the signal, all rose again, like Roderick Dhu's men, and the
green wood appeared suddenly populous with armed life. At a certain
point forces were divided, and a detachment was sent round the head of
the creek, to flank the unsuspecting enemy; while we of the main body,
stealing with caution nearer and nearer, through ever denser woods,
swooped down at last in triumph upon a solitary farmhouse,--where the
family-washing had been hung out to dry! This was the "Rebel camp"!

It is due to Sergeant Greene, my invaluable guide, to say that he had
from the beginning discouraged any high hopes of a crossing of bayonets.
He had early explained that it was not he who claimed to have seen the
tents and the Rebel soldiers, but one of the officers,--and had pointed
out that our undisturbed approach was hardly reconcilable with the
existence of a hostile camp so near. This impression had also pressed
more and more upon my own mind, but it was our business to put the thing
beyond a doubt. Probably the place may have been occasionally used for
a picket-station, and we found fresh horse-tracks in the vicinity, and
there was a quantity of iron bridle-bits in the house, of which no clear
explanation could be given; so that the armed men may not have been
wholly imaginary. But camp there was none. After enjoying to the utmost
the fun of the thing, therefore, we borrowed the only horse on the
premises, hung all the bits over his neck, and as I rode him back to
camp, they clanked like broken chains. We were joined on the way by our
dear and devoted surgeon, whom I had left behind as an invalid, but who
had mounted his horse and ridden out alone to attend to our wounded,
his green sash looking quite in harmony with the early spring verdure
of those lovely woods. So came we back in triumph, enjoying the joke all
the more because some one else was responsible. We mystified the little
community at first, but soon let out the secret, and witticisms abounded
for a day or two, the mildest of which was the assertion that the author
of the alarm must have been "three sheets in the wind."

Another expedition was of more exciting character. For several days
before the arrival of Colonel Rust a reconnaissance had been planned in
the direction of the enemy's camp, and he finally consented to its being
carried out. By the energy of Major Corwin, of the Second South Carolina
Volunteers, aided by Mr. Holden, then a gunner on the Paul Jones, and
afterwards made captain of the same regiment, one of the ten-pound
Parrott guns had been mounted on a hand-car, for use on the railway.
This it was now proposed to bring into service. I took a large detail of
men from the two white regiments and from my own, and had instructions
to march as far as the four-mile station on the railway, if possible,
examine the country, and ascertain if the Rebel camp had been removed,
as was reported, beyond that distance. I was forbidden going any farther
from camp, or attacking the Rebel camp, as my force comprised half our
garrison, and should the town meanwhile be attacked from some other
direction, it would be in great danger.

I never shall forget the delight of that march through the open pine
barren, with occasional patches of uncertain swamp. The Eighth Maine,
under Lieutenant-Colonel Twichell, was on the right, the Sixth
Connecticut, under Major Meeker, on the left, and my own men, under
Major Strong, in the centre, having in charge the cannon, to which they
had been trained. Mr. Heron, from the John Adams, acted as gunner.
The mounted Rebel pickets retired before us through the woods, keeping
usually beyond range of the skirmishers, who in a long line--white,
black, white--were deployed transversely. For the first time I saw the
two colors fairly alternate on the military chessboard; it had been the
object of much labor and many dreams, and I liked the pattern at last.
Nothing was said about the novel fact by anybody,--it all seemed to come
as matter-of-course; there appeared to be no mutual distrust among the
men, and as for the officers, doubtless "each crow thought its own young
the whitest,"--I certainly did, although doing full justice to the eager
courage of the Northern portion of my command. Especially I watched with
pleasure the fresh delight of the Maine men, who had not, like the rest,
been previously in action, and who strode rapidly on with their long
legs, irresistibly recalling, as their gaunt, athletic frames and
sunburnt faces appeared here and there among the pines, the lumber
regions of their native State, with which I was not unfamiliar.

We passed through a former camp of the Rebels, from which everything
had been lately removed; but when the utmost permitted limits of our
reconnoissance were reached, there were still no signs of any other
camp, and the Rebel cavalry still kept provokingly before us. Their
evident object was to lure us on to their own stronghold, and had we
fallen into the trap, it would perhaps have resembled, on a smaller
scale, the Olustee of the following year. With a good deal of
reluctance, however, I caused the recall to be sounded, and, after a
slight halt, we began to retrace our steps.

Straining our eyes to look along the reach of level railway which
stretched away through the pine barren, we began to see certain ominous
puffs of smoke, which might indeed proceed from some fire in the woods,
but were at once set down by the men as coming from the mysterious
locomotive battery which the Rebels were said to have constructed.
Gradually the smoke grew denser, and appeared to be moving up along
the track, keeping pace with our motion, and about two miles distant.
I watched it steadily through a field-glass from our own slowly moving
battery: it seemed to move when we moved and to halt when we halted.
Sometimes in the dun smoke I caught a glimpse of something blacker,
raised high in the air like the threatening head of some great gliding
serpent. Suddenly there came a sharp puff of lighter smoke that seemed
like a forked tongue, and then a hollow report, and we could see a great
black projectile hurled into the air, and falling a quarter of a mile
away from us, in the woods. I did not at once learn that this first shot
killed two of the Maine men, and wounded two more. This was fired wide,
but the numerous shots which followed were admirably aimed, and seldom
failed to fall or explode close to our own smaller battery.

It was the first time that the men had been seriously exposed to
artillery fire,--a danger more exciting to the ignorant mind than
any other, as this very war has shown.* So I watched them anxiously.
Fortunately there were deep trenches on each side the railway, with many
stout, projecting roots, forming very tolerable bomb-proofs for those
who happened to be near them. The enemy's gun was a sixty-four-pound
Blakely, as we afterward found, whose enormous projectile moved
very slowly and gave ample time to cover,--insomuch, that, while the
fragments of shell fell all around and amongst us, not a man was hurt.
This soon gave the men the most buoyant confidence, and they shouted
with childish delight over every explosion.

*Take this for example: "The effect was electrical. The Rebels were
the best men in Ford's command, being Lieutenant-Colonel Showalter's
Californians, and they are brave men. They had dismounted and sent their
horses to the rear, and were undoubtedly determined upon a desperate
fight, and their superior numbers made them confident of success. But
they never fought with artillery, and a cannon has more terror for them
than ten thousand rifles and all the wild Camanches on the plains
of Texas. At first glimpse of the shining brass monsters there was a
visible wavering in the determined front of the enemy, and as the shells
came screaming over their heads the scare was complete. They broke
ranks, fled for their horses, scrambled on the first that came to hand,
and skedaddled in the direction of Brownsville."_New York Evening Post_,
September 25, 1864.

The moment a shell had burst or fallen unburst, our little gun was
invariably fired in return, and that with some precision, so far as we
could judge, its range also being nearly as great. For some reason they
showed no disposition to overtake us, in which attempt their locomotive
would have given them an immense advantage over our heavy hand-car, and
their cavalry force over our infantry. Nevertheless, I rather hoped that
they would attempt it, for then an effort might have been made to cut
them off in the rear by taking up some rails. As it was, this was out
of the question, though they moved slowly, as we moved, keeping always
about two miles away. When they finally ceased firing we took up
the rails beyond us before withdrawing, and thus kept the enemy from
approaching so near the city again. But I shall never forget that
Dantean monster, rearing its black head amid the distant smoke, nor the
solicitude with which I watched for the puff which meant danger, and
looked round to see if my chickens were all under cover. The greatest
peril, after all, was from the possible dismounting of our gun, in which
case we should have been very apt to lose it, if the enemy had showed
any dash. There may be other such tilts of railway artillery on record
during the war; but if so, I have not happened to read of them, and so
have dwelt the longer on this.

This was doubtless the same locomotive battery which had previously
fired more than once upon the town,--running up within two miles
and then withdrawing, while it was deemed inexpedient to destroy the
railroad, on our part, lest it might be needed by ourselves in turn. One
night, too, the Rebel threat had been fulfilled, and they had shelled
the town with the same battery. They had the range well, and every
shot fell near the post headquarters. It was exciting to see the great
Blakely shell, showing a light as it rose, and moving slowly towards us
like a comet, then exploding and scattering its formidable fragments.
Yet, strange to say, no serious harm was done to life or limb, and the
most formidable casualty was that of a citizen who complained that a
shell had passed through the wall of his bedroom, and carried off his
mosquito curtain in its transit.

Little knew we how soon these small entertainments would be over.
Colonel Montgomery had gone up the river with his two companies, perhaps
to remain permanently; and I was soon to follow. On Friday, March 27th,
I wrote home: "The Burnside has gone to Beaufort for rations, and the
John Adams to Fernandina for coal; we expect both back by Sunday, and on
Monday I hope to get the regiment off to a point farther up,--Magnolia,
thirty-five miles, or Pilatka, seventy-five,--either of which would be
a good post for us. General Hunter is expected every day, and it is
strange he has not come." The very next day came an official order
recalling the whole expedition, and for the third time evacuating

A council of military and naval officers was at once called (though
there was but one thing to be done), and the latter were even more
disappointed and amazed than the former. This was especially the case
with the senior naval officer, Captain Steedman, a South-Carolinian by
birth, but who had proved himself as patriotic as he was courteous and
able, and whose presence and advice had been of the greatest value
to me. He and all of us felt keenly the wrongfulness of breaking the
pledges which we had been authorized to make to these people, and of
leaving them to the mercy of the Rebels once more. Most of the people
themselves took the same view, and eagerly begged to accompany us on our
departure. They were allowed to bring their clothing and furniture also,
and at once developed that insane mania for aged and valueless trumpery
which always seizes upon the human race, I believe, in moments of
danger. With the greatest difficulty we selected between the essential
and the non-essential, and our few transports were at length loaded to
the very water's edge on the morning of March 29th,--Colonel Montgomery
having by this time returned from up-river, with sixteen prisoners, and
the fruits of foraging in plenty.

And upon that last morning occurred an act on the part of some of the
garrison most deeply to be regretted, and not to be excused by the
natural indignation at their recall,--an act which, through the
unfortunate eloquence of one newspaper correspondent, rang through the
nation,--the attempt to burn the town. I fortunately need not dwell much
upon it, as I was not at the time in command of the post,--as the white
soldiers frankly took upon themselves the whole responsibility,--and
as all the fires were made in the wooden part of the city, which was
occupied by them, while none were made in the brick part, where the
colored soldiers were quartered. It was fortunate for our reputation
that the newspaper accounts generally agreed in exculpating us from all
share in the matter;* and the single exception, which one correspondent
asserted, I could never verify, and do not believe to have existed.
It was stated by Colonel Rust, in his official report, that some
twenty-five buildings in all were burned, and I doubt if the actual
number was greater; but this was probably owing in part to a change of
wind, and did not diminish the discredit of the transaction. It made
our sorrow at departure no less, though it infinitely enhanced the
impressiveness of the scene.

     *"The colored regiments had nothing at all to do with it;
     they behaved with propriety throughout" _Boston Journal_
     Correspondence. ("Carleton.")

"The negro troops took no part whatever in the perpetration of this
Vandalism."_New York Tribune_ Correspondence. ("N. P.")

"We know not whether we are most rejoiced or saddened to observe, by the
general concurrence of accounts, that the negro soldiers had nothing to
do with the barbarous act" _Boston Journal_ Editorial, April 10, 1863.

The excitement of the departure was intense. The embarkation was so
laborious that it seemed as if the flames must be upon us before we
could get on board, and it was also generally expected that the Rebel
skirmishers would be down among the houses, wherever practicable, to
annoy us to the utmost, as had been the case at the previous evacuation.
They were, indeed, there, as we afterwards heard, but did not venture to
molest us. The sight and roar of the flames, and the rolling clouds of
smoke, brought home to the impressible minds of the black soldiers all
their favorite imagery of the Judgment-Day; and those who were not too
much depressed by disappointment were excited by the spectacle, and sang
and exhorted without ceasing.

With heavy hearts their officers floated down the lovely river, which
we had ascended with hopes so buoyant; and from that day to this, the
reasons for our recall have never been made public. It was commonly
attributed to proslavery advisers, acting on the rather impulsive nature
of Major-General Hunter, with a view to cut short the career of the
colored troops, and stop their recruiting. But it may have been simply
the scarcity of troops in the Department, and the renewed conviction at
head-quarters that we were too few to hold the post alone. The
latter theory was strengthened by the fact that, when General Seymour
reoccupied Jacksonville, the following year, he took with him twenty
thousand men instead of one thousand,--and the sanguinary battle of
Olustee found him with too few.

Chapter 5. Out on Picket

One can hardly imagine a body of men more disconsolate than a regiment
suddenly transferred from an adventurous life in the enemy's country
to the quiet of a sheltered camp, on safe and familiar ground. The
men under my command were deeply dejected when, on a most appropriate
day,--the First of April, 1863,--they found themselves unaccountably
recalled from Florida, that region of delights which had seemed theirs
by the right of conquest. My dusky soldiers, who based their whole
walk and conversation strictly on the ancient Israelites, felt that the
prophecies were all set at naught, and that they were on the wrong
side of the Red Sea; indeed, I fear they regarded even me as a sort of
reversed Moses, whose Pisgah fronted in the wrong direction. Had they
foreseen how the next occupation of the Promised Land was destined
to result, they might have acquiesced with more of their wonted
cheerfulness. As it was, we were very glad to receive, after a few days
of discontented repose on the very ground where we had once been so
happy, an order to go out on picket at Port Royal Ferry, with the
understanding that we might remain there for some time. This picket
station was regarded as a sort of military picnic by the regiments
stationed at Beaufort, South Carolina; it meant blackberries and
oysters, wild roses and magnolias, flowery lanes instead of sandy
barrens, and a sort of guerilla existence in place of the camp routine.
To the colored soldiers especially, with their love of country life,
and their extensive personal acquaintance on the plantations, it seemed
quite like a Christmas festival. Besides, they would be in sight of the
enemy, and who knew but there might, by the blessing of Providence, be a
raid or a skirmish? If they could not remain on the St. John's River, it
was something to dwell on the Coosaw. In the end they enjoyed it as much
as they expected, and though we "went out" several times subsequently,
until it became an old story, the enjoyment never waned. And as even
the march from the camp to the picket lines was something that could not
possibly have been the same for any white regiment in the service, it is
worth while to begin at the beginning and describe it.

A regiment ordered on picket was expected to have reveille at daybreak,
and to be in line for departure by sunrise. This delighted our men, who
always took a childlike pleasure in being out of bed at any unreasonable
hour; and by the time I had emerged, the tents were nearly all struck,
and the great wagons were lumbering into camp to receive them, with
whatever else was to be transported. The first rays of the sun must
fall upon the line of these wagons, moving away across the wide
parade-ground, followed by the column of men, who would soon outstrip
them. But on the occasion which I especially describe the sun was
shrouded, and, when once upon the sandy plain, neither camp nor town nor
river could be seen in the dimness; and when I rode forward and looked
back there was only visible the long, moving, shadowy column, seeming
rather awful in its snake-like advance. There was a swaying of flags
and multitudinous weapons that might have been camels' necks for all
one could see, and the whole thing might have been a caravan upon the
desert. Soon we debouched upon the "Shell Road," the wagon-train drew
on one side into the fog, and by the time the sun appeared the music
ceased, the men took the "route step," and the fun began.

The "route step" is an abandonment of all military strictness, and
nothing is required of the men but to keep four abreast, and not lag
behind. They are not required to keep step, though, with the rhythmical
ear of our soldiers, they almost always instinctively did so; talking
and singing are allowed, and of this privilege, at least, they eagerly
availed themselves. On this day they were at the top of exhilaration.
There was one broad grin from one end of the column to the other; it
might soon have been a caravan of elephants instead of camels, for the
ivory and the blackness; the chatter and the laughter almost drowned
the tramp of feet and the clatter of equipments. At cross-roads and
plantation gates the colored people thronged to see us pass; every one
found a friend and a greeting. "How you do, aunty?" "Huddy (how d'ye),
Budder Benjamin?" "How you find yourself dis mor-nin', Tittawisa (Sister
Louisa)?" Such saluations rang out to everybody, known or unknown. In
return, venerable, kerchiefed matrons courtesied laboriously to every
one, with an unfailing "Bress de Lord, budder." Grave little boys,
blacker than ink, shook hands with our laughing and utterly unmanageable
drummers, who greeted them with this sure word of prophecy, "Dem's de
drummers for de nex' war!" Pretty mulatto girls ogled and coquetted,
and made eyes, as Thackeray would say, at half the young fellows in the
battalion. Meantime the singing was brisk along the whole column, and
when I sometimes reined up to see them pass, the chant of each company,
entering my ear, drove out from the other ear the strain of the
preceding. Such an odd mixture of things, military and missionary, as
the successive waves of song drifted byl First, "John Brown," of course;
then, "What make old Satan for follow me so?" then, "Marching Along";
then, "Hold your light on Canaan's shore"; then, "When this cruel war
is over" (a new favorite, sung by a few); yielding presently to a grand
burst of the favorite marching song among them all, and one at which
every step instinctively quickened, so light and jubilant its rhythm,--

  "All true children gwine in de wilderness,
  Gwine in de wilderness, gwine in de wilderness,
  True believers gwine in de wilderness,
  To take away de sins ob de world,"--

ending in a "Hoigh!" after each verse,--a sort of Irish yell. For all
the songs, but especially for their own wild hymns, they constantly
improvised simple verses, with the same odd mingling,--the little facts
of to-day's march being interwoven with the depths of theological gloom,
and the same jubilant chorus annexed to all; thus,--

  "We're gwin to de Ferry,
    De bell done ringing;
  Gwine to de landing,
    De bell done ringing;
  Trust, believer
    O, de bell done ringing;
  Satan's behind me,
    De bell done ringing;
  'T is a misty morning,
    De bell done ringing;
  O de road am sandy,
    De bell done ringing;
  Hell been open,
    De bell done ringing";--

and so on indefinitely.

The little drum-corps kept in advance, a jolly crew, their drums slung
on their backs, and the drum-sticks perhaps balanced on their heads.
With them went the officers' servant-boys, more uproarious still, always
ready to lend their shrill treble to any song. At the head of the whole
force there walked, by some self-imposed pre-eminence, a respectable
elderly female, one of the company laundresses, whose vigorous stride we
never could quite overtake, and who had an enormous bundle balanced on
her head, while she waved in her hand, like a sword, a long-handled tin
dipper. Such a picturesque medley of fun, war, and music I believe no
white regiment in the service could have shown; and yet there was no
straggling, and a single tap of the drum would at any moment bring order
out of this seeming chaos. So we marched our seven miles out upon the
smooth and shaded road,--beneath jasmine clusters, and great pine-cones
dropping, and great bunches of misletoe still in bloom among the
branches. Arrived at the station, the scene soon became busy and more
confused; wagons were being unloaded, tents pitched, water brought, wood
cut, fires made, while the "field and staff" could take possession of
the abandoned quarters of their predecessors, and we could look round in
the lovely summer morning to "survey our empire and behold our home."

The only thoroughfare by land between Beaufort and Charleston is the
"Shell Road," a beautiful avenue, which, about nine miles from Beaufort,
strikes a ferry across the Coosaw River. War abolished the ferry, and
made the river the permanent barrier between the opposing picket lines.
For ten miles, right and left, these lines extended, marked by well-worn
footpaths, following the endless windings of the stream; and they never
varied until nearly the end of the war. Upon their maintenance depended
our whole foothold on the Sea Islands; and upon that again finally
depended the whole campaign of Sherman. But for the services of the
colored troops, which finally formed the main garrison of the Department
of the South, the Great March would never have been performed.

There was thus a region ten or twelve miles square of which I had
exclusive military command. It was level, but otherwise broken and
bewildering to the last degree. No road traversed it, properly speaking,
but the Shell Road. All the rest was a wild medley of cypress swamp,
pine barren, muddy creek, and cultivated plantation, intersected by
interminable lanes and bridle-paths, through which we must ride day
and night, and which our horses soon knew better than ourselves. The
regiment was distributed at different stations, the main force being
under my immediate command, at a plantation close by the Shell Road, two
miles from the ferry, and seven miles from Beaufort. Our first picket
duty was just at the time of the first attack on Charleston, under
Dupont and Hunter; and it was generally supposed that the Confederates
would make an effort to recapture the Sea Islands. My orders were to
watch the enemy closely, keep informed as to his position and movements,
attempt no advance, and, in case any were attempted from the other
side, to delay it as long as possible, sending instant notice to
head-quarters. As to the delay, that could be easily guaranteed. There
were causeways on the Shell Road which a single battery could
hold against a large force; and the plantations were everywhere so
intersected by hedges and dikes that they seemed expressly planned for
defence. Although creeks wound in and out everywhere, yet these were
only navigable at high tide, and at all other times were impassable
marshes. There were but few posts where the enemy were within rifle
range, and their occasional attacks at those points were soon stopped by
our enforcement of a pithy order from General Hunter, "Give them as good
as they send." So that, with every opportunity for being kept on the
alert, there was small prospect of serious danger; and all promised
an easy life, with only enough of care to make it pleasant. The picket
station was therefore always a coveted post among the regiments,
combining some undeniable importance with a kind of relaxation; and as
we were there three months on our first tour of duty, and returned there
several times afterwards, we got well acquainted with it. The whole
region always reminded me of the descriptions of La Vende'e, and I
always expected to meet Henri Larochejaquelein riding in the woods.

How can I ever describe the charm and picturesqueness of that summer
life? Our house possessed four spacious rooms and a _piazza_; around it
were grouped sheds and tents; the camp was a little way off on one side,
the negro-quarters of the plantation on the other; and all was immersed
in a dense mass of waving and murmuring locust-blossoms. The spring days
were always lovely, while the evenings were always conveniently damp; so
that we never shut the windows by day, nor omitted our cheerful fire
by night. Indoors, the main head-quarters seemed like the camp of some
party of young engineers in time of peace, only with a little female
society added, and a good many martial associations thrown in. A large,
low, dilapidated room, with an immense fireplace, and with window-panes
chiefly broken, so that the sashes were still open even when
closed,--such was our home. The walls were scrawled with capital
charcoal sketches by R. of the Fourth New Hampshire, and with a good
map of the island and its wood-paths by C. of the First Massachusetts
Cavalry. The room had the picturesqueness which comes everywhere from
the natural grouping of articles of daily use,--swords, belts, pistols,
rifles, field-glasses, spurs, canteens, gauntlets,--while wreaths of
gray moss above the windows, and a pelican's wing three feet long over
the high mantel-piece, indicated more deliberate decoration. This, and
the whole atmosphere of the place, spoke of the refining presence of
agreeable women; and it was pleasant when they held their little court
in the evening, and pleasant all day, with the different visitors who
were always streaming in and out,--officers and soldiers on various
business; turbaned women from the plantations, coming with complaints or
questionings; fugitives from the main-land to be interrogated; visitors
riding up on horseback, their hands full of jasmine and wild roses; and
the sweet sunny air all perfumed with magnolias and the Southern pine.
From the neighboring camp there was a perpetual low hum. Louder voices
and laughter re-echoed, amid the sharp sounds of the axe, from the pine
woods; and sometimes, when the relieved pickets were discharging their
pieces, there came the hollow sound of dropping rifle-shots, as in
skirmishing,--perhaps the most unmistakable and fascinating association
that war bequeaths to the memory of the ear.

Our domestic arrangements were of the oddest description. From the time
when we began housekeeping by taking down the front-door to complete
therewith a little office for the surgeon on the _piazza_, everything
seemed upside down. I slept on a shelf in the corner of the parlor,
bequeathed me by Major F., my jovial predecessor, and, if I waked at any
time, could put my head through the broken window, arouse my orderly,
and ride off to see if I could catch a picket asleep. We used to spell
the word _picquet_, because that was understood to be the correct thing,
in that Department at least; and they used to say at post head-quarters
that as soon as the officer in command of the outposts grew negligent,
and was guilty of a _k_, he was ordered in immediately. Then the
arrangements for ablution were peculiar. We fitted up a bathing-place
in a brook, which somehow got appropriated at once by the company
laundresses; but I had my revenge, for I took to bathing in the family
washtub. After all, however, the kitchen department had the advantage,
for they used my solitary napkin to wipe the mess-table. As for food, we
found it impossible to get chickens, save in the immature shape of eggs;
fresh pork was prohibited by the surgeon, and other fresh meat came
rarely. We could, indeed, hunt for wild turkeys, and even deer, but such
hunting was found only to increase the appetite, without corresponding
supply. Still we had our luxuries,--large, delicious drum-fish, and
alligator steaks,--like a more substantial fried halibut,--which might
have afforded the theme for Charles Lamb's dissertation on Roast Pig,
and by whose aid "for the first time in our lives we tested _crackling_"
The post bakery yielded admirable bread; and for vegetables and fruit we
had very poor sweet potatoes, and (in their season) an unlimited supply
of the largest blackberries. For beverage, we had the vapid milk of that
region, in which, if you let it stand, the water sinks instead of the
cream's rising; and the delicious sugar-cane syrup, which we had brought
from Florida, and which we drank at all hours. Old Floridians say that
no one is justified in drinking whiskey, while he can get cane-juice; it
is sweet and spirited, without cloying, foams like ale, and there were
little spots on the ceiling of the dining-room where our lively beverage
had popped out its cork. We kept it in a whiskey-bottle; and as whiskey
itself was absolutely prohibited among us, it was amusing to see the
surprise of our military visitors when this innocent substitute
was brought in. They usually liked it in the end, but, like the old
Frenchwoman over her glass of water, wished that it were a sin to give
it a relish. As the foaming beakers of molasses and water were handed
round, the guests would make with them the courteous little gestures
of polite imbiding, and would then quaff the beverage, some with gusto,
others with a slight afterlook of dismay. But it was a delicious and
cooling drink while it lasted; and at all events was the best and the
worst we had.

We used to have reveille at six, and breakfast about seven; then the
mounted couriers began to arrive from half a dozen different directions,
with written reports of what had happened during the night,--a
boat seen, a picket fired upon, a battery erecting. These must be
consolidated and forwarded to head-quarters, with the daily report of
the command,--so many sick, so many on detached service, and all the
rest. This was our morning newspaper, our Herald and Tribune; I never
got tired of it. Then the couriers must be furnished with countersign
and instructions, and sent off again. Then we scattered to our various
rides, all disguised as duty; one to inspect pickets, one to visit a
sick soldier, one to build a bridge or clear a road, and still another
to head-quarters for ammunition or commissary stores. Galloping through
green lanes, miles of triumphal arches of wild roses,--roses pale and
large and fragrant, mingled with great boughs of the white cornel,
fantastic masses, snowy surprises,--such were our rides, ranging from
eight to fifteen and even twenty miles. Back to a late dinner with our
various experiences, and perhaps specimens to match,--a thunder-snake,
eight feet long; a live opossum, with a young clinging to the natural
pouch; an armful of great white, scentless pond-lilies. After dinner,
to the tangled garden for rosebuds or early magnolias, whose cloying
fragrance will always bring back to me the full zest of those summer
days; then dress-parade and a little drill as the day grew cool. In the
evening, tea; and then the piazza or the fireside, as the case might
be,--chess, cards,--perhaps a little music by aid of the assistant
surgeon's melodeon, a few pages of Jean Paul's "Titan," almost my
only book, and carefully husbanded,--perhaps a mail, with its infinite
felicities. Such was our day.

Night brought its own fascinations, more solitary and profound. The
darker they were, the more clearly it was our duty to visit the
pickets. The paths that had grown so familiar by day seemed a wholly new
labyrinth by night; and every added shade of darkness seemed to shift
and complicate them all anew, till at last man's skill grew utterly
baffled, and the clew must be left to the instinct of the horse. Riding
beneath the solemn starlight, or soft, gray mist, or densest blackness,
the frogs croaking, the strange "chuckwuts-widow" droning his ominous
note above my head, the mocking-bird dreaming in music, the great
Southern fireflies rising to the tree-tops, or hovering close to the
ground like glowworms, till the horse raised his hoofs to avoid them;
through pine woods and cypress swamps, or past sullen brooks, or
white tents, or the dimly seen huts of sleeping negroes; down to the
glimmering shore, where black statues leaned against trees or stood
alert in the pathways;--never, in all the days of my life, shall I
forget the magic of those haunted nights.

We had nocturnal boat service, too, for it was a part of our
instructions to obtain all possible information about the enemy's
position; and we accordingly, as usual in such cases, incurred a great
many risks that harmed nobody, and picked up much information which did
nobody any good. The centre of these nightly reconnoissances, for a
long time, was the wreck of the George Washington, the story of whose
disaster is perhaps worth telling.

Till about the time when we went on picket, it had been the occasional
habit of the smaller gunboats to make the circuit of Port Royal
Island,--a practice which was deemed very essential to the safety of our
position, but which the Rebels effectually stopped, a few days after our
arrival, by destroying the army gunboat George Washington with a single
shot from a light battery. I was roused soon after daybreak by the
firing, and a courier soon came dashing in with the particulars.
Forwarding these hastily to Beaufort (for we had then no telegraph), I
was soon at the scene of action, five miles away. Approaching, I met on
the picket paths man after man who had escaped from the wreck across
a half-mile of almost impassable marsh. Never did I see such
objects,--some stripped to their shirts, some fully clothed, but all
having every garment literally pasted to them--bodies with mud. Across
the river, the Rebels were retiring, having done their work, but were
still shelling, from greater and greater distances, the wood through
which I rode. Arrived at the spot nearest the wreck (a point opposite to
what we called the Brickyard Station), I saw the burning vessel aground
beyond a long stretch of marsh, out of which the forlorn creatures were
still floundering. Here and there in the mud and reeds we could see the
laboring heads, slowly advancing, and could hear excruciating cries from
wounded men in the more distant depths. It was the strangest mixture of
war and Dante and Robinson Crusoe. Our energetic chaplain coming up, I
sent him with four men, under a flag of truce, to the place whence the
worst cries proceeded, while I went to another part of the marsh. During
that morning we got them all out, our last achievement being the
rescue of the pilot, an immense negro with a wooden leg,--an article so
particularly unavailable for mud travelling, that it would have almost
seemed better, as one of the men suggested, to cut the traces, and leave
it behind.

A naval gunboat, too, which had originally accompanied this vessel, and
should never have left it, now came back and took off the survivors,
though there had been several deaths from scalding and shell. It
proved that the wreck was not aground after all, but at anchor, having
foolishly lingered till after daybreak, and having thus given time
for the enemy to bring down then: guns. The first shot had struck the
boiler, and set the vessel on fire; after which the officer in command
had raised a white flag, and then escaped with his men to our shore; and
it was for this flight in the wrong direction that they were shelled
in the marshes by the Rebels. The case furnished in this respect some
parallel to that of the Kearsage and Alabama, and it was afterwards
cited, I believe, officially or unofficially, to show that the Rebels
had claimed the right to punish, in this case, the course of action
which they approved in Semmes. I know that they always asserted
thenceforward that the detachment on board the George Washington had
become rightful prisoners of war, and were justly fired upon when they
tried to escape.

