Showing posts with label Blacks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blacks. Show all posts

Monday, November 16, 2020

Dr. Seth Rogers to his daughter Dolly, January 28, 1863

January 28, 1863.

 While superintending the transfer of the wounded from the John Adams last night, I sent ashore for mattrasses, but without success. This morning I have been ashore and procured a bale of fine hay from Quartermaster Seward, a gentleman who was my partner at euchre on the Delaware and who is now very prompt in doing what he can for us, so that now our men are about as comfortably placed as if they were in a hospital. Yesterday I saw how difficult it is to keep down vandalism when a town is to be burned. In this respect the blacks are much more easily controlled than the whites. Of course we have a right to appropriate what we need in the service of Uncle Sam, but I would be as severe as the Colonel is on individual appropriations. My only regret about burning the town is that we did not give those “unprotected ladies” the protection of our flag and then burn every house. I find the same feeling among officers here in Fernandina. If we are ever to put down this ungodly rebellion, we must act on the broadest principles of justice. If I offer my life in the defence of my country I shall not be slow nor economical in my demands upon my enemies. This is true justice and wise humanity. Just now two companies were sent to St. Mary's on the Planter to load brick; I let Dr. Minor go with them. That I did not go myself instead was the bravest thing I have done since I came to Dixie.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 351-2

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Dr. Seth Rogers to his daughter Dolly, Sunday, February 1, 1863

Sunday, February 1, 1863.

This morning the Planter, with Capt. [Charles T.] Trowbridge's and Capt. Rogers' companies, met us in St. Simon's Bay. They have not been idle. They left Cumberland Bay the day before yesterday and taking the inside route, destroyed some salt works, which operation has damaged the rebels to the extent of about twenty five thousand dollars. They met with no opposition, but had a hard time dragging their boats through a marsh. The marshes, or savannahs, in this part of the country, which border the rivers, are almost impassable for human beings, yet many a slave has waded through them toward the north star of freedom.

Today I find a formidable sick list, the result of huddling so many men together in the hold of the John Adams, but I think nothing serious will come of it. The officer in command at Fernandina has no authority to send out a flag of truce with prisoners, so we take all ours to Beaufort. I am exceedingly glad of it, since I have found, through Robert Sutton, that one of them shot a man while he was trying to escape to the “yankees.” After I had dressed Robert's wound, this morning, he took me to the rebel and ingeniously made him say: “No, you are mistaken, the gun went off accidentally.” “And besides he was not killed, but died of fever.” “Then,” said I, “you did threaten to shoot him?” “Yes, but intended it only as a threat.” Robert said “I know you killed him;” and I to Robert, “The testimony of black men is legal now in Florida.”

We are taking several white soldiers and officers from Fernandina to Hilton Head. Their prejudice against our soldiers is amusing. We happen to have command of this steamer and, of course, have the best places. I find white soldiers sleep on deck rather than go below with our men. Last evening I saw a Lieutenant getting two of our soldiers to take his trunk down to the cabin and he was rather suddenly informed by Lieut. West that United States soldiers were not to be called upon to do menial service. Another Lieut. expressed the opinion to our rough and ready Capt. [George] Dolly, that “these niggers never would fight much. Dolly, in his fearful way, said; “You d----d fool; these soldiers have already fought more bravely than you ever will, you who have lived a couple of years on Uncle Sam without earning a cent for him.” The Lieut. did not think it safe to reply. I fancy Dolly. He is a vandal, but generous and brave. His men love him and fear him. His orders are somewhat terse, when in battle. I happened to be standing by him when he gave the command, “Cease firing, but if they fire again, “give ’em hell.

The Colonel's daring bravery has deepened the love and admiration of his men and officers. I have been a constant source of annoyance to him by words of caution, but am happy to know that they were heeded. The death of Capt. Clifton was a terrible confirmation of all I have said, and I doubt if the Major [Strong] again puts himself unnecessarily in the way of so much danger. I could not get the ball that passed through the mess room where I was writing, but I picked one up in the prisoner's room, adjoining. Had we been the prisoners, our place would have been on the upper deck, where they begged we would not put them, and where no one dreamed of putting them. All of them, except Mr. B., are now forward with the soldiers.

Our expedition has been a capital success. We have had our soldiers three times under fire and know that they only care to face the enemy. We know also, that they can be trusted with the conquered foe. Not a single unbecoming act have I seen or heard of on the part of the guards, skirmishers or pickets. It was not for want of temptation, and I am led to wonder at their self-control. The material benefit to the Government, of the expedition, is not inconsiderable. We are more than ever satisfied that the blacks must help us in this war.

The next question to solve, is, how to penetrate far enough into the interior to free them. Possibly it remains for our regiment to solve this problem. Give us a good gunboat and plenty of ammunition to help us into the midst of them and I think we may trust God and our determination for the result.1


1 Colonel Higginson's report of this expedition up St. Mary's River is in [the] Records of the Rebellion, xiv. 195.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 354-6

Monday, August 10, 2020

Dr. Seth Rogers to his Daughter, December 27, 1862

December 27, 1862.

. . . There is a little more of solid reality in this work of camp-life than I have found in any previous experience. You remember my delight in the life of ship surgeon, when I had three hundred and fifty of the lowest Irish to care for. Multiply that delight by ten and you will approximate to what I get among these children of the tropics. A more childlike, jovial, devotional, musical, shrewd, amusing set of beings never lived. Be true to them and they will be devoted to you. I leave all my things in tent unguarded and at loose ends, as I could never think of doing in a white regiment, and if I ever lose anything you shall be informed. Their religious devotion is more natural than any I ever witnessed. At this moment the air is full of melody from the tents, of prayer and hymns, mingled with the hearty yah, yah, of the playful outsiders.

Last night I had too many business letters to get off in today's mail to allow me time for writing half of what I wished, and since then I have lived so long that much has been lost in the ages. I want, once for all, to say that Col. H. is splendid — pardon the McClellan word, — beyond even my anticipation, which, you know, has for years been quite exalted. I stood by General [Rufus] Saxton, who is a West Pointer, the other night, witnessing the dress parade, and was delighted to hear him say that he knew of no other man who could have magically brought these blacks under the military discipline that makes our camp one of the most enviable. Should we by possibility ever increase to a brigade I can already foresee that our good Colonel is destined to be the Brigadier General.

I am about selecting my orderly from among the privates, and just now a Lieutenant brought little “ Charlie" before me: a boy of fourteen or fifteen, who saw his master shot at Hilton Head without weeping over it; who had some of his own teeth knocked out at the same time. He has always taken care of his master and knows so many things that I shall probably avail myself of his bright eyes and willing bands. We have had an old uncle “Tiff,” whom I should take if I had the time and strength to wait upon him when he should get too tired to wait upon me. He is a dear old man who prays day and night.

I have forgotten whether I have written that the mocking-bird sings by day and the cricket by night. To me it is South America over again. The live oak grows to enormous size. Today I made thirty of my longest paces across the diameter of the branches of one of these handsome trees. The beautiful gray moss pendent everywhere from its branches gave the most decided impression of fatherliness and age.

Col. H. kindly invited James and me to mess with him and the adjutant. Thus we have a pleasant little table under the supervision of “William and Hattie,” in an old home just outside the camp. I am yet sharing the young captain's tent, but in a day or two shall have my own pitched. . . . We are not more than fifty rods from the shore. Our landing is remarkable for its old fort, built of shells and cement in 16— by Jean Paul de la Ribaudière. Its preservation is almost equal to monuments perpetuated by Roman cement.

The chance for wild game here is excellent, and in anticipation I enjoy it much, while in reality I doubt whether I shall ever find time for such recreation, and actual profit to our stomachs. It is not very easy for us to get fresh meat here, but we shall not suffer, because oysters are plentiful and fresh.

