Showing posts with label Rufus Saxton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rufus Saxton. Show all posts

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Dr. Seth Rogers to his daughter Dolly, February 3, 1863

February 3, 1863.

At break of day we were at Beaufort and my sick and wounded were being carefully conveyed to the “Contraband Hospital” for better care than our camp hospital affords. I left eight there and it seemed like leaving my children among strangers. But this was only a feeling, not a fact. It was very pleasant to have the black soldiers served first when wounded. Colonel [Rishworth] Rich and the other officers and soldiers, must wait the convenience of our freedmen. I should quite enjoy living in some one of our Northern cities a few months with the 1st S. C. Vols. I fancy there would be a conquering of prejudices somewhat satisfactory to your humble servant. Justice is an admirable machine when in good running order and with honest engineers to keep it going. 

The Colonel took his official report in one hand and a captured instrument of slave torture in the other, to Gen. Saxton and left them for an early inspection. I was too busy to breakfast there with the Colonel. At ten o'clock we were disembarking opposite our camp and the home troops were receiving us with wild cheers of joy. All sorts of false rumors had been reported concerning us. 

We had been cut up and cut down, hung and cut to pieces, and various other rebel morsels of information had been circulated. I trust that you have not been tormented by such rumors. Perhaps it is best for me to take this occasion to say that the rebel reports are not always so reliable as their personal sympathizers could wish. Believe nothing short of official reports and my letters. 

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 356-7

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Dr. Seth Rogers to his Daughter, January 21, 1863, Evening

January 21, Evening.

Great days seem natural to us now. General Hunter has reviewed our regiment with Gen. Saxton, and the Colonel's long mourned dress coat has come, and I no longer weep in secret silence the sacrifice of mine. But we will leave coats for arms and ask you to congratulate the 1st S. C. V. on the distinction conferred by the General in visiting us before any of those in Beaufort. And was it not refreshing to hear the General in command say to our soldiers, when formed in hollow square, “Men, I am glad to see you so well, I wish we had a hundred thousand soldiers like you. Before Spring I hope we shall have fifty thousand. You are fighting for your liberty and the liberty of your families and friends. The man who is not willing to fight for his liberty is not fit to have it.” Probably I have not the exact phraseology, but it cannot differ materially. It was very impressive to us all, while the cheers that followed were stunning to us all. Then the dear, noble General Saxton, so long thwarted by pro-slavery opposition, stepped forward and informed the regiment that Gen. Hunter had this afternoon told him that fifty thousand Springfield rifles are coming to this department for the black soldiers. Then the Colonel introduced the surgeons to Gen'l Hunter and while taking him to our little hospital, I called his attention to the refusal of the Purveyor to honor any requisitions; consequently, I take another requisition to Hilton Head, countersigned by General Hunter, and we shall see with what result. . . .

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 346-7

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Dr. Seth Rogers to his Daughter, January 9, 1863

January 9, 1863.

This morning, the adjutant and I, with eight oarsmen, went down to Hilton Head in our surf boat. The distance cannot be far from twelve miles and the trip is a charming one, though the shores are wanting in those rugged qualities which help to make the difference in character between the North and the South. Our black soldiers sang as they rowed — not the songs of common sailors — but the hymns of praise mingled with those pathetic longings for a better world, so constant with these people. There are times when I could quite enjoy more earthly songs for them, even a touch of the wicked, but this generation must live and die in sadness. The sun can never shine for them as for a nation of freemen whose fathers were not slaves.

My special business in going to Hilton Head was to test the honesty of a certain medical purveyor, who does not incline to honor the requisitions of the surgeon of the 1st Reg. S. C. Vol's. He has not yet heard of the popularity of the black regiments, but Uncle Samuel will teach him that, as well as a few other things. But it will be too late for him to repent in this world when he shall have learned the lesson.

The Flora – Gen. Saxton's steamer — came down from Beaufort and we were towed back by her to our camp. I met the General on the steamer and was delighted to find him in that mood over the purveyor's second refusal, which will work out a line of retributive justice. He read to me a letter just received by him from Secretary Stanton, which authorizes me to draw direct from New York. So we shall be all right within two weeks, I hope. In addition to all my other duties, I should quite like to prescribe for some of those pro-slavery scamps who disgrace the federal shoulder-straps. This particular case was polite enough to me, for which I was sorry. When Gen. (David] Hunter gets here there will be a bowing and scraping to the anti-slavery men that may awaken wickedness in my heart. . . .

