Chapter 11: Seige of CharlestonUpon returning to their several stations, the Fifty-fourth companies reassumed the old duties. The first noteworthy incident occurred on July 13, when, at noon, six shells passing over the Third Rhode Island Artillery camp, fell into ours, one of which, exploding in a tent, killed Private John Tanner and Musician Samuel Suffhay, both of Company B. We had supposed the location safe from any shell firing. These missiles came from Sullivan's Island, clear across the harbor. A lookout posted on the sand-bluff near by gave warning thereafter when this gun opened, which it did at intervals until the last of August. At such times, day or night, we were obliged to leave the camp for the sea beach. No further casualties occurred, however. Another example of dislike to colored troops took place on the 15th. Lieut. John S. Marcy, Fifty-second Pennsylvania, when directed to join the Fifty-fourth detail for duty at the Left Batteries, with some of his men, the whole force to be under one of our officers, refused to do so, saying, ‘I will not do duty with colored troops.’ He was arrested and court-martialled, and, by General Foster's order, dishonorably dismissed. Colonel Hallowell returned on the 16th, bringing assurances that the men would soon be paid. With him came as visitors Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, relatives of Quartermaster Ritchie.  During the heated term, which began with the month and seemed interminable, we went about arrayed in as few clothes as possible. The blazing sun heated the sand beneath our feet, and reflected from land and sea, dazzled the eyes. No relief came until nightfall, when the sea breeze sprang up. On the 21st a change of weather brought cooler temperature for some days. Mr. Hoadly, the efficient agent of the Sanitary Commission on Morris Island, was supplying the troops with stores. Ice was still scarce. For some weeks Sumter had been bombarded with unusual vigor, as during our season of quietness the enemy had constructed two large bombproofs there, and mounted five guns on the channel face. It was estimated that one hundred of the garrison were killed or wounded during this latest bombardment. Captain Mitchel, its commander, was killed, July 19, by a mortar-shell, and was succeeded by Capt. T. A. Huguenin, First South Carolina (regulars), who continued in charge until its final abandonment. A special exchange of the fifty Confederate officers for the same number of ours in Charleston was effected on August 3. The released officers were received with cheers and a display of flags from the vessels., From Edward R. Henderson, steward of the truce boat Cosmopolitan, Quartermaster Ritchie received a list containing forty names of Fifty-fourth prisoners captured July 16 and 18, 1863, which was smuggled out by an exchanged officer. Maj.-Gen. Daniel Sickles, who was on a tour of inspection, landed on Morris Island on the 3d, accompanied by General Foster, and was received with a salute of thirteen guns. During the succeeding night two officers of the One  Hundred and Third Ohio came to our lines, having escaped from Charleston, and, with the assistance of negroes, procured a boat in which to cross the harbor. The enemy's fire on Cumming's Point on the night of the 6th wounded five men of a colored regiment. A large propeller was discovered aground toward Sullivan's Island on the morning of the 8th, whereupon our guns opened from land and sea, soon destroying her. We gave our fire sometimes from the great guns in volleys,—their united explosions shaking the whole island and covering the batteries with a white pall of smoke. Peaceful intervals came, when the strange stillness of the ordnance seemed like stopped heart-beats of the siege. Then the soft rush of the surf and the chirp of small birds in the scant foliage could be heard. Major Appleton, who had been in hospital since the movement to James Island, departed North on the 7th, and never returned. His loss was a great one to the regiment, for he was a devoted patriot, a kind-hearted man, and an exceedingly brave soldier. Captain Emilio came to camp with Company E from Fort Green, on the 8th, when relieved by Lieutenant Newell with Company B. Captain Tucker and Company H reported from Black Island on the 20th, and Lieutenant Duren and Company D were relieved at Fort Shaw on the 23d. Captain Pope succeeded Captain Homans in the command of Black Island on the 24th. Our details for grand guard were increased after the 16th, when the Thirty-second United States Colored Troops was ordered to Hilton Head. Salutes in honor of Admiral Farragut's victory at Mobile were fired on the 25th. On the 28th, and again on September 1, the navy sent torpedoes, heavily charged, to float  and explode near Fort Sumter, in the hope of shattering the structure; but they caused no damage. In Congress the third Conference Committee reported, on June 10, that the House recede from the amendments reducing the bounty, and that all persons of color who were free on April 19, 1861, should, from the time of entering service, be entitled to the pay, bounty, and clothing allowed by the laws existing at the time of their enlistment. The Attorney-General was to determine any law question, and the Secretary of War make the necessary regulations for the pay department. After discussion this unjust compromise was accepted by both branches of Congress. Over two months, however, passed, until, on August 18, the War Department issued Circular No. 60, providing that officers commanding colored organizations should make an investigation to ascertain who of their men enlisted prior to January 1, 1864, were free April 19, 1861. The fact of freedom was to be settled by the sworn statement of the soldier, and entered against the man's name on the musterrolls. August 29, Sergeant Cross and a few men of the Fifty-fourth returned from Beaufort, where they had received full pay from enlistment in accordance with the foregoing regulations. Colonel Hallowell made the first effective muster for pay of the regiment on the 31st. As no particular form of oath had been prescribed, he administered the following:—