This was at the tune of the first attack on Charleston, and the noise of
this cannonading spread rapidly thither, and brought four regiments to
reinforce Beaufort in a hurry, under the impression that the town was
already taken, and that they must save what remnants they could. General
Saxton, too, had made such capital plans for defending the post that
he could not bear not to have it attacked; so, while the Rebels brought
down a force to keep us from taking the guns off the wreck, I was also
supplied with a section or two of regular artillery, and some additional
infantry, with which to keep them from it; and we tried to "make believe
very hard," and rival the Charleston expedition on our own island.
Indeed, our affair came to about as much,--nearly nothing,--and lasted
decidedly longer; for both sides nibbled away at the guns, by night, for
weeks afterward, though I believe the mud finally got them,--at least,
we did not. We tried in vain to get the use of a steamboat or floating
derrick of any kind; for it needed more mechanical ingenuity than we
possessed to transfer anything so heavy to our small boats by night,
while by day we did not go near the wreck in anything larger than a

One of these nocturnal visits to the wreck I recall with peculiar gusto,
because it brought back that contest with catarrh and coughing among my
own warriors which had so ludicrously beset me in Florida. It was always
fascinating to be on those forbidden waters by night, stealing out with
muffled oars through the creeks and reeds, our eyes always strained
for other voyagers, our ears listening breathlessly to all the marsh
sounds,--blackflsh splashing, and little wakened reed-birds that fled
wailing away over the dim river, equally safe on either side. But it
always appeared to the watchful senses that we were making noise enough
to be heard at Fort Sumter; and somehow the victims of catarrh seemed
always the most eager for any enterprise requiring peculiar caution.
In this case I thought I had sifted them before-hand; but as soon as we
were afloat, one poor boy near me began to wheeze, and I turned upon
him in exasperation. He saw his danger, and meekly said, "I won't cough,
Gunnel!" and he kept his word. For two mortal hours he sat grasping his
gun, with never a chirrup. But two unfortunates in the bow of the boat
developed symptoms which I could not suppress; so, putting in at a
picket station, with some risk I dumped them in mud knee-deep, and
embarked a substitute, who after the first five minutes absolutely
coughed louder than both the others united. Handkerchiefs, blankets,
over-coats, suffocation in its direst forms, were tried in vain, but
apparently the Rebel pickets slept through it all, and we exploded the
wreck in safety. I think they were asleep, for certainly across the
level marshes there came a nasal sound, as of the "Con-thieveracy" in
its slumbers. It may have been a bull-frog, but it sounded like a human

Picket life was of course the place to feel the charm of natural beauty
on the Sea Islands. We had a world of profuse and tangled vegetation
around us, such as would have been a dream of delight to me, but for the
constant sense of responsibility and care which came between. Amid
this preoccupation, Nature seemed but a mirage, and not the close and
intimate associate I had before known. I pressed no flowers, collected
no insects or birds' eggs, made no notes on natural objects, reversing
in these respects all previous habits. Yet now, in the retrospect, there
seems to have been infused into me through every pore the voluptuous
charm of the season and the place; and the slightest corresponding
sound or odor now calls back the memory of those delicious days. Being
afterwards on picket at almost every season, I tasted the sensations of
all; and though I hardly then thought of such a result, the associations
of beauty will remain forever.

In February, for instance,--though this was during a later period of
picket service,--the woods were usually draped with that "net of shining
haze" which marks our Northern May; and the house was embowered in
wild-plum-blossoms, small, white, profuse, and tenanted by murmuring
bees. There were peach-blossoms, too, and the yellow jasmine was opening
its multitudinous buds, climbing over tall trees, and waving from bough
to bough. There were fresh young ferns and white bloodroot in the edges
of woods, matched by snowdrops in the garden, beneath budded myrtle
and _Petisporum_. In this wilderness the birds were busy; the two
main songsters being the mocking-bird and the cardinal-grosbeak, which
monopolized all the parts of our more varied Northern orchestra save
the tender and liquid notes, which in South Carolina seemed unattempted
except by some stray blue-bird. Jays were as loud and busy as at the
North in autumn; there were sparrows and wrens; and sometimes I noticed
the shy and whimsical chewink.

From this early spring-time onward, there seemed no great difference in
atmospheric sensations, and only a succession of bloom. After two months
one's notions of the season grew bewildered, just as very early rising
bewilders the day. In the army one is perhaps roused after a bivouac,
marches before daybreak, halts, fights, somebody is killed, a long
day's life has been lived, and after all it is not seven o'clock, and
breakfast is not ready. So when we had lived in summer so long as hardly
to remember winter, it suddenly occurred to us that it was not yet June.
One escapes at the South that mixture of hunger and avarice which is
felt in the Northern summer, counting each hour's joy with the sad
consciousness that an hour is gone. The compensating loss is in missing
those soft, sweet, liquid sensations of the Northern spring, that burst
of life and joy, those days of heaven that even April brings; and this
absence of childhood in the year creates a feeling of hardness in the
season, like that I have suggested in the melody of the Southern
birds. It seemed to me also that the woods had not those pure, clean,
_innocent_ odors which so abound in the New England forest in
early spring; but there was something luscious, voluptuous, almost
oppressively fragrant about the magnolias, as if they belonged not to
Hebe, but to Magdalen.

Such immense and lustrous butterflies I had never seen but in dreams;
and not even dreams had prepared me for sand-flies. Almost too small to
be seen, they inflicted a bite which appeared larger than themselves,--a
positive wound, more torturing than that of a mosquito, and leaving
more annoyance behind. These tormentors elevated dress-parade into the
dignity of a military engagement. I had to stand motionless, with my
head a mere nebula of winged atoms, while tears rolled profusely down my
face, from mere muscular irritation. Had I stirred a finger, the whole
battalion would have been slapping its cheeks. Such enemies were,
however, a valuable aid to discipline, on the whole, as they abounded
in the guard-house, and made that institution an object of unusual
abhorrence among the men.

The presence of ladies and the homelike air of everything, made the
picket station a very popular resort while we were there. It was the
one agreeable ride from Beaufort, and we often had a dozen people
unexpectedly to dinner. On such occasions there was sometimes mounting
in hot haste, and an eager search among the outlying plantations for
additional chickens and eggs, or through the company kitchens for some
of those villanous tin cans which everywhere marked the progress of our
army. In those cans, so far as my observation went, all fruits
relapsed into a common acidulation, and all meats into a similarity of
tastelessness; while the "condensed milk" was best described by the men,
who often unconsciously stumbled on a better joke than they knew, and
always spoke of it as _condemned_ milk.

We had our own excursions too,--to the Barnwell plantations, with
their beautiful avenues and great live-oaks, the perfection of Southern
beauty,--to Hall's Island, debatable ground, close under the
enemy's fire, where half-wild cattle were to be shot, under military
precautions, like Scottish moss-trooping,--or to the ferry, where it
was fascinating to the female mind to scan the Rebel pickets through
a field-glass. Our horses liked the by-ways far better than the level
hardness of the Shell Road, especially those we had brought from
Florida, which enjoyed the wilderness as if they had belonged to
Marion's men. They delighted to feel the long sedge brush their flanks,
or to gallop down the narrow wood-paths, leaping the fallen trees, and
scaring the bright little lizards which shot across our track like live
rays broken from the sunbeams. We had an abundance of horses, mostly
captured and left in our hands by some convenient delay of the post
quartermaster. We had also two side-saddles, which, not being munitions
of war, could not properly (as we explained) be transferred like other
captured articles to the general stock; otherwise the P. Q. M. (a
married man) would have showed no unnecessary delay in their case.
For miscellaneous accommodation was there not an ambulance,--that most
inestimable of army conveniences, equally ready to carry the merry to
a feast or the wounded from a fray. "Ambulance" was one of those words,
rather numerous, which Ethiopian lips were not framed by Nature to
articulate. Only the highest stages of colored culture could compass it;
on the tongue of the many it was transformed mystically as "amulet," or
ambitiously as "epaulet," or in culinary fashion as "omelet." But it was
our experience that an ambulance under any name jolted equally hard.

Besides these divertisements, we had more laborious vocations,--a good
deal of fatigue, and genuine though small alarms. The men went on duty
every third day at furthest, and the officers nearly as often,--most
of the tours of duty lasting twenty-four hours, though the stream was
considered to watch itself tolerably well by daylight. This kind of
responsibility suited the men; and we had already found, as the whole
army afterwards acknowledged, that the constitutional watchfulness and
distrustfulness of the colored race made them admirable sentinels. Soon
after we went on picket, the commanding general sent an aid, with a
cavalry escort, to visit all the stations, without my knowledge. They
spent the whole night, and the officer reported that he could not get
within thirty yards of any post without a challenge. This was a pleasant
assurance for me; since our position seemed so secure, compared with
Jacksonville, that I had feared some relaxation of vigilance, while yet
the safety of all depended on our thorough discharge of duty.

Jacksonville had also seasoned the men so well that they were no longer
nervous, and did not waste much powder on false alarms. The Rebels made
no formal attacks, and rarely attempted to capture pickets. Sometimes
they came stealing through the creeks in "dugouts," as we did on their
side of the water, and occasionally an officer of ours was fired upon
while making his rounds by night. Often some boat or scow would go
adrift, and sometimes a mere dark mass of river-weed would be floated by
the tide past the successive stations, eliciting a challenge and perhaps
a shot from each. I remember the vivid way in which one of the men
stated to his officer the manner in which a faithful picket should do
his duty, after challenging, in case a boat came in sight. "Fus' ting I
shoot, and den I shoot, and den I shoot again. Den I creep-creep up near
de boat, and see who dey in 'em; and s'pose anybody pop up he head, den
I shoot again. S'pose I fire my forty rounds. I tink he hear at de
camp and send more mans,"--which seemed a reasonable presumption. This
soldier's name was Paul Jones, a daring fellow, quite worthy of his

In time, however, they learned quieter methods, and would wade far out
in the water, there standing motionless at last, hoping to surround and
capture these floating boats, though, to their great disappointment,
the prize usually proved empty. On one occasion they tried a still
profounder strategy; for an officer visiting the pickets after midnight,
and hearing in the stillness a portentous snore from the end of the
causeway (our most important station), straightway hurried to the point
of danger, with wrath in his soul. But the sergeant of the squad came
out to meet him, imploring silence, and explaining that they had seen or
suspected a boat hovering near, and were feigning sleep in order to lure
and capture those who would entrap them.

The one military performance at the picket station of which my men were
utterly intolerant was an occasional flag of truce, for which this
was the appointed locality. These farces, for which it was our duty
to furnish the stock actors, always struck them as being utterly
despicable, and unworthy the serious business of war. They felt, I
suppose, what Mr. Pickwick felt, when he heard his counsel remark to the
counsel for the plaintiff, that it was a very fine morning. It goaded
their souls to see the young officers from the two opposing armies
salute each other courteously, and interchange cigars. They despised the
object of such negotiations, which was usually to send over to the enemy
some family of Rebel women who had made themselves quite intolerable on
our side, but were not above collecting a subscription among the Union
officers, before departure, to replenish their wardrobes. The men never
showed disrespect to these women by word or deed, but they hated them
from the bottom of their souls. Besides, there was a grievance behind
all this.

The Rebel order remained unrevoked which consigned the new colored
troops and their officers to a felon's death, if captured; and we all
felt that we fought with ropes round our necks. "Dere's no flags ob
truce for us," the men would contemptuously say. "When de Secesh fight
de _Fus' Souf_" (First South Carolina), "he fight in earnest." Indeed,
I myself took it as rather a compliment when the commander on the
other side--though an old acquaintance of mine in Massachusetts and
in Kansas--at first refused to negotiate through me or my officers,--a
refusal which was kept up, greatly to the enemy's inconvenience, until
our men finally captured some of the opposing pickets, and their friends
had to waive all scruples in order to send them supplies. After this
there was no trouble, and I think that the first Rebel officer in South
Carolina who officially met any officer of colored troops under a
flag of truce was Captain John C. Calhoun. In Florida we had been so
recognized long before; but that was when they wished to frighten us out
of Jacksonville.

Such was our life on picket at Port Royal,--a thing whose memory is now
fast melting into such stuff as dreams are made of. We stayed there more
than two months at that tune; the first attack on Charleston exploded
with one puff, and had its end; General Hunter was ordered North,
and the busy Gilmore reigned in his stead; and in June, when the
blackberries were all eaten, we were summoned, nothing loath, to other
scenes and encampments new.

Chapter 6. A Night in the Water

Yes, that was a pleasant life on picket, in the delicious early summer
of the South, and among the endless flowery forests of that blossoming
isle. In the retrospect I seem to see myself adrift upon a horse's back
amid a sea of roses. The various outposts were within a six-mile radius,
and it was one long, delightful gallop, day and night. I have a faint
impression that the moon shone steadily every night for two months; and
yet I remember certain periods of such dense darkness that in riding
through the wood-paths it was really unsafe to go beyond a walk, for
fear of branches above and roots below; and one of my officers was once
shot at by a Rebel scout who stood unperceived at his horse's bridle.

To those doing outpost-duty on an island, however large, the main-land
has all the fascination of forbidden fruit, and on a scale bounded only
by the horizon. Emerson says that every house looks ideal until we enter
it,--and it is certainly so, if it be just the other side of the hostile
lines. Every grove in that blue distance appears enchanted ground, and
yonder loitering gray-back leading his horse to water in the farthest
distance, makes one thrill with a desire to hail him, to shoot at him,
to capture him, to do anything to bridge this inexorable dumb space that
lies between. A boyish feeling, no doubt, and one that time diminishes,
without effacing; yet it is a feeling which lies at the bottom of many
rash actions in war, and of some brilliant ones. For one, I could never
quite outgrow it, though restricted by duty from doing many foolish
things in consequence, and also restrained by reverence for certain
confidential advisers whom I had always at hand, and who considered it
their mission to keep me always on short rations of personal adventure.
Indeed, most of that sort of entertainment in the army devolves
upon scouts detailed for the purpose, volunteer aides-de-camp and
newspaper-reporters,--other officers being expected to be about business
more prosaic.

All the excitements of war are quadrupled by darkness; and as I rode
along our outer lines at night, and watched the glimmering flames which
at regular intervals starred the opposite river-shore, the longing was
irresistible to cross the barrier of dusk, and see whether it were men
or ghosts who hovered round those dying embers. I had yielded to
these impulses in boat-adventures by night,--for it was a part of
my instructions to obtain all possible information about the Rebel
outposts,--and fascinating indeed it was to glide along, noiselessly
paddling, with a dusky guide, through the endless intricacies of those
Southern marshes, scaring the reed-birds, which wailed and fled away
into the darkness, and penetrating several miles into the ulterior,
between hostile fires, where discovery might be death. Yet there were
drawbacks as to these enterprises, since it is not easy for a boat to
cross still water, even on the darkest night, without being seen
by watchful eyes; and, moreover, the extremes of high and low tide
transform so completely the whole condition of those rivers that it
needs very nice calculation to do one's work at precisely the right
tune. To vary the experiment, I had often thought of trying a personal
reconnoissance by swimming, at a certain point, whenever circumstances
should make it an object.

The opportunity at last arrived, and I shall never forget the glee with
which, after several postponements, I finally rode forth, a little
before midnight, on a night which seemed made for the purpose. I had, of
course, kept my own secret, and was entirely alone. The great Southern
fireflies were out, not haunting the low ground merely, like ours,
but rising to the loftiest tree-tops with weird illumination, and anon
hovering so low that my horse often stepped the higher to avoid them.
The dewy Cherokee roses brushed my face, the solemn "Chuckwill's-widow"
croaked her incantation, and the rabbits raced phantom-like across the
shadowy road. Slowly in the darkness I followed the well-known path
to the spot where our most advanced outposts were stationed, holding a
causeway which thrust itself far out across the separating river,--thus
fronting a similar causeway on the other side, while a channel of
perhaps three hundred yards, once traversed by a ferry-boat, rolled
between. At low tide this channel was the whole river, with broad, oozy
marshes on each side; at high tide the marshes were submerged, and the
stream was a mile wide. This was the point which I had selected.
To ascertain the numbers and position of the picket on the opposite
causeway was my first object, as it was a matter on which no two of our
officers agreed.

To this point, therefore, I rode, and dismounting, after being duly
challenged by the sentinel at the causeway-head, walked down the long
and lonely path. The tide was well up, though still on the flood, as
I desired; and each visible tuft of marsh-grass might, but for its
motionlessness, have been a prowling boat. Dark as the night had
appeared, the water was pale, smooth, and phosphorescent, and I remember
that the phrase "wan water," so familiar in the Scottish ballards,
struck me just then as peculiarly appropriate, though its real meaning
is quite different. A gentle breeze, from which I had hoped for a
ripple, had utterly died away, and it was a warm, breathless Southern
night. There was no sound but the faint swash of the coming tide, the
noises of the reed-birds in the marshes, and the occasional leap of a
fish; and it seemed to my overstrained ear as if every footstep of
my own must be heard for miles. However, I could have no more
postponements, and the thing must be tried now or never.

Reaching the farther end of the causeway, I found my men couched, like
black statues, behind the slight earthwork there constructed. I expected
that my proposed immersion would rather bewilder them, but knew that
they would say nothing, as usual. As for the lieutenant on that post, he
was a steady, matter-of-fact, perfectly disciplined Englishman, who wore
a Crimean medal, and never asked a superfluous question in his life. If
I had casually remarked to him, "Mr. Hooper, the General has ordered me
on a brief personal reconnoissance to the Planet Jupiter, and I wish you
to take care of my watch, lest it should be damaged by the Precession of
the Equinoxes," he would have responded with a brief "All right, Sir,"
and a quick military gesture, and have put the thing in his pocket. As
it was, I simply gave him the watch, and remarked that I was going to
take a swim.

I do not remember ever to have experienced a greater sense of
exhilaration than when I slipped noiselessly into the placid water, and
struck out into the smooth, eddying current for the opposite shore. The
night was so still and lovely, my black statues looked so dream-like at
their posts behind the low earthwork, the opposite arm of the causeway
stretched so invitingly from the Rebel main, the horizon glimmered so
low around me,--for it always appears lower to a swimmer than even to
an oarsman,--that I seemed floating in some concave globe, some magic
crystal, of which I was the enchanted centre. With each little ripple of
my steady progress all things hovered and changed; the stars danced and
nodded above; where the stars ended the great Southern fireflies
began; and closer than the fireflies, there clung round me a halo of
phosphorescent sparkles from the soft salt water.

Had I told any one of my purpose, I should have had warnings and
remonstrances enough. The few negroes who did not believe in alligators
believed in sharks; the sceptics as to sharks were orthodox in respect
to alligators; while those who rejected both had private prejudices
as to snapping-turtles. The surgeon would have threatened intermittent
fever, the first assistant rheumatism, and the second assistant
congestive chills; non-swimmers would have predicted exhaustion, and
swimmers cramp; and all this before coming within bullet-range of any
hospitalities on the other shore. But I knew the folly of most alarms
about reptiles and fishes; man's imagination peoples the water with many
things which do not belong there, or prefer to keep out of his way,
if they do; fevers and congestions were the surgeon's business, and I
always kept people to their own department; cramp and exhaustion were
dangers I could measure, as I had often done; bullets were a more
substantial danger, and I must take the chance,--if a loon could dive at
the flash, why not I? If I were once ashore, I should have to cope with
the Rebels on their own ground, which they knew better than I; but the
water was my ground, where I, too, had been at home from boyhood.

I swam as swiftly and softly as I could, although it seemed as if water
never had been so still before. It appeared impossible that anything
uncanny should hide beneath that lovely mirror; and yet when some
floating wisp of reeds suddenly coiled itself around my neck, or some
unknown thing, drifting deeper, coldly touched my foot, it caused that
undefinable shudder which every swimmer knows, and which especially
comes over one by night. Sometimes a slight sip of brackish water would
enter my lips,--for I naturally tried to swim as low as possible,--and
then would follow a slight gasping and contest against chocking, that
seemed to me a perfect convulsion; for I suppose the tendency to choke
and sneeze is always enhanced by the circumstance that one's life may
depend on keeping still, just as yawning becomes irresistible where to
yawn would be social ruin, and just as one is sure to sleep in church,
if one sits in a conspicuous pew. At other times, some unguarded motion
would create a splashing which seemed, in the tension of my senses, to
be loud enough to be heard at Richmond, although it really mattered
not, since there are fishes in those rivers which make as much noise on
special occasions as if they were misguided young whales.

As I drew near the opposite shore, the dark causeway projected more and
more distinctly, to my fancy at least, and I swam more softly still,
utterly uncertain as to how far, in the stillness of air and water, my
phosphorescent course could be traced by eye or ear. A slight ripple
would have saved me from observation, I was more than ever sure, and I
would have whistled for a fair wind as eagerly as any sailor, but that
my breath was worth to me more than anything it was likely to bring. The
water became smoother and smoother, and nothing broke the dim surface
except a few clumps of rushes and my unfortunate head. The outside of
this member gradually assumed to its inside a gigantic magnitude; it had
always annoyed me at the hatter's from a merely animal bigness, with no
commensurate contents to show for it, and now I detested it more than
ever. A physical feeling of turgescence and congestion in that region,
such as swimmers often feel, probably increased the impression. I
thought with envy of the Aztec children, of the headless horseman of
Sleepy Hollow, of Saint Somebody with his head tucked under his arm.
Plotinus was less ashamed of his whole body than I of this inconsiderate
and stupid appendage. To be sure, I might swim for a certain distance
under water. But that accomplishment I had reserved for a retreat, for
I knew that the longer I stayed down the more surely I should have to
snort like a walrus when I came up again, and to approach an enemy with
such a demonstration was not to be thought of.

Suddenly a dog barked. We had certain information that a pack of
hounds was kept at a Rebel station a few miles off, on purpose to hunt
runaways, and I had heard from the negroes almost fabulous accounts of
the instinct of these animals. I knew that, although water baffled
their scent, they yet could recognize in some manner the approach of any
person across water as readily as by land; and of the vigilance of
all dogs by night every traveller among Southern plantations has ample
demonstration. I was now so near that I could dimly see the figures of
men moving to and fro upon the end of the causeway, and could hear the
dull knock, when one struck his foot against a piece of limber.

As my first object was to ascertain whether there were sentinels at that
time at that precise point, I saw that I was approaching the end of my
experiment Could I have once reached the causeway unnoticed, I could
have lurked in the water beneath its projecting timbers, and perhaps
made my way along the main shore, as I had known fugitive slaves to do,
while coming from that side. Or had there been any ripple on the water,
to confuse the aroused and watchful eyes, I could have made a circuit
and approached the causeway at another point, though I had already
satisfied myself that there was only a narrow channel on each side
of it, even at high tide, and not, as on our side, a broad expanse of
water. Indeed, this knowledge alone was worth all the trouble I had
taken, and to attempt much more than this, in the face of a curiosity
already roused, would have been a waste of future opportunities. I could
try again, with the benefit of this new knowledge, on a point where the
statements of the negroes had always been contradictory.

Resolving, however, to continue the observation a very little longer,
since the water felt much warmer than I had expected, and there was no
sense of chill or fatigue, I grasped at some wisps of straw or rushes
that floated near, gathering them round my face a little, and then
drifting nearer the wharf in what seemed a sort of eddy was able,
without creating further alarm, to make some additional observations on
points which it is not best now to particularize. Then, turning my back
upon the mysterious shore which had thus far lured me, I sank softly
below the surface, and swam as far as I could under water.

During this unseen retreat, I heard, of course, all manner of gurglings
and hollow reverberations, and could fancy as many rifle-shots as I
pleased. But on rising to the surface all seemed quiet, and even I did
not create as much noise as I should have expected. I was now at a safe
distance, since the enemy were always chary of showing their boats, and
always tried to convince us they had none. What with absorbed attention
first, and this submersion afterwards, I had lost all my bearings
but the stars, having been long out of sight of my original point of
departure. However, the difficulties of the return were nothing; making
a slight allowance for the floodtide, which could not yet have turned, I
should soon regain the place I had left. So I struck out freshly against
the smooth water, feeling just a little stiffened by the exertion, and
with an occasional chill running up the back of the neck, but with
no nips from sharks, no nudges from alligators, and not a symptom of

Time I could not, of course, measure,--one never can in a novel
position; but, after a reasonable amount of swimming, I began to look,
with a natural interest, for the pier which I had quitted. I noticed,
with some solicitude, that the woods along the friendly shore made one
continuous shadow, and that the line of low bushes on the long causeway
could scarcely be relieved against them, yet I knew where they ought
to be, and the more doubtful I felt about it, the more I put down my
doubts, as if they were unreasonable children. One can scarcely conceive
of the alteration made in familiar objects by bringing the eye as low
as the horizon, especially by night; to distinguish foreshortening is
impossible, and every low near object is equivalent to one higher and
more remote. Still I had the stars; and soon my eye, more practised, was
enabled to select one precise line of bushes as that which marked the
causeway, and for which I must direct my course.

As I swam steadily, but with some sense of fatigue, towards this
phantom-line, I found it difficult to keep my faith steady and my
progress true; everything appeared to shift and waver, in the uncertain
light. The distant trees seemed not trees, but bushes, and the bushes
seemed not exactly bushes, but might, after all, be distant trees. Could
I be so confident that, out of all that low stretch of shore, I could
select the one precise point where the friendly causeway stretched
its long arm to receive me from the water? How easily (some tempter
whispered at my ear) might one swerve a little, on either side, and be
compelled to flounder over half a mile of oozy marsh on an ebbing tide,
before reaching our own shore and that hospitable volley of bullets with
which it would probably greet me! Had I not already (thus the tempter
continued) been swimming rather unaccountably far, supposing me on a
straight track for that inviting spot where my sentinels and my drapery
were awaiting my return?

Suddenly I felt a sensation as of fine ribbons drawn softly across my
person, and I found myself among some rushes. But what business had
rushes there, or I among them? I knew that there was not a solitary spot
of shoal in the deep channel where I supposed myself swimming, and it
was plain in an instant that I had somehow missed my course, and must
be getting among the marshes. I felt confident, to be sure, that I could
not have widely erred, but was guiding my course for the proper side of
tie river. But whether I had drifted above or below the causeway I had
not the slightest clew to tell.

I pushed steadily forward, with some increasing sense of lassitude,
passing one marshy islet after another, all seeming strangely out of
place, and sometimes just reaching with my foot a soft tremulous shoal
which gave scarce the shadow of a support, though even that shadow
rested my feet. At one of these moments of stillness it suddenly
occurred to my perception (what nothing but this slight contact could
have assured me, in the darkness) that I was in a powerful current,
and that this current set _the wrong way_. Instantly a flood of new
intelligence came. Either I had unconsciously turned and was rapidly
nearing the Rebel shore,--a suspicion which a glance at the stars
corrected,--or else it was the tide itself which had turned, and which
was sweeping me down the river with all its force, and was also sucking
away at every moment the narrowing water from that treacherous expanse
of mud out of whose horrible miry embrace I had lately helped to rescue
a shipwrecked crew.

Either alternative was rather formidable. I can distinctly remember that
for about one half-minute the whole vast universe appeared to swim
in the same watery uncertainty in which I floated. I began to doubt
everything, to distrust the stars, the line of low bushes for which
I was wearily striving, the very land on which they grew, if such
visionary things could be rooted anywhere. Doubts trembled in my mind
like the weltering water, and that awful sensation of having one's feet
unsupported, which benumbs the spent swimmer's heart, seemed to clutch
at mine, though not yet to enter it. I was more absorbed in that
singular sensation of nightmare, such as one may feel equally when lost
by land or by water, as if one's own position were all right, but the
place looked for had somehow been preternaturally abolished out of the
universe. At best, might not a man in the water lose all his power of
direction, and so move in an endless circle until he sank exhausted? It
required a deliberate and conscious effort to keep my brain quite cool.
I have not the reputation of being of an excitable temperament, but the
contrary; yet I could at that moment see my way to a condition in which
one might become insane in an instant. It was as if a fissure opened
somewhere, and I saw my way into a mad-house; then it closed, and
everything went on as before. Once in my life I had obtained a slight
glimpse of the same sensation, and then, too, strangely enough, while
swimming,--in the mightiest ocean-surge into which I had ever dared
plunge my mortal body. Keats hints at the same sudden emotion, in a wild
poem written among the Scottish mountains. It was not the distinctive
sensation which drowning men are said to have, that spasmodic passing in
review of one's whole personal history. I had no well-defined anxiety,
felt no fear, was moved to no prayer, did not give a thought to home
or friends; only it swept over me, as with a sudden tempest, that, if I
meant to get back to my own camp, I must keep my wits about me. I must
not dwell on any other alternative, any more than a boy who climbs a
precipice must look down. Imagination had no business here. That way
madness lay. There was a shore somewhere before me, and I must get to
it, by the ordinary means, before the ebb laid bare the flats, or swept
me below the lower bends of the stream. That was all.

Suddenly a light gleamed for an instant before me, as if from a house
in a grove of great trees upon a bank; and I knew that it came from the
window of a ruined plantation-building, where our most advanced outposts
had their headquarters. The flash revealed to me every point of the
situation. I saw at once where I was, and how I got there: that the tide
had turned while I was swimming, and with a much briefer interval of
slack-water than I had been led to suppose,--that I had been swept a
good way down stream, and was far beyond all possibility of regaining
the point I had left.

Could I, however, retain my strength to swim one or two hundred yards
farther, of which I had no doubt,--and if the water did not ebb too
rapidly, of which I had more fear,--then I was quite safe. Every stroke
took me more and more out of the power of the current, and there might
even be an eddy to aid me. I could not afford to be carried down much
farther, for there the channel made a sweep toward the wrong side of the
river; but there was now no reason why I should not reach land. I could
dismiss all fear, indeed, except that of being fired upon by our own
sentinels, many of whom were then new recruits, and with the usual
disposition to shoot first and investigate afterwards.

I found myself swimming in shallow and shallower water, and the flats
seemed almost bare when I neared the shore, where the great gnarled
branches of the liveoaks hung far over the muddy bank. Floating on my
back for noiselessness, I paddled rapidly in with my hands, expecting
momentarily to hear the challenge of the picket, and the ominous click
so likely to follow. I knew that some one should be pacing to and fro,
along that beat, but could not tell at what point he might be at that
precise moment. Besides, there was a faint possibility that some chatty
corporal might have carried the news of my bath thus far along the
line, and they might be partially prepared for this unexpected visitor.
Suddenly, like another flash, came the quick, quaint challenge,--

"Halt! Who's go dar?"

"F-f-friend with the c-c-countersign," retorted I, with chilly, but
conciliatory energy, rising at full length out of the shallow water, to
show myself a man and a brother.

"Ac-vance, friend, and give de countersign," responded the literal
soldier, who at such a tune would have accosted: a spirit of light or
goblin damned with no other formula.