I am just now busy in trying to discover the causes of such an excess of pleurisy and pneumonia in our camp, as compared with white regiments. Thus far I can only get the reiteration of the fact that negroes are more subject to these diseases than are the whites. I should be very sorry to find that their nightly “praise meetings,” or “shouts,” acted an important role in the development of these diseases, yet, thus far, our gravest cases are the most religious. It would be a sad but curious coincidence, if while the Colonel and young captain are diligently taking notes of the songs and hymns of the soldiers, the surgeon should note a marked fatality resulting from this sweet religious expression. We shall see. It is as difficult to inculcate temperance in religion here, among these sun-burned children, as to introduce it into a Methodist camp-meeting. I hope we shall not have to shut in religious expressions by military rules.

Speaking of coincidences, reminds me that I found the steward, this morning, putting up prescriptions in bits of the “ Liberator." I don't believe Mr. Garrison's editorials ever before came so near these black soldiers. I wondered if the powders would not have some magic power conveyed to them. South Carolina is getting a simultaneous doctoring of body and soul.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June,1910: February 1910. p. 341-2

Dr. Seth Rogers to his Daughter, January 13, 1863

January 13, 1863.

. . . When I sit down at evening it always seems as if there could be but one subject to write upon, the music of these religious soldiers, who sing and pray steadily from supper time till “taps” at 8.30, interrupted only by roll-call at eight. The chaplain's pagoda-like school-house is the scene of earnest prayers and hymns at evening. I am sure the President is remembered more faithfully and gratefully in prayer by these christian soldiers than by any other regiment in the army. It is one thing for a chaplain to pray for him, but quite another for the soldiers to kneel and implore blessings on his head and divine guidance for his thoughts. These men never forget to pray earnestly for the officers placed over them; such prayers ought to make us true to them.

This afternoon, for the first time, our men are getting some money — not direct from the Government, but through that constant friend to them — Gen. Saxton, who waits for Government to refund it to him. The real drawback to enlistments is that the poor fellows who were in the Hunter regiment have never been paid a cent by the Government. Without reflection, one would suppose the offer of freedom quite sufficient inducement for them to join us. But you must remember that not the least curse of slavery is ignorance and that the intellectual enjoyment of freedom cannot, by the present generation, be so fully appreciated as its material gifts and benefits. Just think how few there are, even in New England, who could bravely die for an Idea, you will see that the infinite love of freedom which inspires these people is not the same that fills the heart of a more favored race. . . .

Before breakfast this morning I stood on the shore and listened to the John Brown hymn, sung by a hundred of our recruits, as they came up the river on the steamer Boston, from St. Augustine, Fla. Our Lieut. Col. [Billings]1 went down last week for them and today we have received into our regiment all but five, whom I rejected in consequence of old age and other disabilities. It seemed hard to reject men who came to fight for their freedom, but these poor fellows are a hindrance in active service, and we might be compelled to leave them to the mercy of those who know not that “It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

. . . I wish you could see how finely the Colonel appears in my dress coat. His was sent from Worcester quite a time before I left New England, but has never reached him. Very likely some miserable colonel of a poor white regiment appropriated it. I pity those who get so demoralized by association and wish they could have the benefit of our higher code. As I am less for ornament than for use here, I offered my coat to the Colonel, and was glad to find that Theodore [a tailor in Worcester] had applied his “celestial ” principle “ under the arms,” so that a Beaufort tailor could easily make an exact fit for the upper sphere. To sick soldiers it is unimportant whether I have one or two rows of buttons, and my handsome straps fit just as well on my fatigue coat as on the other. . . .

At this moment the camp resounds with the John Brown hymn, sung as no white regiment can sing it, so full of pathos and harmony. I know you will think me over enthusiastic about these people, but every one of you would be equally so, if here. Every day deepens my conviction that if we are true to them they will be true to us. The Colonel arrives at the same conclusion. When I think of their long-suffering at the hands of the whites, and then of their readiness to forgive, I feel a reverence for the race that I did not know before coming among them. You need not fancy that I find them perfect; it has not been my fortune to find mortals of that type, — even in Worcester, — but I do find them, as a people, religious, kind hearted, forgiving and as truth loving as the average of whites, more so than the Irish of the lowest rank.

1 Col. Liberty Billings.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 344-5

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Dr. Seth Rogers to his Daughter, January 1, 1863

January 1, 1863

This is the evening of the most eventful day of my life. Our barbecue was a most wonderful success. Two steamboats came loaded with people from Beaufort, St. Helena Island and Hilton Head. Among the visitors were some of my new acquaintances. My friend, Mr. Hall of the voyage on the Delaware. But the dearest friend I found among them was Miss Forten, whom you remember. She is a teacher of the freed children on St. Helena Island. Gen. Saxton and his father and others came from Beaufort, and several cavalry officers hovered around the outskirts of our multitude of black soldiers and civilians, and in the centre of all was the speakers’ stand, where the General and our Colonel and some others, with the band, performed the ceremonies of the day. Several good speeches were made, but the most impressive scene was that which occurred at the presentation of the Dr. Cheever flag to our regiment. After the presentation speech had been made, and just as Col. Higginson advanced to take the flag and respond, a negro woman standing near began to sing “America,” and soon many voices of freedmen and women joined in the beautiful hymn, and sang it so touchingly that every one was thrilled beyond measure. Nothing could have been more unexpected or more inspiring. The President's proclamation and General Saxton's New Year's greeting had been read, and this spontaneous outburst of love and loyalty to a country that has heretofore so terribly wronged these blacks, was the birth of a new hope in the honesty of her intention. I most earnestly trust they may not hope in vain.