Our Chaplain is a great worker, and has a good influence over the soldiers — I presume Mr. Wasson knows him, — Mr. [James H.] Fowler, who was not long ago at Cambridge.

My first assistant surgeon is Dr. [J. M.] Hawks of Manchester, N. H. He is a radical anti-slavery man, somewhat older than I, and has had a large medical experience and in addition has been hospital surgeon at Beaufort during several months. He has been rigidly examined by three regimental surgeons from New England, and they have given him a very flattering certificate of qualification. I consider myself fortunate in having a man so well fitted for the place. The men and officers like him, and I fancy will take to him quite as much as to me. The second assistant is not yet decided upon, but will probably be a young man who has already been several months in the army. The hospital steward has also had experience . . .

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June,1910: February 1910. p. 338-9

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Lieutenant-Colonel Robert E. Lee, 1856

[Fort Brown, Texas, 1856]

In this enlightened age there are few, I believe, but will acknowledge that slavery, as an institution, is a moral and political evil in any country. I think it, however, a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, and while my feelings are strongly interested in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are stronger for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially and physically. . . . While we see the course of the final abolition of slavery is onward and we give it the aid of our prayers and all justifiable means in our power, we must leave the progress as well as the result in His hands who sees the end, ... and with whom a thousand years are but as a single day.

SOURCE: Randolph Harrison McKim, The Soul of Lee, p. 20

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

A New Sensation—Talk of Peace—Unofficial Commissioners to Richmond—Unofficial Rebel Commissioners—The War to be Carried on for Abolition Purposes Only.

WASHINGTON, July 21, 1864.
Editors of the Enquirer:

Since I closed my letter at noon, a new sensation has appeared on the political board.  The word Peace has been uttered this afternoon as if had some insignificance.  We find that two prominent friends of the Administration have, with the direct approval and aid of Mr. Lincoln, visited Richmond, held conferences with Jeff. Davis and his Secretary of War, and returned highly pleased with the courtesy with which they were received and treated at the Confederate Capital.  Then on the other side, we have the correspondence between certain Confederate gentlemen, Horace Greely and the President in relation to a restoration of the Union by means of peace.  No other talk has been heard this afternoon, except about these two missions.  Though neither of the quasi commissioners—those from the North to Richmond, nor those at Niagara had official authority, yet each acted with the consent of its respective government; and that is a mode often resorted to by belligerent parties, to ascertain the sentiments of the other preliminary to regulate authorized negotiations.

The Commissioners to Richmond were Colonel Jos. F. Jaques, of the 73rd Illinois volunteers, and Mr. Edward Kirke, a gentleman of some literary pretentions and merit.  They have returned to the city, and it is well understood they went to Richmond to ascertain, if the war could not be stopped by a return of the seceded states on terms alike honorable to both parties.  They were in Richmond three days, had free Conference with Mr. Davis and his Secretary, Mr. Benjamin, on the subject of their visit, were treated like gentleman, and returned in good spirits.

You have doubtless read the result of the attempt made by the Southern Commissioners, at Niagara, to obtain an interview with Mr. Lincoln. It was a failure.  The contrast between the conduct of the authorities, at Richmond, towards Messrs. Jaques and Kirke, and that of Lincoln to Messers. Clay and Holcomb, is a painful one to the people of the North.  It shows there are gentleman at the head of the government at Richmond, and a boor at the head of the government at Washington.  The former are not afraid to be talked to on the subject of our difficulties by even unofficial visitors, while the latter seems to think that not only his own dignity, but the cause of the North itself, would be compromised by a conference with gentlemen from the Confederacy.  Humanity and civilization will  accord to the authorities at Richmond the mood of the praise for their willingness to listen to any within their lines, by permission of the President of the United States.

Mr. Lincoln lays down a finality, which, will preclude any conference for a settlement.  That finality is the unconditional abolishment of slavery.  He will not listen to peace on any other terms.  He will not hear what the South may have to say.  He closes all avenues of conciliation except through that one door.  He says the war shall not stop until the blacks are all freed.  He says that this is not a war for the Union, but a war for the negro.  He says that he orders conscriptions, that men are torn from their families, their relatives and friends not to restore the Union, but to free the negro.  He admits that we are making an enormous public debt, that will bring untold sorrow upon toil and labor, not for our liberty or the protections of our government, or the preservation of our national life, but to make the negro like the white man.  He sets up a condition precedent, which must be performed before the seceded States can return to the union, and which he has no authority to impose.  This war is to be continued for no other object than the abolition of slavery. Mr. Lincoln gives that to be distinctly understood.  The country will know hereafter precisely, what the war is continued for.  Every solder will know what he is fighting for, and every one that is killed will lose his life not for the Union, the Stars and Stripes, but for the negro.


SOURCE: The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio, Monday, July 25, 1864, p. 2; Maysville Weekly Bulletin, Maysville, Kentucky, Thursday, July 28, 1864, p. 2.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Major-General William T. Sherman: Special Field Orders No. 15, January 16, 1865

HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI,                     
In the Field, Savannah, Ga.,              
January 16, 1865.

I. The islands from Charleston south, the abandoned rice-fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the Saint John's River, Fla., are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.

II. At Beaufort, Hilton Head, Savannah, Fernandina, Saint Augustine, and Jacksonville the blacks may remain in their chosen or accustomed vocations; but on the islands, and in the settlements hereafter to be established, no white person whatever, unless military officers and soldiers detailed for duty, will be permitted to reside; and the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves, subject only to the United States military authority and the acts of Congress. By the laws of war and orders of the President of the United States the negro is free, and must be dealt with as such.  He cannot be subjected to conscription or forced military service, save by the written orders of the highest military authority of the Department, under such regulations as the President or Congress may prescribe; domestic servants, blacksmiths, carpenters, and other mechanics will be free to select their own work and residence, but the young and able-bodied negroes must be encouraged to enlist as soldiers in the service of the United States, to contribute their share toward maintaining their own freedom and securing their rights as citizens of the United States. Negroes so enlisted will be organized into companies, battalions, and regiments, under the orders of the United States military authorities, and will be paid, fed, and clothed according to law. The bounties paid on enlistment may, with the consent of the recruit, go to assist his family and settlement in procuring agricultural implements, seed, tools, boats, clothing, and other articles necessary for their livelihood.

III. Whenever three respectable negroes, heads of families, shall desire to settle on land, and shall have selected for that purpose an island, or a locality clearly defined within the limits above designated, the inspector of settlements and plantations will himself, or by such subordinate officer as he may appoint, give them a license to settle such island or district, and afford them such assistance as he can to enable them to establish a peaceable agricultural settlement. The three parties named will subdivide the land, under the supervision of the inspector, among themselves and such others as may choose to settle near them, so that each family shall have a plot of not more than forty acres of tillable ground, and when it borders on some water channel with not more than 800 feet water front, in the possession of which land the military authorities will afford them protection until such time as they can protect themselves or until Congress shall regulate their title. The quartermaster may, on the requisition of the inspector of settlements and plantations, place at the disposal of the inspector one or more of the captured steamers to ply between the settlements and one or more of the commercial points, heretofore named in orders, to afford the settlers the opportunity to supply their necessary wants and to sell the products of their land and labor.

IV. Whenever a negro has enlisted in the military service of the United States he may locate his family in any one of the settlements at pleasure and acquire a homestead and all other rights and privileges of a settler as though present in person. In like manner negroes may settle their families and engage on board the gun-boats, or in fishing, or in the navigation of the inland waters, without losing any claim to land or other advantages derived from this system. But no one, unless an actual settler as above defined, or unless absent on Government service, will be entitled to claim any right to land or property in any settlement by virtue of these orders.