I advanced and gave it, he recognized my voice at once. | And then and
there, as I stood, a dripping ghost, beneath the f trees before him, the
unconscionable fellow, wishing to exhaust upon me the utmost resources
of military hospitality, deliberately presented arms!

Now a soldier on picket, or at night, usually presents arms to nobody;
but a sentinel on camp-guard by day is expected to perform that ceremony
to anything in human shape that has two rows of buttons. Here was a
human shape, but so utterly buttonless that it exhibited not even a
rag to which a button could by any earthly possibility be appended,
button-less even potentially; and my blameless Ethiopian presented arms
to even this. Where, then, are the theories of Carlyle, the axioms of
"Sartor Resartus," the inability of humanity to conceive "a naked
Duke of Windlestraw addressing a naked House of Lords"? Cautioning my
adherent, however, as to the proprieties suitable for such occasions
thenceforward, I left him watching the river with renewed vigilance, and
awaiting the next merman who should report himself.

Finding my way to the building, I hunted up a sergeant and a blanket,
got a fire kindled in the dismantled chimney, and sat before it in my
single garment, like a moist but undismayed Choctaw, until horse and
clothing could be brought round from the causeway. It seemed strange
that the morning had not yet dawned, after the uncounted periods that
must have elapsed; but when the wardrobe arrived I looked at my watch
and found that my night in the water had lasted precisely one hour.

Galloping home, I turned in with alacrity, and without a drop of
whiskey, and waked a few hours after in excellent condition. The rapid
changes of which that Department has seen so many--and, perhaps, to so
little purpose--soon transferred us to a different scene. I have been on
other scouts since then, and by various processes, but never with a zest
so novel as was afforded by that night's experience. The thing soon got
wind in the regiment, and led to only one ill consequence, so far as I
know. It rather suppressed a way I had of lecturing the officers on the
importance of reducing their personal baggage to a minimum. They got a
trick of congratulating me, very respectfully, on the thoroughness with
which I had once conformed my practice to my precepts.

Chapter 7. Up the Edisto

In reading military history, one finds the main interest to lie,
undoubtedly, in the great campaigns, where a man, a regiment, a brigade,
is but a pawn in the game. But there is a charm also in the more free
and adventurous life of partisan warfare, where, if the total sphere be
humbler, yet the individual has more relative importance, and the sense
of action is more personal and keen. This is the reason given by the
eccentric Revolutionary biographer, Weems, for writing the Life of
Washington first, and then that of Marion. And there were, certainly,
hi the early adventures of the colored troops in the Department of the
South, some of the same elements of picturesqueness that belonged to
Marion's band, on the same soil, with the added feature that the blacks
were fighting for their personal liberties, of which Marion had helped
to deprive them.

It is stated by Major-General Gillmore, in his "Siege of Charleston," as
one of the three points in his preliminary strategy, that an expedition
was sent up the Edisto River to destroy a bridge on the Charleston and
Savannah Railway. As one of the early raids of the colored troops, this
expedition may deserve narration, though it was, in a strategic point
of view, a disappointment. It has already been told, briefly and on the
whole with truth, by Greeley and others, but I will venture on a more
complete account.

The project dated back earlier than General Gillmore's siege, and had
originally no connection with that movement. It had been formed by
Captain Trowbridge and myself in camp, and was based on facts learned
from the men. General Saxton and Colonel W. W. H. Davis, the successive
post-commanders, had both favored it. It had been also approved by
General Hunter, before his sudden removal, though he regarded the bridge
as a secondary affair, because there was another railway communication
between the two cities. But as my main object was to obtain permission
to go, I tried to make the most of all results which might follow, while
it was very clear that the raid would harass and confuse the enemy, and
be the means of bringing away many of the slaves. General Hunter had,
therefore, accepted the project mainly as a stroke for freedom and black
recruits; and General Gillmore, because anything that looked toward
action found favor in his eyes, and because it would be convenient to
him at that time to effect a diversion, if nothing more.

It must be remembered that, after the first capture of Port Royal, the
outlying plantations along the whole Southern coast were abandoned, and
the slaves withdrawn into the interior. It was necessary to ascend some
river for thirty miles in order to reach the black population at all.
This ascent could only be made by night, as it was a slow process, and
the smoke of a steamboat could be seen for a great distance. The streams
were usually shallow, winding, and muddy, and the difficulties of
navigation were such as to require a full moon and a flood tide. It was
really no easy matter to bring everything to bear, especially as every
projected raid must be kept a secret so far as possible. However, we
were now somewhat familiar with such undertakings, half military, half
naval, and the thing to be done on the Edisto was precisely what we had
proved to be practicable on the St. Mary's and the St. John's,--to drop
anchor before the enemy's door some morning at daybreak, without his
having dreamed of our approach.

Since a raid made by Colonel Montgomery up the Combahee, two months
before, the vigilance of the Rebels had increased. But we had
information that upon the South Edisto, or Pon-Pon River, the rice
plantations were still being actively worked by a large number of
negroes, in reliance on obstructions placed at the mouth of that narrow
stream, where it joins the main river, some twenty miles from the coast.
This point was known to be further protected by a battery of unknown
strength, at Wiltown Bluff, a commanding and defensible situation. The
obstructions consisted of a row of strong wooden piles across the river;
but we convinced ourselves that these must now be much decayed, and that
Captain Trowbridge, an excellent engineer officer, could remove them
by the proper apparatus. Our proposition was to man the John Adams, an
armed ferry-boat, which had before done us much service,--and which has
now reverted to the pursuits of peace, it is said, on the East Boston
line,--to ascend in this to Wiltown Bluff, silence the battery, and
clear a passage through the obstructions. Leaving the John Adams to
protect this point, we could then ascend the smaller stream with two
light-draft boats, and perhaps burn the bridge, which was ten miles
higher, before the enemy could bring sufficient force to make our
position at Wiltown Bluff untenable.

The expedition was organized essentially upon this plan. The smaller
boats were the Enoch Dean,--a river steamboat, which carried a ten-pound
Parrott gun, and a small howitzer,--and a little mosquito of a tug, the
Governor Milton, upon which, with the greatest difficulty, we found
room for two twelve-pound Armstrong guns, with their gunners, forming
a section of the First Connecticut Battery, under Lieutenant Clinton,
aided by a squad from my own regiment, under Captain James. The John
Adams carried, I if I remember rightly, two Parrott guns (of twenty and
ten | pounds calibre) and a howitzer or two. The whole force of men did
not exceed two hundred and fifty.

We left Beaufort, S. C., on the afternoon of July 9th, 1863. In former
narrations I have sufficiently described the charm of a moonlight ascent
into a hostile country, upon an unknown stream, the dark and silent
banks, the rippling water, the wail of the reed-birds, the anxious
watch, the breathless listening, the veiled lights, the whispered
orders. To this was now to be added the vexation of an insufficient
pilotage, for our negro guide knew only the upper river, and, as it
finally proved, not even that, while, to take us over the bar which
obstructed the main stream, we must borrow a pilot from Captain Dutch,
whose gunboat blockaded that point. This active naval officer, however,
whose boat expeditions had penetrated all the lower branches of those
rivers, could supply our want, and we borrowed from him not only a
pilot, but a surgeon, to replace our own, who had been prevented by an
accident from coming with us. Thus accompanied, we steamed over the bar
in safety, had a peaceful ascent, passed the island of Jehossee,--the
fine estate of Governor Aiken, then left undisturbed by both sides,--and
fired our first shell into the camp at Wiltown Bluff at four o'clock in
the morning.

The battery--whether fixed or movable we knew not--met us with a
promptness that proved very shortlived. After three shots it was silent,
but we could not tell why. The bluff was wooded, and we could see but
little. The only course was to land, under cover of the guns. As
the firing ceased and the smoke cleared away, I looked across the
rice-fields which lay beneath the bluff. The first sunbeams glowed upon
their emerald levels, and on the blossoming hedges along the rectangular
dikes. What were those black dots which everywhere appeared? Those moist
meadows had become alive with human heads, and along each narrow
path came a straggling file of men and women, all on a run for the
river-side. I went ashore with a boat-load of troops at once. The
landing was difficult and marshy. The astonished negroes tugged us up
the bank, and gazed on us as if we had been Cortez and Columbus. They
kept arriving by land much faster than we could come by water; every
moment increased the crowd, the jostling, the mutual clinging, on that
miry foothold. What a scene it was! With the wild faces, eager figures,
strange garments, it seemed, as one of the poor things reverently
suggested, "like notin' but de judgment day." Presently they began to
come from the houses also, with their little bundles on their heads;
then with larger bundles. Old women, trotting on the narrow paths, would
kneel to pray a little prayer, still balancing the bundle; and then
would suddenly spring up, urged by the accumulating procession behind,
and would move on till irresistibly compelled by thankfulness to dip
down for another invocation.

Reaching us, every human being must grasp our hands, amid exclamations
of "Bress you, mas'r," and "Bress de Lord," at the rate of four of the
latter ascriptions to one of the former.

Women brought children on their shoulders; small black boys learned on
their back little brothers equally inky, and, gravely depositing them,
shook hands. Never had I seen human beings so clad, or rather so unclad,
in such amazing squalid-ness and destitution of garments. I recall one
small urchin without a rag of clothing save the basque waist of a lady's
dress, bristling with whalebones, and worn wrong side before, beneath
which his smooth ebony legs emerged like those of an ostrich from its
plumage. How weak is imagination, how cold is memory, that I ever cease,
for a day of my life, to see before me the picture of that astounding

Yet at the time we were perforce a little impatient of all this piety,
protestation, and hand-pressing; for the vital thing was to ascertain
what force had been stationed at the bluff, and whether it was yet
withdrawn. The slaves, on the other hand, were too much absorbed in
their prospective freedom to aid us in taking any further steps
to secure it. Captain Trowbridge, who had by this time landed at a
different point, got quite into despair over the seeming deafness of the
people to all questions. "How many soldiers are there on the bluff?" he
asked of the first-comer.

"Mas'r," said the man, stuttering terribly, "I c-c-c--"

"Tell me how many soldiers there are!" roared Trowbridge, in his
mighty voice, and all but shaking the poor old thing, in his thirst for

"O mas'r," recommenced in terror the incapacitated wit-ness, "I
c-c-carpenter!" holding up eagerly a little stump of a hatchet, his
sole treasure, as if his profession ought to excuse from all military

I wish that it were possible to present all this scene from the point of
view of the slaves themselves. It can be most nearly done, perhaps, by
quoting the description given of a similar scene on the Combahee River,
by a very aged man, who had been brought down on the previous raid,
already mentioned. I wrote it down in tent, long after, while the old
man recited the tale, with much gesticulation, at the door; and it is by
far the best glimpse I have ever had, through a negro's eyes, at these
wonderful birthdays of freedom.

"De people was all a hoein', mas'r," said the old man. "Dey was a hoein'
in the rice-field, when de gunboats come. Den ebry man drap dem hoe,
and leff de rice. De mas'r he stand and call, 'Run to de wood for hide!
Yankee come, sell you to Cuba! run for hide!' Ebry man he run, and, my
God! run all toder way!

"Mas'r stand in de wood, peep, peep, faid for truss [afraid to trust].
He say, 'Run to de wood!' and ebry man run by him, straight to de boat.

"De brack sojer so presumptious, dey come right ashore, hold up dere
head. Fus' ting I know, dere was a barn, ten tousand bushel rough rice,
all in a blaze, den mas'r's great house, all cracklin' up de roof.
Didn't I keer for see 'em blaze? Lor, mas'r, didn't care notin' at all,
_was gwine to de boat_."

Dore's Don Quixote could not surpass the sublime absorption in which the
gaunt old man, with arm uplifted, described this stage of affairs, till
he ended in a shrewd chuckle, worthy of Sancho Panza. Then he resumed.

"De brack sojers so presumptious!" This he repeated three times, slowly
shaking his head in an ecstasy of admiration. It flashed upon me that the
apparition of a black soldier must amaze those still in bondage, much
as a butterfly just from the chrysalis might astound his fellow-grubs.
I inwardly vowed that my soldiers, at least, should be as "presumptious"
as I could make them. Then he went on.

"Ole woman and I go down to de boat; den dey say behind us, 'Rebels
comin'l Rebels comin'!' Ole woman say, 'Come ahead, come plenty ahead!'
I hab notin' on but my shirt and pantaloon; ole woman one single frock
he hab on, and one handkerchief on he head; I leff all-two my blanket
and run for de Rebel come, and den dey didn't come, didn't truss for

"Ise eighty-eight year old, mas'r. My ole Mas'r Lowndes keep all de ages
in a big book, and when we come to age ob sense we mark em down ebry
year, so I know. Too ole for come? Mas'r joking. Neber too ole for leave
de land o' bondage. I old, but great good for chil'en, gib tousand tank
ebry day. Young people can go through, _force_ [forcibly], mas'r, but de
ole folk mus' go slow."

Such emotions as these, no doubt, were inspired by our arrival, but we
could only hear their hasty utterance in passing; our duty being,
with the small force already landed, to take possession of the bluff.
Ascending, with proper precautions, the wooded hill, we soon found
ourselves in the deserted camp of a light battery, amid scattered
equipments and suggestions of a very unattractive breakfast. As soon as
possible, skirmishers were thrown out through the woods to the farther
edge of the bluff, while a party searched the houses, finding the usual
large supply of furniture and pictures,--brought up for safety from
below,--but no soldiers. Captain Trowbridge then got the John Adams
beside the row of piles, and went to work for their removal.

Again I had the exciting sensation of being within the hostile
lines,--the eager explorations, the doubts, the watchfulness, the
listening for every sound of coming hoofs. Presently a horse's tread
was heard in earnest, but it was a squad of our own men bringing in
two captured cavalry soldiers. One of these, a sturdy fellow, submitted
quietly to his lot, only begging that, whenever we should evacuate the
bluff, a note should be left behind stating that he was a prisoner. The
other, a very young man, and a member of the "Rebel Troop," a sort of
Cadet corps among the Charleston youths, came to me in great wrath,
complaining that the corporal of our squad had kicked him after he
had surrendered. His air of offended pride was very rueful, and it did
indeed seem a pathetic reversal of fortunes for the two races. To be
sure, the youth was a scion of one of the foremost families of South
Carolina, and when I considered the wrongs which the black race had
encountered from those of his blood, first and last, it seemed as if the
most scrupulous Recording Angel might tolerate one final kick to square
the account. But I reproved the corporal, who respectfully disclaimed
the charge, and said the kick was an incident of the scuffle. It
certainly was not their habit to show such poor malice; they thought too
well of themselves.

His demeanor seemed less lofty, but rather piteous, when he implored me
not to put him on board any vessel which was to ascend the upper stream,
and hinted, by awful implications, the danger of such ascent. This meant
torpedoes, a peril which we treated, in those days, with rather mistaken
contempt. But we found none on the Edisto, and it may be that it was
only a foolish attempt to alarm us.

Meanwhile, Trowbridge was toiling away at the row of piles, which proved
easier to draw out than to saw asunder, either work being hard enough.
It took far longer than we had hoped, and we saw noon approach and the
tide rapidly fall, taking with it, inch by inch, our hopes of effecting
a surprise at the bridge. During this time, and indeed all day, the
detachments on shore, under Captains Whitney and Sampson, were having
occasional skirmishes with the enemy, while the colored people were
swarming to the shore, or running to and fro like ants, with the poor
treasures of their houses. Our busy Quartermaster, Mr. Bingham--who died
afterwards from the overwork of that sultry day--was transporting
the refugees on board the steamer, or hunting up bales of cotton, or
directing the burning of rice-houses, in accordance with our orders.
No dwelling-houses were destroyed or plundered by our men,--Sherman's
"bummers" not having yet arrived,--though I asked no questions as to
what the plantation negroes might bring in their great bundles. One
piece of property, I must admit, seemed a lawful capture,--a United
States dress-sword, of the old pattern, which had belonged to the Rebel
general who afterwards gave the order to bury Colonel Shaw "with his
niggers." That I have retained, not without some satisfaction, to this

A passage having been cleared at last, and the tide having turned by
noon, we lost no time in attempting the ascent, leaving the bluff to
be held by the John Adams, and by the small force on shore. We were
scarcely above the obstructions, however, when the little tug went
aground, and the Enoch Dean, ascending a mile farther, had an encounter
with a battery on the right,--perhaps our old enemy,--and drove it back.
Soon after, she also ran aground, a misfortune of which our opponent
strangely took no advantage; and, on getting off, I thought it best to
drop down to the bluff again, as the tide was still hopelessly low. None
can tell, save those who have tried them, the vexations of those muddy
Southern streams, navigable only during a few hours of flood-tide.

After waiting an hour, the two small vessels again tried the ascent. The
enemy on the right had disappeared; but we could now see, far off on our
left, another light battery moving parallel with the river, apparently
to meet us at some upper bend. But for the present we were safe, with
the low rice-fields on each side of us; and the scene was so peaceful,
it seemed as if all danger were done. For the first time, we saw in
South Carolina blossoming river-banks and low emerald meadows, that
seemed like New England. Everywhere there were the same rectangular
fields, smooth canals, and bushy dikes. A few negroes stole out to us
in dugouts, and breathlessly told us how others had been hurried away
by the overseers. We glided safely on, mile after mile. The day was
unutterably hot, but all else seemed propitious. The men had their
combustibles all ready to fire the bridge, and our hopes were unbounded.

But by degrees the channel grew more tortuous and difficult, and while
the little Milton glided smoothly over everything, the Enoch Dean, my
own boat, repeatedly grounded. On every occasion of especial need, too,
something went wrong in her machinery,--her engine being constructed on
some wholly new patent, of which, I should hope, this trial would prove
entirely sufficient. The black pilot, who was not a soldier, grew more
and more bewildered, and declared that it was the channel, not his
brain, which had gone wrong; the captain, a little elderly man, sat
wringing his hands in the pilot-box; and the engineer appeared to be
mingling his groans with those of the diseased engine. Meanwhile I,
in equal ignorance of machinery and channel, had to give orders only
justified by minute acquaintance with both. So I navigated on general
principles, until they grounded us on a mud-bank, just below a wooded
point, and some two miles from the bridge of our destination. It was
with a pang that I waved to Major Strong, who was on the other side of
the channel in a tug, not to risk approaching us, but to steam on and
finish the work, if he could.

Short was his triumph. Gliding round the point, he found himself
instantly engaged with a light battery of four or six guns, doubtless
the same we had seen in the distance. The Milton was within two hundred
and fifty yards. The Connecticut men fought then: guns well, aided by
the blacks, and it was exasperating for us to hear the shots, while we
could see nothing and do nothing. The scanty ammunition of our bow gun
was exhausted, and the gun in the stern was useless, from the position
in which we lay. In vain we moved the men from side to side, rocking the
vessel, to dislodge it. The heat was terrific that August afternoon;
I remember I found myself constantly changing places, on the scorched
deck, to keep my feet from being blistered. At last the officer in
charge of the gun, a hardy lumberman from Maine, got the stern of the
vessel so far round that he obtained the range of the battery through
the cabin windows, "but it would be necessary," he cooly added, on
reporting to me this fact, "to shoot away the corner of the cabin." I
knew that this apartment was newly painted and gilded, and the idol of
the poor captain's heart; but it was plain that even the thought of his
own upholstery could not make the poor soul more wretched than he was.
So I bade Captain Dolly blaze away, and thus we took our hand in the
little game, though at a sacrifice.

It was of no use. Down drifted out little consort round the point, her
engine disabled and her engineer killed, as we afterwards found, though
then we could only look and wonder. Still pluckily firing, she floated
by upon the tide, which had now just turned; and when, with a last
desperate effort, we got off, our engine had one of its impracticable
fits, and we could only follow her. The day was waning, and all its
range of possibility had lain within the limits of that one tide.

All our previous expeditions had been so successful it now seemed hard
to turn back; the river-banks and rice-fields, so beautiful before,
seemed only a vexation now. But the swift current bore us on, and after
our Parthian shots had died away, a new discharge of artillery opened
upon us, from our first antagonist of the morning, which still kept the
other side of the stream. It had taken up a strong position on another
bluff, almost out of range of the John Adams, but within easy range of
us. The sharpest contest of the day was before us. Happily the engine
and engineer were now behaving well, and we were steering in a channel
already traversed, and of which the dangerous points were known. But we
had a long, straight reach of river before us, heading directly toward
the battery, which, having once got our range, had only to keep it,
while we could do nothing in return. The Rebels certainly served then:
guns well. For the first time I discovered that there were certain
compensating advantages in a slightly built craft, as compared with one
more substantial; the missiles never lodged in the vessel, but crashed
through some thin partition as if it were paper, to explode beyond us,
or fall harmless in the water. Splintering, the chief source of wounds
and death in wooden ships, was thus entirely avoided; the danger was
that our machinery might be disabled, or that shots might strike below
the water-line and sink us.

This, however, did not happen. Fifteen projectiles, as we afterwards
computed, passed through the vessel or cut the rigging. Yet few
casualties occurred, and those instantly fatal. As my orderly stood
leaning on a comrade's shoulder, the head of the latter was shot off.
At last I myself felt a sudden blow in the side, as if from some
prize-fighter, doubling me up for a moment, while I sank upon a seat. It
proved afterwards to have been produced by the grazing of a ball, which,
without tearing a garment, had yet made a large part of my side black
and blue, leaving a sensation of paralysis which made it difficult to
stand. Supporting myself on Captain Rogers, I tried to comprehend what
had happened, and I remember being impressed by an odd feeling that I
had now got my share, and should henceforth be a great deal safer
than any of the rest. I am told that this often follows one's first
experience of a wound.

But this immediate contest, sharp as it was, proved brief; a turn in
the river enabled us to use our stern gun, and we soon glided into
the comparative shelter of Wiltown Bluff. There, however, we were to
encounter the danger of shipwreck, superadded to that of fight. When
the passage through the piles was first cleared, it had been marked by
stakes, lest the rising tide should cover the remaining piles, and
make it difficult to run the passage. But when we again reached it, the
stakes had somehow been knocked away, the piles were just covered by the
swift current, and the little tug-boat was aground upon them. She came
off easily, however, with our aid, and, when we in turn essayed the
passage, we grounded also, but more firmly. We getting off at last,
and making the passage, the tug again became lodged, when nearly past
danger, and all our efforts proved powerless to pull her through. I
therefore dropped down below, and sent the John Adams to her aid, while
I superintended the final recall of the pickets, and the embarkation of
the remaining refugees.

While thus engaged, I felt little solicitude about the boats above. It
was certain that the John Adams could safely go close to the piles on
the lower side, that she was very strong, and that the other was very
light. Still, it was natural to cast some anxious glances up the river,
and it was with surprise that I presently saw a canoe descending, which
contained Major Strong. Coming on board, he told me with some excitement
that the tug could not possibly be got off, and he wished for orders.

It was no time to consider whether it was not his place to have given
orders, instead of going half a mile to seek them. I was by this time so
far exhausted that everything seemed to pass by me as by one in a dream;
but I got into a boat, pushed up stream, met presently the John Adams
returning, and was informed by the officer in charge of the Connecticut
battery that he had abandoned the tug, and--worse news yet--that his
guns had been thrown overboard. It seemed to me then, and has always
seemed, that this sacrifice was utterly needless, because, although the
captain of the John Adams had refused to risk his vessel by going near
enough to receive the guns, he should have been compelled to do so.
Though the thing was done without my knowledge, and beyond my reach,
yet, as commander of the expedition, I was technically responsible.
It was hard to blame a lieutenant when his senior had shrunk from a
decision, and left him alone; nor was it easy to blame Major Strong,
whom I knew to be a man of personal courage though without much decision
of character. He was subsequently tried by court-martial and acquitted,
after which he resigned, and was lost at sea on his way home.

The tug, being thus abandoned, must of course be burned to prevent
her falling into the enemy's hands. Major Strong went with prompt
fearlessness to do this, at my order; after which he remained on the
Enoch Dean, and I went on board the John Adams, being compelled to
succumb at last, and transfer all remaining responsibility to Captain
Trowbridge. Exhausted as I was, I could still observe, in a vague way,
the scene around me. Every available corner of the boat seemed like
some vast auction-room of second-hand goods. Great piles of bedding and
bundles lay on every side, with black heads emerging and black forms
reclining in every stage of squalidness. Some seemed ill, or wounded,
or asleep, others were chattering eagerly among themselves, singing,
praying, or soliloquizing on joys to come. "Bress de Lord," I heard one
woman say, "I spec' I got salt victual now,--notin' but fresh victual
dese six months, but Ise get salt victual now,"--thus reversing, under
pressure of the salt-embargo, the usual anticipations of voyagers.

Trowbridge told me, long after, that, on seeking a fan for my benefit,
he could find but one on board. That was in the hands of a fat old
"aunty," who had just embarked, and sat on an enormous bundle of her
goods, in everybody's way, fanning herself vehemently, and ejaculating,
as her gasping breath would permit, "Oh! Do, Jesus! Oh! Do, Jesus!" when
the captain abruptly disarmed her of the fan, and left her continuing
her pious exercises.

Thus we glided down the river in the waning light. Once more we
encountered a battery, making five in all; I could hear the guns of the
assailants, and could not distinguish the explosion of their shells
from the answering throb of our own guns. The kind Quartermaster kept
bringing me news of what occurred, like Rebecca in Front-de-Boeuf s
castle, but discreetly withholding any actual casualties. Then all faded
into safety and sleep; and we reached Beaufort in the morning, after
thirty-six hours of absence. A kind friend, who acted in South Carolina
a nobler part amid tragedies than in any of her early stage triumphs,
met us with an ambulance at the wharf, and the prisoners, the wounded,
and the dead were duly attended.

The reader will not care for any personal record of convalescence;
though, among the general military laudations of whiskey, it is worth
while to say that one life was saved, in the opinion of my surgeons,
by an habitual abstinence from it, leaving no food for peritoneal
inflammation to feed upon. The able-bodied men who had joined us were,
sent to aid General Gillmore in the trenches, while their families
were established in huts and tents on St. Helena Island. A year after,
greatly to the delight of the regiment, in taking possession of a
battery which they had helped to capture on James Island, they found in
their hands the selfsame guns which they had seen thrown overboard from
the Governor Milton. They then felt that their account with the enemy
was squared, and could proceed to further operations.

Before the war, how great a thing seemed the rescue of even one man from
slavery; and since the war has emancipated all, how little seems the
liberation of two hundred! But no one then knew how the contest might
end; and when I think of that morning sunlight, those emerald fields,
those thronging numbers, the old women with their prayers, and the
little boys with them: living burdens, I know that the day was worth all
it cost, and more.

Chapter 8. The Baby of the Regiment

We were in our winter camp on Port Royal Island. It was a lovely
November morning, soft and spring-like; the mocking-birds were singing,
and the cotton-fields still white with fleecy pods. Morning drill was
over, the men were cleaning their guns and singing very happily; the
officers were in their tents, reading still more happily their letters
just arrived from home. Suddenly I heard a knock at my tent-door, and
the latch clicked. It was the only latch in camp, and I was very proud
of it, and the officers always clicked it as loudly as possible, in
order to gratify my feelings. The door opened, and the Quartermaster
thrust in the most beaming face I ever saw.

"Colonel," said he, "there are great news for the regiment. My wife and
baby are coming by the next steamer!"

"Baby!" said I, in amazement. "Q. M., you are beside yourself." (We
always called the Quartermaster Q. M. for shortness.) "There was a pass
sent to your wife, but nothing was ever said about a baby. Baby indeed!"

"But the baby was included in the pass," replied the triumphant
father-of-a-family. "You don't suppose my wife would come down here
without her baby! Besides, the pass itself permits her to bring
necessary baggage, and is not a baby six months old necessary baggage?"

"But, my dear fellow," said I, rather anxiously, "how can you make
the little thing comfortable in a tent, amidst these rigors of a South
Carolina winter, when it is uncomfortably hot for drill at noon, and ice
forms by your bedside at night?"

"Trust me for that," said the delighted papa, and went off whistling. I
could hear him telling the same news to three others, at least, before
he got to his own tent.

That day the preparations began, and soon his abode was a wonder of
comfort. There were posts and rafters, and a raised floor, and a great
chimney, and a door with hinges,--every luxury except a latch, and that
he could not have, for mine was the last that could be purchased. One of
the regimental carpenters was employed to make a cradle, and another to
make a bedstead high enough for the cradle to go under. Then there must
be a bit of red carpet beside the bedstead, and thus the progress of
splendor went on. The wife of one of the colored sergeants was engaged
to act as nursery-maid. She was a very respectable young woman; the
only objection to her being that she smoked a pipe. But we thought that
perhaps Baby might not dislike tobacco; and if she did, she would have
excellent opportunities to break the pipe in pieces.

In due time the steamer arrived, and Baby and her mother were among the
passengers. The little recruit was soon settled in her new cradle, and
slept in it as if she had never known any other. The sergeant's wife
soon had her on exhibition through the neighborhood, and from that time
forward she was quite a queen among us. She had sweet blue eyes and
pretty brown hair, with round, dimpled cheeks, and that perfect dignity
which is so beautiful in a baby. She hardly ever cried, and was not
at all timid. She would go to anybody, and yet did not encourage any
romping from any but the most intimate friends. She always wore a warm
long-sleeved scarlet cloak with a hood, and in this costume was
carried or "toted," as the soldiers said, all about the camp. At
"guard-mounting" in the morning, when the men who are to go on guard
duty for the day are drawn up to be inspected, Baby was always there, to
help inspect them. She did not say much, but she eyed them very
closely, and seemed fully to appreciate their bright buttons. Then the
Officer-of-the-Day, who appears at guard-mounting with his sword and
sash, and comes afterwards to the Colonel's tent for orders, would come
and speak to Baby on his way, and receive her orders first. When the
time came for drill she was usually present to watch the troops; and
when the drum beat for dinner she liked to see the long row of men in
each company march up to the cookhouse, in single file, each with tin
cup and plate.

During the day, in pleasant weather, she might be seen in her nurse's
arms, about the company streets, the centre of an admiring circle, her
scarlet costume looking very pretty amidst the shining black cheeks
and neat blue uniforms of the soldiers. At "dress-parade," just before
sunset, she was always an attendant. As I stood before the regiment, I
could see the little spot of red out of the corner of my eye, at one
end of the long line of men; and I looked with so much interest for her
small person, that, instead of saying at the proper time, "Attention,
Battalion! Shoulder arms!"--it is a wonder that I did not say, "Shoulder

Our little lady was very impartial, and distributed her kind looks to
everybody. She had not the slightest prejudice against color, and did
not care in the least whether her particular friends were black or
white. Her especial favorites, I think, were the drummer-boys, who were
not my favorites by any means, for they were a roguish set of scamps,
and gave more trouble than all the grown men in the regiment. I think
Annie liked them because they were small, and made a noise, and had red
caps like her hood, and red facings on their jackets, and also because
they occasionally stood on their heads for her amusement. After
dress-parade the whole drum-corps would march to the great flag-staff,
and wait till just sunset-time, when they would beat "the retreat,"
and then the flag would be hauled down,--a great festival for Annie.
Sometimes the Sergeant-Major would wrap her in the great folds of the
flag, after it was taken down, and she would peep out very prettily from
amidst the stars and stripes, like a new-born Goddess of Liberty.