Col. Higginson was so much inspired by the remarkable thought of, and singing of, the hymn, that he made one of his most effective speeches. Then came Gen. Saxton with a most earnest and brotherly speech to the blacks and then Mrs. Frances D. Gage, and finally all joined in the John Brown hymn, and then to dinner. A hundred things of interest occurred which I have not time to relate. Everybody was happy in the bright sunshine, and in the great hope. The ten oxen were eaten with hearty relish and barrels of molasses and water and vinegar and ginger were drunk to wash them down. Mr. Hall, Miss Forten and some others took dinner with us.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June,1910: February 1910. p. 340-1

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

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

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Charles Lowe to Dr. LeBaron Russell, December 7, 1863

Somerville, Dec. 7th, 1863.

My Dear Sir, — It gives me great pleasure to present, at your request, a statement of the impression made upon my mind by a visit to the field of operations of the Educational Commission for Freedmen, in the department of South Carolina. I had an opportunity to visit many of the schools and plantations on Port Royal, St. Helena and Ladies Islands, and to converse with many who were familiar with the condition of the freed population, and will state as briefly as I can the result of my observation.

First, As to the Schools.

In the immediate vicinity of Beaufort the teachers labor at great disadvantage. The town is an aggregate of Government offices, hospitals and camps. An excessive population of freed people has congregated there, and they are exposed to all the bad influences of such a community. The effect is seen in the Schools, in a want of punctuality and in a restless spirit on the part of the children. Yet even in these Schools the success of the attempt was very gratifying. The children seemed bright and eager to learn, and showed remarkable proficiency. Here, as indeed in all the Schools I visited, I was greatly struck by the excellence of the teachers employed. In one of the Schools in Beaufort, there was acting as an assistant, a young colored man — formerly a member of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, and disabled at Wagner. He was teaching some of the classes, and as I watched him I thought he was teaching very successfully. Certainly he had the perfect respect and attention of the pupils, and it seemed to me that such men might be thus employed to advantage, more frequently than they are.

As you go away from Beaufort, the bad influences of that place gradually lessen, till, on the plantations ten miles distant, the people are quite out of their reach, and the consequence was very apparent. Here, with no better teachers (for where all are so good I could not recognize any difference), the discipline of the Schools was greatly superior, and their whole character compared favorably with that of any of our Northern Schools of the same grade.

Second, As regards the ability of the freed people to support and govern themselves, my impressions are equally favorable.

Here again, Beaufort and its immediate vicinity affords a most unfavorable condition for the experiment. And many visitors, judging from what they see there, may give unfair statements in regard to its success. The place, as I have already said, has just the effect, on the people gathered there, that a prolonged muster-field would have on a great mass of people who might crowd about it. Considering this, it was a matter of surprise to me that things are no worse. There is no disorder, and a Quarter-Master, who has occasion to employ a very large number of the men, told me that he never had so little difficulty with laborers. On Thanksgiving day they were all discharged for a holiday, and he said to me that, whereas, with white men, he should be dreading trouble from their absence or disorderly conduct the next morning after the day's carousing, he was sure that these men would all be promptly at their work.

On the plantations removed from the camps the condition of things is most gratifying. The people labor well, and are easily managed, and the superintendents say are always ready to do anything that you can persuade them is for their advantage.

I will not anticipate the statements which are being prepared by one gentleman there (Mr. E. S. Philbrick), in which it will show conclusively the satisfactoriness of their voluntary paid labor so far as the employers are concerned. My only purpose is to testify, as a casual observer, to the good order, the respectful demeanor and thrifty appearance of the colored population, and the general evidence which such a visit could give of a good state of things.

One thing particularly impressed me. I saw the people everywhere in their homes and in the fields. I have seen the working classes in many countries of the world, and I never saw a peasantry so cleanly dressed, so respectable in their outward appearance or apparently so happy. This is certain in regard to these people — that they are abundantly able to support themselves. If your organization has made any mistake, it has been that you felt at first too little confident of that, and assumed that they must be helped by donations in charity. Undoubtedly there was, for a while, much destitution, and your relief was most timely; but the generosity of the supply encouraged a feeling that they could live without labor, which has been one of the great difficulties to overcome. They certainly need help no longer. I saw them at the stores kept on the Islands, buying, with plenty of money, every variety of articles, and heard of no want.

