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M R. LIN col N ON PROTECTING NEGRO so LDIERs.
the South, whom our Government might justifiably employ as soldiers. But the resolve nevertheless stood for years, if not to the last, unrepealed and unmodified, and was the primary, fundamental impediment whereby the exchange of prisoners between the belligerents was first interrupted; so that tens of thousands languished for weary months in prison-camps, where many thousands died of exposure and starvation, who might else have been living to this day. Secretary Stanton, having learned that three of our Black soldiers captured with the gunboat Isaac Smith, in Stono river, had been placed in close confinement, ordered three of our prisoners (South Carolinians) to be treated likewise, and the fact to be communicated to the Confederate leaders. The Richmond Epaminer, commenting on this relation, said:
“It is not merely the pretension of a regular Government affecting to deal with “Rebels,” but it is a deadly stab which they are aiming at our institutions themselves —because they know that, if we were insane enough to yield this point, to treat Black men as the equals of White, and insurgent slaves as equivalent to our brave soldiers, the very foundation of Slavery would be fatally wounded.”
After one of the conflicts before Charleston, an immediate exchange of prisoners was agreed on ; but, when ours came to be received, only the Whites made their appearance. A remonstrance against this breach of faith was met by a plea of want
of power to surrender Blacks taken in arms, because of the resolve just quoted and orders based thereon; and this was probably the immediate impulse to the issue of the following General Order:
“ExECUTIVE MANsion, ! “WAs.IIINGTON, July 30, 1863. “It is the duty of every Government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations, and the usages and customs of war, as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies. To sell or enslave any captured person, on account of his color, and for no offense against the laws of war, is a relapse into barbarism, and a crime against the civilization of the age. “The Government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers; and if the enemy shall sell or enslave any one because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our possession. “It is therefore ordered that, for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a Rebel soldier shall be executed; and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into Slavery, a Rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on public works, and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war. “A BRAIIAM LINooDN. “By order of the Secretary of War, “E. D. TowNSEND, Assist. Adj't.-Gen.”
It must not be presumed that, because either belligerent had decided to make all possible use of Blacks in the prosecution of the War, the opposition to this policy in Congress or in the Democratic journals and popular harangues was foregone. Far otherwise.”
* In discussing the first bill that came before the Senate involving directly the policy of arming negroes to fight for the Union, Mr. Preston King—who very rarely spoke, and never with bitterness—said:
“I have done talking in such a manner as to avoid giving offense to our enemies in this matter. I think it was the captain of the watch here at the Capitol who came and consulted me about getting permission to omit, during the sessions of the Senate, to hoist the flag on the top
of the Capitol; and, when he was asked what he wanted to omit that for, he said he feared it might be supposed that he desired to save labor and trouble, but he really suggested it because it hurt these people about here to look at it—to see the flag on the top of the Capitol. I had not done much; but I wrote a letter very promptly to the Secretary of the Interior, stating the fact, and saying that I did not care whom he appointed, but I wanted that man removed. He was removed; and, within ten days, was with the enemy at Manassas.”
armies—not as menials, but as soldiers—may be said to have begun with the year 1863—that is, with the issue of the President's absolute Proclamation of Freedom. Mr. Stanton’s first order to raise in the loyal States three years' men, with express permission “to include persons of African descent,” was that issued to Gov. Andrew, Jan. 20th of this year; which was promptly and heartily responded to. In March, Gen. Lorenzo Thomas, Adjutant-General of our Army, was dispatched from Washington to the Mississippi Valley, there to initiate and supervise the recruiting and officering of Black regiments—a duty which he discharged with eminent zeal and efficiency; visiting and laboring at Memphis, Helena, and other points, where Blacks were congregated, addressing them in exposition of the Emancipation policy, and urging them to respond to it by rallying to the flag of their country. To our officers and soldiers, in a speech at Lake Providence, La.,” he forcibly said: “You know full well—for you have been over this country—that the Rebels have sent into the field all their available fighting men—every man capable of bearing arms; and you know they have kept at home all their slaves for the raising of subsistence for their armies in the field. In this way, they can bring to bear against us all the strength of their so-called Confederate States; while we at the North can only send a portion of our fighting force, being compelled to leave behind another portion to cultivate our fields and supply the wants of an immense army. The Administration has determined to take from the Rebels this source of supply —to take their negroes and compel them to send back a portion of their Whites to cultivate their deserted plantations—and very poor persons they would be to fill the place of the dark-hued laborer. They must do this, or their armies will starve. * * *
“All of you will some day be on picketduty; and I charge you all, if any of this
* Jan. 28, 1863.