V. In order to carry out this system of settlement a general officer will be detailed as inspector of settlements and plantations, whose duty it shall be to visit the settlements, to regulate their police and general management, and who will furnish personally to each head of a family, subject to the approval of the President of the United States, a possessory title in writing, giving as near as possible the description of boundaries, and who shalt adjust all claims or conflicts that may arise under the same, subject to the like approval, treating such titles altogether as possessory. The same general officer will also be charged with the enlistment and organization of the negro recruits and protecting their interests while absent from their settlements, and will be governed by the rules and regulations prescribed by the War Department for such purpose.

VI. Brig. Gen. R. Saxton is hereby appointed inspector of settlements and plantations and will at once enter on the performance of his duties. No change is intended or desired in the settlement now on Beaufort Island, nor will any rights to property heretofore acquired be affected thereby.

By order of Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman:
L. M. DAYTON,                   
Assistant Adjutant-General.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 47, Part 2 (Serial No. 99), p. 60-2

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Nathaniel Peabody Rogers: Colonization, June 23, 1838

There is either a most strange delusion, or an obstinate wickedness in men, in relation to this matter of expatriating our colored people — probably both — for delusion — “strong delusion generally attends a long course of transgression. We believe, if there is any one crime in this land, on which the Father of the human family looks down with more displeasure than on any other, it is on this deliberate and malicious wrong and insult entertained by a portion of the proud people of this country towards their humbler brethren — a deliberate, premeditated, cool-blooded plot to banish them from their native land, and to send them to the most undesirable spot on earth. God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Christ our Lord tells us in the story of the good Samaritan, who is our neighbor, and what loving him is, in practice. We ask the reverends and honorables, who compose the official list of New Hampshire Colonization, if the good Samaritan would have joined the Colonization Society. The question need only be asked. The idea of such a man as he, entering into a conspiracy like this, is so absurd, as to be almost ludicrous on the very face of it. Colonization is hate of one's neighbor, of the very deepest and most far-reaching kind.

But the organization is getting to be matter of form merely — it can't act. It may raise contributions of some amount—but no widows' mites — and not from many hands. It is impotent malice now — and kept up, probably, as a set-off effort versus anti-slavery. We are loath to speak severely of the names who compose this benevolent enterprise, but cannot help it. If we feel justly towards the plot, we feel severely, and must speak as we feel. It is not only a wicked plot against our innocent and injured (ah, injured beyond reparation) brethren, but it is a most mean and dishonorable service, done at the bidding of the slaveholder of the South. He wants to get the free man of color away, so that he can the more securely grind down the colored bond man. Poor Mr. Observer remarks that “the colored man must have a soil of his own, before he can rise.” Pray, what does he mean by a soil of his own? soil that he owns? or a sort of black soil? Can't he own soil in this country? Truly he can, if these Observers will only get out of the way, and let us win him his liberty, and let him work for wages. Free colored people are rising now as rapidly and as palpably as water ever rose in a freshet. They rise, as fast as such philanthropists as the Observer fall. The Observer's fall is their rise, and his rise their fall. Colored men can earn money and buy and own soil, and do now buy and own it. They need not go to Africa for soil. The land they own here is their soil, and the country they are born in is their native country. A man's native country (this is said for the especial benefit of Observers and colonizationists) is the country a man is born in. He can't have but one. He can't be born in one country, and have a native land somewhere else — in some other country. The land he is born on, and no other, is his native land, and it is equally so with colored people, and those who have less or no color. No American, United States-born man can have two native lands, or can have one without the limits of America. He can no more be born here and have him a native land in Africa, than an African, born on the Gold Coast, can make him out a native land here in New England. This is really so — there is no mistake — there is no two ways about it. This is a cardinal point, and it ought to be settled and made clear to the minds of our colonization brethren. They have a strong notion of restoring colored people to their native Africa — to their own soil, as the Observer calls it — where they can rise. The soil of Africa is supposed to be theirs by a kind of nativity, though they were born here, and their fathers and grandfathers before them, and their fathers not only American-born, in some cases, but “as white,” as the African prince said of the Dane — the first creature of that complexion he ever saw — “as white as the very devil,” — not only white, but white slaveholders, owners of their own children — sellers of their own blood and bones. What soil have they in Africa then, on which they can rise? None, unless they go and buy it, which they will never do. And what does the Observer mean by rising? He means getting to be governor, councillor, general court man, deputy secretary, dancing master, clerk in a store, dandy, — any of these elevations, which whiteness of outside and total lack of inside, will give folks here.

Now colored people don't want this sort of elevation; all they want is common liberty common humanity — a common sort of human chance for their lives. They don't care about rising very high. As to rising out of the dust and dunghill, into which this inhuman people have trodden them that they will do, as soon as colonizationists will take their feet off of their necks and breasts, where they are now planted. They stand on the very breasts of the colored people, and look down and taunt them with incapacity to rise; and wickedly say to them, I'll step off of you, if you will creep away to Africa before you rise. You may go freely — with your own consent — mind that; you are not to be forced away; but unless you do most voluntarily and freely consent, I shall stand here, with both my Anglo-Saxon hind-feet plump on your breast bone, where the night-mare plants her hoof, shod all round with palsy, and you never can rise till you rise to the judgment. It is a pity you can't rise in this country; but you see how it is. God has placed you in an inferior position; you are evidently beneath me, and I above you. I am your friend. I belong to an “American Union for your race's relief,” and also to a “Liberian association, auxiliary to said Union;” and besides, your people, when they stand up straight here, and we are not standing on them, have an unpleasant fragrance which annoys our noses exceedingly; but as you lay now, right under our noses, somehow or other we do not seem to smell you. And moreover we are in the way of evangelizing the world; we've got that work on our hands, and are in a hurry about it — and we must take in Africa, and we don't want to go there. The climate is deadly, the people black and inferior, and we are not exactly on terms with them, and we want you to do what is to be done there; in the way of evangelizing. You can do it well enough for black people, though you can't rise to human level here. We want to colonize you for the sake of Africa — the millions of Africa. Oh, how our hearts bleed (now we think on't) for poor, benighted Africa! And then, that accursed, bloody slave trade — we want that stopped. Why, our Congress declares it piracy. We wont have the market stopped. We'll keep up slavery here, in an improved state. We'll ameliorate, and have it done "kindly;" but that traffic on salt water must be stopped, and you must go to Africa and put it down there. Q. E. D.

SOURCE: Collection from the Miscellaneous Writings of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers, Second Edition, p. 48-51 which states it was published in the Herald of Freedom of June 23, 1838.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Gerrit Smith

As long as Andersonville shall live in the world's memory, (and can its sins and sorrows ever be forgotten?) so long shall it warn men not to trample upon nor forget the rights of their fellow-men. By the way, the guilt of Andersonville rests not alone on the South. The North has countenanced and justified the Southern contempt and denial of the rights of the black man. Nor was this by Democrats only. The Republican Party, though not so extensively, was also involved in the guilt. The doctrine that the black man has no rights, is still virtually subscribed to, not only by the mass of the Democrats, but by multitudes of Republicans also. Many a Northern church is still defiled by it. The religion and politics, the commerce and social usages of the North are all to be held as having a part in fashioning the policy which rules at Andersonville; the policy of ignoring the rights of prisoners of war, and of starving and murdering them. Moreover, many a prisoner there, if his sufferings have sufficiently clarified his vision for it, is able to see that he is himself chargeable with a responsible part in the production of those sufferings; — ay, that he is “hoist with his own petard.” In his political or ecclesiastical party, and elsewhere also, he has contributed to uphold the southern policy of excluding the black man from all rights; and consequently, as events have proved, of excluding himself too from them.

SOURCES: Octavius Brooks Frothingham, Gerrit Smith: A Biography, p. 264-5

Thursday, August 8, 2019

George L. Stearns to Mary Hall Stearns, August 17, 1863

Stanton has waked up and ordered me to plump myself down in Tennessee, right in the centre of the accursed institution, and go to work. Having sent Fred Douglas there to stir up, I suppose, he wants me to organize and utilize the batch. Well, it is what I came here to do and as that is undoubtedly the best place to do it, I am most happy to go. McKim said I could not reasonably expect to be obliged “to rough it at the Continental” all the time.