A paymaster told me that, under the order of General Saxton, permitting them to apply for lands hereafter to be sold, the sum of $4000 has already been deposited by freedmen. One man is now owner of the plantation of his former master, which he purchased with money loaned him, and which he has now paid for by the earnings of this year's crop.

What interested me most in what I saw, was the conviction, that here is being worked out the problem of whether the black race is fitted for freedom. In many respects the circumstances in this locality are such as to make the experiment peculiarly satisfactory. 1st, The colored people on these Islands are admitted to be inferior to those in most portions of the South, partly because kept more degraded, and partly because close intermarrying has caused them to deteriorate. 2dly, After being left by their masters, they lived for a time under no kind of restraint. And 3dly, By a well meant generosity, when first visited by our sympathy they were encouraged to believe that they could live under freedom without the necessity of labor. .

Yet, under all these disadvantages, the experiment has been a triumphant success — apparent, beyond question, to any one who can observe.

To be sure, it can probably never happen that on any general scale, those who shall give to the newly freed people their first instructions in freedom, shall be men and women of such high character and ability as those who have undertaken it here. I was amazed when I saw among the teachers and superintendents so many persons of the very highest culture, and fitted for the very highest positions. I confess I felt sometimes as though it was lavishing too much on this work; but then I considered (what is now the great feeling with which I regard the whole thing) that this is a grand , experiment which is settling for the whole nation this great problem. And when I saw how completely it has settled it, I felt that it was worthy of all that had been given. I believe that the importance of the movement is yet to- be realized when the operations on this field shall become the great example for every part of the land.

I am, with great respect, very truly yours,
Charles Lowe.
Dr. LeBaron Busselly Boston.

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. 13-4

Diary of Laura M. Towne: Monday, May 19, 1862

Our men have returned from Hilton Head and nearly all are eager to go there again and serve in the forts, though Marcus says he does not wish to fight, but only to learn to fight. . . .

Very much has occurred lately, but I have no time to write. I have received and distributed twenty-one boxes of clothing, having sold over $155 worth and sent out fifteen boxes to the plantations, which will be sold on account or given away. . . . People have come from great distances to buy here and seem almost crazy at the sight of clothes — willing to pay any price.
We have had to refuse to sell, being so overworked. I am sorry to say that I have discovered two cases of pilfering, and the cotton house has been entered again and again, we think, but nothing that we can miss is taken. Our house-servants are honest as the day.

Mr. French spent Saturday night and preached here on Sunday. He thinks good times are coming for us. He says that General Saxton1 will be our friend, and that we shall have the military in our favor instead of against us as before. The danger now seems to be — not that we shall be called enthusiasts, abolitionists, philanthropists, but cotton agents, negro-drivers, oppressors. The mischief has been that on this side of the water, on these islands, the gentlemen have been determined to make the negroes show what they can do in the way of cotton, unwhipped. But they have only changed the mode of compulsion. They force men to prove they are fit to be free men by holding a tyrant's power over them. Almost every one who has attempted this has failed. Those who have not attempted driving are loved and obeyed. On the rationed islands, Port Royal and Edisto, the negroes have worked much better and have been perfectly contented.

Last Saturday the provisions from Philadelphia were distributed, and I heard our folks singing until late, just as they did after their first payment of wages, only then they sang till morning.

Thorp was here the other night. He wanted Mr. Pierce to let him stay in his present position for a time, for Mr. P. had wanted to remove him. He pleaded so that Mr. P. yielded and Mr. T. went back to work, but he is now ill and Sumner is taking his place in the distribution of clothes and food. This has not yet been begun and the people are gloomy. Last Sunday Ria, of Gab. Capers, came over to me and asked me to speak to Mr. Pierce about her horse. Mr. Saulsbury, a cotton agent, had taken away a fine horse (belonging to the estate), which Ria took care of and used, and in its place he gave her an old beast to take her to church, as she is paralytic. She came to church and heard that Mr. Eustis, the provost marshal, who had made a law that no negro should ride any horse without a pass, was going to take away the horses of all the negroes who had come to church without a pass. She appealed to Mr. Pierce. He sent her to Mr. Park. She is afraid of Mr. Park and appealed to me. Park was there and I went directly to him. He heard me, and smiled as if a little pleased to be petitioned, came forward and promised the woman a pass or permission hereafter to use the horse. The Mr. Field, a sutler and friend of the Whitneys, who was here a few days ago, told me he had found a fine horse on the island named Fanny — a thoroughbred, which he meant to take North with him. As Ria's good horse's name was Fanny and he was probably one of Saulsbury's gleanings, I think we can see how the negroes have been wronged in every way. Last Sunday Mrs. Whiting asked me to accept a quarter of lamb. I offered to buy it and we had it for dinner. Afterwards Mrs. W. told me she had no more right to the lamb than I had, that she took it from the estate, had it killed and generously gave me part. I told her of the strict military order against it, when she said Government agents had a right to kill, and that Mr. Mack and others did so. Mr. Pierce instantly wrote to Mr. Mack to ask if he had done this thing. Mr. Whiting has not been a Government agent for two months, and yet he lives in Government property, making the negroes work without pay for him and living upon “the fat of the lamb,” — selling too, the sugar, etc., at rates most wicked, such as brown sugar, twenty-five cents a pound; using Government horses and carriages, furniture, corn, garden vegetables, etc. It is too bad. The cotton agents, many of them, are doing this.