About once a month, some inspecting officer was sent to the camp by
the general in command, to see to the condition of everything in the
regiment, from bayonets to buttons. It was usually a long and tiresome
process, and, when everything else was done, I used to tell the officer
that I had one thing more for him to inspect, which was peculiar to our
regiment. Then I would send for Baby to be exhibited, and I never saw an
inspecting officer, old or young, who did not look pleased at the sudden
appearance of the little, fresh, smiling creature,--a flower in the
midst of war. And Annie in her turn would look at them, with the true
baby dignity La her face,--that deep, earnest look which babies often
have, and which people think so wonderful when Raphael paints it,
although they might often see just the same expression in the faces of
their own darlings at home.

Meanwhile Annie seemed to like the camp style of housekeeping very much.
Her father's tent was double, and he used the front apartment for his
office, and the inner room for parlor and bedroom; while the nurse had a
separate tent and wash-room behind all. I remember that, the first time
I went there in the evening, it was to borrow some writing-paper; and
while Baby's mother was hunting for it in the front tent, I heard a
great cooing and murmuring in the inner room. I asked if Annie was still
awake, and her mother told me to go in and see. Pushing aside the canvas
door, I entered. No sign of anybody was to be seen; but a variety of
soft little happy noises seemed to come from some unseen corner. Mrs.
C. came quietly in, pulled away the counterpane of her own bed, and drew
out the rough cradle where lay the little damsel, perfectly happy, and
wider awake than anything but a baby possibly can be. She looked as
if the seclusion of a dozen family bedsteads would not be enough to
discourage her spirits, and I saw that camp life was likely to suit her
very well.

A tent can be kept very warm, for it is merely a house with a thinner
wall than usual; and I do not think that Baby felt the cold much more
than if she had been at home that winter. The great trouble is, that a
tent-chimney, not being built very high, is apt to smoke when the wind
is in a certain direction; and when that happens it is hardly possible
to stay inside. So we used to build the chimneys of some tents on the
east side, and those of others on the west, and thus some of the tents
were always comfortable. I have seen Baby's mother running in a hard
rain, with little Red-Riding-Hood in her arms, to take refuge with the
Adjutant's wife, when every other abode was full of smoke; and I must
admit that there were one or two windy days that season when nobody
could really keep warm, and Annie had to remain ignominiously in her
cradle, with as many clothes on as possible, for almost the whole time.

The Quartermaster's tent was very attractive to us in the evening. I
remember that once, on passing near it after nightfall, I heard our
Major's fine voice singing Methodist hymns within, and Mrs. C.'s sweet
tones chiming in. So I peeped through the outer door. The fire was
burning very pleasantly in the inner tent, and the scrap of new red
carpet made the floor look quite magnificent. The Major sat on a box,
our surgeon on a stool; "Q. M." and his wife, and the Adjutant's wife,
and one of the captains, were all sitting on the bed, singing as well as
they knew how; and the baby was under the bed. Baby had retired for the
night, was overshadowed, suppressed, sat upon; the singing went on, and
she had wandered away into her own land of dreams, nearer to heaven,
perhaps, than any pitch their voices could attain. I went in, and joined
the party. Presently the music stopped, and another officer was sent
for, to sing some particular song. At this pause the invisible innocent
waked a little, and began to cluck and coo.

"It's the kitten," exclaimed somebody.

"It's my baby!" exclaimed Mrs. C. triumphantly, in that tone of
unfailing personal pride which belongs to young mothers.

The people all got up from the bed for a moment, while Annie was pulled
from beneath, wide awake and placid as usual; and she sat in one lap or
another during the rest of the concert, sometimes winking at the candle,
but usually listening to the songs, with a calm and critical expression,
as if she could make as much noise as any of them, whenever she saw
fit to try. Not a sound did she make, however, except one little soft
sneeze, which led to an immediate flood-tide of red shawl, covering
every part of her but the forehead. But I soon hinted that the concert
had better be ended, because I knew from observation that the small
damsel had Carefully watched a regimental inspection and a brigade drill
on that day, and that an interval of repose was certainly necessary.

Annie did not long remain the only baby in camp. One day, on going
out to the stables to look at a horse, I heard a sound of baby-talk,
addressed by some man to a child near by, and, looking round the corner
of a tent, I saw that one of the hostlers had something black and round,
lying on the sloping side of a tent, with which he was playing very
eagerly. It proved to be his baby, a plump, shiny thing, younger
than Annie; and I never saw a merrier picture than the happy father
frolicking with his child, while the mother stood quietly by. This was
Baby Number Two, and she stayed in camp several weeks, the two innocents
meeting each other every day, in the placid indifference that belonged
to their years; both were happy little healthy things, and it never
seemed to cross their minds that there was any difference in their
complexions. As I said before, Annie was not troubled by any prejudice
in regard to color, nor do I suppose that the other little maiden was.

Annie enjoyed the tent-life very much; but when we were Sent out on
picket soon after, she enjoyed it still more. Our head-quarters were at
a deserted plantation house, with one large parlor, a dining-room, and
a few bedrooms. Baby's father and mother had a room up stairs, with
a stove whose pipe went straight out at the window. This was quite
comfortable, though half the windows were broken, and there was no glass
and no glazier to mend them. The windows of the large parlor were in
much the same condition, though we had an immense fireplace, where we
had a bright fire whenever it was cold, and always in the evening. The
walls of this room were very dirty, and it took our ladies several
days to cover all the unsightly places with wreaths and hangings of
evergreen. In the performance Baby took an active part. Her duties
consisted in sitting in a great nest of evergreen, pulling and fingering
the fragrant leaves, and occasionally giving a little cry of glee when
she had accomplished some piece of decided mischief.

There was less entertainment to be found in the camp itself at this
time; but the household at head-quarters was larger than Baby had been
accustomed to. We had a great deal of company, moreover, and she had
quite a gay life of it. She usually made her appearance in the large
parlor soon after breakfast; and to dance her for a few moments in our
arms was one of the first daily duties of each one. Then the morning
reports began to arrive from the different outposts,--a mounted officer
or courier coming in from each place, dismounting at the door, and
clattering in with jingling arms and spurs, each a new excitement
for Annie. She usually got some attention from any officer who came,
receiving with her wonted dignity any daring caress. When the messengers
had ceased to be interesting, there were always the horses to look at,
held or tethered under the trees beside the sunny _piazza_. After the
various couriers had been received, other messengers would be despatched
to the town, seven miles away, and Baby had all the excitement of their
mounting and departure. Her father was often one of the riders, and
would sometimes seize Annie for a good-by kiss, place her on the saddle
before him, gallop her round the house once or twice, and then give her
back to her nurse's arms again. She was perfectly fearless, and such
boisterous attentions never frightened her, nor did they ever interfere
with her sweet, infantine self-possession.

After the riding-parties had gone, there was the _piazza_ still for
entertainment, with a sentinel pacing up and down before it; but Annie
did not enjoy the sentinel, though his breastplate and buttons shone
like gold, so much as the hammock which always hung swinging between
the pillars. It was a pretty hammock, with great open meshes; and she
delighted to lie in it, and have the netting closed above her, so that
she could only be seen through the apertures. I can see her now, the
fresh little rosy thing, in her blue and scarlet wrappings, with one
round and dimpled arm thrust forth through the netting, and the other
grasping an armful of blushing roses and fragrant magnolias. She looked
like those pretty French bas-reliefs of Cupids imprisoned in baskets,
and peeping through. That hammock was a very useful appendage; it was
a couch for us, a cradle for Baby, a nest for the kittens; and we had,
moreover, a little hen, which tried to roost there every night.

When the mornings were colder, and the stove up stairs smoked the wrong
way, Baby was brought down in a very incomplete state of toilet, and
finished her dressing by the great fire. We found her bare shoulders
very becoming, and she was very much interested in her own little pink
toes. After a very slow dressing, she had a still slower breakfast out
of a tin cup of warm milk, of which she generally spilt a good deal,
as she had much to do in watching everybody who came into the room, and
seeing that there was no mischief done. Then she would be placed on the
floor, on our only piece of carpet, and the kittens would be brought in
for her to play with.

We had, at different times, a variety of pets, of whom Annie did not
take much notice. Sometimes we had young partridges, caught by the
drummer-boys in trap-cages. The children called them "Bob and Chloe,"
because the first notes of the male and female sound like those names.
One day I brought home an opossum, with her blind bare little young
clinging to the droll pouch where their mothers keep them. Sometimes we
had pretty green lizards, their color darkening or deepening, like that
of chameleons, in light or shade. But the only pets that took Baby's
fancy were the kittens. They perfectly delighted her, from the first
moment she saw them; they were the only things younger than herself that
she had ever beheld, and the only things softer than themselves that her
small hands had grasped. It was astonishing to see how much the kittens
would endure from her. They could scarcely be touched by any one else
without mewing; but when Annie seized one by the head and the other by
the tail, and rubbed them violently together, they did not make a
sound. I suppose that a baby's grasp is really soft, even if it seems
ferocious, and so it gives less pain than one would think. At any rate,
the little animals had the best of it very soon; for they entirely
outstripped Annie in learning to walk, and they could soon scramble away
beyond her reach, while she sat in a sort of dumb despair, unable to
comprehend why anything so much smaller than herself should be so much
nimbler. Meanwhile, the kittens would sit up and look at her with the
most provoking indifference, just out of arm's length, until some of us
would take pity on the young lady, and toss her furry playthings back to
her again. "Little baby," she learned to call them; and these were the
very first words she spoke.

Baby had evidently a natural turn for war, further cultivated by an
intimate knowledge of drills and parades. The nearer she came to actual
conflict the better she seemed to like it, peaceful as her own little
ways might be. Twice, at least, while she was with us on picket, we
had alarms from the Rebel troops, who would bring down cannon to the
opposite side of the Ferry, about two miles beyond us, and throw shot
and shell over upon our side. Then the officer at the Ferry would think
that there was to be an attack made, and couriers would be sent, riding
to and fro, and the men would all be called to arms in a hurry, and the
ladies at headquarters would all put on their best bonnets and come down
stairs, and the ambulance would be made ready to carry them to a place
of safety before the expected fight. On such occasions Baby was in all
her glory. She shouted with delight at being suddenly uncribbed and
thrust into her little scarlet cloak, and brought down stairs, at an
utterly unusual and improper hour, to a _piazza_ with lights and people
and horses and general excitement. She crowed and gurgled and made
gestures with her little fists, and screamed out what seemed to be
her advice on the military situation, as freely as if she had been a
newspaper editor. Except that it was rather difficult to understand her
precise direction, I do not know but the whole Rebel force might have
been captured through her plans. And at any rate, I should much rather
obey her orders than those of some generals whom I have known; for she
at least meant no harm, and would lead one into no mischief.

However, at last the danger, such as it was, would be all over, and the
ladies would be induced to go peacefully to bed again; and Annie would
retreat with them to her ignoble cradle, very much disappointed, and
looking vainly back at the more martial scene below. The next morning
she would seem to have forgotten all about it, and would spill her bread
and milk by the fire as if nothing had happened.

I suppose we hardly knew, at the time, how large a part of the sunshine
of our daily lives was contributed by dear little Annie. Yet, when I now
look back on that pleasant Southern home, she seems as essential a
part of it as the mocking-birds or the magnolias, and I cannot convince
myself that in returning to it I should not find her there. But Annie
went back, with the spring, to her Northern birthplace, and then passed
away from this earth before her little feet had fairly learned to tread
its paths; and when I meet her next it must be in some world where there
is triumph without armies, and where innocence is trained in scenes of
peace. I know, however, that her little life, short as it seemed, was a
blessing to us all, giving a perpetual image of serenity and sweetness,
recalling the lovely atmosphere of far-off homes, and holding us by
unsuspected ties to whatsoever things were pure.

Chapter 9. Negro Spirituals

The war brought to some of us, besides its direct experiences, many a
strange fulfilment of dreams of other days. For instance, the present
writer had been a faithful student of the Scottish ballads, and had
always envied Sir Walter the delight of tracing them out amid their
own heather, and of writing them down piecemeal from the lips of aged
crones. It was a strange enjoyment, therefore, to be suddenly brought
into the midst of a kindred world of unwritten songs, as simple and
indigenous as the Border Minstrelsy, more uniformly plaintive, almost
always more quaint, and often as essentially poetic.

This interest was rather increased by the fact that I had for many years
heard of this class of songs under the name of "Negro Spirituals," and
had even heard some of them sung by friends from South Carolina. I could
now gather on their own soil these strange plants, which I had before
seen as in museums alone. True, the individual songs rarely coincided;
there was a line here, a chorus there,--just enough to fix the class,
but this was unmistakable. It was not strange that they differed,
for the range seemed almost endless, and South Carolina, Georgia, and
Florida seemed to have nothing but the generic character in common,
until all were mingled in the united stock of camp-melodies.

Often in the starlit evening, I have returned from some lonely ride by
the swift river, or on the plover-haunted barrens, and, entering the
camp, have silently approached some glimmering fire, round which the
dusky figures moved in the rhythmical barbaric dance the negroes call a
"shout," chanting, often harshly, but always in the most perfect
time, some monotonous refrain. Writing down in the darkness, as I best
could,--perhaps with my hand in the safe covert of my pocket,--the words
of the song, I have afterwards carried it to my tent, like some captured
bird or insect, and then, after examination, put it by. Or, summoning
one of the men at some period of leisure,--Corporal Robert Sutton, for
instance, whose iron memory held all the details of a song as if it were
a ford or a forest,--I have completed the new specimen by supplying the
absent parts. The music I could only retain by ear, and though the more
common strains were repeated often enough to fix their impression, there
were others that occurred only once or twice.

The words will be here given, as nearly as possible, in the original
dialect; and if the spelling seems sometimes inconsistent, or the
misspelling insufficient, it is because I could get no nearer. I wished
to avoid what seems to me the only error of Lowell's "Biglow Papers" in
respect to dialect, the occasional use of an extreme misspelling, which
merely confuses the eye, without taking us any closer to the peculiarity
of sound.

The favorite song in camp was the following, sung with no accompaniment
but the measured clapping of hands and the clatter of many feet. It was
sung perhaps twice as often as any other. This was partly due to the
fact that it properly consisted of a chorus alone, with which the verses
of other songs might be combined at random.


  "Hold your light, Brudder Robert,
    Hold your light,
  Hold your light on Canaan's shore.
  "What make ole Satan for follow me so?
  Satan ain't got notin' for do wid me.
    Hold your light,
    Hold your light,
  Hold your light on Canaan's shore."

This would be sung for half an hour at a time, perhaps each person
present being named in turn. It seemed the simplest primitive type of
"spiritual." The next in popularity was almost as elementary, and, like
this, named successively each one of the circle. It was, however, much
more resounding and convivial in its music.


  "Jordan River, I'm bound to go,
    Bound to go, bound to go,--
  Jordan River, I'm bound to go,
    And bid 'em fare ye well.

  "My Brudder Robert, I'm bound to go,
    Bound to go," &c.

  "My Sister Lucy, I'm bound to go,
    Bound to go," &c.

Sometimes it was "tink 'em" (think them) "fare ye well." The _ye_ was so
detached that I thought at first it was "very" or "vary well."

Another picturesque song, which seemed immensely popular, was at first
very bewildering to me. I could not make out the first words of the
chorus, and called it the "Roman-dar," being reminded of some Romaic
song which I had formerly heard. That association quite fell in with the
Orientalism of the new tent-life.


  "O, my mudder is gone! my mudder is gone!
  My mudder is gone into heaven, my Lord!
    I can't stay behind!
  Dere's room in dar, room in dar,
  Room in dar, in de heaven, my Lord!
    I can't stay behind!
  Can't stay behind, my dear,
    I can't stay behind!

  "O, my fader is gone!" &c.

  "O, de angels are gone!" &c.

  "O, I'se been on de road! I'se been on de road!
  I'se been on de road into heaven, my Lord!
    I can't stay behind!
  O, room in dar, room in dar,
  Room in dar, in de heaven, my Lord!
    I can't stay behind!

By this time every man within hearing, from oldest to youngest, would be
wriggling and shuffling, as if through some magic piper's bewitchment;
for even those who at first affected contemptuous indifference would be
drawn into the vortex erelong.

Next to these in popularity ranked a class of songs belonging
emphatically to the Church Militant, and available for camp purposes
with very little strain upon their symbolism. This, for instance, had a
true companion-in-arms heartiness about it, not impaired by the feminine
invocation at the end.


  "One more valiant soldier here,
    One more valiant soldier here,
  One more valiant soldier here,
    To help me bear de cross.
  O hail, Mary, hail!
    Hail, Mary, hail!
  Hail, Mary, hail!
    To help me bear de cross."

I fancied that the original reading might have been "soul," instead
of "soldier,"--with some other syllable inserted to fill out the
metre,--and that the "Hail, Mary," might denote a Roman Catholic origin,
as I had several men from St. Augustine who held in a dim way to that
faith. It was a very ringing song, though not so grandly jubilant as
the next, which was really impressive as the singers pealed it out, when
marching or rowing or embarking.


  "My army cross over,
  My army cross over,
  O, Pharaoh's army drowndedl
  My army cross over.

  "We'll cross de mighty river,
    My army cross over;
  We'll cross de river Jordan,
    My army cross over;
  We'll cross de danger water,
    My army cross over;
  We'll cross de mighty Myo,
    My army cross over. _(Thrice.)_
    O, Pharaoh's army drowndedl
    My army cross over."

I could get no explanation of the "mighty Myo," except that one of the
old men thought it meant the river of death. Perhaps it is an African
word. In the Cameroon dialect, "Mawa" signifies "to die."

The next also has a military ring about it, and the first line is well
matched by the music. The rest is conglomerate, and one or two lines
show a more Northern origin. "Done" is a Virginia shibboleth, quite
distinct from the "been" which replaces it in South Carolina. Yet one
of their best choruses, without any fixed words, was, "De bell done
ringing," for which, in proper South Carolina dialect, would have been
substituted, "De bell been a-ring." This refrain may have gone South
with our army.


  "Ride in, kind Saviour!
    No man can hinder me.
  O, Jesus is a mighty man!
    No man, &c.
  We're marching through Virginny fields.
    No man, &c.
  O, Satan is a busy man,
    No man, &c.
  And he has his sword and shield,
    No man, &c.
  O, old Secesh done come and gone!
    No man can hinder me."

Sometimes they substituted "binder _we_," which was more spicy to the
ear, and more in keeping with the usual head-over-heels arrangement of
their pronouns.

Almost all their songs were thoroughly religious in their tone, however
quaint then: expression, and were in a minor key, both as to words and
music. The attitude is always the same, and, as a commentary on the
life of the race, is infinitely pathetic. Nothing but patience for
this life,--nothing but triumph in the next. Sometimes the present
predominates, sometimes the future; but the combination is always
implied. In the following, for instance, we hear simply the patience.


  "Brudder, keep your lamp trimmin' and a-burnin',
  Keep your lamp trimmin' and a-burnin',
  Keep your lamp trimmin' and a-burnin',
    For dis world most done.
  So keep your lamp, &c.
    Dis world most done."

But in the next, the final reward of patience is proclaimed as


  "Dere's no rain to wet you,
    O, yes, I want to go home.
  Dere's no sun to burn you,
    O, yes, I want to go home;
  O, push along, believers,
    O, yes, &c.
  Dere's no hard trials,
    O, yes, &c.
  Dere's no whips a-crackin',
    O, yes, &c.
  My brudder on de wayside,
    O, yes, &c.
  O, push along, my brudder,
    O, yes, &c.
  Where dere's no stormy weather,
    O, yes, &c.
  Dere's no tribulation,
    O, yes, &c.

This next was a boat-song, and timed well with the tug of the oar.


  "I want to go to Canaan,
  I want to go to Canaan,
  I want to go to Canaan,
    To meet 'em at de comin' day.
  O, remember, let me go to Canaan, _(Thrice.)_
    To meet "em, &c.
  O brudder, let me go to Canaan, _(Thrice.)_
    To meet 'em, &c.
  My brudder, you--oh!--remember, _(Thrice.)_
    To meet 'em at de comin' day."

The following begins with a startling affirmation, yet the last line
quite outdoes the first. This, too, was a capital boat-song.


  "O, Jordan bank was a great old bank,
    Dere ain't but one more river to cross.
  We have some valiant soldier here,
    Dere ain't, &c.
  O, Jordan stream will never run dry,
    Dere ain't, &c.
  Dere's a hill on my leff, and he catch on my right,
    Dere ain't but one more river to cross."

I could get no explanation of this last riddle, except, "Dat mean, if
you go on de leff, go to 'struction, and if you go on de right, go to
God, for sure."

In others, more of spiritual conflict is implied, as in this next


  "I wants to go where Moses trod,
    O de dying Lamb!
  For Moses gone to de promised land,
    O de dying Lamb!
  To drink from springs dat never run dry,
    O, &c.
  Cry O my Lord!
    O, &c.
  Before I'll stay in hell one day,
    O, &c.
  I'm in hopes to pray my sins away,
    O, &c.
  Cry O my Lord!
  Brudder Moses promised for be dar too,
    O, &c.
  To drink from streams dat never run dry,
    O de dying Lamb!"

In the next, the conflict is at its height, and the lurid imagery of
the Apocalypse is brought to bear. This book, with the books of Moses,
constituted their Bible; all that lay between, even the narratives of
the life of Jesus, they hardly cared to read or to hear.


  "We'll run and never tire,
  We'll run and never tire,
  We'll run and never tire,
    Jesus set poor sinners free.
  Way down in de valley,
    Who will rise and go with me?
  You've heern talk of Jesus,
    Who set poor sinners free.

  "De lightnin' and de flashin'
  De lightnin' and de flashin',
  De lightnin' and de flashin',
    Jesus set poor shiners free.
  I can't stand the fire. _(Thrice.)_
    Jesus set poor sinners free,
  De green trees a-flamin'. _(Thrice_.)
    Jesus set poor shiners free,
      Way down in de valley,
        Who will rise and go with me?
      You've heern talk of Jesus
        Who set poor shiners free."

"De valley" and "de lonesome valley" were familiar words in their
religious experience. To descend into that region implied the same
process with the "anxious-seat" of the camp-meeting. When a young girl
was supposed to enter it, she bound a handkerchief by a peculiar knot
over her head, and made it a point of honor not to change a single
garment till the day of her baptism, so that she was sure of being in
physical readiness for the cleansing rite, whatever her spiritual
mood might be. More than once, in noticing a damsel thus mystically
kerchiefed, I have asked some dusky attendant its meaning, and have
received the unfailing answer,--framed with their usual indifference to
the genders of pronouns--"He in de lonesome valley, sa."

The next gives the same dramatic conflict, while its detached and
impersonal refrain gives it strikingly the character of the Scotch and
Scandinavian ballads.


  "Cry holy, holy!
    Look at de people dat is born of God.
  And I run down de valley, and I run down to pray,
    Says, look at de people dat is born of God.
  When I get dar, Cappen Satan was dar,
    Says, look at, &c.
  Says, young man, young man, dere's no use for pray,
    Says, look at, &c.
  For Jesus is dead, and God gone away,
    Says, look at, &c.
  And I made him out a liar, and I went my way,
    Says, look at, &c.
      Sing holy, holy!

  "O, Mary was a woman, and he had a one Son,
    Says, look at, &c.
  And de Jews and de Romans had him hung,
    Says, look at, &c. Cry holy, holy!

  "And I tell you, sinner, you had better had pray,
    Says, look at, &c.
  For hell is a dark and dismal place,
    Says, look at, &c.

  And I tell you, sinner, and I wouldn't go dar!
    Says, look at, &c.
    Cry holy, holy!"

Here is an infinitely quaint description of the length of the heavenly


  "Vender's my old mudder,
    Been a-waggin' at de hill so long.
  It's about time she'll cross over;
    Get home bimeby.
  Keep prayin', I do believe
    We're a long time waggin' o'er de crossin'.
  Keep prayin', I do believe
    We'll get home to heaven bimeby.

  "Hear dat mournful thunder
    Roll from door to door,
  Calling home God's children;
    Get home bimeby.
  Little chil'en, I do believe
    We're a long time, &c.
  Little chil'en, I do believe
    We'll get home, &c.

  "See dat forked lightnin'
    Flash from tree to tree,
  Callin' home God's chil'en;
    Get home bimeby.
  True believer, I do believe
    We're a long time, &c.
  O brudders, I do believe,
    We'll get home to heaven bimeby."

One of the most singular pictures of future joys, and with fine flavor
of hospitality about it, was this:--


  "O, walk 'em easy round de heaven,
  Walk 'em easy round de heaven,
  Walk 'em easy round de heaven,
    Dat all de people may join de band.
  Walk 'em easy round de heaven. (_Thrice_.)
    O, shout glory till 'em join dat band!"

The chorus was usually the greater part of the song, and often came in
paradoxically, thus:--


  "O, must I be like de foolish mans?
    O yes, Lord!
  Will build de house on de sandy hill.
    O yes, Lord!
  I'll build my house on Zion hill,
    O yes, Lord!
  No wind nor rain can blow me down,
    O yes, Lord!"

The next is very graceful and lyrical, and with more variety of rhythm
than usual:--


  "Bow low, Mary, bow low, Martha,
    For Jesus come and lock de door,
    And carry de keys away.
  Sail, sail, over yonder,
  And view de promised land.
    For Jesus come, &c.
  Weep, O Mary, bow low, Martha,
    For Jesus come, &c.
  Sail, sail, my true believer;
  Sail, sail, over yonder;
  Mary, bow low, Martha, bow low,
    For Jesus come and lock de door
    And carry de keys away."

But of all the "spirituals" that which surprised me the most, I
think,--perhaps because it was that in which external nature furnished
the images most directly,--was this. With all my experience of their
ideal ways of speech, I was startled when first I came on such a flower
of poetry in that dark soil.


  "I know moon-rise, I know star-rise,
    Lay dis body down.
  I walk in de moonlight, I walk in de starlight,
    To lay dis body down.
  I'll walk in de graveyard, I'll walk through de graveyard,
    To lay dis body down.
  I'll lie in de grave and stretch out my arms;
    Lay dis body down.
  I go to de judgment in de evenin' of de day,
    When I lay dis body down;
  And my soul and your soul will meet in de day
    When I lay dis body down."

"I'll lie in de grave and stretch out my arms." Never, it seems to me,
since man first lived and suffered, was his infinite longing for peace
uttered more plaintively than in that line.

The next is one of the wildest and most striking of the whole series:
there is a mystical effect and a passionate striving throughout the
whole. The Scriptural struggle between Jacob and the angel, which is
only dimly expressed in the words, seems all uttered in the music. I
think it impressed my imagination more powerfully than any other of
these songs.


  "O wrestlin' Jacob, Jacob, day's a-breakin';
    I will not let thee go!
  O wrestlin' Jacob, Jacob, day's a-breakin';
    He will not let me go!
  O, I hold my brudder wid a tremblin' hand
    I would not let him go!
  I hold my sister wid a tremblin' hand;
    I would not let her go!

  "O, Jacob do hang from a tremblin' limb,
    He would not let him go!
  O, Jacob do hang from a tremblin' limb;
    De Lord will bless my soul.
  O wrestlin' Jacob, Jacob," &c.

Of "occasional hymns," properly so called, I noticed but one, a funeral
hymn for an infant, which is sung plaintively over and over, without
variety of words.


  "De little baby gone home,
  De little baby gone home,
  De little baby gone along,
    For to climb up Jacob's ladder.
  And I wish I'd been dar,
  I wish I'd been dar,
  I wish I'd been dar, my Lord,
    For to climb up Jacob's ladder."

Still simpler is this, which is yet quite sweet and touching.


  "He have been wid us, Jesus
    He still wid us, Jesus,
  He will be wid us, Jesus,
    Be wid us to the end."

The next seemed to be a favorite about Christmas time, when meditations
on "de rollin' year" were frequent among them.


  "O do, Lord, remember me!
    O do, Lord, remember me!
  O, do remember me, until de year roll round!
    Do, Lord, remember me!

  "If you want to die like Jesus died,
    Lay in de grave,
  You would fold your arms and close your eyes
    And die wid a free good will.

  "For Death is a simple ting,
    And he go from door to door,
  And he knock down some, and he cripple op some,
    And he leave some here to pray.

  "O do, Lord remember me!
    O do, Lord, remember me!
  My old fader's gone till de year roll round;
    Do, Lord, remember me!"

The next was sung in such an operatic and rollicking way that it was
quite hard to fancy it a religious performance, which, however, it was.
I heard it but once.


  "I meet little Rosa early in de mornin',
    O Jerusalem! early in de mornin';
  And I ax her, How you do, my darter?
    O Jerusalem! early in de mornin'.

  "I meet my mudder early in de mornin',
    O Jerusalem! &c.
  And I ax her, How you do, my mudder?
    O Jerusalem! &c.

  "I meet Brudder Robert early in de mornin',
    O Jerusalem! &c.
  And I ax him, How you do, my sonny?
    O Jerusalem! &c.

  "I meet Tittawisa early in de mornin',
    O Jerusalem! &c.
  And I ax her, How you do, my darter?
    O Jerusalem!" &c.

"Tittawisa" means "Sister Louisa." In songs of this class the name of
every person present successively appears.

Their best marching song, and one which was invaluable to lift their
feet along, as they expressed it, was the following. There was a kind of
spring and lilt to it, quite indescribable by words.


  "Jesus call you. Go in de wilderness,
    Go in de wilderness, go in de wilderness,
  Jesus call you. Go in de wilderness
    To wait upon de Lord.
  Go wait upon de Lord,
  Go wait upon de Lord,
  Go wait upon de Lord, my God,
    He take away de sins of de world.

  "Jesus a-waitin'. Go in de wilderness,
    Go, &c.
  All dem chil'en go in de wilderness
    To wait upon de Lord."

The next was one of those which I had heard in boyish days, brought
North from Charleston. But the chorus alone was identical; the words
were mainly different, and those here given are quaint enough.


  "O, blow your trumpet, Gabriel,
    Blow your trumpet louder;
  And I want dat trumpet to blow me home
    To my new Jerusalem.

  "De prettiest ting dat ever I done
  Was to serve de Lord when I was young.
    So blow your trumpet, Gabriel, &c.

  "O, Satan is a liar, and he conjure too,
  And if you don't mind, he'll conjure you.
    So blow your trumpet, Gabriel, &c.

  "O, I was lost in de wilderness.
  King Jesus hand me de candle down.
    So blow your trumpet, Gabriel," &c.

The following contains one of those odd transformations of proper names
with which their Scriptural citations were often enriched. It rivals
their text, "Paul may plant, and may polish wid water," which I have
elsewhere quoted, and in which the sainted Apollos would hardly have
recognized himself.