My new place for work is to the South what Buffalo was to the West and East — a centre from which to radiate, and I have determined either to burn slavery out, or be burnt by it myself.

Yesterday I went out to camp with Morris L. Hallowell and stopped a few minutes to see Lucretia Mott. She accepts very gracefully the present state of affairs, but looks forward to a state of society when war will be unnecessary. So do I, but told her that this war was a civiliser, not a barbarism. The use of the musket was the first step in the education of the black man. This she accepted. She is a great woman. If you want to know how great she is draw her out on principles not on specialties.

SOURCE: Preston Stearns, The Life and Public Services of George Luther Stearns, p. 308

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Diary of William Howard Russell: July 15, 1861

I need not speak much of the events of last night, which were not unimportant, perhaps to some of the insects which played a leading part in them. The heat was literally overpowering; for in addition to the hot night there was the full power of most irritable boilers close at hand to aggravate the natural désagrémens of the situation. About an hour after dawn, when I turned out on deck, there was nothing visible but a warm gray mist; but a knotty old pilot on deck told me we were only going six knots an hour against tide and wind, and that we were likely to make less way as the day wore on. In fact, instead of being near Baltimore, we were much nearer Fortress Monroe. Need I repeat the horrors of this day? Stewed, boiled, baked, and grilled on board this miserable Elizabeth, I wished M. Montalembert could have experienced with me what such an impassive nature could inflict in misery on those around it. The captain was a shy, silent man, much given to short naps in my temporary berth, and the mate was so wild, he might have swam off with perfect propriety to the woods on either side of us, and taken to a tree as an aborigine or chimpanzee. Two men of most retiring habits, the negro, a black boy, and a very fat negress who officiated as cook, filled up the “balance” of the crew.

I could not write, for the vibration of the deck of the little craft gave a St. Vitus dance to pen and pencil; reading was out of the question from the heat and flies; and below stairs the fat cook banished repose by vapors from her dreadful caldrons, where, Medea-like, she was boiling some death broth. Our breakfast was of the simplest and — may I add? — the least enticing; and if the dinner could have been worse it was so; though it was rendered attractive by hunger, and by the kindness of the sailors who shared it with me. The old pilot had a most wholesome hatred of the Britishers, and not having the least idea till late in the day that I belonged to the old country, favored me with some very remarkable views respecting their general mischievousness and inutility. As soon as he found out my secret he became more reserved, and explained to me that he had some reason for not liking us, because all he had in the world, as pretty a schooner as ever floated and a fine cargo, had been taken and burnt by the English when they sailed up the Potomac at Washington. He served against us at Bladensburg. I did not ask him how fast he ran; but he had a good rejoinder ready if I had done so, inasmuch as he was up West under Commodore Perry on the lakes when we suffered our most serious reverses. Six knots an hour! hour after hour! And nothing to do but to listen to the pilot.

On both sides a line of forest just visible above the low shores. Small coasting craft, schooners, pungies, boats laden with wood creeping along in the shallow water, or plying down empty before wind and tide.

“I doubt if we'll be able to catch up them forts afore night,” said the skipper. The pilot grunted, u I rather think yu'll not.” "H--- and thunder! Then we'll have to lie off till daylight?” “They may let you pass, Captain Squires, as you've this Europe-an on board, but anyhow we can't fetch Baltimore till late at night or early in the morning.”

I heard the dialogue, and decided very quickly that as Annapolis lay somewhere ahead on our left, and was much nearer than Baltimore, it would be best to run for it while there was daylight. The captain demurred. He had been ordered to take his vessel to Baltimore, and General Butler might come down on him for not doing so; but I proposed to sign a letter stating he had gone to Annapolis at my request, and the steamer was put a point or two to westward, much to the pleasure of the Palinurus, whose “old woman” lived in the town. I had an affection for this weather-beaten, watery-eyed, honest old fellow, who hated us as cordially as Jack detested his Frenchman in the old days before ententes cordiales were known to the world. He was thoroughly English in his belief that he belonged to the only sailor race in the world, and that they could beat all mankind in seamanship; and he spoke in the most unaffected way of the Britishers as a survivor of the old war might do of Johnny Crapaud — “They were brave enough no doubt, but, Lord bless you, see them in a gale of wind! or look at them sending down top-gallant masts, or anything sailor-like in a breeze. You'd soon see the differ. And, besides, they never can stand again us at close quarters.” By and by the houses of a considerable town, crowned by steeples, and a large Corinthian-looking building, came in view. “That's the State House. That's where George Washington — first in peace, first in war, and first in the hearts of his countrymen — laid down his victorious sword without any one asking him, and retired amid the applause of the civilized world.” This flight I am sure was the old man's treasured relic of school-boy days, and I'm not sure he did not give it to me three times over. Annapolis looks very well from the river side. The approach is guarded by some very poor earthworks and one small fort. A dismantled sloop of war lay off a sea wall, banking up a green lawn covered with trees, in front of an old-fashioned pile of buildings, which formerly, I think, and very recently indeed, was occupied by the cadets of the United States Naval School. “There was a lot of them Seceders. Lord bless you! these young ones is all took by these States Rights' doctrines — just as the ladies is caught by a new fashion.”

About seven o'clock the steamer hove along-side a wooden pier which was quite deserted. Only some ten or twelve sailing boats, yachts, and schooners lay at anchor in the placid waters of the port which was once the capital of Maryland, and for which the early Republicans prophesied a great future. But Baltimore has eclipsed Annapolis into utter obscurity. I walked to the only hotel in the place, and found that the train for the junction with Washington had started, and that the next train left at some impossible hour in the morning. It is an odd Rip Van Winkle sort of a place. Quaint-looking boarders came down to the tea-table and talked Secession, and when I was detected, as must ever soon be the case, owing to the hotel-book, I was treated to some ill-favored glances, as my recent letters have been denounced in the strongest way for their supposed hostility to States Rights and the Domestic Institution. The spirit of the people has, however, been broken by the Federal occupation, and by the decision with which Butler acted when he came down here with the troops to open communications with Washington after the Baltimoreans had attacked the soldiery on their way through the city from the north.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, Vol. 1, p. 419-22

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Gerrit Smith’s Speech on the Fort Pillow and Plymouth Massacres: Peterboro, Massachusetts, April 26, 1864.

The whole civilized world will be startled and horrified by this slaughter of probably not less than five or six hundred persons. The excuse in the case of a part of the slaughtered is, that they were traitorous citizens of the Confederacy: in the case of another part, that they were whites fighting by the side of blacks: in the case of the remainder, including women and even children, that they were blacks. That these were blacks, was cause enough why, though numbering three or four hundred, they should be murdered — murdered in utter contempt of all the sacred rights of prisoners of war. It is of the crime against these, I would now speak.

Who are to be held amenable for this crime? The rebels. Yes, but not the rebels only. The authorship of this crime, so matchless in its worst features, is very comprehensive. The responsibility for it is wider than our nation. England shares in the authorship and responsibility, because it was she who planted slavery in America, and because it is slavery out of which this crime has come. Our own nation, however, is the far guiltier one. The guilt of this crime is upon all her people who have contributed to that public sentiment, which releases white men from respecting the rights of black men. Our highest Court says that this satanic sentiment prevailed in the early existence of our nation. Certain it is, that it has prevailed in all the later periods of that existence. Who are they who have contributed to generate it? All who have held that blacks are unfit to sit by the side of whites in the church, the school, the car and at the table. All who have been in favor of making his complexion shut out a black man from the ballot-box. All who have been for making a man's title to any of the rights of manhood turn on the color of the skin in which his Maker has chosen to wrap him. All, in short, who have hated or despised the black man.