1 Rufus Saxton, Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

SOURCE: Rupert Sargent Holland, Editor, Letters and Diary of Laura M. Towne: Written from the Sea Islands of South Carolina 1862-1864, p. 54-7

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Major-General William T. Sherman to Major-General Henry W. Halleck, December 13, 1864 – 11:50 p.m.

Ossabaw Sound, December 13, 1864 11.50 p.m. 
(Received 15th.)
General H. W. HALLECK, Washington:

To-day, at 5 p.m., General Hazen's division of the Fifteenth Corps carried Fort McAllister by assault, capturing its entire garrison and stores. This opened to us the Ossabaw Sound, and I pulled down to this gunboat to communicate with the fleet. Before opening communication we had completely destroyed all the railroads leading into Savannah and invested the city. The left is on the Savannah River, three miles above the city, and right on the Ogeechee, at King's Bridge. Were it not for the swamps we could march into the city, but as it is I would have to assault at one or two places over narrow causeways, leading to much loss; whereas in a day or two, with my communications restored and the batteries in position within short range of the city, I will demand its surrender. The army is in splendid order, and equal to anything. Weather has been fine, and supplies abundant. Our march was most agreeable, and we were not at all molested by guerrillas. We reached Savannah three days ago, but owing to Fort McAllister we could not communicate; but now we have McAllister we can go ahead. We have already captured two boats in the Savannah River, and prevented their gun-boats from coming down, and, if General Foster will prevent the escape of the garrison of Savannah and its people by land across South Carolina, we will capture all. I estimate the population at 25,000 and the garrison at 15,000; General Hardee commands. We have on hand plenty of meat, salt, and potatoes; all we need is bread, and I have sent to Port Royal for that. We have not lost a wagon on the trip, but have gathered in a large supply of negroes, mules, horses, &c., and our teams are in far better condition than when we started. My first duty will be to clear the army of surplus negroes, mules, and horses, and suppose General Saxton can relieve me of these.

I am writing on board a dispatch-boat, down Ossabaw, at midnight, and have to go back to where I left my horse, eight miles up, in a row boat, and thence fifteen miles over to our lines by daylight, so that I hope this will be accepted as an excuse for this informal letter; but I know you are anxious to hear of our safety and good condition. Full and detailed reports of the events of the past mouth will be prepared at a more leisure moment, and in the meantime I can only say that I hope by Christmas to be in possession of Savannah, and by the new year to be ready to resume our journey to Raleigh. The whole army is crazy to be turned loose in Carolina; and with the experience of the past thirty days I judge that a month's sojourn in South Carolina would make her less bellicose.

The editors in Georgia profess to be indignant at the horrible barbarities of Sherman's army, but I know the people don't want our visit repeated. We have utterly destroyed over 200 miles of railroad, and consumed stores and provisions that were essential to Lee's and Hood's armies. A similar destruction of roads and resources hence to Raleigh would compel General Lee to come out of his intrenched camp. I hope General Thomas has held Hood. My last accounts are of the fight at Franklin, but rebel papers state that Decatur, Ala., has been evacuated. This I regret, though it is not essential to the future. If Hood is making any real progress I would not hesitate to march hence, after taking Savannah, for Montgomery, which would bring him out of Tennessee; but it seems to me that winter is a bad time for him. I will try and see Admiral Dahlgren and General Foster before demanding the surrender of Savannah, which I do not propose to make till my batteries are able to open. The quick work made with McAllister, and the opening communication with our fleet, and consequent independence for supplies, dissipated all their boasted threats to head me off and starve the army. The efforts thus far have been puerile, and I regard Savannah as already gained.