  "In de mornin',
  In de mornin',
  Chil'en? Yes, my Lord!
    Don't you hear de trumpet sound?
  If I had a-died when I was young,
  I never would had de race for run.
    Don't you hear de trumpet sound?

  "O Sam and Peter was fishin' in de sea,
  And dey drop de net and follow my Lord.
    Don't you hear de trumpet sound?

  "Dere's a silver spade for to dig my grave
  And a golden chain for to let me down.
  Don't you hear de trumpet sound?
  In de mornin', In de mornin',
  Chil'en? Yes, my Lord!
    Don't you hear de trumpet sound?"

These golden and silver fancies remind one of the King of Spain's
daughter in "Mother Goose," and the golden apple, and the silver pear,
which are doubtless themselves but the vestiges of some simple early
composition like this. The next has a humbler and more domestic style of


  "My true believers, fare ye well,
  Fare ye well, fare ye well,
  Fare ye well, by de grace of God,
    For I'm going home.

  Massa Jesus give me a little broom
  For to sweep my heart clean,
  And I will try, by de grace of God,
    To win my way home."

Among the songs not available for marching, but requiring the
concentrated enthusiasm of the camp, was "The Ship of Zion," of which
they had three wholly distinct versions, all quite exuberant and


  "Come along, come along,
    And let us go home,
  O, glory, hallelujah?
  Dis de ole ship o' Zion,
    Halleloo! Halleloo!
  Dis de ole ship o' Zion,

  "She has landed many a tousand,
  She can land as many more.
    O, glory, hallelujah! &c.

  "Do you tink she will be able
  For to take us all home?
    O, glory, hallelujah! &c.

  "You can tell 'em I'm a comin',
    Halleloo! Halleloo!
  You can tell 'em I'm a comin',
  Come along, come along," &c.

XXIX. THE SHIP OF ZION. _(Second version.)_

  "Dis de good ole ship o' Zion,
  Dis de good ole ship o' Zion,
  Dis de good ole ship o' Zion,
    And she's makin' for de Promise Land.
  She hab angels for de sailors, _(Thrice.)_
    And she's, &c.
  And how you know dey's angels? _(Thrice.)_
    And she's, &c.
  Good Lord, Shall I be one? _(Thrice.)_
    And she's, &c.

  "Dat ship is out a-sailin', sailin', sailin',
    And she's, &c.
  She's a-sailin' mighty steady, steady, steady,
    And she's, &c.
  She'll neither reel nor totter, totter, totter,
    And she's, &c.
  She's a-sailin' away cold Jordan, Jordan, Jordan,
    And she's, &c.
  King Jesus is de captain, captain, captain,
    And she's makin' for de Promise Land."

XXX. THE SHIP OF ZION. _(Third version.)_

  "De Gospel ship is sailin',
  O, Jesus is de captain,
  De angels are de sailors,
  O, is your bundle ready?
  O, have you got your ticket?

This abbreviated chorus is given with unspeakable unction.

The three just given are modifications of an old camp-meeting melody;
and the same may be true of the three following, although I cannot find
them in the Methodist hymn-books. Each, however, has its characteristic
modifications, which make it well worth giving. In the second verse of
this next, for instance, "Saviour" evidently has become "soldier."


  "Sweet music in heaven,
    Just beginning for to roll.
  Don't you love God?
    Glory, hallelujah!

  "Yes, late I heard my soldier say,
    Come, heavy soul, I am de way.
  Don't you love God?
    Glory, hallelujah!

  "I'll go and tell to sinners round
    What a kind Saviour I have found.
  Don't you love God?
    Glory, hallelujah!

  "My grief my burden long has been,
    Because I was not cease from sin.
  Don't you love God?
    Glory, hallelujahl"


  "O, good news! O, good news!
  De angels brought de tidings down,
    Just comin' from de trone.

  "As grief from out my soul shall fly,
    Just comin' from de trone;
  I'll shout salvation when I die,
    Good news, O, good news!
    Just comin' from de trone.

  "Lord, I want to go to heaven when I die,
    Good news, O, good news! &c.

  "De white folks call us a noisy crew,
    Good news, O, good news!
  But dis I know, we are happy too,
    Just comin' from de trone."


  "You may talk of my name as much as you please,
    And carry my name abroad,
  But I really do believe I'm a child of God
    As I walk in de heavenly road.
  O, won't you go wid me? _(Thrice.)_
    For to keep our garments clean.

  "O Satan is a mighty busy ole man,
    And roll rocks in my way;
  But Jesus is my bosom friend,
    And roll 'em out of de way.
  O, won't you go wid me? _(Thrice.)_
    For to keep our garments clean.

  "Come, my brudder, if you never did pray,
    I hope you may pray to-night;
  For I really believe I'm a child of God
    As I walk in de heavenly road.
  O, won't you," &c.

Some of the songs had played an historic part during the war. For
singing the next, for instance, the negroes had been put in jail in
Georgetown, S. C., at the outbreak of the Rebellion. "We'll soon be
free" was too dangerous an assertion; and though the chant was an old
one, it was no doubt sung with redoubled emphasis during the new events.
"De Lord will call us home," was evidently thought to be a symbolical
verse; for, as a little drummer-boy explained to me, showing all his
white teeth as he sat in the moonlight by the door of my tent, "Dey tink
_de Lord_ mean for say _de Yankees_."


  "We'll soon be free,
  We'll soon be free,
  We'll soon be free,
    When de Lord will call us home.
  My brudder, how long,
  My brudder, how long,
  My brudder, how long,
    'Fore we done sufferin' here?
  It won't be long _(Thrice.)_
    'Fore de Lord will call us home.
  We'll walk de miry road _(Thrice.)_
    Where pleasure never dies.
  We'll walk de golden street _(Thrice.)_
    Where pleasure never dies.
  My brudder, how long _(Thrice.)_
    'Fore we done sufferin' here?
  We'll soon be free _(Thrice.)_
    When Jesus sets me free.
  We'll fight for liberty _(Thrice.)_
    When de Lord will call us home."

The suspicion in this case was unfounded, but they had another song to
which the Rebellion had actually given rise. This was composed by nobody
knew whom,--though it was the most recent, doubtless, of all these
"spirituals,"--and had been sung in secret to avoid detection. It is
certainly plaintive enough. The peck of corn and pint of salt were
slavery's rations.


  "No more peck o' corn for me,
    No more, no more,--
  No more peck o' corn for me,
    Many tousand go.

  "No more driver's lash for me, _(Twice.)_
    No more, &c.

  "No more pint o' salt for me, _(Twice_.)
    No more, &c.

  "No more hundred lash for me, _(Twice_.)
    No more, &c.

  "No more mistress' call for me,
    No more, no more,--
  No more mistress' call for me,
    Many tousand go."

Even of this last composition, however, we have only the approximate
date and know nothing of the mode of composition. Allan Ramsay says
of the Scotch songs, that, no matter who made them, they were soon
attributed to the minister of the parish whence they sprang. And I
always wondered, about these, whether they had always a conscious and
definite origin in some leading mind, or whether they grew by gradual
accretion, in an almost unconscious way. On this point I could get no
information, though I asked many questions, until at last, one day
when I was being rowed across from Beaufort to Ladies' Island, I found
myself, with delight, on the actual trail of a song. One of the oarsmen,
a brisk young fellow, not a soldier, on being asked for his theory of
the matter, dropped out a coy confession. "Some good sperituals," he
said, "are start jess out o' curiosity. I been a-raise a sing, myself,

My dream was fulfilled, and I had traced out, not the poem alone, but
the poet. I implored him to proceed.

"Once we boys," he said, "went for tote some rice and de nigger-driver
he keep a-callin' on us; and I say, 'O, de ole nigger-driver!' Den
anudder said, 'Fust ting my mammy tole me was, notin' so bad as
nigger-driver.' Den I made a sing, just puttin' a word, and den anudder

Then he began singing, and the men, after listening a moment, joined in
the chorus, as if it were an old acquaintance, though they evidently
had never heard it before. I saw how easily a new "sing" took root among


  "O, de ole nigger-driver!
    O, gwine away!
  Fust ting my mammy tell me,
    O, gwine away!
  Tell me 'bout de nigger-driver,
    O, gwine away!
  Nigger-driver second devil,
    O, gwine away!
  Best ting for do he driver,
    O, gwine away!
  Knock he down and spoil he labor,
    O, gwine away!"

It will be observed that, although this song is quite secular in its
character, yet its author called it a "spiritual." I heard but two songs
among them, at any time, to which they would not, perhaps, have
given this generic name. One of these consisted simply in the endless
repetition--after the manner of certain college songs--of the mysterious

  "Rain fall and wet Becky Lawton."

But who Becky Lawton was, and why she should or should not be wet, and
whether the dryness was a reward or a penalty, none could say. I got
the impression that, in either case, the event was posthumous, and
that there was some tradition of grass not growing over the grave of a
sinner; but even this was vague, and all else vaguer.

The other song I heard but once, on a morning when a squad of men came
in from picket duty, and chanted it in the most rousing way. It had been
a stormy and comfortless night, and the picket station was very exposed.
It still rained in the morning when I strolled to the edge of the camp,
looking out for the men, and wondering how they had stood it. Presently
they came striding along the road, at a great pace, with their shining
rubber blankets worn as cloaks around them, the rain streaming from
these and from their equally shining faces, which were almost all upon
the broad grin, as they pealed out this remarkable ditty:--


  "O, dey call me Hangman Johnny!
    O, ho! O, ho!
  But I never hang nobody,
    O, hang, boys, hang!
  O dey, call me Hangman Johnny!
    O, ho! O, ho!
  But we'll all hang togedder,
    O, hang, boys, hang!"

My presence apparently checked the performance of another verse,
beginning, "De buckra 'list for money," apparently in reference to the
controversy about the pay-question, then just beginning, and to the
more mercenary aims they attributed to the white soldiers. But "Hangman
Johnny" remained always a myth as inscrutable as "Becky Lawton."

As they learned all their songs by ear, they often strayed into wholly
new versions, which sometimes became popular, and entirely banished the
others. This was amusingly the case, for instance, with one phrase in
the popular camp-song of "Marching Along," which was entirely new to
them until our quartermaster taught it to them, at my request. The
words, "Gird on the armor," were to them a stumbling-block, and no
wonder, until some ingenious ear substituted, "Guide on de army," which
was at once accepted, and became universal.

  "We'll guide on de army, and be marching along"

is now the established version on the Sea Islands.

These quaint religious songs were to the men more than a source of
relaxation; they were a stimulus to courage and a tie to heaven. I never
overheard in camp a profane or vulgar song. With the trifling exceptions
given, all had a religious motive, while the most secular melody could
not have been more exciting. A few youths from Savannah, who were
comparatively men of the world, had learned some of the "Ethiopian
Minstrel" ditties, imported from the North. These took no hold upon the
mass; and, on the other hand, they sang reluctantly, even on Sunday, the
long and short metres of the hymn-books, always gladly yielding to the
more potent excitement of their own "spirituals." By these they
could sing themselves, as had their fathers before them, out of the
contemplation of their own low estate, into the sublime scenery of the
Apocalypse. I remember that this minor-keyed pathos used to seem to me
almost too sad to dwell upon, while slavery seemed destined to last
for generations; but now that their patience has had its perfect work,
history cannot afford to lose this portion of its record. There is no
parallel instance of an oppressed race thus sustained by the religious
sentiment alone. These songs are but the vocal expression of the
simplicity of their faith and the sublimity of their long resignation.

Chapter 10 Life at Camp Shaw

The Edisto expedition cost me the health and strength of several years.
I could say, long after, in the words of one of the men, "I'se been
a sickly person, eber since de expeditious." Justice to a strong
constitution and good habits compels me, however, to say that, up to the
time of my injury, I was almost the only officer in the regiment who
had not once been off duty from illness. But at last I had to yield, and
went North for a month.

We heard much said, during the war, of wounded officers who stayed
unreasonably long at home. I think there were more instances of those
who went back too soon. Such at least was my case. On returning to the
regiment I found a great accumulation of unfinished business; every
member of the field and staff was prostrated by illness or absent on
detailed service; two companies had been sent to Hilton Head on
fatigue duty, and kept there unexpectedly long: and there was a visible
demoralization among the rest, especially from the fact that their
pay had just been cut down, in violation of the express pledges of the
government. A few weeks of steady sway made all right again; and during
those weeks I felt a perfect exhilaration of health, followed by a month
or two of complete prostration, when the work was done. This passing,
I returned to duty, buoyed up by the fallacious hope that the winter
months would set me right again.

We had a new camp on Port Royal Island, very pleasantly situated, just
out of Beaufort. It stretched nearly to the edge of a shelving bluff,
fringed with pines and overlooking the river; below the bluff was a
hard, narrow beach, where one might gallop a mile and bathe at the
farther end. We could look up and down the curving stream, and watch the
few vessels that came and went. Our first encampment had been lower down
that same river, and we felt at home.

The new camp was named Camp Shaw, in honor of the noble young officer
who had lately fallen at Fort Wagner, under circumstances which had
endeared him to all the men. As it happened, they had never seen
him, nor was my regiment ever placed within immediate reach of the
Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts. This I always regretted, feeling very
desirous to compare the military qualities of the Northern and Southern
blacks. As it was, the Southern regiments with which the Massachusetts
troops were brigaded were hardly a fair specimen of their kind, having
been raised chiefly by drafting, and, for this and other causes, being
afflicted with perpetual discontent and desertion.

We had, of course, looked forward with great interest to the arrival of
these new colored regiments, and I had ridden in from the picket-station
to see the Fifty-Fourth. Apart from the peculiarity of its material, it
was fresh from my own State, and I had relatives and acquaintances among
its officers. Governor Andrew, who had formed it, was an old friend, and
had begged me, on departure from Massachusetts, to keep him informed
as to our experiment I had good reason to believe that my reports had
helped to prepare the way for this new battalion, and I had sent him, at
his request, some hints as to its formation.*


Boston, February 5, 1863.

To COL. T. W. HIGGINSON, Commanding 1st Regt. S. C. Vols.,

Port Royal Id., S. C.

COLONEL,--I am under obligations to you for your very interesting letter
of January 19th, which I considered to be too important in its testimony
to the efficiency of colored troops to be allowed to remain hidden on
my files. I therefore placed some portions of it in the hands of Hon.
Stephen M. Weld, of Jamaica Plain, for publication, and you will find
enclosed the newspaper slip from the "Journal" of February 3d, in
which it appeared. During a recent visit at Washington I have obtained
permission from the Department of War to enlist colored troops as
part of the Massachusetts quota, and I am about to begin to organize
a colored infantry regiment, to be numbered the "54th Massachusetts

I shall be greatly obliged by any suggestions which your experience
may afford concerning it, and I am determined that it shall serve as a
model, in the high character of its officers and the thorough discipline
of its men, for all subsequent corps of the like material.

Please present to General Saxton the assurances of my respectful regard.

I have the honor to be, respectfully and obediently yours,

JOHN A. ANDREW, Governor of Massachusetts.

In the streets of Beaufort I had met Colonel Shaw, riding with his
lieutenant-colonel and successor, Edward Hallowell, and had gone back
with them to share their first meal in camp. I should have known Shaw
anywhere by his resemblance to his kindred, nor did it take long
to perceive that he shared their habitual truthfulness and courage.
Moreover, he and Hallowell had already got beyond the commonplaces of
inexperience, in regard to colored troops, and, for a wonder, asked only
sensible questions. For instance, he admitted the mere matter of courage
to be settled, as regarded the colored troops, and his whole solicitude
bore on this point, Would they do as well in line-of-battle as they had
already done in more irregular service, and on picket and guard duty? Of
this I had, of course, no doubt, nor, I think, had he; though I remember
his saying something about the possibility of putting them between two
fires in case of need, and so cutting off their retreat. I should never
have thought of such a project, but I could not have expected bun to
trust them as I did, until he had been actually under fire with them.
That, doubtless, removed all his anxieties, if he really had any.

This interview had occurred on the 4th of June. Shaw and his regiment
had very soon been ordered to Georgia, then to Morris Island; Fort
Wagner had been assaulted, and he had been killed. Most of the men knew
about the circumstances of his death, and many of them had subscribed
towards a monument for him,--a project which originated with General
Saxton, and which was finally embodied in the "Shaw School-house" at
Charleston. So it gave us all pleasure to name this camp for him, as its
predecessor had been named for General Saxton.

The new camp was soon brought into good order. The men had great
ingenuity in building screens and shelters of light poles, filled in
with the gray moss from the live-oaks. The officers had vestibules built
in this way, before all their tents; the cooking-places were walled
round in the same fashion; and some of the wide company-streets had
sheltered sidewalks down the whole line of tents. The sergeant on duty
at the entrance of the camp had a similar bower, and the architecture
culminated in a "Praise-House" for school and prayer-meetings, some
thirty feet in diameter. As for chimneys and flooring, they were
provided with that magic and invisible facility which marks the second
year of a regiment's life.

That officer is happy who, besides a constitutional love of adventure,
has also a love for the details of camp life, and likes to bring them to
perfection. Nothing but a hen with her chickens about her can symbolize
the content I felt on getting my scattered companies together, after
some temporary separation on picket or fatigue duty. Then we went to
work upon the nest. The only way to keep a camp in order is to set about
everything as if you expected to stay there forever; if you stay, you
get the comfort of it; if ordered away in twenty-four hours, you forget
all wasted labor in the excitement of departure. Thus viewed, a camp is
a sort of model farm or bit of landscape gardening; there is always some
small improvement to be made, a trench, a well, more shade against the
sun, an increased vigilance in sweeping. Then it is pleasant to take
care of the men, to see them happy, to hear them purr.

Then the duties of inspection and drill, suspended during active
service, resume their importance with a month or two of quiet. It really
costs unceasing labor to keep a regiment in perfect condition and ready
for service. The work is made up of minute and endless details, like a
bird's pruning her feathers or a cat's licking her kittens into their
proper toilet. Here are eight hundred men, every one of whom, every
Sunday morning at farthest, must be perfectly _soigne_ in all personal
proprieties; he must exhibit himself provided with every article
of clothing, buttons, shoe-strings, hooks and eyes, company letter,
regimental number, rifle, bayonet, bayonet-scabbard, cap-pouch,
cartridge-box, cartridge-box belt, cartridge-box belt-plate, gun-sling,
canteen, haversack, knapsack, packed according to rule, forty
cartridges, forty percussion caps; and every one of these articles
polished to the highest brightness or blackness as the case may be,
and moreover hung or slung or tied or carried in precisely the correct

What a vast and formidable housekeeping is here, my patriotic sisters!
Consider, too, that every corner of the camp is to be kept absolutely
clean and ready for exhibition at the shortest notice; hospital,
stables, guard-house, cook-houses, company tents, must all be brought to
perfection, and every square inch of this "farm of four acres" must
look as smooth as an English lawn, twice a day. All this, beside the
discipline and the drill and the regimental and company books, which
must keep rigid account of all these details; consider all this, and
then wonder no more that officers and men rejoice in being ordered on
active service, where a few strokes of the pen will dispose of all this
multiplicity of trappings as "expended in action" or "lost in service."

For one, the longer I remained in service, the better I appreciated the
good sense of most of the regular army niceties. True, these things must
all vanish when the time of action comes, but it is these things that
have prepared you for action. Of course, if you dwell on them only,
military life becomes millinery life alone. Kinglake says that
the Russian Grand-Duke Constantine, contemplating his beautiful
toy-regiments, said that he dreaded war, for he knew that it would spoil
the troops. The simple fact is, that a soldier is like the weapon he
carries; service implies soiling, but you must have it clean in advance,
that when soiled it may be of some use.

The men had that year a Christmas present which they enjoyed to the
utmost,--furnishing the detail, every other day, for provost-guard duty
in Beaufort. It was the only military service which they had ever shared
within the town, and it moreover gave a sense of self-respect to be
keeping the peace of their own streets. I enjoyed seeing them put on
duty those mornings; there was such a twinkle of delight in their eyes,
though their features were immovable. As the "reliefs" went round,
posting the guard, under charge of a corporal, one could watch the black
sentinels successively dropped and the whites picked up,--gradually
changing the complexion, like Lord Somebody's black stockings which
became white stockings,--till at last there was only a squad of
white soldiers obeying the "Support Arms! Forward, March!" of a black

Then, when once posted, they glorified their office, you may be sure.
Discipline had grown rather free-and-easy in the town about that time,
and it is said that the guard-house never was so full within human
memory as after their first tour of duty. I remember hearing that one
young reprobate, son of a leading Northern philanthropist in those
parts, was much aggrieved at being taken to the lock-up merely because
he was found drunk in the streets. "Why," said he, "the white corporals
always showed me the way home." And I can testify that, after an evening
party, some weeks later, I beard with pleasure the officers asking
eagerly for the countersign. "Who has the countersign?" said they. "The
darkeys are on guard to-night, and we must look out for our lives." Even
after a Christmas party at General Saxton's, the guard at the door very
properly refused to let the ambulance be brought round from the stable
for the ladies because the driver had not the countersign.

One of the sergeants of the guard, on one of these occasions, made to
one who questioned his authority an answer that could hardly have been
improved. The questioner had just been arrested for some offence.

"Know what dat mean?" said the indignant sergeant, pointing to the
chevrons on his own sleeve. "Dat mean _Guv'ment_." Volumes could not
have said more, and the victim collapsed. The thing soon settled itself,
and nobody remembered to notice whether the face beside the musket of a
sentinel were white or black. It meant Government, all the same.

The men were also indulged with several raids on the mainland, under
the direction of Captain J. E. Bryant, of the Eighth Maine, the most
experienced scout in that region, who was endeavoring to raise by
enlistment a regiment of colored troops. On one occasion Captains
Whitney and Heasley, with their companies, penetrated nearly to
Pocataligo, capturing some pickets and bringing away all the slaves of
a plantation,--the latter operation being entirely under the charge of
Sergeant Harry Williams (Co. K), without the presence of any white man.
The whole command was attacked on the return by a rebel force, which
turned out to be what was called in those regions a "dog-company,"
consisting of mounted riflemen with half a dozen trained bloodhounds.
The men met these dogs with their bayonets, killed four or five of their
old tormentors with great relish, and brought away the carcass of one.
I had the creature skinned, and sent the skin to New York to be stuffed
and mounted, meaning to exhibit it at the Sanitary Commission Fair hi
Boston; but it spoiled on the passage. These quadruped allies were not
originally intended as "dogs of war," but simply to detect fugitive
slaves, and the men were delighted at this confirmation of their tales
of dog-companies, which some of the officers had always disbelieved.

Captain Bryant, during his scouting adventures, had learned to outwit
these bloodhounds, and used his skill in eluding escape, during another
expedition of the same kind. He was sent with Captain Metcalf's company
far up the Combahee River to cut the telegraphic wires and intercept
despatches. Our adventurous chaplain and a telegraphic operator went
with the party. They ascended the river, cut the wires, and read the
despatches for an hour or two. Unfortunately, the attached wire was too
conspicuously hung, and was seen by a passenger on the railway train in
passing. The train was stopped and a swift stampede followed; a squad of
cavalry was sent in pursuit, and our chaplain, with Lieutenant Osborn,
of Bryant's projected regiment, were captured; also one private,--the
first of our men who had ever been taken prisoners. In spite of an
agreement at Washington to the contrary, our chaplain was held as
prisoner of war, the only spiritual adviser in uniform, so far as I
know, who had that honor. I do not know but his reverence would have
agreed with Scott's pirate-lieutenant, that it was better to live as
plain Jack Bunce than die as Frederick Altamont; but I am very sure that
he would rather have been kept prisoner to the close of the war, as a
combatant, than have been released on parole as a non-resistant.

After his return, I remember, he gave the most animated accounts of the
whole adventure, of which he had enjoyed every instant, from the first
entrance on the enemy's soil to the final capture. I suppose we should
all like to tap the telegraphic wires anywhere and read our neighbor's
messages, if we could only throw round this process the dignity of a
Sacred Cause. This was what our good chaplain had done, with the same
conscientious zest with which he had conducted his Sunday foraging in
Florida. But he told me that nothing so impressed him on the whole trip
as the sudden transformation in the black soldier who was taken prisoner
with him. The chaplain at once adopted the policy, natural to him, of
talking boldly and even defiantly to his captors, and commanding instead
of beseeching. He pursued the same policy always and gained by it, he
thought. But the negro adopted the diametrically opposite policy, also
congenial to his crushed race,--all the force seemed to go out of him,
and he surrendered himself like a tortoise to be kicked and trodden upon
at their will. This manly, well-trained soldier at once became a
slave again, asked no questions, and, if any were asked, made meek and
conciliatory answers. He did not know, nor did any of us know, whether
he would be treated as a prisoner of war, or shot, or sent to a
rice-plantation. He simply acted according to the traditions of his
race, as did the chaplain on his side. In the end the soldier's cunning
was vindicated by the result; he escaped, and rejoined us in six months,
while the chaplain was imprisoned for a year.

The men came back very much exhausted from this expedition, and those
who were in the chaplain's squad narrowly escaped with their lives. One
brave fellow had actually not a morsel to eat for four days, and then
could keep nothing on his stomach for two days more, so that his life
was despaired of; and yet he brought all his equipments safe into camp.
Some of these men had led such wandering lives, in woods and swamps,
that to hunt them was like hunting an otter; shyness and concealment had
grown to be their second nature.

After these little episodes came two months of peace. We were clean,
comfortable, quiet, and consequently discontented. It was therefore with
eagerness that we listened to a rumor of a new Florida expedition, in
which we might possibly take a hand.

Chapter 11. Florida Again?

Let me revert once more to my diary, for a specimen of the sharp changes
and sudden disappointments that may come to troops in service. But for
a case or two of varioloid in the regiment, we should have taken part in
the battle of Olustee, and should have had (as was reported) the right
of the line. At any rate we should have shared the hard knocks and the
glory, which were distributed pretty freely to the colored troops
then and there. The diary will give, better than can any continuous
narrative, our ups and down of expectation in those days.


"February 7, 1864.

"Great are the uncertainties of military orders! Since our recall from
Jacksonville we have had no such surprises as came to us on Wednesday
night. It was our third day of a new tour of duty at the picket station.
We had just got nicely settled,--men well tented, with good floors, and
in high spirits, officers at out-stations all happy, Mrs. ---- coming to
stay with her husband, we at head-quarters just in order, house cleaned,
moss-garlands up, camellias and jessamines in the tin wash-basins,
baby in bliss;--our usual run of visitors had just set in, two Beaufort
captains and a surgeon had just risen from a late dinner after a flag
of truce, General Saxton and his wife had driven away but an hour or two
before, we were all sitting about busy, with a great fire blazing, Mrs.
D. had just remarked triumphantly, 'Last time I had but a mouthful here,
and now I shall be here three weeks'--when--

"In dropped, like a bombshell, a despatch announcing that we were to be
relieved by the Eighth Maine, the next morning, as General Gillmore had
sent an order that we should be ready for departure from Beaufort at any

"Conjectures, orders, packing, sending couriers to out-stations, were
the employments of the evening; the men received the news with cheers,
and we all came in next morning."

"February 11, 1864.

"For three days we have watched the river, and every little steamboat
that comes up for coal brings out spy-glasses and conjectures, and
'Dar's de Fourf New Hampshire,'--for when that comes, it is said, we
go. Meanwhile we hear stirring news from Florida, and the men are very
impatient to be off. It is remarkable how much more thoroughly they look
at things as soldiers than last year, and how much less as home-bound
men,--the South-Carolinians, I mean, for of course the Floridians would
naturally wish to go to Florida.

"But in every way I see the gradual change in them, sometimes with a
sigh, as parents watch their children growing up and miss the droll
speeches and the confiding ignorance of childhood. Sometimes it comes
over me with a pang that they are growing more like white men,--less
naive and less grotesque. Still, I think there is enough of it to last,
and that their joyous buoyancy, at least, will hold out while life does.

"As for our destination, our greatest fear is of finding ourselves
posted at Hilton Head and going no farther. As a dashing Irish officer
remarked the other day, 'If we are ordered away anywhere, I hope it will
be either to go to Florida or else stay here!'"

"Sublime uncertainties again!

"After being ordered in from picket, under marching orders; after the
subsequent ten days of uncertainty; after watching every steamboat that
came up the river, to see if the Fourth New Hampshire was on board,--at
last the regiment came.

"Then followed another break; there was no transportation to take us. At
last a boat was notified.

"Then General Saxton, as anxious to keep us as was the regiment to
go, played his last card in small-pox, telegraphing to department
head-quarters that we had it dangerously in the regiment. (N. B. All
varioloid, light at that, and besides, we always have it.)

"Then the order came to leave behind the sick and those who had been
peculiarly exposed, and embark the rest next day.

"Great was the jubilee! The men were up, I verily believe, by three
in the morning, and by eight the whole camp was demolished or put in
wagons, and we were on our way. The soldiers of the Fourth New Hampshire
swarmed in; every board was swept away by them; there had been a
time when colored boards (if I may delicately so express myself) were
repudiated by white soldiers, but that epoch had long since passed.
I gave my new tent-frame, even the latch, to Colonel Bell; ditto
Lieutenant-Colonel to Lieutenant-Colonel.

"Down we marched, the men singing 'John Brown' and 'Marching Along' and
'Gwine in de Wilderness'; women in tears and smiles lined the way. We
halted opposite the dear General's; we cheered, he speeched, I speeched,
we all embraced symbolically, and cheered some more. Then we went to
work at the wharf; vast wagon-loads of tents, rations, ordnance, and
what-not disappeared in the capacious maw of the Delaware. In the midst
of it all came riding down General Saxton with a despatch from Hilton

"'If you think the amount of small-pox in the First South Carolina
Volunteers sufficient, the order will be countermanded.'

"'What shall I say?' quoth the guilty General, perceiving how
preposterously too late the negotiation was reopened.

"'Say, sir?' quoth I. 'Say that we are on board already and the
small-pox left behind. Say we had only thirteen cases, chiefly
varioloid, and ten almost well.'

"Our blood was up with a tremendous morning's work done, and, rather
than turn back, we felt ready to hold down Major-General Gillmore,
commanding department, and all his staff upon the wharf, and vaccinate
them by main force.

"So General Saxton rode away, and we worked away. Just as the last
wagon-load but one was being transferred to the omnivorous depths of the
Delaware,--which I should think would have been filled ten times over
with what we had put into it,--down rode the General with a fiendish joy
in his bright eyes and held out a paper,--one of the familiar rescripts
from headquarters.

"'The marching orders of the First South Carolina Volunteers are hereby

"'Major Trowbridge,' said I, 'will you give my compliments to Lieutenant
Hooper, somewhere in the hold of that steamer, and direct him to set
his men at work to bring out every individual article which they have
carried hi.' And I sat down on a pile of boards.

"'You will return to your old camping-ground, Colonel,' said the
General, placidly. 'Now,' he added with serene satisfaction, 'we will
have some brigade drills!'

