January 2, 1863.
. . . I did not observe any reporters at our barbecue yesterday, but I presume some of the journals will contain enough to make it unnecessary for me to write more than my letter of yesterday. I will, however, reiterate the statement that it was the most eventful day of my life. To know what I mean you must stand in the midst of the disenthralled and feel the inspiration of their birth into freedom. . . . There is nothing in history more touching and beautiful than the spontaneous outburst of these freed men and women just at the moment when our gallant colonel was receiving the flag of the regiment. None of us had ever heard them sing America, and the most infinite depth and tenderness of
My Country 'tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
was inspiring to the last degree. I doubt if our Col. ever spoke so well and he justly attributed inspiration to the unexpected singing of the hymn.
SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June,1910: February 1910. p. 341