Yours, truly,
W. T. SHERMAN,    

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 44 (Serial No. 92), p. 701-2

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Edwin M. Stanton to Brigadier-General Rufus Saxton, April 29, 1862

Washington, D.C., April 29, 1862.
Brig. Gen. R. SAXTON:

SIR: You are assigned to duty in the Department of the South, to act under the orders of the Secretary of War. You are directed to take possession of all the plantations heretofore occupied by rebels, and take charge of the inhabitants remaining thereon within the department, or which the fortunes of the war may hereafter bring into it, with authority to take such measures, make such rules and regulations for the cultivation of the land, and for protection, employment, and government of the inhabitants as circumstances may seem to require. The major-general commanding the Department of the South will be instructed to give you all the military aid and protection necessary to enable you to carry out the views of the Government. You will have power to act upon the decisions of courts-martial which are called for the trial of persons not in the military service to the same extent that the commander of a department has over courts-martial called for the trial of soldiers in his department; and so far as the persons above described are concerned you will also have a general control over the action of the provost-marshals. It is expressly understood that, so far as the persons and purposes herein specified are concerned, your action will be independent of that of other military authorities of the department, and in all other cases subordinate only to the major-general commanding. In cases of actual suffering and destitution of the inhabitants you are directed to issue such portions of the army ration and such articles of clothing as may be suitable to the habits and wants of the persons supplied, which articles will be furnished by the quartermaster and commissary of the Department of the South upon requisitions approved by yourself. It is expected that by encouraging industry, skill in the cultivation of the necessaries of life, and general self-improvement you will, as far as possible, promote the real well-being of all people under your supervision. Medical and ordnance supplies will be furnished by the proper officers, which you will distribute and use according to your instructions.

Secretary of War.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series III, Volume 2 (Serial No. 123), p. 27-8

Diary of Salmon P. Chase, Thursday, May 1, 1862

Mr. [French] don't like many things; thinks the Unitarians don't get hold of the work in the right way. The negroes are mostly Baptists, and like emotional religion better than rational, so called. They “       to Jesus,” and can not understand a religion that is not founded on His divinity. Many marriages have been “confirmed” among them. He had laid much stress on the duty of regular marriages between those who have been living together without that sanction. On some plantations the masters had allowed and encouraged marriages by ministers — on others, little was cared about it. A good deal of cotton had been planted, and more corn. The work of cultivation was going on as well as could be expected. Mr. F. thought Mr. Snydam would make a good collector. I talked to General [Saxton] about the work before him. He said the Secretary of War had authorized him to procure one or two thousand red flannel suits for the blacks, with a view to organization. No arms to be supplied as yet.

SOURCE: Robert Bruce Warden, An Account of the Private Life and Public Services of Salmon Portland Chase, p. 420-1; See John Niven, editor, The Salmon P. Chase Papers, Volume 1: Journals, 1829-1872, p. 333-5 for the entire diary entry.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

John M. Forbes to Edward Atkinson, May 23, 1862

Boston, May 23,1862.

My Dear, Sir, — . . . I would gladly do anything, except come before the public, to help your good work. You may use my testimony in any other way than over my signature, and the indorsements of the “Daily”1 and other journals would seem to answer all purposes. I have watched the Educational Commission from its very inception with the greatest interest, and, while in Secessia, had every opportunity to gauge it, not only by the criticisms of its many enemies, and by the statements of its friends, but by personal observation. It was started very late, and when only the most prompt and even hasty measures gave it a chance of success. These measures were taken chiefly at Boston, with that efficiency which marks our good city and State. A large number of volunteers were hurried from various pursuits, down into South Carolina, where, in about ten days after the enterprise was first thought of, they found themselves landed, with bare floors to sleep upon, soldier's rations to eat, and the obloquy and ridicule of all around them for “sauce piquante.”

Under all their inexperience, and all these disadvantages, they have worked their way quietly on, and up to the time when I left, May 14th, when the new rule of military governor was about beginning, they had accomplished the following results.

First and foremost. They had inspired confidence in the blacks by their kindness, and especially by their bringing the first boon which these forlorn creatures had received from us, namely, an opportunity for education. In all else the negroes have been materially worse off than under their old masters, — with only their scanty ration of Indian corn, no shoes, blankets, clothing, molasses, or other necessaries, and no luxuries given them, of which they formerly had a moderate allowance. Against all this they had had only the doubtful advantage of idleness or precarious employment, and the promises of the cotton agents. It was a great point to put over them intelligent and Christian teachers, and this they have fully appreciated.

Second. The material benefits which have resulted, namely: beginning very late, the forces of the plantation have been organized to reasonably steady labor; a full crop of food has been planted in common, besides many much larger private, or, as these are called, “Negro Grounds,” planted than ever before. I saw repeatedly whole gangs who had finished their plantation work by ten A. M., and had all the rest of the day for their own patches, some of which are four or five times as large as usual.