* Dec. 21, 1863.
* April 8.
unfortunate race come within your lines, that you do not turn them away, but receive them kindly and cordially. They are to be encouraged to come to us; they are to be received with open arms; they are to be fed and clothed; they are to be armed.”
There was still much prejudice against Negro Soldiers among our rank and file, as well as among their superiors; those from New England possibly and partially excepted: but the Adjutant-General was armed with a potent specific for its cure. The twenty regiments of Blacks which he was intent on raising he had authority to officer on the spot from the White veterans at hand; and this fact—at least, until the commissions should be awarded—operated as a powerful antidote to anti-negro prejudice. There were few, if any, instances of a White sergeant or corporal whose dignity or whose nose revolted at the proximity of Blacks as private soldiers, if he might secure a lieutenancy by deeming them not unsavory, or not quite intolerably so; while there is no case on record where a soldier deemed fit for a captaincy in a colored regiment rejected it and clung to the ranks, in deference to his invincible antipathy to “niggers.” And, though Gen. Banks, in his order" directing the recruitment of a ‘Corps d’Afrique’ in his department, saw fit to say that
“The prejudices or opinions of men are in no wise involved;” and “it is not established upon any dogma of equality, or other theory, but as a practical and sensible matter of business. The Government makes use of mules, horses, uneducated and educated White men, in the defense of its institutions. Why should not the negro contribute whatever is in his power for the cause in which he is as deeply interested as other men? We may properly demand from him whatever service he can render,” &c., &c.—
yet there were few who did not see,
and not many who refused to admit, that a systematic arming of the Blacks in defense of the Union imposed obligations and involved consequences incompatible not merely with the perpetuation of Slavery, but with that of Caste as well. Hence, the proclaimed repugnance in Congress, in the Press, and among the People, to arming the Blacks, was quite as acrid, pertinacious, and denunciatory, as that which had been excited by the policy of Emancipation. Yet, in spite of ugly epithets, the work went on. Presently, a distinct Bureau was established," in the Adjutant-General's office at Washington, “for the record of all matters relating to the organization of colored troops;” and a Board, whereof Gen. Silas Casey was President, organized for the strict examination of all candidates for commissions in Black regiments; by whose labors and investigations a higher state of average character and efficiency was secured in the officering of these than had been attained in the (too often hasty and hap-hazard) organization of our White regiments. In August, the Adjutant-General again visited the Great Valley on this business; and he now issued from Wicksburg" an order which was practically a conscription of all able-bodied male Blacks who should seek protection within the Union lines, and should not be otherwise employed, into the National service. Next appeared “ an order from the War Department, establishing recruiting stations for Black soldiers in Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee, and directing the enlistment as volunteers of “all ablebodied free negroes;” also the “slaves of disloyal persons [absolutely], and slaves of loyal persons with the consent of their owners,” who were to be paid $300 for each slave so enlisted, upon making proof of ownership and filing a deed of manumission. Thus the good work went on ; until, in December, '63, the Bureau aforesaid reported that over 50,000 had been enlisted and were then in actual service; and this number had been trebled before the close of the following year. And, though some of our Generals regarded them with disfavor, while others were loud in their praise, it is no longer fairly disputable that they played a very important and useful part in the overthrow of the Rebellion. Though they were hardly allowed to participate in any of the great battles whereby the issue was determined, they bore an honorable part in many minor actions and sieges, especially those of 1864–5. In docility, in unquestioning obedience to superiors,
* May 1. * May 22.