Even President Lincoln, whom God now blesses and will yet more bless for the much he has done for his black brethren, is not entirely innnocent of the Fort Pillow and Plymouth massacres. Had his plan of “Reconstruction” recognized the right of the black men to vote, it would thereby have contributed to lift them up above outrage, instead of contributing, as it now does, to invite outrage upon them. By the way, it is a pity that he undertook “Reconstruction.” It was entirely beyond his civil capacity to do so: and it was entirely beyond his military capacity to have a part in setting up any other than a military or provisional government. Moreover, this is the only kind of government which it is proper to set up in the midst of war. The leisure and advantages of peace are necessary in the great and difficult work of establishing a permanent government. In this connection let me advert for a moment to the doctrine, “Once a State always a State” — a doctrine so frequently wielded against “Reconstruction” on any terms. Where is the authority for this doctrine? In the Constitution, it is said. But nowhere does the Constitution say that a State may plunge into war, secure at all hazards from some of the penalties of war. But amongst the penalties of war is whatever change the conqueror may choose to impose upon the conquered territory. I admit that it is very desirable to have all the revolting States reestablished — reinstated. But that there is any law by which this becomes inevitable is absurd. Nowhere does the Constitution say that a State is to be exempt from the operation of the law of war. Nowhere does it undertake to override the law of war. How clear is it, then, that by this paramount law these revolted States will, when conquered, lie at the will of the conqueror! And how clear is it, that it will then turn not at all upon the Constitution, but upon this will of the conqueror, backed by this paramount law of war, whether the old statehood of these States shall be revived, or whether they shall be remanded to a territorial condition, and put upon their good behavior!

There is another instance in which the President has contributed to that cruel public sentiment, which leaves the black race unprotected. I refer to his so strangely long delay in promising protection to the black soldier, and to the even longer and not yet ended delay in affording it. The President is a humane as well as an honest man; and the only explanation I can find for his delay to protect the black soldier and to put an end, so far as in him lies, to the various, innumerable, incessant outrages upon the freedmen is in the continuance of his childish and cowardly desire to conciliate his native Kentucky and the Democratic party.

I argued that even President Lincoln is responsible in some degree for that public sentiment, which invites outrage upon the black man and leaves him a prey to the wicked. Those Members of Congress, who are opposing the reasonable measure of letting the black man vote in the Territories, are also guilty of favoring that public sentiment which broke out in the crime at Fort Pillow and Plymouth. Similarly guilty are those members who would make the pay of a black soldier less than that of a white one. And so are those members who consent to leave a fugitive slave statute in existence. In a word, all should tax their consciences with the sin of this public sentiment and with the resulting crime at Fort Pillow and Plymouth, whose influence, by either word or deed, has been to keep up in this heathen land the caste-spirit—that preeminent characteristic of heathenism. I call this a heathen land. To the Christ-Religion — that simple religion of equal rights and of doing as you would be done by — there can be no greater insult than to call a nation in which, as in this, the most cruel and murderous caste-spirit prevails, a Christian nation.

Both on the right hand and on the left, I hear that our nation is to be saved. But my fears that it will not, often become very strong. That the Rebellion is to be crushed, I deeply believe. Often in the course of Providence a wicked people, which is itself to be afterward destroyed, is previously to be used in destroying another and generally more wicked people. There are striking illustrations of this in the Bible. The duty of abolitionists and anti-abolitionists, Democrats and Republicans, to work unitedly, incessantly, and unconditionally for the overthrow of the Rebellion I have not only never doubted, but ever urged. I hold it to be unpatriotic and even traitorous for the Abolitionists to make any conditions in behalf of their specialty, and to propose, as some of them do, to go against the Rebellion only so far as going against it will be going against slavery. So too are those Democrats unpatriotic and even traitorous who can favor the War, only under the stipulation that it be so conducted as to harm neither the Democratic party nor the Constitution. To put down the Rebellion is an object immeasurably higher than to save a party or to save the Constitution, or even to save the country. No man is right-minded, who would not have it put down, even though it be at the expense of the last man and the last dollar.

If anything makes me doubt that the Rebellion will be crushed it is the omission of Congress to abolish slavery, now when it is so clearly seen that the abolition of slavery is an indispensable means to the abolition of the Rebellion. The proposed Amendment to the Constitution I take no interest in. One reason why I do not, is, that it is not a proposition to abolish slavery now. Another is, that war is not the time to be tinkering at constitutions. I see it denied that Congress has the power, even as a war measure, to abolish slavery. Amazing delusion! There is in every nation an absolute power for carrying on war. The nation that disclaims it may as well give up being a nation. In our own, this power is vested in Congress. Congress is to declare war: and Congress is “to make all laws necessary and proper (itself of course the sole judge of the necessity and propriety) for carrying into execution” the declaration. Is it the institution of apprenticeship, which it finds to be in the way of the successful prosecution of the war — then is it to sweep it out of the way. Is it the abomination of slavery? — then is it to strike at that.

There is, however, one thing more which sometimes, though not often, raises a doubt in me whether the Rebellion will be crushed. It is the premature agitation of the Presidential question. When the Rebellion broke out, I assumed that it would be put down in a few months — for I assumed that this greatest crime against nationality and humanity would arouse and unite the whole North. How greatly was I mistaken Very soon the Democratic party was seen to prefer itself to the country. The Republican party stood by the country. But at the present time there is no little danger that the country may be sacrificed in a strife between the members of the Republican party. For, taking advantage of this strife, the Democratic party may succeed in getting the reins of Government into the hands of one of its pro-slavery peacemakers. But I may be asked — will not the rebels be conquered and the country saved before the next Election? I still hope so — and until the last few months I believed so. But is there not some reason to fear that the North will be wrought up to a greater interest in this year's Presidential than in this year's military campaign In other words, is there not some reason to fear that, for the coming six months, politics instead of patriotism will be in the ascendant?

I still say, as through the past winter I have frequently said, written, and printed — that the Presidential question should not have been talked of, no, nor so much as thought of, until midsummer. The first of September is quite early enough to make the nomination; and in the mean time, undistracted by this so distracting subject, we should be working as one man for the one object of ending the Rebellion — and of ending it before reaching the perils of a presidential election. And such working would best educate us to make the best choice of a candidate. Moreover, it is the condition the country will be in three or four months hence, rather than the condition it is now in, that should be allowed to indicate the choice. Great and rapidly successive are the changes in the circumstances of a country in time of war. To nominate a President in time of peace, six months earlier than is necessary, all would admit to be great folly. But greater folly would it be to nominate him in time of war even a single month earlier than is necessary. The Baltimore Convention is understood to be a movement for renominating President Lincoln, and the Cleveland Convention one for nominating General Fremont. Would that both Conventions were dropped Would indeed that the whole subject were dropped until July or August! — and would too that it were dropped with the understanding, that it should then be taken up, not by the politicians, but by the people!

The people would present a loyal and an able candidate: and whether it were Lincoln or Fremont, Chase or Butler, Dickinson or Dix, the country would be safe.

I recall at this moment the large and respectable meeting for consultation held in Albany last January. What a pity that the meeting took fright at the temperate and timely resolutions reported to it! What a pity that the meeting saw in them danger to the country, or perhaps, more properly speaking, to a party! One of these resolutions and its advocates urged the importance of postponing until the latest possible day the whole subject of a Presidential nomination: and, had it been adopted and published, it would not unlikely have exerted sufficient influence to bring about such postponement. Time has proved the wisdom of the other resolutions also. I wish I could, without seeming egotism, say that slavery, and slavery alone, having brought this war upon us, they, who have given but little thought to slavery, should be too modest to toss aside indignantly and sneeringly the suggestions of those who have made it their life-long study. Were these resolutions now published, almost every man who opposed them, would wonder that he had so little foresight as to oppose them.