Third. In addition to the food crop, enough cotton land has been planted to give the negroes, if they are allowed to take care of the crop and enjoy its fruits, more of the necessaries and indeed comforts of life than they have ever had before.

To sum up, we have then for some of the results,

The confidence of the blacks;
The education, so far as it goes;
The encouragement of industry; and
The material advantage of food and cotton crops;

instead of leaving the negroes alone to run into vice and pauperism, or turning them over to the tender mercies of hard speculators.

Of course, the agents of the commission have made mistakes in some cases, and some of them have been ill chosen, and have helped the enemies of the enterprise to bring it into local discredit; but generally the whole has been a most successful undertaking, and most of those sent from this quarter have, by their patience, faithfulness, and disinterested zeal, been a credit to Massachusetts. They, as a whole, form a noble band of men and women. They have had everything to contend with, especially the opposition of many with whose interests they interfered, and of others whose prejudices they offended. Their predecessors on the plantations, the cotton agents and military, had begun to look upon themselves as the successors to the planters, entitled to the use of all that was left, houses, horses, negroes, crops.

When the agents of the commission came down to take charge of the plantations, they were looked upon as interlopers, and in most cases every obstacle, short of absolute disobedience to the orders of the commanding general, was thrown in their way. All the little mistakes of the new-comers were magnified; all the good they did ignored, and a local public opinion thus created against them, which many of our own soldiers, who ought to have known better, gave in to. “What a ridiculous thing for these philanthropists to come down and teach the stupid negroes, and occupy the plantations, and use the secesh ponies which had been so convenient for our pickets!”

Such was the natural feeling of the unthinking, and of some who ought to have reflected. This false opinion was largely availed of by the “Herald” and other kindred papers, to create prejudice at the North against an enterprise aiming to improve the condition of the blacks. How much more satisfactory to this class would it have been to have had the negroes left to their own devices, and then given all the enemies of improvement a chance to say, “We told you so! The negroes are worse off than before, — idle, vicious, paupers. The sooner you reduce them to slavery again, and the more firmly you bind the rest of their race to eternal slavery, the better!”

It would take too long to go into the question of what is to be done hereafter; but there was an emergency three months ago which has, in my opinion, been successfully met; and among other results I believe you will have the testimony of all who have been engaged in the experiment, that it has distinctly proved that the negro has the same selfish element in him which induces other men to labor. Give him only a fair prospect of benefit from his labor, and he will work like other human beings. Doubtless hereafter this selfish element must be appealed to more than it could be by the agents of the commission. There must be less working in common, and more done for the especial benefit of each laborer. It is much to establish the fact that this element of industry exists.

In conclusion, I consider the Educational Commission up to this time a decided success. I congratulate you and your associates upon having added another to the good deeds of Massachusetts, not by any means forgetting the share which New York has had in the good work; and I sincerely hope that General Saxton, cooperating with you, may in a manner worthy of his high reputation complete what has been so well begun.

Very truly yours,
J. M. Forbes.

1 The Boston Daily Advertiser.

SOURCE: Sarah Forbes Hughes, Letters and Recollections of John Murray Forbes, Volume 1, p. 309-13

Friday, May 2, 2014

From Washington


Gen. Saxton arrived at Fort Monroe this morning, and goes to New York, this evening.  Most of the passengers will be in New York on Friday.

Voluminous dispatches were received from the Gulf today.  They related principally to the details of the recent movements connected with the capture of New Orleans.  The vessels of the fleet have been judiciously distributed, under Com. Lee, going up as far as Vicksburg, for purposes which it would be improper to state.  It appears from the documents that Commodore Farragut carried out his instructions to the letter and was ably and cheerfully sustained by all under his command.

On our forces occupying Pensacola, the Mayor promised that the citizens would behave themselves peacefully.  The rebels had evacuated the place on hearing that our steamers, the day before, were going to run into Mobile Bay, and that the squadron and mortar boats would soon follow.

Commander Porter left Ship Island on the 7th, with the steamer belonging to the mortar fleet, and the Rachel, for Mobile bar, for the purpose of fixing a place for the mortar boats to lie and plant buoys for the ships to run in by when they should arrive.

Great excitement is said to exist within the forts at the progress of the fleet. – There was reason to believe that Fort Gaines was evacuated, and that the troops there were leaving to reinforce Fort Morgan.

Special to Herald.

All here are filled with expectations of a great battle at Corinth and Battour’s Bridge before the week ends.  It is expected that these two battles will practically conclude the campaign, and leave nothing else to be done but to put down the guerilla fighting.