*Aug. 18. - * Oct. 3.
in local knowledge, in capacity to endure fatigue, in ability to brave exposure and resist climatic or miasmatic perils, they were equal if not superior to the average of our White troops; in intelligence and tenacity, they were inferior; and no wise General would have counted a corps of them equal, man for man, in a great, protracted battle, to a like number of our Whites. Yet there were Black regiments above the average of Whites in merit; and their fighting at Fort Wagner, Port Hudson, Helena, Mobile, and some other points, was noticed by their commanders with well deserved commendation. To exalt them to the disparagement of our White soldiers would be as unwise as unjust; but those Whites who fought most bravely by their side will be the last to detract from the gratitude wherewith the Republic fitly honors all her sons who freely offered their lives for the salvation of their country.
XX III. TIIF WAR AI, O N G T H E AT LAN TIC COAST IN 1864.
* Dec. 7, 1863.
Tebellion; all civil or diplomatic officers or agents of the IRebel Government; all officers in the Confederate army, above the rank of Colonel; and of all who had been engaged in treating our colored soldiers or their officers “otherwise than lawfully as prisoners of war.” This proffer was accepted by very few, and seemed to be regarded with even more contempt than indignation by the Rebel oracles. Where all who are prominently, responsibly engaged in a rebellion are excepted from a proffer of amnesty, those not thus exempted are apt to resent the discrimination as implying an inadequate appreciation of their consequence.
Operations against Charleston having been but languidly prosecuted since the complete conquest of Morris island, the failure of Dahlgren's boat attack on Sumter, and his refusal to attempt to pass its ruins with his iron-clads and fight his way up to the city, Gen. Gillmore decided to employ a part of his force in a fresh expedition to Florida. The President, apprised of this design,
commissioned John IIay, one of his
private secretaries, as major, and sent him down to IIilton IIead to accompany the proposed expedition, under expectations, founded on the assurances of refugees, that Florida was ripe for amnesty and restoration to the Union. Gillmore's force, under the immediate command of Gen. Truman Seymour, embarked ‘ on 20 steamers and 8 schooners, and was off the northern mouth of the St. John's next forenoon; occupying Jacksonville unresisted at 5 P. M. The few Tebel sol
diers fired and ran as our troops debarked, to find the place in ruins, and very few residents remaining. A railroad train from Tallahassee had arrived and departed that day; but the rails were to have been taken up that week for use elsewhere. At 3 P. M. next day,” our troops moved westward parallel with the railroad—Col. Guy V. Isenry, with the cavalry, leading: the intent being to surprise the Itebel Gen. Finnegan at Camp Finnegan, S miles west. The advance was skillfully and bravely made; but only 150 men were at the camp—Finnegan, with the residue, having hurriedly fallen back. IIenry evaded a Rebel cavalry force covering the front, and dashed into the camp unannounced; capturing 4 guns, with a large amount of camp equipage and commissary stores, and a few prisoners—but not till the telegraph had had time to give the alarm to Baldwin, beyond. IIenry pushed on at 4 A. M., and was in Baldwin at 7; capturing another gun, three cars, and $500,000 worth of provisions and munitions. IIe had a skirmish at the south fork of St. Mary's, 5 miles farther on, and drove the enemy, but lost 17 men. At 6 P. M., he was in Sanderson, 40 miles from Jacksonville; where he captured and destroyed much property; pushing on, at 2 A. M., very nearly to Lake City, almost half way from the coast to Tallahassee; but here, at 11 A. M., he found Finnegan in position, very stubborn, and too strong to be moved: so he fell back 5 miles, bivouacked in a drenching rain, and telegraphed to Seymour, now at Sanderson with part of his infantry, for orders and food. It was reported that Finne
- * Jan. 13, 1864. vol. II.-34
* Feb. G.
* Feb. 8.