"Brigade drills! Since Mr. Pickwick, with his heartless tomato-sauce and
warming-pans, there had been nothing so aggravating as to try to
solace us, who were as good as on board ship and under way,--nay, in
imagination as far up the St. John's as Pilatka at least,--with brigade
drills! It was very kind and flattering in him to wish to keep us. But
unhappily we had made up our minds to go.

"Never did officer ride at the head of a battalion of more wobegone,
spiritless wretches than I led back from Beaufort that day. 'When I
march down to de landin',' said one of the men afterwards, 'my knapsack
full of feathers. Comin' back, _he lead_!' And the lead, instead of the
feathers, rested on the heart of every one.

"As if the disappointment itself were not sufficient, we had to return
to our pretty camp, accustomed to its drawing-room order, and find it a
desert. Every board gone from the floors, the screens torn down from the
poles, all the little conveniences scattered, and, to crown all, a cold
breeze such as we had not known since New-Year's Day blowing across the
camp and flooding everything with dust. I sincerely hope the regiment
would never behave after a defeat as they behaved then. Every man seemed
crushed, officers and soldiers alike; when they broke ranks, they
went and lay down like sheep where their tents used to be, or wandered
disconsolately about, looking for their stray belongings. The scene was
so infinitely dolorous that it gradually put me in the highest spirits;
the ludicrousness of the whole affair was so complete, there was nothing
to do but laugh. The horrible dust blew till every officer had some
black spot on his nose which paralyzed pathos. Of course the only
way was to set them all at work as soon as possible; and work them we
did,--I at the camp and the Major at the wharf,--loading and unloading
wagons and just reversing all which the morning had done.

"The New Hampshire men were very considerate, and gave back most of what
they had taken, though many of our men were really too delicate or
proud to ask or even take what they had once given to soldiers or to the
colored people. I had no such delicacy about my tent-frame, and by night
things had resumed something of their old aspect, and cheerfulness
was in part restored. Yet long after this I found one first sergeant
absolutely in tears,--a Florida man, most of whose kindred were up the
St. John's. It was very natural that the men from that region should
feel thus bitterly, but it shows how much of the habit of soldiers they
have all acquired, that the South Carolina men, who were leaving the
neighborhood of their families for an indefinite time, were just as
eager to go, and not one deserted, though they knew it for a week
beforehand. No doubt my precarious health makes it now easier for me
personally to remain here--easier on reflection at least--than for the
others. At the same time Florida is fascinating, and offers not only
adventure, but the command of a brigade. Certainly at the last moment
there was not a sacrifice I would not have made rather than wrench
myself and others away from the expedition. We are, of course, thrown
back into the old uncertainty, and if the small-pox subsides (and it is
really diminishing decidedly) we may yet come in at the wrong end of the
Florida affair."

"February 19.

"Not a bit of it! This morning the General has ridden up radiant, has
seen General Gillmore, who has decided not to order us to Florida at
all, nor withdraw any of this garrison. Moreover, he says that all
which is intended in Florida is done,--that there will be no advance to
Tallahassee, and General Seymour will establish a camp of instruction in
Jacksonville. Well, if that is all, it is a lucky escape."

We little dreamed that on that very day the march toward Olustee was
beginning. The battle took place next day, and I add one more extract to
show how the news reached Beaufort.

"February 23, 1864.

"There was the sound of revelry by night at a ball in Beaufort last
night, in a new large building beautifully decorated. All the collected
flags of the garrison hung round and over us, as if the stars and
stripes were devised for an ornament alone. The array of uniforms was
such that a civilian became a distinguished object, much more a lady.
All would have gone according to the proverbial marriage-bell, I
suppose, had there not been a slight palpable shadow over all of us from
hearing vague stories of a lost battle in Florida, and from the thought
that perhaps the very ambulances in which we rode to the ball were ours
only until the wounded or the dead might tenant them.

"General Gillmore only came, I supposed, to put a good face upon the
matter. He went away soon, and General Saxton went; then came a rumor
that the Cosmopolitan had actually arrived with wounded, but still the
dance went on. There was nothing unfeeling about it,--one gets used
to things,--when suddenly, in the midst of the 'Lancers,' there came a
perfect hush, the music ceasing, a few surgeons went hastily to and fro,
as if conscience-stricken (I should think they might have been),--then
there 'waved a mighty shadow in,' as in Uhland's 'Black Knight,' and
as we all stood wondering we were 'ware of General Saxton, who strode
hastily down the hall, his pale face very resolute, and looking almost
sick with anxiety. He had just been on board the steamer; there were two
hundred and fifty wounded men just arrived, and the ball must end. Not
that there was anything for us to do; but the revel was mistimed,
and must be ended; it was wicked to be dancing, with such a scene of
suffering near by.

"Of course the ball was instantly broken up, though with some
murmurings and some longings of appetite, on the part of some, toward
the wasted supper.

"Later, I went on board the boat. Among the long lines of wounded, black
and white intermingled, there was the wonderful quiet which usually
prevails on such occasions. Not a sob nor a groan, except from those
undergoing removal. It is not self-control, but chiefly the shock to the
system produced by severe wounds, especially gunshot wounds, and which
usually keeps the patient stiller at first than any later time.

"A company from my regiment waited on the wharf, in their accustomed
dusky silence, and I longed to ask them what they thought of our Florida
disappointment now? In view of what they saw, did they still wish we had
been there? I confess that in presence of all that human suffering, I
could not wish it. But I would not have suggested any such thought to

"I found our kind-hearted ladies, Mrs. Chamberlin and Mrs. Dewhurst, on
board the steamer, but there was nothing for them to do, and we walked
back to camp in the radiant moonlight; Mrs. Chamberlin more than ever
strengthened in her blushing woman's philosophy, 'I don't care who wins
the laurels, provided we don't!'"

"February 29.

"But for a few trivial cases of varioloid, we should certainly have been
in that disastrous fight. We were confidently expected for several days
at Jacksonville, and the commanding general told Colonel Hallowell that
we, being the oldest colored regiment, would have the right of the line.
This was certainly to miss danger and glory very closely."

Chapter 12. The Negro as a Soldier

There was in our regiment a very young recruit, named Sam Roberts, of
whom Trowbridge used to tell this story. Early in the war Trowbridge had
been once sent to Amelia Island with a squad of men, under direction of
Commodore Goldsborough, to remove the negroes from the island. As the
officers stood on the beach, talking to some of the older freedmen, they
saw this urchin peeping at them from front and rear in a scrutinizing
way, for which his father at last called him to account, as thus:--

"Hi! Sammy, what you's doin', chile?"

"Daddy," said the inquisitive youth, "don't you know mas'r tell us
Yankee hab tail? I don't see no tail, daddy!"

There were many who went to Port Royal during the war, in civil or
military positions, whose previous impressions of the colored race were
about as intelligent as Sam's view of themselves. But, for once, I had
always had so much to do with fugitive slaves, and had studied the whole
subject with such interest, that I found not much to learn or unlearn as
to this one point. Their courage I had before seen tested; their docile
and lovable qualities I had known; and the only real surprise that
experience brought me was in finding them so little demoralized. I had
not allowed for the extreme remoteness and seclusion of their lives,
especially among the Sea Islands. Many of them had literally spent their
whole existence on some lonely island or remote plantation, where the
master never came, and the overseer only once or twice a week. With
these exceptions, such persons had never seen a white face, and of the
excitements or sins of larger communities they had not a conception. My
friend Colonel Hallo-well, of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts, told
me that he had among his men some of the worst reprobates of Northern
cities. While I had some men who were unprincipled and troublesome,
there was not one whom I could call a hardened villain. I was constantly
expecting to find male Topsies, with no notions of good and plenty of
evil. But I never found one. Among the most ignorant there was very
often a childlike absence of vices, which was rather to be classed as
inexperience than as innocence, but which had some of the advantages of

Apart from this, they were very much like other men. General Saxton,
examining with some impatience a long list of questions from some
philanthropic Commission at the North, respecting the traits and
habits of the freedmen, bade some staff-officer answer them all in two
words,--"Intensely human." We all admitted that it was a striking and
comprehensive description.

For instance, as to courage. So far as I have seen, the mass of men are
naturally courageous up to a certain point. A man seldom runs away from
danger which he ought to face, unless others run; each is apt to
keep with the mass, and colored soldiers have more than usual of this
gregariousness. In almost every regiment, black or white, there are a
score or two of men who are naturally daring, who really hunger after
dangerous adventures, and are happiest when allowed to seek them. Every
commander gradually finds out who these men are, and habitually uses
them; certainly I had such, and I remember with delight their bearing,
their coolness, and their dash. Some of them were negroes, some
mulattoes. One of them would have passed for white, with brown hair
and blue eyes, while others were so black you could hardly see their
features. These picked men varied in other respects too; some were
neat and well-drilled soldiers, while others were slovenly, heedless
fellows,--the despair of their officers at inspection, their pride on a
raid. They were the natural scouts and rangers of the regiment; they had
the two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage, which Napoleon thought so rare.
The mass of the regiment rose to the same level under excitement, and
were more excitable, I think, than whites, but neither more nor less

Perhaps the best proof of a good average of courage among them was in
the readiness they always showed for any special enterprise. I do
not remember ever to have had the slightest difficulty in obtaining
volunteers, but rather in keeping down the number. The previous pages
include many illustrations of this, as well as of then: endurance of
pain and discomfort. For instance, one of my lieutenants, a very daring
Irishman, who had served for eight years as a sergeant of regular
artillery in Texas, Utah, and South Carolina, said he had never been
engaged in anything so risky as our raid up the St. Mary's. But in truth
it seems to me a mere absurdity to deliberately argue the question of
courage, as applied to men among whom I waked and slept, day and night,
for so many months together. As well might he who has been wandering for
years upon the desert, with a Bedouin escort, discuss the courage of the
men whose tents have been his shelter and whose spears his guard. We,
their officers, did not go there to teach lessons, but to receive them.
There were more than a hundred men in the ranks who had voluntarily met
more dangers in their escape from slavery than any of my young captains
had incurred in all their lives.

There was a family named Wilson, I remember, of which we had several
representatives. Three or four brothers had planned an escape from the
interior to our lines; they finally decided that the youngest should
stay and take care of the old mother; the rest, with their sister and
her children, came in a "dug-out" down one of the rivers. They were
fired upon, again and again, by the pickets along the banks, until
finally every man on board was wounded; and still they got safely
through. When the bullets began to fly about them, the woman shed tears,
and her little girl of nine said to her, "Don't cry, mother, Jesus will
help you," and then the child began praying as the wounded men still
urged the boat along. This the mother told me, but I had previously
heard it from on officer who was on the gunboat that picked them
up,--a big, rough man, whose voice fairly broke as he described their
appearance. He said that the mother and child had been hid for nine
months in the woods before attempting their escape, and the child would
speak to no one,--indeed, she hardly would when she came to our camp.
She was almost white, and this officer wished to adopt her, but the
mother said, "I would do anything but that for _oonah_," this being
a sort of Indian formation of the second-person-plural, such as they
sometimes use. This same officer afterwards saw a reward offered for
this family in a Savannah paper.

I used to think that I should not care to read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" hi
our camp; it would have seemed tame. Any group of men in a tent would
have had more exciting tales to tell. I needed no fiction when I had
Fanny Wright, for instance, daily passing to and fro before my tent,
with her shy little girl clinging to her skirts. Fanny was a modest
little mulatto woman, a soldier's wife, and a company laundress. She had
escaped from the main-land in a boat, with that child and another. Her
baby was shot dead in her arms, and she reached our lines with one child
safe on earth and the other in heaven. I never found it needful to give
any elementary instructions in courage to Fanny's husband, you may be

There was another family of brothers in the regiment named Miller. Their
grandmother, a fine-looking old woman, nearly seventy, I should think,
but erect as a pine-tree, used sometimes to come and visit them. She and
her husband had once tried to escape from a plantation near Savannah.
They had failed, and had been brought back; the husband had received
five hundred lashes, and while the white men on the plantation
were viewing the punishment, she was collecting her children and
grandchildren, to the number of twenty-two, in a neighboring marsh,
preparatory to another attempt that night. They found a flat-boat which
had been rejected as unseaworthy, got on board,--still under the old
woman's orders,--and drifted forty miles down the river to our lines.
Trowbridge happened to be on board the gunboat which picked them up,
and he said that when the "flat" touched the side of the vessel, the
grandmother rose to her full height, with her youngest grandchild in her
arms, and said only, "My God! are we free?" By one of those coincidences
of which life is full, her husband escaped also, after his punishment,
and was taken up by the same gunboat.

I hardly need point out that my young lieutenants did not have to teach
the principles of courage to this woman's grandchildren.

I often asked myself why it was that, with this capacity of daring
and endurance, they had not kept the land in a perpetual flame of
insurrection; why, especially since the opening of the war, they had
kept so still. The answer was to be found in the peculiar temperament of
the races, in their religious faith, and in the habit of patience that
centuries had fortified. The shrewder men all said substantially the
same thing. What was the use of insurrection, where everything was
against them? They had no knowledge, no money, no arms, no drill, no
organization,--above all, no mutual confidence. It was the tradition
among them that all insurrections were always betrayed by somebody.
They had no mountain passes to defend like the Maroons of Jamaica,--no
unpenetrable swamps, like the Maroons of Surinam. Where they had these,
even on a small scale, they had used them,--as in certain swamps round
Savannah and in the everglades of Florida, where they united with the
Indians, and would stand fire--so I was told by General Saxton, who had
fought them there--when the Indians would retreat.

It always seemed to me that, had I been a slave, my life would have been
one long scheme of insurrection. But I learned to respect the patient
self-control of those who had waited till the course of events should
open a better way. When it came they accepted it. Insurrection on their
part would at once have divided the Northern sentiment; and a large part
of our army would have joined with the Southern army to hunt them down.
By their waiting till we needed them, their freedom was secured.

Two things chiefly surprised me in their feeling toward their former
masters,--the absence of affection and the absence of revenge. I
expected to find a good deal of the patriarchal feeling. It always
seemed to me a very ill-applied emotion, as connected with the facts and
laws of American slavery,--still I expected to find it. I suppose that
my men and their families and visitors may have had as much of it as
the mass of freed slaves; but certainly they had not a particle. I
never could cajole one of them, in his most discontented moment, into
regretting "ole mas'r time" for a single instant. I never heard one
speak of the masters except as natural enemies. Yet they were perfectly
discriminating as to individuals; many of them claimed to have had kind
owners, and some expressed great gratitude to them for particular favors
received. It was not the individuals, but the ownership, of which they
complained. That they saw to be a wrong which no special kindnesses
could right. On this, as on all points connected with slavery, they
understood the matter as clearly as Garrison or Phillips; the wisest
philosophy could teach them nothing as to that, nor could any false
philosophy befog them. After all, personal experience is the best

Certainly this indifference did not proceed from any want of personal
affection, for they were the most affectionate people among whom I had
ever lived. They attached themselves to every officer who deserved love,
and to some who did not; and if they failed to show it to their masters,
it proved the wrongfulness of the mastery. On the other hand, they
rarely showed one gleam of revenge, and I shall never forget the
self-control with which one of our best sergeants pointed out to me, at
Jacksonville, the very place where one of his brothers had been hanged
by the whites for leading a party of fugitive slaves. He spoke of it as
a historic matter, without any bearing on the present issue.

But side by side with this faculty of patience, there was a certain
tropical element in the men, a sort of fiery ecstasy when aroused,
which seemed to link them by blood with the French Turcos, and made
them really resemble their natural enemies, the Celts, far more than
the Anglo-Saxon temperament. To balance this there were great individual
resources when alone,--a sort of Indian wiliness and subtlety of
resource. Their gregariousness and love of drill made them more easy to
keep in hand than white American troops, who rather like to straggle or
go in little squads, looking out for themselves, without being bothered
with officers. The blacks prefer organization.

The point of inferiority that I always feared, though I never had
occasion to prove it, was that they might show less fibre, less tough
and dogged resistance, than whites, during a prolonged trial,--a long,
disastrous march, for instance, or the hopeless defence of a besieged
town. I should not be afraid of their mutinying or running away, but of
their drooping and dying. It might not turn out so; but I mention it
for the sake of fairness, and to avoid overstating the merits of these
troops. As to the simple general fact of courage and reliability I
think no officer in our camp ever thought of there being any difference
between black and white. And certainly the opinions of these officers,
who for years risked their lives every moment on the fidelity of their
men, were worth more than those of all the world beside.

No doubt there were reasons why this particular war was an especially
favorable test of the colored soldiers. They had more to fight for than
the whites. Besides the flag and the Union, they had home and wife and
child. They fought with ropes round their necks, and when orders were
issued that the officers of colored troops should be put to death on
capture, they took a grim satisfaction. It helped their _esprit de
corps_ immensely. With us, at least, there was to be no play-soldier.
Though they had begun with a slight feeling of inferiority to the white
troops, this compliment substituted a peculiar sense of self-respect.
And even when the new colored regiments began to arrive from the North
my men still pointed out this difference,--that in case of ultimate
defeat, the Northern troops, black or white, would go home, while the
First South Carolina must fight it out or be re-enslaved. This was one
thing that made the St. John's River so attractive to them and even to
me;--it was so much nearer the everglades. I used seriously to ponder,
during the darker periods of the war, whether I might not end my days as
an outlaw,--a leader of Maroons.

Meanwhile, I used to try to make some capital for the Northern troops,
in their estimate, by pointing out that it was a disinterested thing in
these men from the free States, to come down there and fight, that the
slaves might be free. But they were apt keenly to reply, that many of
the white soldiers disavowed this object, and said that that was not
the object of the war, nor even likely to be its end. Some of them even
repeated Mr. Seward's unfortunate words to Mr. Adams, which some general
had been heard to quote. So, on the whole, I took nothing by the motion,
as was apt to be the case with those who spoke a good word for our
Government, in those vacillating and half proslavery days.

At any rate, this ungenerous discouragement had this good effect, that
it touched their pride; they would deserve justice, even if they did
not obtain it. This pride was afterwards severely tested during the
disgraceful period when the party of repudiation in Congress temporarily
deprived them of their promised pay. In my regiment the men never
mutinied, nor even threatened mutiny; they seemed to make it a matter of
honor to do then: part, even if the Government proved a defaulter;
but one third of them, including the best men in the regiment, quietly
refused to take a dollar's pay, at the reduced price. "We'se gib our
sogerin' to de Guv'ment, Gunnel," they said, "but we won't 'spise
ourselves so much for take de seben dollar." They even made a
contemptuous ballad, of which I once caught a snatch.

  "Ten dollar a month!
    Tree ob dat for clothin'l
  Go to Washington
    Fight for Linkum's darter!"

This "Lincoln's daughter" stood for the Goddess of Liberty, it would
seem. They would be true to her, but they would not take the half-pay.
This was contrary to my advice, and to that of other officers; but I
now think it was wise. Nothing less than this would have called the
attention of the American people to this outrageous fraud.*

* See Appendix.

The same slow forecast had often marked their action in other ways. One
of our ablest sergeants, Henry Mclntyre, who had earned two dollars and
a half per day as a master-carpenter in Florida, and paid one dollar and
a half to his master, told me that he had deliberately refrained from
learning to read, because that knowledge exposed the slaves to so much
more watching and suspicion. This man and a few others had built on
contract the greater part of the town of Micanopy in Florida, and was a
thriving man when his accustomed discretion failed for once, and he lost
all. He named his child William Lincoln, and it brought upon him such
suspicion that he had to make his escape.

I cannot conceive what people at the North mean by speaking of the
negroes as a bestial or brutal race. Except in some insensibility to
animal pain, I never knew of an act in my regiment which I should call
brutal. In reading Kay's "Condition of the English Peasantry" I was
constantly struck with the unlikeness of my men to those therein
described. This could not proceed from my prejudices as an abolitionist,
for they would have led me the other way, and indeed I had once written
a little essay to show the brutalizing influences of slavery. I learned
to think that we abolitionists had underrated the suffering produced
by slavery among the negroes, but had overrated the demoralization. Or
rather, we did not know how the religious temperament of the negroes
had checked the demoralization. Yet again, it must be admitted that this
temperament, born of sorrow and oppression, is far more marked in the
slave than in the native African.

Theorize as we may, there was certainly in our camp an average tone of
propriety which all visitors noticed, and which was not created, but
only preserved by discipline. I was always struck, not merely by the
courtesy of the men, but also by a certain sober decency of language.
If a man had to report to me any disagreeable fact, for instance, he
was sure to do it with gravity and decorum, and not blurt it out in an
offensive way. And it certainly was a significant fact that the ladies
of our camp, when we were so fortunate as to have such guests, the young
wives, especially, of the adjutant and quartermaster, used to go among
the tents when the men were off duty, in order to hear their big pupils
read and spell, without the slightest fear of annoyance. I do not mean
direct annoyance or insult, for no man who valued his life would have
ventured that in presence of the others, but I mean the annoyance of
accidentally seeing or hearing improprieties not intended for them. They
both declared that they would not have moved about with anything like
the same freedom in any white camp they had ever entered, and it
always roused their indignation to hear the negro race called brutal or

This came partly from natural good manners, partly from the habit of
deference, partly from ignorance of the refined and ingenious evil which
is learned in large towns; but a large part came from their strongly
religious temperament. Their comparative freedom from swearing,
for instance,--an abstinence which I fear military life did not
strengthen,--was partly a matter of principle. Once I heard one of them
say to another, in a transport of indignation, "Ha-a-a, boy, s'pose I no
be a Christian, I cuss you sol"--which was certainly drawing pretty hard
upon the bridle. "Cuss," however, was a generic term for all manner
of evil speaking; they would say, "He cuss me fool," or "He cuss
me coward," as if the essence of propriety were in harsh and angry
speech,--which I take to be good ethics. But certainly, if Uncle Toby
could have recruited his army in Flanders from our ranks, their swearing
would have ceased to be historic.

It used to seem to me that never, since Cromwell's time, had there been
soldiers in whom the religious element held such a place. "A religious
army," "a gospel army," were their frequent phrases. In their
prayer-meetings there was always a mingling, often quaint enough, of
the warlike and the pious. "If each one of us was a praying man," said
Corporal Thomas Long in a sermon, "it appears to me that we could fight
as well with prayers as with bullets,--for the Lord has said that if you
have faith even as a grain of mustard-seed cut into four parts, you
can say to the sycamore-tree, Arise, and it will come up." And though
Corporal Long may have got a little perplexed in his botany, his faith
proved itself by works, for he volunteered and went many miles on a
solitary scouting expedition into the enemy's country in Florida, and
got back safe, after I had given him up for lost.

The extremes of religious enthusiasm I did not venture to encourage, for
I could not do it honestly; neither did I discourage them, but simply
treated them with respect, and let them have their way, so long as they
did not interfere with discipline. In general they promoted it. The
mischievous little drummer-boys, whose scrapes and quarrels were the
torment of my existence, might be seen kneeling together in their tents
to say their prayers at night, and I could hope that their slumbers were
blessed by some spirit of peace, such as certainly did not rule over
their waking. The most reckless and daring fellows in the regiment were
perfect fatalists in theur confidence that God would watch over them,
and that if they died, it would be because theur time had come. This
almost excessive faith, and the love of freedom and of their families,
all co-operated with their pride as soldiers to make them do their duty.
I could not have spared any of these incentives. Those of our officers
who were personally the least influenced by such considerations, still
saw the need of encouraging them among the men.

I am bound to say that this strongly devotional turn was not always
accompanied by the practical virtues; but neither was it strikingly
divorced from them. A few men, I remember, who belonged to the ancient
order of hypocrites, but not many. Old Jim Cushman was our favorite
representative scamp. He used to vex his righteous soul over the
admission of the unregenerate to prayer-meetings, and went off once
shaking his head and muttering, "Too much goat shout wid de sheep." But
he who objected to this profane admixture used to get our mess-funds far
more hopelessly mixed with his own, when he went out to buy chickens.
And I remember that, on being asked by our Major, in that semi-Ethiopian
dialect into which we sometimes slid, "How much wife you got, Jim?" the
veteran replied, with a sort of penitence for lost opportunities, "On'y
but four, Sah!"

Another man of somewhat similar quality went among us by the name of
Henry Ward Beecher, from a remarkable resemblance in face and figure to
that sturdy divine. I always felt a sort of admiration for this worthy,
because of the thoroughness with which he outwitted me, and the sublime
impudence in which he culminated. He got a series of passes from me,
every week or two, to go and see his wife on a neighboring plantation,
and finally, when this resource seemed exhausted, he came boldly for one
more pass, that he might go and be married.

We used to quote _him_ a good deal, also, as a sample of a certain
Shakespearian boldness of personification in which the men sometimes
indulged. Once, I remember, his captain had given him a fowling-piece
to clean. Henry Ward had left it in the captain's tent, and the latter,
finding it, had transferred the job to some one else.

Then came a confession, in this precise form, with many dignified

"Cappen! I took dat gun, and I put bun in Cappen tent. Den I look,
and de gun not dar! Den Conscience say, Cappen mus' hab gib dat gun to
somebody else for clean. Den I say, Conscience, you reason correck."

Compare Lancelot Gobbo's soliloquy in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona"!

Still, I maintain that, as a whole, the men were remarkably free from
inconvenient vices. There was no more lying and stealing than in average
white regiments. The surgeon was not much troubled by shamming sickness,
and there were not a great many complaints of theft. There was less
quarrelling than among white soldiers, and scarcely ever an instance of
drunkenness. Perhaps the influence of their officers had something to do
with this; for not a ration of whiskey was ever issued to the men, nor
did I ever touch it, while in the army, nor approve a requisition for
any of the officers, without which it could not easily be obtained. In
this respect our surgeons fortunately agreed with me, and we never
had reason to regret it. I believe the use of ardent spirits to be
as useless and injurious in the army as on board ship, and among the
colored troops, especially, who had never been accustomed to it, I think
that it did only harm.

The point of greatest laxity in their moral habits--the want of a high
standard of chastity--was not one which affected their camp life to any
great extent, and it therefore came less under my observation. But I
found to my relief that, whatever their deficiency in this respect, it
was modified by the general quality of their temperament, and indicated
rather a softening and relaxation than a hardening and brutalizing of
their moral natures. Any insult or violence in this direction was a
thing unknown. I never heard of an instance. It was not uncommon for
men to have two or three wives in different plantations,--the second,
or remoter, partner being called a "'broad wife,"--i.e. wife abroad.
But the whole tendency was toward marriage, and this state of things was
only regarded as a bequest from "mas'r time."

I knew a great deal about their marriages, for they often consulted me,
and took my counsel as lovers are wont to do,--that is, when it pleased
their fancy. Sometimes they would consult their captains first, and then
come to me in despairing appeal. "Cap'n Scroby [Trowbridge] he acvise
me not for marry dis lady, 'cause she hab seben chil'en. What for use?
Cap'n Scroby can't lub for me. I mus' lub for myself, and I lub he." I
remember that on this occasion "he" stood by, a most unattractive woman,
jet black, with an old pink muslin dress, torn white cotton gloves, and
a very flowery bonnet, that must have descended through generations of
tawdry mistresses.

I felt myself compelled to reaffirm the decision of the inferior court.
The result was as usual. They were married the next day, and I believe
that she proved an excellent wife, though she had seven children, whose
father was also in the regiment. If she did not, I know many others
who did, and certainly I have never seen more faithful or more happy
marriages than among that people.

The question was often asked, whether the Southern slaves or the
Northern free blacks made the best soldiers. It was a compliment to both
classes that each officer usually preferred those whom he had personally
commanded. I preferred those who had been slaves, for their greater
docility and affectionateness, for the powerful stimulus which their new
freedom gave, and for the fact that they were fighting, in a manner,
for their own homes and firesides. Every one of these considerations
afforded a special aid to discipline, and cemented a peculiar tie of
sympathy between them and their officers. They seemed like clansmen,
and had a more confiding and filial relation to us than seemed to me to
exist in the Northern colored regiments.

So far as the mere habits of slavery went, they were a poor preparation
for military duty. Inexperienced officers often assumed that, because
these men had been slaves before enlistment, they would bear to be
treated as such afterwards. Experience proved the contrary. The more
strongly we marked the difference between the slave and the soldier, the
better for the regiment. One half of military duty lies in obedience,
the other half in self-respect. A soldier without self-respect is
worthless. Consequently there were no regiments in which it was so
important to observe the courtesies and proprieties of military life
as in these. I had to caution the officers to be more than usually
particular in returning the salutations of the men; to be very careful
in their dealings with those on picket or guard-duty; and on no account
to omit the titles of the non-commissioned officers. So, in dealing
out punishments, we had carefully to avoid all that was brutal and
arbitrary, all that savored of the overseer. Any such dealing found them
as obstinate and contemptuous as was Topsy when Miss Ophelia undertook
to chastise her. A system of light punishments, rigidly administered
according to the prescribed military forms, had more weight with them
than any amount of angry severity. To make them feel as remote as
possible from the plantation, this was essential. By adhering to this,
and constantly appealing to their pride as soldiers and their sense of
duty, we were able to maintain a high standard of discipline,--so, at
least, the inspecting officers said,--and to get rid, almost entirely,
of the more degrading class of punishments,--standing on barrels, tying
up by the thumbs, and the ball and chain.

In all ways we had to educate their self-respect. For instance, at first
they disliked to obey their own non-commissioned officers. "I don't want
him to play de white man ober me," was a sincere objection. They had
been so impressed with a sense of inferiority that the distinction
extended to the very principles of honor. "I ain't got colored-man
principles," said Corporal London Simmons, indignantly defending himself
from some charge before me. "I'se got white-gemman principles. I'se do
my best. If Cap'n tell me to take a man, s'pose de man be as big as
a house, I'll clam hold on him till I die, inception [excepting] I'm

But it was plain that this feeling was a bequest of slavery, which
military life would wear off. We impressed it upon them that they did
not obey their officers because they were white, but because they were
their officers, just as the Captain must obey me, and I the General;
that we were all subject to military law, and protected by it in
turn. Then we taught them to take pride in having good material for
noncommissioned officers among themselves, and in obeying them. On
my arrival there was one white first sergeant, and it was a question
whether to appoint others. This I prevented, but left that one, hoping
the men themselves would at last petition for his removal, which
at length they did. He was at once detailed on other duty. The
picturesqueness of the regiment suffered, for he was very tall and fair,
and I liked to see him step forward in the centre when the line of first
sergeants came together at dress-parade. But it was a help to discipline
to eliminate the Saxon, for it recognized a principle.

Afterwards I had excellent battalion-drills without a single white
officer, by way of experiment; putting each company under a sergeant,
and going through the most difficult movements, such as division-columns
and oblique-squares. And as to actual discipline, it is doing no
injustice to the line-officers of the regiment to say that none of
them received from the men more implicit obedience than Color-Sergeant
Rivers. I should have tried to obtain commissions for him and several
others before I left the regiment, had their literary education been
sufficient; and such an attempt was finally made by Lieutenant-Colonel
Trowbridge, my successor in immediate command, but it proved
unsuccessful. It always seemed to me an insult to those brave men to
have novices put over their heads, on the ground of color alone; and the
men felt it the more keenly as they remained longer in service. There
were more than seven hundred enlisted men in the regiment, when mustered
out after more than three years' service. The ranks had been kept full
by enlistment, but there were only fourteen line-officers instead of the
full thirty. The men who should have filled those vacancies were doing
duty as sergeants in the ranks.