And there is still another thing which should perhaps be allowed to suggest a doubt whether the rebellion will be crushed. It is, that we are so reluctant to pay the cost of crushing it. Our brave soldiers and sailors give their lives to this end. But we who stay at home shrink from the money tax which is, and which should be far more largely put upon us. Our nation is imperiled by the incessant outflow of a big stream of gold. Wise and patriotic as he is, our Secretary of the Treasury will nevertheless labor in vain to diminish this stream unless importations shall be taxed far more heavily. Deeply disgraceful are these importations when it is by all that is precious in the very life of our nation that they are forbidden. Surely it is no time now to be indulging in foreign luxuries: and as to necessaries, our own country can furnish them all. Luxuries, whether foreign or domestic, should all come now with great cost to the consumer. And only a small return for protecting their estates from the rebels would it be for the rich to pay over to Government one fourth, and the very rich one half of their incomes. Let me add in this connection that the State Banks should be so patriotic, as to rejoice in the national advantage of an exclusively National currency.

I expressed my belief that the rebellion will be crushed — but my doubt whether the nation will be saved. A guilty nation, like a guilty individual, can be saved through repentance only. But where are the proofs that this nation has so much as begun to repent of the great sin, which has brought the great calamity upon her? She has, it is true, dome much to prove that she regards slavery as a political and economical evil, and a source of great peril to the nation: but she has done exceedingly little toward proving that she has a penitent sense of her sin in fastening the yoke of slavery on ten to twenty millions of this and former generations. It is only here and there — at wide intervals both of time and space — that has been heard the penitent exclamation, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother;” — only at these wide intervals that has been seen any relaxation of the national hatred and scorn for the black man. “Abolitionist,” which, when the nation shall be saved, will be the most popular name in it, is still the most odious and contemptible name in it. That the fugitive slave statute is still suffered to exist, is ample proof that this nation has still a devil's heart toward the black man. How sad that even now, when because of the sin of slaveholding, God is making blood flow like water in this land, there should be found members of Congress, who claim this infernal statute to be one of the rights of slaveholding! As if slaveholding had rights! As if any thing else than punishment were due to it! — punishment adequate to its unmingled, unutterable, and blasphemous wrongs!

I shall, however, be told that slavery will soon be abolished by an Amendment of the Constitution. And what will such an Amendment say? Why, nothing more than that slavery ought not to be — must not be — when it shall no longer be constitutional. What, however, the American people need to say, is, that be it constitutional or unconstitutional, slavery shall not be. So they are always prepared to say regarding murder. But slavery is worse than murder. Every right-minded man had far rather his child were murdered than enslaved. Why, then, do they not affirm that, in no event, will they tolerate slavery any more than murder? The one answer is — because it is the black man, and the black man only, on whom slavery falls. Were white Americans to be enslaved in a Barbary State, or anywhere else, our nation would respect no pleadings of statutes or even of constitutions for their enslavement. In defiance of whatever pleas or whatever restraints, she would release them if she could. The most stupendous hypocrisy of which America has been guilty, is first professing that there is law for slavery — law for that which all law proclaims an outlaw — law for that in which there is not one element of law, but every element of which is an outrage upon law; and second, in professing it, not because she has a particle of belief in it — but simply because blacks instead of whites are the victims of her slavery. America declared that John Brown was “rightly hung.” How hypocritical was the declaration, may be inferred from the fact that had they been white instead of black slaves whom he flung away his life to rescue, she would have honored him as perhaps man has never been honored. And she would have made his honors none the less, but heaped them up all the more, if, in prosecuting his heroic and merciful work, he had tossed aside statutes and broken through sacred constitutions. Oh! if this nation shall ever be truly saved, it will no longer regard John Brown as worthy of the fate of a felon; but it will build the whitest monuments to his memory, and cherish it as the memory. of the sublimest and most Christ-like man the nation has ever produced! Some of the judgments of John Brown — especially such as led him to Harper's Ferry — were unsound and visionary. Nevertheless, even when committing his mistakes, he stood, by force of the disinterestedness and greatness of his soul, above all his countrymen.

Would Congress contribute most effectively to put down the rebellion, and to save the nation by the great salvations of penitence and justice — the only real salvations? Would it do this? — then let it pass, solemnly and unanimously, a resolution that there never was and never can be, either inside or outside of statutes or constitutions, law for slavery; and then another resolution that whoever shall attempt to put the yoke of slavery on however humble a neck, black or white, deserves to be put to death.

A word further in regard to the proposed Amendment. Were the impudent and monstrous claim of its being law set up for murder, no one would propose an amendment of the Constitution forbidding murder. The only step in that case would be to make the penalty for the crime more sure and if possible more severe. Such an amendment would be strenuously objected to, in that it would stain the Constitution with the implication that murder had been constitutional. And now, if we shall have a Constitutional Amendment, which, in terms, forbids slavery, (it is already forbidden by the spirit, principles, and even provisions of the Constitution,) shall we not be virtually admitting to the world and to posterity that this nation had been guilty of tolerating, if not indeed of positively authorizing, in its Constitution the highest crime of earth o God save us from an admission, which shall serve both to stamp us with infamy and to perpetuate the infamy!

PETERBoro, April 26, 1864.

SOURCES: Octavius Brooks Frothingham, Gerrit Smith: A Biography, p. 260; Gerrit Smith, Speeches and Letters of Gerrit Smith (from January 1863, to January 1864), on the Rebellion,  Volume 2, p. 7-13

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Diary of Gideon Welles: Monday, April 25, 1864

Reverses in North Carolina are bad at this time. The death of Flusser is most unfortunate. I presume the blame of the disasters will be attributed to the Navy, which, in fact, is merely auxiliary to the army. Letter-writers and partisan editors who are courted and petted by the military find no favor with naval men, and as a consequence the Navy suffers detraction.

Burnside's army corps passed through Washington to-day, whites, blacks, and Indians numbering about 30,000. All the indications foreshadow a mighty conflict and battle in Virginia at an early day.

Fox and Edgar have gone to Fortress Monroe. Calls for naval aid and assistance come up from that quarter.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 17

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

John A. Quitman to Colonel Platt Brush, August 23, 1823

Soldier's Retreat, near Natchez, Aug. 23d, 1823.

Since my last letter, my dear Col. Brush, I have been a refugee from Natchez, where the yellow fever is raging. Our bar is quartered at various country-seats — not boarding; a Mississippi planter would be insulted by such a proposal; but we are enjoying the hospitalities that are offered to us on all sides. The awful pestilence in the city brings out, in strong relief, the peculiar virtues of this people. The mansions of the planters are thrown open to all comers and goers free of charge. Whole families have free quarters during the epidemic, and country wagons are sent daily to the verge of the smitten city with fowls, vegetables, etc., for gratuitous distribution to the poor. I am now writing from one of those old mansions, and I can give you no better notion of life at the South than by describing the routine of a day. The owner is the widow of a Virginia gentleman of distinction, a brave officer, who died in the public service during the last war with Great Britain.1 She herself is a native of this vicinity, of English parents settled here in Spanish times. She is an intimate friend of my first friend, Mrs. Griffith, and I have been in the habit of visiting her house ever since I came South. The whole aim of this excellent lady seems to be to make others happy. I do not believe she ever thinks of herself. She is growing old, but her parlor is constantly thronged with the young and gay, attracted by her cheerful and never-failing kindness. There are two large families from the city staying here, and every day some ten or a dozen transient guests. Mint-juleps in the morning are sent to our rooms, and then follows a delightful breakfast in the open veranda. We hunt, ride, fish, pay morning visits, play chess, read or lounge until dinner, which is served at two P.M. in great variety, and most delicately cooked in what is here called the Creole style — very rich, and many made or mixed dishes. In two hours afterward every body — white and black — has disappeared. The whole household is asleep—the siesta of the Italians. Tho ladies retire to their apartments, and the gentlemen on sofas, settees, benches, hammocks, and often, gipsy fashion, on the grass under the spreading oaks. Here, too, in fine weather, the tea-table is always set before sunset, and then, until bedtime, we stroll, sing, play whist, or coquet. It is an indolent, yet charming life, and one quits thinking and takes to dreaming.