‘You do solemnly swear that you owed no man unrequited labor on or before the 19th day of April, 1861. So help you God.’This form had been the subject of much thought, and was known in the regiment as the ‘Quaker Oath.’ Some  of our men were held as slaves April 19, 1861, but they took the oath as freemen, by God's higher law, if not by their country's. A more pitiful story of broken faith, with attendant want and misery upon dependent ones, than this deprivation of pay for many months cannot be told. If ever men were seemingly driven to desperation and overt acts, they were. How they bore it all, daily exposing their lives for the cause and the flag they loved, has been feebly told. That they were compelled to take this or any oath at the last was an insult crowning the injury. There was another meeting of truce steamers in the harbor on the 3d, when a release without equivalent was made by the enemy of thirty persons,—chaplains, surgeons, and some women. General Schimmelfennig, who had removed district headquarters from Folly to Morris Island August 2, on September 4 departed North, when General Saxton took command. The next day the Fifty-sixth and One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York arrived; and Col. Charles H. Van Wyck of the Fifty-sixth assumed command of Morris Island, relieving Colonel Gurney. Captain Homans, with Company A, having reported from Black Island to camp about September 1, there were the following companies with the colors; namely, A, D, E, G, H, and K, a larger number than for some months. On the 6th, several boxes of canned goods were received for the regiment,—the gift of Count Leo B. Schwabe, of Boston. This gentleman belonged to a noble family, and was born at Castle Schaumberg on the Weser. Before the war he lived in South Carolina, where he owned slaves and plantations. The slaves he freed as the war broke out. His means were lavishly given for building chapels and hospitals,  establishing camp libraries, besides donations of money and provisions for Union soldiers. He died but recently; and it is sad to record that his last days were passed in reduced circumstances. September 1, several hundred Confederate officers, sent to be confined under fire in retaliation for a similar hardship suffered by our officers in Charleston, arrived off Morris Island on the steamer Crescent. An enclosed camp was made for them just north of Wagner, in full view of the enemy and exposed to his fire. The enclosure was 228 by 304 feet, and formed of palisading of pine posts, ten feet above ground, supporting a platform from which sentinels could watch the prisoners. The ‘dead line,’ marked by a rope stretched on posts, was twenty feet inside the palisading. Good A tents, each to hold four men, were pitched and arranged, forming eight streets. The ground was clean, dry, quartz sand. Several days before, the Fifty-fourth was assigned to guard this prison camp. On September 7, Colonel Hallowell, with Companies D, E, G, and K marched to the landing, where the steamer Cossack soon arrived with the Confederates. The escort was composed entirely of colored soldiers. First came three companies of the Twenty-first United States Colored Troops in column, then the prisoners, flanked on either side by two companies of the Fifty-fourth, the rear closed by two companies of the Twentyfirst in column. In this order the Confederates were taken to the camp. This body of five hundred and sixty officers thus placed in our charge was a singular-looking set of soldiers. There were among them tall, lank mountaineers, some typical Southerners of the books,—dark, long-haired, and fierce  of aspect,—and a lesser number of city men of jauntier appearance. The major part were common-looking, evidently of the poorer class of Southerners, with a sprinkling of foreigners,—principally Germans and Irish. Hardly any two were dressed alike. There were suits of blue jeans, homespuns, of butternut, and a few in costumes of gray more or less trimmed. Upon their heads were all sorts of coverings,—straw and slouch hats, and forage caps of gray, blue, or red, decorated with braid. Cavalry boots, shoes, and bootees in all stages of wear were on their feet. Their effects were wrapped in rubber sheets, pieces of carpet, or parts of quilts and comforts. Some had hand-sacks of ancient make. Haversacks of waterproof cloth or cotton hung from their shoulders. Their physical condition was good; but they made a poor showing for chosen leaders of the enemy. It did seem that men of their evident mental and intellectual calibre—with some exceptions—might be supporters of any cause, however wild or hopeless. They were of all grades, from colonels down in rank. At the camp the prisoners were divided into eight detachments, with a non-commissioned officer of the Fifty-fourth, detailed from the guard, in charge of each, as warden. Clean straw was provided for the tents, and a good blanket, given each officer. The regulations, so far as they related to the prisoners, were read to them. Our six companies of the Fifty-fourth were formed into three reliefs; namely, A and H, D and G, and E and K, each relief furnishing one hundred men, with proper officers, for duty at the stockade from 6 P. M. until the same hour the following day. When relieved, the detachment went into Wagner for the succeeding night, returning to camp the next