In what respect were the colored troops a source of disappointment? To
me in one respect only,--that of health. Their health improved, indeed,
as they grew more familiar with military life; but I think that neither
their physical nor moral temperament gave them that toughness, that
obstinate purpose of living, which sustains the more materialistic
Anglo-Saxon. They had not, to be sure, the same predominant diseases,
suffering in the pulmonary, not in the digestive organs; but they
suffered a good deal. They felt malaria less, but they were more
easily choked by dust and made ill by dampness. On the other hand,
they submitted more readily to sanitary measures than whites, and,
with efficient officers, were more easily kept clean. They were injured
throughout the army by an undue share of fatigue duty, which is not only
exhausting but demoralizing to a soldier; by the un-suitableness of the
rations, which gave them salt meat instead of rice and hominy; and
by the lack of good medical attendance. Their childlike constitutions
peculiarly needed prompt and efficient surgical care; but almost all the
colored troops were enlisted late in the war, when it was hard to get
good surgeons for any regiments, and especially for these. In this
respect I had nothing to complain of, since there were no surgeons in
the army for whom I would have exchanged my own.

And this late arrival on the scene affected not only the medical
supervision of the colored troops, but their opportunity for a career.
It is not my province to write their history, nor to vindicate them,
nor to follow them upon those larger fields compared with which the
adventures of my regiment appear but a partisan warfare. Yet this, at
least, may be said. The operations on the South Atlantic coast, which
long seemed a merely subordinate and incidental part of the great
contest, proved to be one of the final pivots on which it turned. All
now admit that the fate of the Confederacy was decided by Sherman's
march to the sea. Port Royal was the objective point to which he
marched, and he found the Department of the South, when he reached it,
held almost exclusively by colored troops. Next to the merit of those
who made the march was that of those who held open the door. That
service will always remain among the laurels of the black regiments.

Chapter 13. Conclusion

My personal forebodings proved to be correct, and so were the threats
of the surgeons. In May, 1864, I went home invalided, was compelled to
resign in October from the same cause, and never saw the First South
Carolina again. Nor did any one else see it under that appellation, for
about that time its name was changed to the Thirty-Third United States
Colored Troops, "a most vague and heartless baptism," as the man in the
story says. It was one of those instances of injudicious sacrifice of
_esprit de corps_ which were so frequent in our army. All the pride of
my men was centred in "de Fus' Souf"; the very words were a recognition
of the loyal South as against the disloyal. To make the matter worse, it
had been originally designed to apply the new numbering only to the new
regiments, and so the early numbers were all taken up before the older
regiments came in. The governors of States, by especial effort, saved
their colored troops from this chagrin; but we found here, as more than
once before, the disadvantage of having no governor to stand by us.
"It's a far cry to Loch Awe," said the Highland proverb. We knew to
our cost that it was a far cry to Washington in those days, unless an
officer left his duty and stayed there all the time.

In June, 1864, the regiment was ordered to Folly Island, and remained
there and on Cole's Island till the siege of Charleston was done. It
took part in the battle of Honey Hill, and in the capture of a fort on
James Island, of which Corporal Robert Vendross wrote triumphantly in a
letter, "When we took the pieces we found that we recapt our own pieces
back that we lost on Willtown Revear (River) and thank the Lord did not
lose but seven men out of our regiment."

In February, 1865, the regiment was ordered to Charleston to do provost
and guard duty, in March to Savannah, in June to Hamburg and Aiken, in
September to Charleston and its neighborhood, and was finally mustered
out of service--after being detained beyond its three years, so great
was the scarcity of troops--on the 9th of February, 1866. With dramatic
fitness this muster-out took place at Fort Wagner, above the graves
of Shaw and his men. I give in the Appendix the farewell address of
Lieutenant-Colonel Trowbridge, who commanded the regiment from the time
I left it. Brevet Brigadier-General W. T. Bennett, of the One Hundred
and Second United States Colored Troops, who was assigned to the
command, never actually held it, being always in charge of a brigade.

The officers and men are scattered far and wide. One of our captains
was a member of the South Carolina Constitutional Convention, and is
now State Treasurer; three of our sergeants were in that Convention,
including Sergeant Prince Rivers; and he and Sergeant Henry Hayne
are still members of the State Legislature. Both in that State and hi
Florida the former members of the regiment are generally prospering, so
far as I can hear. The increased self-respect of army life fitted them
to do the duties of civil life. It is not in nature that the jealousy
of race should die out in this generation, but I trust they will not see
the fulfilment of Corporal Simon Cram's prediction. Simon was one of the
shrewdest old fellows in the regiment, and he said to me once, as he
was jogging out of Beaufort behind me, on the Shell Road, "I'se goin'
to leave de Souf, Cunnel, when de war is over. I'se made up my mind dat
dese yere Secesh will neber be cibilized in my time."

The only member of the regiment whom I have seen since leaving it is a
young man, Cyrus Wiggins, who was brought off from the main-land in a
dug-out, in broad day, before the very eyes of the rebel pickets, by
Captain James S. Rogers, of my regiment. It was one of the most daring
acts I ever saw, and as it happened under my own observation I was glad
when the Captain took home with him this "captive of his bow and spear"
to be educated under his eye in Massachusetts. Cyrus has done credit
to his friends, and will be satisfied with nothing short of a
college-training at Howard University. I have letters from the men, very
quaint in handwriting and spelling; but he is the only one whom I have
seen. Some time I hope to revisit those scenes, and shall feel, no
doubt, like a bewildered Rip Van Winkle who once wore uniform.

We who served with the black troops have this peculiar satisfaction,
that, whatever dignity or sacredness the memories of the war may have to
others, they have more to us. In that contest all the ordinary ties of
patriotism were the same, of course, to us as to the rest; they had no
motives which we had not, as they have now no memories which are not
also ours. But the peculiar privilege of associating with an outcast
race, of training it to defend its rights and to perform its duties,
this was our especial meed. The vacillating policy of the Government
sometimes filled other officers with doubt and shame; until the negro
had justice, they were but defending liberty with one hand and crushing
it with the other. From this inconsistency we were free. Whatever the
Government did, we at least were working in the right direction. If
this was not recognized on our side of the lines, we knew that it was
admitted on the other. Fighting with ropes round our necks, denied the
ordinary courtesies of war till we ourselves compelled then: concession,
we could at least turn this outlawry into a compliment. We had touched
the pivot of the war. Whether this vast and dusky mass should prove the
weakness of the nation or its strength, must depend in great measure,
we knew, upon our efforts. Till the blacks were armed, there was no
guaranty of their freedom. It was their demeanor under arms that shamed
the nation into recognizing them as men.


Appendix A

Roster of Officers


Afterwards Thirty-Third United States Colored Troops.


T. W. HIGGINSON, 51st Mass. Vols., Nov. 10, 1862; Resigned,

Oct. 27, 1864. WM. T. BENNETT, 102d U. S. C. T., Dec. 18, 1864; Mustered

with regiment


LIBERTY BILLINGS, Civil Life, Nov. 1, 1862; Dismissed by Examining
Board, July 28, 1863.

JOHN D. STRONG, Promotion, July 28, 1863; Resigned, Aug. 15, 1864.

CHAS. T. TROWBRIDGE, Promotion, Dec. 9, 1864; Mustered out, &c.


JOHN D. STRONG, Civil Life, Oct. 21, 1862; Lt-Col., July 28, 1863. CHAS.

T. TROWBRIDGE, Promotion, Aug. 11, 1863; Lt.-Col., Dec. 9, 1864.

H. A. WHTTNEY, Promotion, Dec. 9, 1864; Mustered out, &c.


SETH ROGERS, Civil Life, Dec. 2, 1862; Resigned, Dec. 21, 1863.

WM. B. CRANDALL, 29th Ct, June 8, 1864; Mustered out, &c.

Assistant Surgeons

J. M. HAWKS, Civil Life, Oct 20, 1862; Surgeon 3d S. C. Vols.,

Oct. 29, 1863.

THOS. T. MINOR, 7th Ct., Jan. 8, 1863; Resigned, Nov. 21, 1864.

E. S. STUARD, Civil Life, Sept. 4, 1865; Mustered out, &c.


JAS. H. FOWLER, Civil Life, Oct. 24, 1862; Mustered out, &c.


CHAS. T. TROWBRIDGE, N. Y. Vol. Eng., Oct. 13, 1862; Major, Aug. 11,

WM. JAMES, 100th Pa., Oct. 13, 1862; Mustered out, &c.

W. J. RANDOLPH, 100th Pa., Oct. 13, 1862; Resigned, Jan. 29, 1864.

H. A. WHITNEY, 8th Me., Oct. 13, 1862; Major, Dec. 9, 1864.

ALEX. HEASLEY, 100th Pa., Oct 13, 1862; Killed at Augusta, Ga., Sept. 6,

GEORGE DOLLY, 8th Me., Nov. 1, 1862; Resigned, Oct. 30, 1863.

L. W. METCALF, 8th Me., Nov. 11, 1862; Mustered out, &c.

JAS. H. TONKING, N. Y. Vol. Eng., Nov. 17, 1862; Resigned, July 28,

JAS. S. ROGERS, 51st Mass., Dec. 6, 1862; Resigned, Oct. 20, 1863.

J. H. THIBADEAU, Promotion, Jan. 10, 1863; Mustered out, &c.

GEORGE D. WALKER, Promotion, July 28, 1863; Resigned, Sept 1, 1864.

WM. H. DANILSON, Promotion, July 28, 1863; Major 128th U. S. C. T., May,
1865 [now 1st Lt 40th U. S. Infantry].

WM. W. SAMPSON, Promotion, Nov. 5, 1863; Mustered out, &c.

JOHN M. THOMPSON, Promotion, Nov. 7, 1863; Mustered out, &c. [Now 1st
Lt. and Bvt Capt. 38th U. S. Infy.]

ABR. W. JACKSON, Promotion, April 30, 1864; Resigned, Aug. 15, 1865.

NILES G. PARKER, Promotion, Feb., 1865; Mustered out, &c.

CHAS. W. HOOPER, Promotion, Sept, 1865; Mustered out, &c.

E. C. MERMAM, Promotion, Sept., 1865; Resigned, Dec. 4, 1865.

E. W. ROBBINS, Promotion, Nov. 1, 1865; Mustered out, &c.

N. S. WHITE, Promotion, Nov. 18, 1865; Mustered out, &c.

First Lieutenants

G. W. DEWHURST (Adjutant), Civil Life, Oct 20, 1862; Resigned, Aug. 31,

J. M. BINOHAM (Quartermaster), Civil Life, Oct. 20, 1862; Died from
effect of exhaustion on a military expedition, July 20, 1863.

G. M. CHAMBERUN (Quartermaster), llth Mass. Battery, Aug. 29, 1863;
Mustered out, &c.

GEO. D. WALKER, N. Y. VoL Eng., Oct 13, 1862; Captain, Aug. 11, 1863.

W. H. DANILSON, 48th N. Y., Oct 13, 1862; Captain, July 26, 1863.

J. H. THTBADEAU, 8th Me., Oct 13, 1862; Captain, Jan. 10, 1863.

EPHRAIM P. WHITE, 8th Me., Nov. 14, 1862; Resigned, March 9, 1864.

JAS. POMEROY, 100th Pa., Oct 13,1862; Resigned, Feb. 9, 1863.

JAS. F. JOHNSTON, 100th Pa., Oct 13, 1862; Resigned, March 26, 1863.

JESSE FISHER, 48th N. Y., Oct 13, 1862; Resigned, Jan. 26, 1863.

CHAS. I. DAVIS, 8th Me., Oct 13, 1862; Resigned, Feb. 28, 1863.

WM. STOCKDALE, 8th Me., Oct 13, 1862; Resigned, May 2, 1863.

JAS. B. O'NEIL, Promotion, Jan. 10, 1863; Resigned, May 2, 1863.

W. W. SAMPSON, Promotion, Jan. 10, 1863; Captain, Oct 30,

1863. J. M. THOMPSON, Promotion, Jan. 27, 1863; Captain, Oct. 30,

1863. R. M. GASTON, Promotion, April 15, 1863; Killed at Coosaw Ferry,
S. C., May 27, 1863.

JAS. B. WEST, Promotion, Feb. 28, 1863; Resigned, June 14, 1865.

N. G. PARKER, Promotion, May 5, 1863; Captain, Feb., 1865.

W. H. HYDE, Promotion, May 5, 1863; Resigned, April 3, 1865.

HENRY A. STONE, 8th Me., June 26, 1863; Resigned, Dec. 16, 1864.

J. A. TROWBRTDGE, Promotion, Aug. 11, 1863; Resigned, Nov. 29, 1864.

A. W. JACKSON, Promotion, Aug. 26, 1863; Captain, April 30, 1864.

CHAS. E. PARKER, Promotion, Aug. 26, 1863; Resigned, Nov. 29, 1864.

CHAS. W. HOOPER, Promotion, Nov. 8, 1863; Captain, Sept., 1865.

E. C. MERRIAM, Promotion, Nov. 19, 1863; Captain, Sept., 1865.

HENRY A. BEACH, Promotion, April 30, 1864; Resigned, Sept 23, 1864.

E. W. ROBBINS, Promotion, April 30, 1864; Captain, Nov. 1, 1865.

ASA CHILD, Promotion, Sept, 1865; Mastered out, &c.

N. S. WHITE, Promotion, Sept, 1865; Captain, Nov. 18, 1865.

F. S. GOODRICH, Promotion, Oct., 1865; Mustered out, &c.

E. W. HYDE, Promotion, Oct 27, 1865; Mustered out, &c.

HENRY WOOD, Promotion, Nov., 1865; Mustered out, &c.

Second Lieutenants

J. A. TROWBMDGE, N. Y. Vol. Eng., Oct 13, 1862; First Lt, Aug. 11, 1863.

JAS. B. O-NBIL, 1st U. S. Art'y, Oct 13, 1862; First Lt, Jan. 10, 1863.

W. W. SAMPSON, 8th Me., Oct 13, 1862; First Lt, Jan 10, 1863.

J. M. THOMPSON, 7th N. H., Oct 13, 1862; First Lt, Jan. 27, 1863.

R. M. GASTON, 100th Pa., Oct. 13, 1862; First Lt, April 15, 1863.

W. H. HYDE, 6th Ct, Oct 13, 1862; First Lt, May 5, 1863.

JAS. B. WEST, 100th Pa., Oct. 13. 1862; First Lt, Feb. 28, 1863.

HARRY C. WEST, 100th Pa., Oct 13, 1862; Resigned, Nov. 4, 1864.

E. C. MERRIAM, 8th Me., Nov. 17, 1862; First Lt., Nov. 19, 1863.

CHAS. E. PARKER, 8th Me., Nov. 17, 1862; First Lt, Aug. 26, 1863.

C. W. HOOPER, N. Y. Vol. Eng., Feb. 17, 1863; First Lt, April 15, 1863.

N. G. PARKER, 1st Mass. Cavalry, March, 1863; First Lt, May 5, 1863.

A. H. TIRRELL, 1st Mass. Cav., March 6, 1863; Resigned, July 22, 1863.

A. W. JACKSON, 8th Me., March 6, 1863; First Lt, Aug. 26, 1863.

HENRY A. BEACH, 48th N. Y., April 5, 1863; First Lt, April 30, 1864.

E. W. ROBBINS, 8th Me., April 5, 1863; First Lt, April 30, 1864.

A. B. BROWN, Civil Life, April 17, 1863; Resigned, Nov. 27, 1863.

F. M. GOULD, 3d R. I. Battery, June 1, 1863; Resigned, June 8, 1864.

ASA CHILD, 8th Me., Aug. 7, 1863; First Lt, Sept., 1865.

JEROME T. FURMAN, 52d Pa., Aug. 30, 1863; Killed at Walhalla, S. C.,
Aug. 26, 1865.

JOHN W. SELVAGE, 48th N. Y., Sept 10, 1863; First Lt. 36th U. S. C. T.,
March, 1865.

MIRAND W. SAXTON, Civil Life, Nov. 19, 1863; Captain 128th U. S. C. T.,
June 25, 1864 [now Second Lt 38th U. S. Infantry].

NELSON S. WHITE, Dec. 22, 1863; First Lt, Sept., 1865.

EDW. W. HYDE, Civil Life, May 4, 1864; First Lt, Oct. 27, 1865.

F. S. GOODRICH, 115th N. Y., May, 1864; First Lt., Oct., 1865.

B. H. MANNING, Aug. 11, 1864; Capt 128th U. S. C. T., March 17, 1865.

R. M. DAVIS, 4th Mass. Cavalry, Nov. 19, 1864; Capt. 104th U. S. C. T.,
May 11, 1865.

HENRY WOOD, N. Y. Vol. Eng., Aug., 1865; First Lt, Nov., 1865.

JOHN M. SEAKLES, 1st N. Y. Mounted Rifles, June 15, 1865; Mustered out,

Appendix B The First Black Soldiers

It is well known that the first systematic attempt to organize colored
troops during the war of the rebellion was the so-called "Hunter
Regiment." The officer originally detailed to recruit for this purpose
was Sergeant C. T. Trowbridge, of the New York Volunteer Engineers (Col.
Serrell). His detail was dated May 7, 1862, S. O. 84 Dept. South.

Enlistments came in very slowly, and no wonder. The white officers and
soldiers were generally opposed to the experiment, and filled the ears
of the negroes with the same tales which had been told them by their
masters,--that the Yankees really meant to sell them to Cuba, and the
like. The mildest threats were that they would be made to work without
pay (which turned out to be the case), and that they would be put in the
front rank in every battle. Nobody could assure them that they and their
families would be freed by the Government, if they fought for it, since
no such policy had been adopted. Nevertheless, they gradually enlisted,
the most efficient recruiting officer being Sergeant William Bronson,
of Company A, in my regiment, who always prided himself on this service,
and used to sign himself by the very original title, "No. 1, African
Foundations" in commemoration of his deeds.

By patience and tact these obstacles would in time have been overcome.
But before long, unfortunately, some of General Hunter's staff became
impatient, and induced him to take the position that the blacks _must_
enlist. Accordingly, squads of soldiers were sent to seize all the
able-bodied men on certain plantations, and bring them to the camp. The
immediate consequence was a renewal of the old suspicion, ending in a
widespread belief that they were to be sent to Cuba, as their masters
had predicted. The ultimate result was a habit of distrust, discontent,
and desertion, that it was almost impossible to surmount. All the men
who knew anything about General Hunter believed in him; but they all
knew that there were bad influences around him, and that the Government
had repudiated his promises. They had been kept four months in service,
and then had been dismissed without pay. That having been the case, why
should not the Government equally repudiate General Saxton's promises or
mine? As a matter of fact, the Government did repudiate these pledges for
years, though we had its own written authority to give them. But that
matter needs an appendix by itself.

The "Hunter Regiment" remained in camp on Hilton Head Island until
the beginning of August, 1862, kept constantly under drill, but much
demoralized by desertion. It was then disbanded, except one company.
That company, under command of Sergeant Trowbridge, then acting as
Captain, but not commissioned, was kept in service, and was sent (August
5, 1862) to garrison St. Simon's Island, on the coast of Georgia. On
this island (made famous by Mrs. Kemble's description) there were then
five hundred colored people, and not a single white man.

The black soldiers were sent down on the Ben De Ford, Captain Hallett.
On arriving, Trowbridge was at once informed by Commodore Goldsborough,
naval commander at that station, that there was a party of rebel
guerillas on the island, and was asked whether he would trust his
soldiers in pursuit of them. Trowbridge gladly assented; and the
Commodore added, "If you should capture them, it will be a great thing
for you."

They accordingly went on shore, and found that the colored men of the
island had already undertaken the enterprise. Twenty-five of them had
armed themselves, under the command of one of their own number, whose
name was John Brown. The second in command was Edward Gould, who was
afterwards a corporal in my own regiment The rebel party retreated
before these men, and drew them into a swamp. There was but one path,
and the negroes entered single file. The rebels lay behind a great log,
and fired upon them. John Brown, the leader, fell dead within six feet
of the log,--probably the first black man who fell under arms in
the war,--several other were wounded, and the band of raw recruits
retreated; as did also the rebels, in the opposite direction. This was
the first armed encounter, so far as I know, between the rebels and
their former slaves; and it is worth noticing that the attempt was a
spontaneous thing and not accompanied by any white man. The men were
not soldiers, nor in uniform, though some of them afterwards enlisted in
Trowbridge's company.

The father of this John Brown was afterwards a soldier in my regiment;
and, after his discharge for old age, was, for a time, my servant.
"Uncle York," as we called him, was as good a specimen of a saint as I
have ever met, and was quite the equal of Mrs. Stowe's "Uncle Tom." He
was a fine-looking old man, with dignified and courtly manners, and his
gray head was a perfect benediction, as he sat with us on the platform
at our Sunday meetings. He fully believed, to his dying day, that the
"John Brown Song" related to his son, and to him only.

Trowbridge, after landing on the island, hunted the rebels all day with
his colored soldiers, and a posse of sailors. In one place, he found
by a creek a canoe, with a tar-kettle, and a fire burning; and it was
afterwards discovered that, at that very moment, the guerillas were hid
in a dense palmetto thicket, near by, and so eluded pursuit The rebel
leader was one Miles Hazard, who had a plantation on the island, and the
party escaped at last through the aid of his old slave, Henry, who
found them a boat One of my sergeants, Clarence Kennon, who had not then
escaped from slavery, was present when they reached the main-land; and
he described them as being tattered and dirty from head to foot, after
their efforts to escape their pursuers.

When the troops under my command occupied Jacksonville, Fla., in March
of the following year, we found at the railroad station, packed for
departure, a box of papers, some of them valuable. Among them was a
letter from this very Hazard to some friend, describing the perils of
that adventure, and saying, "If you wish to know hell before your time,
go to St Simon's and be hunted ten days by niggers."

I have heard Trowbridge say that not one of his men flinched; and they
seemed to take delight in the pursuit, though the weather was very hot,
and it was fearfully exhausting.

This was early in August; and the company remained two months at St
Simon's, doing picket duty within hearing of the rebel drums, though
not another scout ever ventured on the island, to their knowledge.
Every Saturday Trowbridge summoned the island people to drill with his
soldiers; and they came in hordes, men, women, and children, in every
imaginable garb, to the number of one hundred and fifty or two hundred.

His own men were poorly clothed and hardly shod at all; and, as no new
supply of uniform was provided, they grew more and more ragged. They got
poor rations, and no pay; but they kept up their spirits. Every week or
so some of them would go on scouting excursions to the main-land; one
scout used to go regularly to his old mother's hut, and keep himself hid
under her bed, while she collected for him all the latest news of rebel
movements. This man never came back without bringing recruits with him.

At last the news came that Major-General Mitchell had come to relieve
General Hunter, and that Brigadier-General Saxton had gone North; and
Trowbridge went to Hilton Head in some anxiety to see if he and his men
were utterly forgotten. He prepared a report, showing the services and
claims of his men, and took it with him. This was early in October,
1862. The first person he met was Brigadier-General Saxton, who informed
him that he had authority to organize five thousand colored troops, and
that he (Trowbridge) should be senior captain of the first regiment

This was accordingly done; and Company A of the First South Carolina
could honestly claim to date its enlistment back to May, 1862, although
they never got pay for that period of their service, and their date of
muster was November, IS, 1862.

The above facts were written down from the narration of
Lieutenant-Colonel Trowbridge, who may justly claim to have been the
first white officer to recruit and command colored troops in this war.
He was constantly in command of them from May 9, 1862, to February 9,

Except the Louisiana soldiers mentioned in the Introduction,--of whom
no detailed reports have, I think, been published,--my regiment was
unquestionably the first mustered into the service of the United States;
the first company muster bearing date, November 7, 1862, and the others
following in quick succession.

The second regiment in order of muster was the "First Kansas Colored,"
dating from January 13, 1863. The first enlistment in the Kansas
regiment goes back to August 6, 1862; while the earliest technical date
of enlistment in my regiment was October 19, 1862, although, as was
stated above, one company really dated its organization back to May,
1862. My muster as colonel dates back to November 10, 1862, several
months earlier than any other of which I am aware, among colored
regiments, except that of Colonel Stafford (First Louisiana Native
Guards), September 27, 1862. Colonel Williams, of the "First Kansas
Colored," was mustered as lieutenant-colonel on January 13, 1863;
as colonel, March 8, 1863. These dates I have (with the other facts
relating to the regiment) from Colonel R. J. Hinton, the first officer
detailed to recruit it.

To sum up the above facts: my late regiment had unquestioned priority in
muster over all but the Louisiana regiments. It had priority over those
in the actual organization and term of service of one company. On the
other hand, the Kansas regiment had the priority in average date of
enlistment, according to the muster-rolls.

The first detachment of the Second South Carolina Volunteers (Colonel
Montgomery) went into camp at Port Royal Island, February 23, 1863,
numbering one hundred and twenty men. I do not know the date of his
muster; it was somewhat delayed, but was probably dated back to about
that time.

Recruiting for the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts (colored) began on
February 9, 1863, and the first squad went into camp at Readville,
Massachusetts, on February 21, 1863, numbering twenty-five men. Colonel
Shaw's commission (and probably his muster) was dated April 17, 1863.
(Report of Adjutant-General of Massachusetts for 1863, pp. 896-899.)

These were the earliest colored regiments, so far as I know.

Appendix C General Saxton's Instructions

[The following are the instructions under which my regiment was raised.
It will be seen how unequivocal were the provisions in respect to pay,
upon which so long and weary a contest was waged by our friends in
Congress, before the fulfilment of the contract could be secured.]


GENERAL, Your despatch of the 16th has this moment been received. It is
considered by the Department that the instructions given at the time of
your appointment were sufficient to enable you to do what you have now
requested authority for doing. But in order to place your authority
beyond all doubt, you are hereby authorized and instructed,

1st, To organize in any convenient organization, by squads, companies,
battalions, regiments, and brigades, or otherwise, colored persons of
African descent for volunteer laborers, to a number not exceeding fifty
thousand, and muster them into the service of the United States for the
term of the war, at a rate of compensation not exceeding five dollars
per month for common laborers, and eight dollars per month for
mechanical or skilled laborers, and assign them to the Quartermaster's
Department, to do and perform such laborer's duty as may be required
during the present war, and to be subject to the rules and articles of

2d. The laboring forces herein authorized shall, under the order of
the General-in-Chief, or of this Department, be detailed by the
Quartermaster-General for laboring service with the armies of the United
States; and they shall be clothed and subsisted, after enrolment, in the
same manner as other persons in the Quartermaster's service.

3d. In view of the small force under your command, and the inability of
the Government at the present time to increase it, in order to guard the
plantations and settlements occupied by the United States from invasion,
and protect the inhabitants thereof from captivity and murder by the
enemy, you are also authorized to arm, uniform, equip, and receive into
the service of the United States, such number of volunteers of African
descent as you may deem expedient, not exceeding five thousand, and
may detail officers to instruct them in military drill, discipline, and
duty, and to command them. The persons so received into service, and
their officers, to be entitled to, and receive, the same pay and rations
as are allowed, by law, to volunteers in the service.

4th. You will occupy, if possible, all the islands and plantations
heretofore occupied by the Government, and secure and harvest the crops,
and cultivate and improve the plantations.

5th. The population of African descent that cultivate the lands and
perform the labor of the rebels constitute a large share of their
military strength, and enable the white masters to fill the rebel
armies, and wage a cruel and murderous war against the people of the
Northern States. By reducing the laboring strength of the rebels, their
military power will be reduced. You are therefore authorized by every
means in your power, to withdraw from the enemy their laboring force and
population, and to spare no effort, consistent with civilized warfare,
to weaken, harass, and annoy them, and to establish the authority of the
Government of the United States within your Department.

6th. You may turn over to the navy any number of colored volunteers that
may be required for the naval service.

7th. By recent act of Congress, all men and boys received into the
service of the United States, who may have been the slaves of rebel
masters, are, with their wives, mothers, and children, declared to be
forever free. You and all in your command will so treat and regard them.

Yours truly,



Appendix D The Struggle for Pay

The story of the attempt to cut down the pay of the colored troops is
too long, too complicated, and too humiliating, to be here narrated. In
the case of my regiment there stood on record the direct pledge of the
War Department to General Saxton that their pay should be the same as
that of whites. So clear was this that our kind paymaster, Major W. J.
Wood, of New Jersey, took upon himself the responsibility of paying the
price agreed upon, for five months, till he was compelled by express
orders to reduce it from thirteen dollars per month to ten dollars,
and from that to seven dollars,--the pay of quartermaster's men and
day-laborers. At the same time the "stoppages" from the pay-rolls for
the loss of all equipments and articles of clothing remained the same
as for all other soldiers, so that it placed the men in the most painful
and humiliating condition. Many of them had families to provide for, and
between the actual distress, the sense of wrong, the taunts of those who
had refused to enlist from the fear of being cheated, and the doubt how
much farther the cheat might be carried, the poor fellows were goaded
to the utmost. In the Third South Carolina regiment, Sergeant William
Walker was shot, by order of court-marital, for leading his company to
stack arms before their captain's tent, on the avowed ground that they
were released from duty by the refusal of the Government to fulfill
its share of the contract. The fear of such tragedies spread a cloud of
solicitude over every camp of colored soldiers for more than a year, and
the following series of letters will show through what wearisome labors
the final triumph of justice was secured. In these labors the chief
credit must be given to my admirable Adjutant, Lieutenant G. W.
Dewhurst In the matter of bounty justice is not yet obtained; there is
a discrimination against those colored soldiers who were slaves on April
19, 1861. Every officer, who through indolence or benevolent design
claimed on his muster-rolls that all his men had been free on that
day, secured for them the bounty; while every officer who, like myself,
obeyed orders and told the truth in each case, saw his men and
their families suffer for it, as I have done. A bill to abolish this
distinction was introduced by Mr. Wilson at the last session, but failed
to pass the House. It is hoped that next winter may remove this last
vestige of the weary contest

To show how persistently and for how long a period these claims had to
be urged on Congress, I reprint such of my own printed letters on the
subject as are now in my possession. There are one or two of which I
have no copies. It was especially in the Senate that it was so difficult
to get justice done; and our thanks will always be especially due to
Hon. Charles Sumner and Hon. Henry Wilson for their advocacy of our
simple rights. The records of those sessions will show who advocated the

To the Editor of the _New York Tribune_:

SIR,--No one can overstate the intense anxiety with which the officers
of colored regiments in this Department are awaiting action from
Congress in regard to arrears of pay of their men.