This excellent lady is not rich, merely independent; but by thrifty housewifery, and a good dairy and garden, she contrives to dispense the most liberal hospitality. Her slaves appear to be, in a manner, free, yet are obedient and polite, and the farm is well worked. With all her gayety of disposition and fondness for the young, she is truly pious, and in her own apartment every night she has family prayer with her slaves, one or more of them being often called on to sing and pray. When a minister visits the house, which happens very frequently, prayers night and morning are always said, and on these occasions the whole household and the guests assemble in the parlor: chairs are provided for the servants. They are married by a clergyman of their own color, and a sumptuous supper is always prepared. On public holidays they have dinners equal to an Ohio barbecue, and Christmas, for a week or ten days, is a protracted festival for the blacks. They are a happy, careless, unreflecting, good-natured race, who, left to themselves, would degenerate into drones or brutes, but, subjected to wholesome restraint and stimulus, become the best and most contented of laborers. They are strongly attached to “old massa” and “old missus,” but their devotion to “young massa” and “young missus” amounts to enthusiasm. They have great family pride, and are the most arrant coxcombs and aristocrats in the world. At a wedding I witnessed here last Saturday evening, where some 150 negroes were assembled, many being invited guests, I heard a number of them addressed as governors, generals, judges, and doctors (the titles of their masters), and a spruce, tight-set darkey, who waits on me in town, was called “Major Quitman.” The “colored ladies” are invariably Miss Joneses, Miss Smiths, or some such title. They are exceedingly pompous and ceremonious, gloved and highly perfumed. The “gentlemen” sport canes, ruffles, and jewelry, wear boots and spurs, affect crape on their hats, and carry huge cigars. The belles wear gaudy colors, “tote” their fans with the air of Spanish senoritas, and never stir out, though black as the ace of spades, without their parasols. In short, these “niggers,” as you call them, are the happiest people I have ever seen, and some of them, in form, features, and movement, are real sultanas. So far from being fed on “salted cotton-seed,” as we used to believe in Ohio, they are oily, sleek, bountifully fed, well clothed, well taken care of, and one hears them at all times whistling and singing cheerily at their work.2 They have an extraordinary facility for sleeping. A negro is a great night-walker. He will, after laboring all day in the burning sun, walk ten miles to a frolic, or to see his “Dinah,” and be at home and at his work by daylight next morning. This would knock up a white man or an Indian. But a negro will sleep during the day — sleep at his work, sleep on the carriage-box, sleep standing up; and I have often seen them sitting bareheaded in the sun on a high rail-fence, sleeping as securely as though lying in bed. They never lose their equipoise, and will carry their cotton-baskets or their water-vessels, filled to the brim, poised on their heads, walking carelessly and at a rapid rate, without spilling a drop. The very weight of such burdens would crush a white man's brains into apoplexy. Compared with the ague-smitten and suffering settlers that you and I have seen in Ohio, or the sickly and starved operators we read of in factories and in mines, these Southern slaves are indeed to be envied. They are treated with great humanity and kindness. I have only heard of one or two exceptions. And the only drawback to their happiness is that their owners, sometimes, from extravagance or other bad management, die insolvent, and then they must be sold to the highest bidder, must leave the old homestead and the old family, and pass into the hands of strangers. I have witnessed one of these scenes, and but one, though they occur often, and I never saw such profound grief as the poor creatures manifested. I am opposed, as you know, to all relief laws, but, I confess, I never hear of the sale of old family servants without wishing that there was some provision by which some of them, at least, might be retained as inalienable. It is a grave question for those interested in slavery to determine whether some protection of this nature is not a necessary adjunct of slavery itself.

1 The late Gen. F. L. Claiborne.

2 Contrast this with life at the North, as recorded by his brother Henry in a letter dated Rhinebeck, Feb. 3d, 1823: “We have not had snow enough for sleighing, so every body has to stay at home. In the morning I feed the cows, take care of the horses, and cut wood until dinner-time. In the evening I take care of the cattle, and go to bed. I would willingly exchange my residence here for one where I might do for myself, were my earnings ever so small, and lay by a little for a rainy day. It is a hard place to get along in — cold winters and hot summers; snow, or slush, or dust, or drought. Work, work, work, and money always scarce. I wish I had been brought up a tailor, or shoemaker, as you say they have none at Natchez.”

SOURCE: John F. H. Quitman, Life and Correspondence of John A. Quitman, Volume 1, p. 83-6

Monday, February 4, 2019

Caroline E. Croome, November 23, 1863

Newbern, November 23d, 1863.

Mr. James gave me a School which Miss Canedy was teaching, consisting of adults and a few children who could not attend her large school. It is one of intense interest. The scholars manifest the most enthusiastic desire to learn. The great point with all seems to be to read the Testament. Some learn very rapidly and quite well, but when they attempt to spell, have no idea whatever of the sound of letters, nor can you give them any if they are old; with the younger ones I am trying to overcome this, and by perseverance shall, I hope, succeed. With those who have grown old, it seems only to be necessary to teach them to ready and the quickest method (however irregular) is the most desirable.

I found everything in Newbern so much more comfortable than I expected, that I have not for one moment felt as though I was enduring any privations. Our ungratified wants have only been a source of amusement, and our many comforts a continual cause for congratulation.

I cannot feel that I am engaged in teaching, in an ordinary way, reading, writing, and spelling; but, that each one to whom we impart any instruction, any spark of knowledge, is so much pressure bearing on a lever, that is slowly, but inevitably, elevating a nation.

When I witness their delighted earnest effort to improve, my own heart catches the spirit and echoes the fervent, “bress de Lord,” that involuntarily escapes so many lips when they find they can spell out a passage in the Testament or Psalms.

I cannot close without giving you a few incidents connected with my School, and those with whom I come in daily contact. One of my pupils, thirteen years of age, could, six months ago, read only very small words, and that by spelling them out; now she reads better than the average of white children of the North of the same age. She spells difficult words with ease. She is very black — intensely African. She has been at school only part of the six months. Another case is a woman of about sixty-five. She reads well in the Testament or in any book at sight, but cannot spell the simplest words. She has learned almost entirely since the Federal forces took Newbern.

We have a boy employed in the house, who has all the proverbial characteristics of the negro, and is in all above mediocrity. He keeps his book constantly with him, not only studying when an opportunity is given him, but stealing time from his work for that purpose. Often when I know he should be at work, I have listened in vain for the sound of his axe, and going quietly out to the wood yard, have seen him hide his Reader under a large stick of wood, and with a sheepish look and a real negro laugh, resume his work; but unless watched the axe will soon be dropped for the book. We have also a girl in the house, who has never had any advantages. She does not know all her tetters, but is very observing. This morning she said to me, in as good English as I could use, “Miss Carrie, James did not cut one particle of wood last night.” I looked at her astonished, for three weeks ago she could not have put together a correct sentence. She also said to the boy (when he tried to excuse himself for neglecting the wood), “If I could read as well as you can, I would not say gwine for going, specially when the white folks take so much pains with you.” Thus daily are brought before us such demonstrations of the high ability of the negro as must convince those who have hitherto denied that his elevation was possible.

C. E. Croome.

SOURCE: New-England Educational Commission for Freedmen, Extracts from Letters of Teachers and Superintendents of the New-England Educational Commission for Freedmen, Fourth Series, January 1, 1864, p. 9-10

Friday, February 1, 2019

Gerrit Smith to the Chairman of the Jerry Rescue Committee, August 27,1859

[August 27, 1859.]

