was also necessary, for the Confederate Congress, on May 1, 1863, passed an act, a portion of which read as follows:—
Section IV: That every white person being a commissioned officer, or acting as such, who, during the present war, shall command negroes or mulattoes in arms against the Confederate States, or who shall arm, train, organize, or prepare negroes or mulattoes for military service against the Confederate States, or who shall voluntarily aid negroes or mulattoes in any military enterprise, attack, or conflict in such service, shall be deemed as inciting servile insurrection, and shall, if captured, be put to death or be otherwise punished at the discretion of the Court.
The motives which influenced many of those appointed are forcibly set forth in the following extracts from a letter of William H. Simpkins
, then of the Forty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry, who was killed in action when a captain in the Fifty-fourth:—
‘I have to tell you of a pretty important step that I have just taken.
I have given my name to be forwarded to Massachusetts for a commission in the Fifty-fourth Negro Regiment, Colonel Shaw.
This is no hasty conclusion, no blind leap of an enthusiast, but the result of much hard thinking.
It will not be at first, and probably not for a long time, an agreeable position, for many reasons too evident to state. . . . Then this is nothing but an experiment after all; but it is an experiment that I think it high time we should try,—an experiment which, the sooner we prove fortunate the sooner we can count upon an immense number of hardy troops that can stand the effect of a Southern climate without injury; an experiment which the sooner we prove unsuccessful, the sooner we shall establish an important truth and rid ourselves of a false hope.’