It is not a matter of dollars and cents only; it is a question of common
honesty,--whether the United States Government has sufficient integrity
for the fulfillment of an explicit business contract.

The public seems to suppose that all required justice will be done by
the passage of a bill equalizing the pay of all soldiers for the future.
But, so far as my own regiment is concerned, this is but half the
question. My men have been nearly sixteen months in the service, and for
them the immediate issue is the question of arrears.

They understand the matter thoroughly, if the public do not Every one
of them knows that he volunteered under an explicit _written assurance_
from the War Department that he should have the pay of a white soldier.
He knows that for five months the regiment received that pay, after
which it was cut down from the promised thirteen dollars per month to
ten dollars, for some reason to him inscrutable.

He does _not_ know for I have not yet dared to tell the men--that the
Paymaster has been already reproved by the Pay Department for fulfilling
even in part the pledges of the War Department; that at the next payment
the ten dollars are to be further reduced to seven; and that, to crown
the whole, all the previous overpay is to be again deducted or "stopped"
from the future wages, thus leaving them a little more than a dollar a
month for six months to come, unless Congress interfere!

Yet so clear were the terms of the contract that Mr. Solicitor Whiting,
having examined the original instructions from the War Department issued
to Brigadier-General Saxton, Military Governor, admits to me (under
date of December 4, 1863,) that "the faith of the Government was thereby
pledged to every officer and soldier enlisted under that call."

He goes on to express the generous confidence that "the pledge will be
honorably fulfilled." I observe that every one at the North seems
to feel the same confidence, but that, meanwhile, the pledge is
unfulfilled. Nothing is said in Congress about fulfilling it. I have not
seen even a proposition in Congress to pay the colored soldiers, _from
date of enlistment_, the same pay with white soldiers; and yet anything
short of that is an unequivocal breach of contract, so far as this
regiment is concerned.

Meanwhile, the land sales are beginning, and there is danger of every
foot of land being sold from beneath my soldiers' feet, because they
have not the petty sum which Government first promised, and then refused
to pay.

The officers' pay comes promptly and fully enough, and this makes the
position more embarrassing. For how are we to explain to the men the
mystery that Government can afford us a hundred or two dollars a month,
and yet must keep back six of the poor thirteen which it promised them?
Does it not naturally suggest the most cruel suspicions in regard to us?
And yet nothing but their childlike faith in their officers, and in that
incarnate soul of honor, General Saxton, has sustained their faith, or
kept them patient, thus far.

There is nothing mean or mercenary about these men in general. Convince
them that the Government actually needs their money, and they would
serve it barefooted and on half-rations, and without a dollar--for a
time. But, unfortunately, they see white soldiers beside them, whom they
know to be in no way their superiors for any military service, receiving
hundreds of dollars for re-enlisting for this impoverished Government,
which can only pay seven dollars out of thirteen to its black regiments.
And they see, on the other hand, those colored men who refused to
volunteer as soldiers, and who have found more honest paymasters than
the United States Government, now exulting in well-filled pockets, and
able to buy the little homesteads the soldiers need, and to turn
the soldiers' families into the streets. Is this a school for
self-sacrificing patriotism?

I should not speak thus urgently were it not becoming manifest that
there is to be no promptness of action in Congress, even as regards the
future pay of colored soldiers,--and that there is especial danger of
the whole matter of _arrears_ going by default Should it be so, it
will be a repudiation more ungenerous than any which Jefferson Davis
advocated or Sydney Smith denounced. It will sully with dishonor all
the nobleness of this opening page of history, and fix upon the North
a brand of meanness worse than either Southerner or Englishman has yet
dared to impute. The mere delay in the fulfillment of this contract has
already inflicted untold suffering, has impaired discipline, has relaxed
loyalty, and has begun to implant a feeling of sullen distrust in the
very regiments whose early career solved the problem of the nation,
created a new army, and made peaceful emancipation possible.

T. W. HIGGINSON, Colonel commanding 1st S. C. Vols.

BEAUFORT, S. C., January 22, 1864.

February 14, 1864.

To the Editor of the _New York Times_:

May I venture to call your attention to the great and cruel injustice
which is impending over the brave men of this regiment?

They have been in military service for over a year, having volunteered,
every man, without a cent of bounty, on the written pledge of the War
Department that they should receive the same pay and rations with white

This pledge is contained in the written instructions of
Brigadier-General Saxton, Military Governor, dated August 25, 1862. Mr.
Solicitor Whiting, having examined those instructions, admits to me that
"the faith of the Government was thereby pledged to every officer and
soldier under that call."

Surely, if this fact were understood, every man in the nation would see
that the Government is degraded by using for a year the services of the
brave soldiers, and then repudiating the contract under which they
were enlisted. This is what will be done, should Mr. Wilson's bill,
legalizing the back pay of the army, be defeated.

We presume too much on the supposed ignorance of these men. I have never
yet found a man in my regiment so stupid as not to know when he was
cheated. If fraud proceeds from Government itself, so much the worse,
for this strikes at the foundation of all rectitude, all honor, all

Mr. Senator Fessenden said, in the debate on Mr. Wilson's bill, January
4, that the Government was not bound by the unauthorized promises of
irresponsible recruiting officers. But is the Government itself an
irresponsible recruiting officer? and if men have volunteered in good
faith on the written assurances of the Secretary of War, is not Congress
bound, in all decency, either to fulfill those pledges or to disband the

Mr. Senator Doolittle argued in the same debate that white soldiers
should receive higher pay than black ones, because the families of the
latter were often supported by Government What an astounding statement
of fact is this! In the white regiment in which I was formerly an
officer (the Massachusetts Fifty-First) nine tenths of the soldiers'
families, in addition to the pay and bounties, drew regularly their
"State aid." Among my black soldiers, with half-pay and no bounty, not
a family receives any aid. Is there to be no limit, no end to the
injustice we heap upon this unfortunate people? Cannot even the fact
of their being in arms for the nation, liable to die any day in its
defence, secure them ordinary justice? Is the nation so poor, and so
utterly demoralized by its pauperism, that after it has had the lives
of these men, it must turn round to filch six dollars of the monthly pay
which the Secretary of War promised to their widows? It is even so, if
the excuses of Mr. Fressenden and Mr. Doolittle are to be accepted by
Congress and by the people.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

T, W. HIGGINSON, Colonel commanding 1st S. C. Volunteers.

NEW VICTORIES AND OLD WRONGS To the Editors of the Evening Post:

On the 2d of July, at James Island, S. C., a battery was taken by three
regiments, under the following circumstances:

The regiments were the One Hundred and Third New York (white), the
Thirty-Third United States (formerly First South Carolina Volunteers),
and the Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts, the two last being colored. They
marched at one A. M., by the flank, in the above order, hoping to
surprise the battery. As usual the rebels were prepared for them, and
opened upon them as they were deep in one of those almost impassable
Southern marshes. The One Hundred and Third New York, which had
previously been in twenty battles, was thrown into confusion; the
Thirty-Third United States did better, being behind; the Fifty-Fifth
Massachusetts being in the rear, did better still. All three formed in
line, when Colonel Hartwell, commanding the brigade, gave the order to
retreat. The officer commanding the Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts, either
misunderstanding the order, or hearing it countermanded, ordered his
regiment to charge. This order was at once repeated by Major Trowbridge,
commanding the Thirty-Third United States, and by the commander of the
One Hundred and Third New York, so that the three regiments reached the
fort in reversed order. The color-bearers of the Thirty-Third United
States and of the Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts had a race to be first
in, the latter winning. The One Hundred and Third New York entered the
battery immediately after.

These colored regiments are two of the five which were enlisted in
South Carolina and Massachusetts, under the written pledge of the War
Department that they should have the same pay and allowances as
white soldiers. That pledge has been deliberately broken by the War
Department, or by Congress, or by both, except as to the short period,
since last New-Year's Day. Every one of those killed in this action from
these two colored regiments under a fire before which the veterans of
twenty battles recoiled _died defrauded by the Government of nearly one
half his petty pay_.

Mr. Fessenden, who defeated in the Senate the bill for the fulfillment
of the contract with these soldiers, is now Secretary of the Treasury.
Was the economy of saving six dollars per man worth to the Treasury the
ignominy of the repudiation?

Mr. Stevens, of Pennsylvania, on his triumphal return to his
constituents, used to them this language: "He had no doubt whatever as
to the final result of the present contest between liberty and slavery.
The only doubt he had was whether the nation had yet been satisfactorily
chastised for their cruel oppression of a harmless and long-suffering
race." Inasmuch as it was Mr. Stevens himself who induced the House of
Representatives, most unexpectedly to all, to defeat the Senate bill for
the fulfillment of the national contract with these soldiers, I should
think he had excellent reasons for the doubt.

Very respectfully,

T. W. HIGGINSON, Colonel 1st S. C. Vols (now 33d U. S.) July 10, 1864.

To the Editor of the _New York Tribune_:

No one can possibly be so weary of reading of the wrongs done by
Government toward the colored soldiers as am I of writing about them.
This is my only excuse for intruding on your columns again.

By an order of the War Department, dated August 1, 1864, it is at length
ruled that colored soldiers shall be paid the full pay of soldiers from
date of enlistment, provided they were free on April 19, 1861,--not
otherwise; and this distinction is to be noted on the pay-rolls. In
other words, if one half of a company escaped from slavery on April 18,
1861, they are to be paid thirteen dollars per month and allowed three
dollars and a half per month for clothing. If the other half were
delayed two days, they receive seven dollars per month and are allowed
three dollars per month for precisely the same articles of clothing.
If one of the former class is made first sergeant, Us pay is put up to
twenty-one dollars per month; but if he escaped two days later, his pay
is still estimated at seven dollars.

It had not occurred to me that anything could make the payrolls of these
regiments more complicated than at present, or the men more rationally
discontented. I had not the ingenuity to imagine such an order. Yet it
is no doubt in accordance with the spirit, if not with the letter,
of the final bill which was adopted by Congress under the lead of Mr.
Thaddeus Stevens.

The ground taken by Mr. Stevens apparently was that the country might
honorably save a few dollars by docking the promised pay of those
colored soldiers whom the war had made free. _But the Government should
have thought of this before it made the contract with these men
and received their services_. When the War Department instructed
Brigadier-General Saxton, August 25, 1862, to raise five regiments
of negroes in South Carolina, it was known very well that the men so
enlisted had only recently gained their freedom. But the instructions
said: "The persons so received into service, and their officers, to be
entitled to and receive the same pay and rations as are allowed by law
to volunteers in the service." Of this passage Mr. Solicitor Whiting
wrote to me: "I have no hesitation in saying that the faith of the
Government was thereby pledged to every officer and soldier enlisted
under that call." Where is that faith of the Government now?

The men who enlisted under the pledge were volunteers, every one;
they did not get their freedom by enlisting; they had it already. They
enlisted to serve the Government, trusting in its honor. Now the nation
turns upon them and says: Your part of the contract is fulfilled; we
have had your services. If you can show that you had previously been
free for a certain length of time, we will fulfil the other side of the
contract. If not, we repudiate it Help yourselves, if you can.

In other words, a freedman (since April 19, 1861) has no rights which a
white man is bound to respect. He is incapable of making a contract No
man is bound by a contract made with him. Any employer, following the
example of the United States Government, may make with him a written
agreement receive his services, and then withhold the wages. He has no
motive to honest industry, or to honesty of any kind. He is virtually a
slave, and nothing else, to the end of time.

Under this order, the greater part of the Massachusetts colored
regiments will get their pay at last and be able to take their wives and
children out of the almshouses, to which, as Governor Andrew informs us,
the gracious charity of the nation has consigned so many. For so much I
am grateful. But toward my regiment, which had been in service and under
fire, months before a Northern colored soldier was recruited, the
policy of repudiation has at last been officially adopted. There is no
alternative for the officers of South Carolina regiments but to wait
for another session of Congress, and meanwhile, if necessary, act as
executioners for those soldiers who, like Sergeant Walker, refuse
to fulfil their share of a contract where the Government has openly
repudiated the other share. If a year's discussion, however, has at
length secured the arrears of pay for the Northern colored regiments,
possibly two years may secure it for the Southern.

T. W. HIGGINSON, Colonel 1st S. C. Vols. (now 33d V. S.)

August 12, 1864.

To the Editor of the _New York Tribune_:

SIR,--An impression seems to prevail in the newspapers that the lately
published "opinion" of Attorney-General Bates (dated in July last) at
length secures justice to the colored soldiers in respect to arrears of
pay. This impression is a mistake.

That "opinion" does indeed show that there never was any excuse for
refusing them justice; but it does not, of itself, secure justice to

It _logically_ covers the whole ground, and was doubtless intended to do
so; but _technically_ it can only apply to those soldiers who were free
at the commencement of the war. For it was only about these that the
Attorney-General was officially consulted.

Under this decision the Northern colored regiments have already got
their arrears of pay,--and those few members of the Southern regiments
who were free on April 19, 1861. But in the South Carolina regiments
this only increases the dissatisfaction among the remainder, who
volunteered under the same pledge of full pay from the War Department,
and who do not see how the question of their _status_ at some antecedent
period can affect an express contract If, in 1862, they were free enough
to make a bargain with, they were certainly free enough to claim its

The unfortunate decision of Mr. Solicitor Whiting, under which all
our troubles arose, is indeed superseded by the reasoning of the
Attorney-General. But unhappily that does not remedy the evil, which is
already embodied in an Act of Congress, making the distinction between
those who were and those who were not free on April 19, 1861.

The question is, whether those who were not free at the breaking out of
the war are still to be defrauded, after the Attorney-General has shown
that there is no excuse for defrauding them?

I call it defrauding, because it is not a question of abstract justice,
but of the fulfilment of an express contract

I have never met with a man, whatever might be his opinions as to the
enlistment of colored soldiers, who did not admit that if they had
volunteered under the direct pledge of full pay from the War Department,
they were entitled to every cent of it. That these South Carolina
regiments had such direct pledge is undoubted, for it still exists in
writing, signed by the Secretary of War, and has never been disputed.

It is therefore the plain duty of Congress to repeal the law which
discriminates between different classes of colored soldiers, or at least
so to modify it as to secure the fulfilment of actual contracts. Until
this is done the nation is still disgraced. The few thousand dollars
in question are nothing compared with the absolute wrong done and the
discredit it has brought, both here and in Europe, upon the national


Late Col. 1st S. C. Vols. (now 33d U. S. C. T.) NEWPORT, R. I, December
8, 1864.


"To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the United
States in Congress assembled:

"The undersigned respectfully petitions for the repeal of so much of
Section IV. of the Act of Congress making appropriations for the army
and approved July 4, 1864, as makes a distinction, in respect to pay
due, between those colored soldiers who were free on or before April 19,
1861, and those who were not free until a later date;

"Or at least that there may be such legislation as to secure the
fulfillment of pledges of full pay from date of enlistment, made by
direct authority of the War Department to the colored soldiers of South
Carolina, on the faith of which pledges they enlisted.

"THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON, Late Colonel 1st S. C. Vols. (now 33d U. S.
C. Vols.)

"NEWPORT, R. L, December 9, 1864."

Appendix E Farewell Address of Lt. Col. Trowbridge



February 9, 1866. GENERAL ORDERS, No. 1.

COMRADES,--The hour is at hand when we must separate forever, and
nothing can ever take from us the pride we feel, when we look back upon
the history of the First South Carolina Volunteers,--the first black
regiment that ever bore arms in defence of freedom on the continent of

On the ninth day of May, 1862, at which time there were nearly four
millions of your race in a bondage sanctioned by the laws of the land,
and protected by our flag,--on that day, in the face of floods of
prejudice, that wellnigh deluged every avenue to manhood and true
liberty, you came forth to do battle for your country and your kindred.
For long and weary months without pay, or even the privilege of being
recognized as soldiers, you labored on, only to be disbanded and sent
to your homes, without even a hope of reward. And when our country,
necessitated by the deadly struggle with armed traitors, finally granted
you the opportunity _again_ to come forth in defence of the nation's
life, the alacrity with which you responded to the call gave abundant
evidence of your readiness to strike a manly blow for the liberty of
your race. And from that little band of hopeful, trusting, and brave
men, who gathered at Camp Saxton, on Port Royal Island, in the fall of
1862, amidst the terrible prejudices that then surrounded us, has grown
an army of a hundred and forty thousand black soldiers, whose valor
and heroism has won for your race a name which will live as long as the
undying pages of history shall endure; and by whose efforts, united with
those of the white man, armed rebellion has been conquered, the millions
of bondmen have been emancipated, and the fundamental law of the land
has been so altered as to remove forever the possibility of human
slavery being re-established within the borders of redeemed America. The
flag of our fathers, restored to its rightful significance, now floats
over every foot of our territory, from Maine to California, and beholds
only freemen! The prejudices which formerly existed against you are
wellnigh rooted out

Soldiers, you have done your duty, and acquitted yourselves like men,
who, actuated by such ennobling motives, could not fail; and as the
result of your fidelity and obedience, you have won your freedom. And O,
how great the reward!

It seems fitting to me that the last hours of our existence as
a regiment should be passed amidst the unmarked graves of your
comrades,--at Fort Wagner. Near you rest the bones of Colonel Shaw,
buried by an enemy's hand, in the same grave with his black soldiers,
who fell at his side; where, in future, your children's children will
come on pilgrimages to do homage to the ashes of those that fell in this
glorious struggle.

The flag which was presented to us by the Rev. George B. Cheever and his
congregation, of New York City, on the first of January, 1863,--the
day when Lincoln's immortal proclamation of freedom was given to the
world,--and which you have borne so nobly through the war, is now to
be rolled up forever, and deposited in our nation's capital. And while
there it shall rest, with the battles in which you have participated
inscribed upon its folds, it will be a source of pride to us all to
remember that it has never been disgraced by a cowardly faltering in the
hour of danger or polluted by a traitor's touch.

Now that you are to lay aside your arms, and return to the peaceful
avocations of life, I adjure you, by the associations and history of the
past, and the love you bear for your liberties, to harbor no feelings of
hatred toward your former masters, but to seek in the paths of honesty,
virtue, sobriety, and industry, and by a willing obedience to the laws
of the land, to grow up to the full stature of American citizens. The
church, the school-house, and the right forever to be free are now
secured to you, and every prospect before you is full of hope and
encouragement. The nation guarantees to you full protection and justice,
and will require from you in return the respect for the laws and
orderly deportment which will prove to every one your right to all the
privileges of freemen.

To the officers of the regiment I would say, your toils are ended, your
mission is fulfilled, and we separate forever. The fidelity, patience,
and patriotism with which you have discharged your duties, to your men
and to your country, entitle you to a far higher tribute than any words
of thankfulness which I can give you from the bottom of my heart You
will find your reward in the proud conviction that the cause for which
you have battled so nobly has been crowned with abundant success.

Officers and soldiers of the Thirty-Third United States Colored Troops,
once the First South Carolina Volunteers, I bid you all farewell!

By order of Lt.-Col. C. T. TROWBRIDGE, commanding Regiment

E. W. HYDE, Lieutenant and Acting Adjutant.


[page numbers have been retained for the W. W. Norton paperback reprint
to show relative location in file.]


Aiken, William, GOT., 166

Aiken, South Carolina, 249

Allston, Adam, Corp., 103

Andrew, J. A., Gov., 29, 215, 216, sends Emancipation Proclamation to
Higginson, 85

Bates, Edward, 275

Battle of the Hundred Pines, 95, 104

Beach, H. A., Lt, 257, 258

Beaufort, South Carolina, 33, 34, 38, 106, 142, 215 Higginson visits, 64
Negro troops march through, 74 picket station near, 134 residents visit
camp, 147 Negro troops patrol, 219

Beauregard, P. G.T., Gen., 45, 73

Beecher, H. R., Rev., 241

Bell, Louis, Col., 225

Bennett, W. T., Gen., 249, 255

Bezzard, James, 95

Bigelow, L. F., Lt, 28

Billings, L., Lt.-Col., 255

Bingham, J. M., Lt, 170, 257

Brannan, J. M, Gen., 107

Brisbane, W. H., 60

Bronson, William, Sgt, 260

Brown, A. B., Lt, 258

Brown, John, 29, 45, 61, 76

Brown, John (Negro), 262

Brown, York, 262 Bryant, J. E., Capt, 220

Budd, Lt, 83

Burnside, A. E., Gen., 54, 55

Butler, B. F., Gen., 27

Calhoun, J. C., Capt., 150 Camplife, 30 evening activities, 36-39, 44-49
Casualties, 89

Chamberlin, G. B., Lt., 177, 257 Chamberlin, Mrs., 229

Charleston, South Carolina, attacked, 137, 143, 150  Negro troops in,
249 Charleston and Savannah Railway, 163

Cheever, G. B., Rev., 278

Child, A. Lt, 258

Christmas, 55, 56

Clark, Capt, 84, 89, 102

Clifton, Capt, 100, 101

Clinton, J. B., Lt, 165

Colors, Stands of, 56, 60

Confederates, 35 use spies, 91, 93 attack Negro troops, 86-87, 100-102
threaten to burn Jacksonville, 110 civilians fear Negro troops, 116
retreat, 126-127,142

Connecticut Regiment, Sixth, 122, 124, 126 Seventh, 93

Corwin, B. R., MaJ., 120, 126

Crandall, W. B., Surg., 255

Crum, Simon, Corp., 249

Cushman, James, 241

Danilson, W. H., Maj., 93, 256,

Davis, C. I., Lt., 257

Davis., R. M., Lt., 259

Davis, W. W. H., Gen., 164

Department of the South, 15, 80 quiet, 106 colored troops in, 137

Desertions, 62

Dewhurst, G. W., Adjt, 256

Dewhurst, Mrs., 229

Discipline, need for, 29 Negroes accept, 39

Dolly, George, Capt., 172, 256

Doolittle, J. R., 271

Drill, of Negroes, 46, 51, 245 whites, 64-65

Drinking, absence of, 58

Duncan, Lt. Com., 109, 111

Dupont, S. F., Admiral, 15, 82, 91, 99, 108, 137

Dutch, Capt., 166

Edisto expedition, 163-176, 214

Education, desire for, 48

Emancipation Proclamation, 65 read, 60 sent to Higginson, 85

Fernandina, Florida, 84, 91, 104

Fessenden, W. P., 271, 272

Finnegan, Gen., 115

Fisher, J., Lt., 257

Florida, 221 men under Higginson, 35 slaves know about Lincoln, 46
refugees from, 49 Foraging, 99, 104, 117, 120 restraint in, 96-97 in
Florida, 221

Fowler, J. H., Chap., 59, 119, 221,

Fremont, J. C., Gen., 46, 61

French, J., Rev., 60, 123

Furman, J. T., Lt, 258

Gage, F. D., Mrs., 61

Garrison, W. L., 236

Gaston, William, Lt., 257

Gilmore, Q. A., Gen., 176, 224, 226, 228 writes on Charleston, 163
approves Edisto expedition, 164

Goldsborough, Commodore, 231,

Goodell, J. B., Lt., 28

Goodrich, F. S., Lt., 258, 259

Gould, E. Corp., 261

Gould, F. M., Lt, 258

Greeley, Horace, 164

Greene, Sgt, 125

Hallett, Capt, 80, 81, 261

Hallowell, E. N., Gen., 216, 230,

Hamburg, South Carolina, 249

Hartwell, A. S., Gen., 272

Hawks, J. M., Surg., 256

Hawley, J. R., Gen., 93,102,114

Hayne, H. E., Sgt., 249

Hazard, Miles, 262

Heasley, A, Capt., 220, 256

Heron, Charles, 126

Hilton Head, 32 Higginson visits, 106 troops on duty at, 214

Hinton, R. J., Col., 264

Holden, Lt, 126

Hooper, C. W., Capt., 154, 226, 256, 257, 258

Hospital, camp, 56, 63

Howard University, 250

Hughes, Lt. Com., 91, 93, 94

Hunter, David., Gen.-28, 35, 40, 62, 80, 124, 130, 131, 138, 164, 260,
261, 263 takes Negro sgt to N.Y., 73 visits camp, 76 speaks to
Negro troops, 76 Higginson confers with, 106 orders evacuation of
Jacksonville, 107 attacks Charleston, 137 goes North, 150

Hyde, E. W., Lt, 258, 259, 279

Hyde, W. H., Lt, 89, 257

Jackson, A. W., Capt, 87, 89, 256, 257, 258

Jacksonville, Florida Confederates threaten to burn, 110 Higginson's men
reach, 112-113 description of, 114-115 order to evacuate, 130 attempts
to bum, 130-131

James, William, Capt., 96,165,256

Jekyll Island, 83

Johnston, J. F., Lt, 257

Jones, Lt., 89

Kansas, 29, 43, 64

Kemble, Fanny, 82, 261

Kennon, Clarence, Cpl., 262

King, T. B., 82

Lambkin, Prince, Cpl., 45, 116

Leslie's Illustrated Weekly, 56

Lincoln, Abraham, 46, 238

London Spectator, 76

Long, Thomas, CpL, 240

Mclntyre, H., Sgt., 85, 86, 239

Maine, 43

Maine Regiment, Eighth, 75, 123, 124, 126

Manning, B. H., Lt, 259

Maroons, 235, 237

Massachusetts Regiment, First, 139 Fifty-Fourth, 27, 215, 232

Meeker, L., Maj., 122, 126

Merriam, E. C., Capt, 256, 257

Metcalf, L. W., Capt, 85, 87, 96, 220, 256

Miller family, 234

Minor, T. T, Surg., 87, 256

Mitchell, O. M., Gen., 263

Montgomery, James, Col., 114, 120, 130, 264 enters Jacksonville, 112
river raid led by, 120, 129, 164

Moses, Acting Master, 83

Mulattoes, 33, 42, 234 pass for white, 49-50

Music, troops play, 47, 187-213

Negro soldiers visited, 30 work at night, 38-39 as sentinels, 42, 66-69
honor and fidelity, 66 march to Beaufort, 74-75 conduct under fire,
86-87, 100-101, 128-129 treatment of whites by, 116 on picket duty, 133
on raid up Edisto, 167-176 appraisal of, 231-247 from North and South

Negro spirituals, 187-213

Negroes, traits of, 66, 69-71 physical condition of, 72, 246 set free by
Higginson's men, 166-169

New Hampshire Regiment, Fourth, 139, 225

New Year's celebration, 55, 56, 57-61

New York, 34 Officers, white, 51

O'Neil, J. B., Lt., 257

Osborne, Lt., 220

Parker, C. E., Lt., 257

Parker, N. B., Capt., 256, 257, 258

Parsons, William, 89

Phillips, Wendell, 118, 236

Pomeroy, J., Lt, 257

Port Royal, 82, 83, 124 capture of, 164 as winter camp, 177 new camp at,
215 objective of Sherman, 247

Ramsay, Allan, 209

Randolph, W. J., Capt, 120, 256

Rebels. See Confederates Religious activities, 47, 48, 240-241

Rivers, Prince, Sgt., 61,75,245,249 qualities of, 73, 78 plants colors,

Robbins, E. W., Capt, 256, 257,

Roberts, Samuel, 231

Rogers, J. S., Capt, 103, 173, 250, 256

Rogers, Seth, Surg., 89, 103, 255

Rust, J. D., Col., 124, 125,126,131

Sammis, Col., 49

St. Simon's Island, 83, 84

Sampson, W. W., Capt, 170, 256,

Savannah, Georgia, 115, 249

Saxton, M. W., Lt., 258

Saxton, Rufus, Gen., 29, 55, 58, 59, 61,70,76,80,88,102,108, 143,
164, 216, 224, 225, 229, 232, 235, 261, 263, 267, 269, 270, 273 offers
command to Higginson, 78 Higginson reports to, 33 issues proclamation,
34 receives recruits, 40 speaks on New Year's program, Negroes idolize,
66 speaks to troops, 76 initiates plans for Shaw monument, 217 Christmas
party, 219

Searles, J. M., Lt., 259

Sears, Capt., 94

Selvage, J. M., Lt, 258

Serrell, E. W., Col., 260

Seward, W. H., 238

Seymour, T., Gen., 132, 228

Shaw, R. G., Col., 170, 264, 278 camp named for, 215 Higginson meets,
216 killed, 217

Sherman, W. T., Gen., 170, 247

Showalter, Lt.-Col, 128

"Siege of Charleston," 163

Simmons, London, Cpl., 245

Slavery, effect of, 38, 244

Smalls, Robert, Capt, 33, 80

Songs, Negro, 136, 187-213

South Carolina, 29 men under Higginson, 35, 40 man reads Emancipation
Proclamation, 59-60

South Carolina Volunteers, First, 27, 237 order to Florida
countermanded, 225 becomes Thirty-third U.S. Colored Troops, 248 South
Carolina Volunteers, Second, 27, 126, 264

Sprague, A. B. R., Col., 28

Stafford, Col., 264

Stanton, E. M., 266

Steedman, Capt, 130

Stevens, Capt, 83

Stevens, Thaddeus, 272, 273

Stickney, Judge, 61, 106, 114

Stockdale, W, Lt, 257

Stone, H. A., Lt, 257

Strong, J. D., Lt.-Col., 80, 121, 126, 172, 174, 175, 255

Stuard, E. S., Surg., 256

Sumner, Charles, 268

Sunderland, Col., 113

Sutton, Robert, Sgt, 61, 88, 94, 95, 188 character of, 78-79 leads men,
85-86 wounded, 90 exhibits slave jail, 97-98 court-martialed, 104

Thibadeau, J. H., Capt, 257

Thompson, J. M., Capt, 256, 257

Tirrell, A. H., Lt, 258

Tobacco, use of, 58

Tonking, J. H., Capt, 256

Trowbridge, C. T., Lt-Col., 164, 167, 169, 175, 226, 231, 235, 243, 245,
249, 255, 256, 260, 262, 263, 272, 277-279 commands "Planter," 80,103
and men construct Ft Montgomery, 121 on river raid, 165

Trowbridge, J. A., Lt, 257, 258

Tubman, Harriet 37 Twichell, J. F., Lt-CoL, 123, 126 Virginia

Vendross, Robert, Cpl., 249

Walker, G. D., Capt, 257

Walker, William, Sgt., 267, 274

War Department, 40, 93

Washington, William, 44

Watson, Lt., 109

Webster, Daniel, 27

Weld, S. M., 216

West, H. C., Lt, 258

West, J. B., Lt, 257, 258

White, E. P., Lt, 257

White, N. S, Capt, 256, 258, 259

Whiting, William, 269, 270, 274, 275

Whitney, H. A., Maj, 170, 220, 255, 256

Wiggins, Cyrus, 250

Williams, Harry, Sgt., 220

Williams, Col., 264

Wilson, Henry, 268, 271

Wilson family, 233

Wood, H., Lt, 258, 25?

Wood, W. J., Maj., 267

Woodstock, Georgia, 95

Wright, Gen., 107, 112

Wright, Fanny, 234

Yellow Fever, fear of, 74

Zachos, Dr., 41

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