For many years I have feared, and published my fears, that slavery must go out in the blood. My speech in Congress on the Nebraska Bill was strongly marked by such fears. These fears have grown into belief. So debauched are the white people by slavery, that there is not virtue enough left in them to put it down. . . . The feeling among the blacks, that they must deliver themselves, gains strength with fearful rapidity. . . . No wonder is it that in this state of facts which I have sketched (the failure of the Liberal Party, the Free Soil Party, the Republican Party, to do anything for the slaves) intelligent black men in the States and Canada should see no hope for their race in the practice and policy of white men. No wonder they are brought to the conclusion that no resource is left to them but in God and insurrections. For insurrection then we may look any year, any month, any day. A terrible remedy for a terrible wrong! But come it must unless anticipated by repentance, and the putting away of the terrible wrong.

It will be said that these insurrections will be failures — that they will be put down. Yes, but, nevertheless, will not slavery be put down by them? For what portions are there of the South that will cling to slavery after two or three considerable insurrections shall have filled the whole South with horror? And is it entirely certain that these insurrections will be put down promptly and before they can have spread far? Will telegraphs and railroads be too swift for even the swiftest insurrections? Remember that telegraphs and railroads can be rendered useless in an hour. Remember, too, that many who would be glad to face the insurgents, would be busy in transporting their wives and daughters to places where they would be safe from that worst fate which husbands and fathers can imagine for their wives and daughters.

SOURCE: Octavius Brooks Frothingham, Gerrit Smith: A Biography, p. 240-1

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Samuel Gridley Howe to Horace Mann, January 23, 1851

Boston, Jan. 23rd, 1851.

My Dear Mann: — I am very unfortunate in my attempts to correspond with you. I wrote a long letter last night and left it at South Boston, and it is now too late to get it for the mail. It was perhaps of no consequence, but explained a little the awkward and unfortunate chain of untoward events which have defeated Sumner's election.

On the first ballot to-day Sumner lacked five of the record he gained; they are now on the third, and I shall know the result before long.

The excitement here is intense: the pressure upon the waverers enormous. There are at least a score of Whigs voting for Winthrop who in their souls long to see Sumner elected, only their souls are not their own.

Our friends are very much encouraged to-day about the result: I am not. There are Democrats, I fear, who have voted for Sumner because they thought to save their pledge and do no harm to their party, but who will start back at the last pinch. I was in hopes they would be rebuked by the thunder of popular indignation at home, last Saturday and Sunday, but it is not so. The truth is that though the sentiments of the Democratic masses point in the right direction when let alone, they will not be let alone by the leaders, nor by their own prejudices. They would plunge the country in war and go to the death, to rescue three hundred white Americans from Indian, Russian or Algerian bondage, — but as for three million black Americans, why damn 'em! good enough for them! They have no business to be speckled, as the man said when he agreed to spare all snakes but the speckled ones.

3 o'clock. Third ballot taken — Sumner still in the vocative. He seems to be the least interested man among us. Oh for five men like Downer, — to work outside: they could carry Sumner through.

Park Street and Beacon are sweating blood: grant they may sweat to death!

Ever yours in haste,
S. G. Howe.

SOURCE: Laura E. Richards, Editor, Letters and Journals of Samuel Gridley Howe, Volume 2, p. 334-5

Thursday, July 19, 2018

George L. Stearns to Mary Hall Stearns, May 8, 1860

[May 8, 1860.]

Yesterday a black man was kidnapped from this place, which set the people in some commotion, but the real abolitionists are the exception. Have seen most of the latter class. They are a sturdy race.

Ames, the United States marshal who was shot at Topeka, was the same who previously tried to arrest Montgomery and there has been no second attempt, as I supposed, to arrest him. All is quiet here, and I do not think there will be any trouble in this territory this year. It is generally understood that it was an attempt on the part of the marshal to get some money, instead of which he got a ball.

Conway is here, but will leave with us for Chicago to attend the convention. I never saw him in so good health as at present. I am glad I came out here, and hope some time to come again with you. I think in another year we can accomplish it. They are having a fearful drought here. It has hardly rained at all since last September. Their winter wheat all dried up, and the corn does not even swell in the ground. If it continues there will be a famine here.

Of course all is dust, but it is not troublesome to me, at least as it would be to you. I send you samples of it in this paper, which was clean when I began to write.

May 9. So busy last night that I forgot to put this in the mail. My visit has been eminently successful, but not exactly as I supposed. I stay here to-day to get letters from home. Hope to get one from you.

SOURCE: Preston Stearns, The Life and Public Services of George Luther Stearns, p. 224-5

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Thomas Wentworth Higginson to Louisa Storrow Higginson, June, 17 1859

Worcester, June 17, 1859
Dearest Mother:

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

We have had the greatest heroine of the age here, Harriet Tubman, a black woman, and a fugitive slave, who has been back eight times secretly and brought out in all sixty slaves with her, including all her own family, besides aiding many more in other ways to escape. Her tales of adventure are beyond anything in fiction and her ingenuity and generalship are extraordinary. I have known her for some time and mentioned her in speeches once or twice — the slaves call her Moses. She has had a reward of twelve thousand dollars offered for her in Maryland and will probably be burned alive whenever she is caught, which she probably will be, first or last, as she is going again. She has been in the habit of working in hotels all summer and laying up money for this crusade in the winter. She is jet black and cannot read or write, only talk, besides acting.

SOURCE: Mary Potter Thacher Higginson, Editor, Letters and Journals of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1846-1906, p. 81

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Elizabeth Adams Lusk to Lieutenant-Colonel William T. Lusk, July 14, 1863

Longview, Enfield, Conn.,
July 14th, 1863.
My own dear Son:

I received your last letter on Saturday, and rejoice in your health, and in your resolve to relinquish the use of tobacco. I have no doubt your flesh will increase, and that you will be benefitted by the change.

The terrible riot in New-York is at present engrossing our thoughts. The blacks seem to be peculiarly obnoxious to the excited mob; I suppose you have seen that they have burned the Colored Orphan Asylum. The draft commenced yesterday in Hartford. All was quiet through the day, but some anxiety seems to be felt lest the example of New-York may produce an evil efFect to-day. They have tried to obtain a few companies of Regulars to preserve order (from New Haven) but they cannot be spared. Aunt Sarah, Nellie and Tom were to return to New-York to-day, but they dare not until the disturbance is quelled. The telegraph wires are all cut, and I fear we shall have no papers. The Times and Tribune offices are torn to pieces. We are all sad enough. God is merciful, may He speedily help us, and deliver us from our troubles.

Cousin Henry is wishing for, and looking for, a Dictator, the sooner the better. Capt. Nichols has gone to Vicksburg with Col. McKaye, to inquire into the condition of the Freedmen. You have no idea how unreasonable the lower class (of Irish particularly) are in this vicinity. Their feelings have been so wrought upon by unprincipled men. The leader in the N. Y. riot was a man from Virginia, who harangued the multitude and counselled resistance.

A telegram has just arrived from your Uncle Phelps at Saratoga, saying Nellie and Aunt Sarah must not return to-day. Dr. Grant leaves in ten minutes, so good-bye. A longer letter next time. God guard you, my own dear, dear son, is my constant prayer. All send love, and I am

Your loving

SOURCE: William Chittenden Lusk, Editor, War Letters of William Thompson Lusk, p. 287-8

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant Luman Harris Tenney: June 18, 1864

At 4 A. M. moved out on Sussex C. H. road and camped 8 miles from Petersburg. In evening drew rations and forage. In P. M. awful connonading and musketry, the most terrific we have yet heard. Already last night we held all but the inner line of works. Captured 22 guns and many prisoners. Report that the blacks captured one fort with 4 guns, and killed all the garrison. Yesterday was almost sick, am better today, but weak. Awful bad water for a few days. Oh the anxiety to know the result of the fighting today. God grant us success.

SOURCE: Frances Andrews Tenney, War Diary Of Luman Harris Tenney, p. 120