The recent proclamation of the President begins to give great satisfaction to all classes.  The conservatives are satisfied, and the ultras do not find fault.  It is manifest to all, that Mr. Lincoln has taken the bit in his teeth and intends to have his own way, Cabinet or no Cabinet.  The general impression here is, since the utterance of the proclamation, there is no one can approach 
Abraham Lincoln in popularity.  It is regarded as an evidence of unalterable firmness and true grit.

Special to Tribune.

A call is soon to be made upon the States for additional volunteers to the number of at least 100,000; careful inquiry has elicited the fact that our army is smaller than has been represented, even in official accounts numbering not 500,000 effective men.  This fresh force is to be mainly used as a reserve, to be stationed at convenient points to meet emergencies.

Times’ Special.

The subject of lake defences and lake commerce was very forcibly and fully presented this morning, at a meeting of the New York delegation in Congress, by the  Hon. Samuel B. Ruggles, who appeared in behalf of the State.  The principal topics discussed were the present undefended condition of the lakes and the great the and rapid growth of the commerce on these waters; also the vital importance of the cereal products of the States surrounding the lakes, in furnishing the elements of foreign commerce, and consequently in swelling the amount of duties on imports to be received in exchange.

The two cardinal measures growing out of these discussions, and which must occupy the attention of Congress, will be the opening of adequate canals from the eastern and western extremities of the lakes; the first to be effected by enlarging the locks in the Erie and Oswego canals, and the other by the enlargement of the canal from Chicago to Illinois river.  It is hoped that these great measures may be united as integral portions of hone harmonious system, permitting the passage throughout the line of mail-clad vessels sufficient for the defense of these great waters.

The World’s correspondence, under date of Baltimore Cross Roads, Va., 16 miles from Richmond, May 18th says: “I make a prophecy that Richmond is abandoned by the enemy without a fight, and that we occupy it within 48 hours.  If not all signs fail.  This is the advance division towards Richmond.

Cavalry are beyond at Bloton Bridge.  The enemy blew it up yesterday.  Little will it impede our progress, for the stream is narrow, the water but three feet deep and we can ford.

An effort will be made in the House to-morrow to adjourn from the 28th inst. Until the 2d of June, in order to enable members to visit their homes and give time for putting the hall in summer trim.  Those who favor the proposition that such arrangements will not delay business, as the house is far in advance of the Senate in this respect.  The House only contemplates a holiday.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Thursday Morning, May 22, 1862, p. 1

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Brig Wrecked


An altogether reliable dispatch received this morning, dated Fort Monroe to-day, says the Oriental, in which Brig. Gen. Saxton sailed for Port Royal, was wrecked on Friday night, May 16th, on Body’s Island, 33 miles north of Cape Hatteras.  The passengers and crew were saved.  A portion of the cargo was lost.  The remainder will be saved on the beach.

Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Thursday Morning, May 22, 1862, p. 1

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Abraham Lincoln to Major General George B. McClellan, May 28, 1862

WASHINGTON, May 28, 1862.

I am very glad of General F. J. Porter's victory. Still, if it was a total rout of the enemy, I am puzzled to know why the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad was not seized again, as you say you have all the railroads but the Richmond and Fredericksburg. I am puzzled to see how, lacking that, you can have any, except the scrap from Richmond to West Point. The scrap of the Virginia Central from Richmond to Hanover Junction without more is simply nothing. That the whole of the enemy is concentrating on Richmond I think cannot be certainly known to you or me. Saxton, at Harper's Ferry, informs us that large forces, supposed to be Jackson's and Ewell's, forced his advance from Charlestown to-day. General King telegraphs us from Fredericksburg that contrabands give certain information that 15,000 left Hanover Junction Monday morning to re-enforce Jackson. I am painfully impressed with the importance of the struggle before you, and shall aid you all I can consistently with my view of due regard to all points.

Major-General McCLELLAN.

SOURCES: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 11, Part 1 (Serial No. 12), p. 36

Friday, December 13, 2013

New York, May 16 [1862].

Among the passengers by the steamer Oriental, which sailed yesterday for Port Royal, was Captain Rufus Saxton, United States army, now Brigadier General of volunteers; the new military Governor of South Carolina and the Department of the whole district of General Hunter’s command.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Monday Morning, May 19, 1862, p. 2

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wreck of the Oriental

WASHINGTON, May 21. – An altogether reliable dispatch received this morning dated Fortress Monroe to-day says the Oriental, in which Brig. Gen. [Saxton] sailed for Port Royal was wrecked on Friday night May 16th, on Bolly’s Island, 33 miles north of Cape Hatteras.  The passengers and crew were saved.  A portion of the cargo was lost – the remainder will be saved on the beach.  Gen. Saxton arrived at Fortress Monroe this morning, and goes to New York this evening.  Most of the passengers will be in New York on Friday.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, May 24, 1862, p. 3