morning. At the gate of the stockade was posted a  Requa rifled battery in charge of the reserve, and a section of Battery B, Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, reported there each day. Three times a day the roll was called by the wardens, and every man accounted for to the officer of the day. Policing of the-streets was done by the prisoners. Sick call was attended to by a surgeon, who removed the severe cases to hospitals outside. Barrel-sinks were provided and cared for by the prisoners. At night the camp and vicinity were made bright as moonlight by means of a calcium light on Wagner's parapet. Oil lanterns were also used inside the stockade when required. After taps sounded, no light was allowed the prisoners, and they were not permitted to enter the streets except to go to the barrel-sinks. During the day they had free range of the camp; but groups of more than ten prisoners were warned to disperse under penalty of being fired upon if the order was disregarded. Our charges were allowed to purchase writing materials, pipes, tobacco, and necessary clothing. Letters could be sent after inspection. Their rations were cooked by men of the guard. The nearness of the enemy necessitated the utmost vigilance. It was a tempting opportunity for some bold rescue, and a boat attack was not improbable. At first there was thought to be some danger from stray shells, as Cumming's Point was the focus of the enemy's fire. But as time passed, this seeming danger to friend and foe was not realized. Everything was done to care for and protect these unfortunate officers whom the fortunes of war placed in our hands except in two particulars,—they were kept in a place within reach of the enemy's fire, and their rations were reduced to conform in quantity to those furnished  our officers in Charleston, at first to one half the army ration, and after some time still less. Food and cooking was the same otherwise as furnished the Fifty-fourth. Of these inflictions in retaliation the enemy was duly informed as the result of their own uncivilized acts, which would be discontinued whenever they ceased to practise the same. September 9, Wagner fired a salute of shotted guns in honor of the capture of Atlanta, Ga. The next day a reconnoissance was made in small force by the army and navy about Bull's Bay. Our shells caused a large fire in Charleston on the 17th, plainly seen from Cumming's Point, by which twenty-five buildings were destroyed. Another, the next day, burned two mansions at the corner of Trade and Meeting streets. With increased elevations our shells fell a distance of two blocks beyond Calhoun Street. A prisoner of war in Charleston thus graphically describes the firing:—
‘Every fifteen or twenty minutes we could see the smoke and hear the explosions of “Foster's messengers,” —two hundredpound shells. They told us of the untiring perseverance of our forces on Morris Island. So correct was their aim, so well did the gunners know our whereabouts, that shells burst all around, in front, and often fell, screeching, overhead, without injury to us. When the distant rumbling of the Swamp, Angel was heard, and the cry, “Here it comes,” resounded through the prison-house, there was a general stir: sleepers sprang to their feet; conversation was hushed; and all started to see where the messengers would fall. . . . The sight at night was truly beautiful. We traced through the sky a slight stream of fire similar to the tail of a comet, followed its course, until “whiz! whiz!” came the little pieces like grape-shot.’ Charleston papers gave us information that yellow fever was prevalent and increasing, not only among the prisoners, but the citizens, and especially the Germans. At the stockade the captives gave no trouble, and readily conformed to the rules. The wardens took great pride in their office. At roll-calls they accurately dressed the lines, and doubtless imparted some useful hints to the Confederate officers. From Major McDonald, Fifty-first North Carolina, who was present in Wagner during the assault of July 18, 1863, very interesting particulars of the affair were obtained. He confirmed the story of Colonel Shaw's death and manner of burial. After a few days' experience the prisoners lost all fear of being struck by stray shells thrown by their friends; but they watched the bombardment always with interest, so far as they were able. When Wagner opened, the heavy Parrott projectiles passed directly over the camp, but high in air. Our charges lounged about during the day, visiting friends, or played cards, smoked, and read. There were ingenious fellows who passed much time making chains, crosses, rings, and other ornaments from bone or guttapercha buttons. Our officers found a number of most agreeable gentlemen among them, who seemed to appreciate such attentions and politenesses as could be extended within the scope of our regulations. Sudden orders came on September 21, at 10 A. M., to remove the prisoners to Lighthouse Inlet. This was done by the Fifty-fourth, and they were placed on two schooners. The reason for this temporary change is not known. Possibly some fear of a rescue under cover of the exchange which was to take place may have occasioned it. On the 23d, after the truce had expired, the Fifty-fourth escorted  the prisoners back to the camp. When the rolls were called, it was discovered that six officers were missing. Without a moment's delay, Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper and Quartermaster Ritchie rode to Lighthouse Inlet, and with guards, searched all the vessels there. Five officers were recaptured just as they came from the hold of a vessel with no clothes on, prepared to swim in an attempt to escape. Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper himself searched every part of a steamer previously examined, and at last found his missing man concealed in the paddle-box. The recaptured officers were doubtless surprised when the lieutenant-colonel took them to his tent, offered stimulants, told them they were blameless, and gave them permission to try again, before sending them to join their comrades. Among the prisoners were some rabid Secessionists who would receive no favors at our hands. It is pleasant to record, that, on the 27th, Capt. Henry A. Buist, Twenty-seventh South Carolina (now a prominent lawyer of Charleston), about to be exchanged, politely expressed his thanks to our officers for kindnesses received. September 28 was a red-letter day for the Fifty-fourth. Paymaster Lockwood, on that date and the 29th, paid the men from enlistment. They were wild with joy that their only trouble was over. An officer wrote:—
‘We had been eighteen months waiting, and the kaleidoscope was turned,—nine hundred men received their money; nine hundred stories rested on the faces of those men, as they passed in at one door and out of the other. Wagner stared Readville in the face! There was use in waiting! Two days have changed the face of things, and now a petty carnival prevails. The fiddle and other music long neglected enlivens the tents day and night. Songs burst out everywhere; dancing is  incessant; boisterous shouts are heard, mimicry, burlesque, and carnival; pompous salutations are heard on all sides. Here a crowd and a preacher; there a crowd and two boxers; yonder, feasting and jubilee. In brief, they have awakened “the pert and nimble spirit of mirth, and turned melancholy forth to funerals.” ’It required $170,000 to pay the Fifty-fourth. Over $53,000 was sent home by Adams' Express; and the sum ultimately forwarded reached $100,000. There was for a time lavish and foolish expenditure of money on the part of some. October came in with clear, warm mornings and soft breezes in the afternoon. During a truce on the 3d some prisoners were exchanged, and two thousand suits of clothing and many packages were sent to our prisoners. We received clothing and tobacco for the Confederate officers from Charleston people. Brig.-Gen. E. P. Scammon on the 4th relieved General Saxton of the district command, and reviewed the Morris Island troops on the 6th. We had twenty-four officers and seven hundred and twenty-six enlisted men of the regiment present for duty at the several posts on this date. For some time the freedmen had been contributing to a Shaw monument fund to which the Fifty-fourth added liberally. The following letters relate thereto:—
 Further sums were subsequently sent by the Fifty-fourth, until, on the last of October, the total contributed by them was $2,832. A much larger amount would have been given had it been proposed to erect the monument elsewhere than near Fort Wagner. It was then seen that what has since occurred would take place,—the sea was gradually washing away Morris Island at that point. Besides, there was no confidence that a monument erected on South Carolina soil would be respected when the Union forces were withdrawn. Ultimately the project was given up and the money used to aid in establishing a free school for colored children in Charleston, bearing Colonel Shaw's name. Efforts were made in the North to erect some memorial to our colonel. One fund at least exists. To this day no object stands in public place to point the lesson of Shaw's life and glorious death. Nevertheless he lives in memory, and his work renders his name immortal. A large steamer on the night of October 5, in attempting to run into Charleston, struck a wreck and sank, showing only her masts above water when daylight came. On the 8th the weather suddenly grew colder, with lower temperature the next day, when a chilling northwest wind blew. We received forty-seven recruits on the 11th, who had looked forward to joining the regiment of their choice. As our rolls were full, they were transferred, to the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts on Folly Island. Our musicians were made happy by the receipt of twelve brass drums. Still another change of post commander occurred on the 19th, when Colonel Hallowell relieved Colonel Van Wyck, who went North temporarily. General Foster, when informed that the Union officers under fire in Charleston were removed elsewhere, ordered  the Confederates on Morris Island to be conveyed to Fort Pulaski. Accordingly, on the 21st, Captain Emilio, with a battalion of the Fifty-fourth composed of Companies D, E, G, and K, escorted the prisoners to the landing and turned them over to Col. P. P. Brown and his One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York. During the time they were in our charge not one had been injured by the artillery firing; there was no disturbance, no complaint of ill usage or lack of medical attention. None had escaped. Only two cases of shooting by the guard occurred. In one instance two quarrelsome men engaged in a fight, and when warned by a sentinel to desist, failed to do so, were fired upon, and both were slightly wounded. The other case occurred at night, when a light being discovered, a sentinel fired as instructed, wounding an innocent man. In both instances it was a clear disregard of orders, involving a penalty known to the offenders and their comrades. The following official letter was received at headquarters and read as ordered, fitly closing the record of the duty.
 Nearly every night about this period escaped prisoners came into our lines at various points about Charleston. Each had a new and thrilling story to tell of trial and peril on the way; but all united in acknowledging the kindness and assistance of their only friends, the negroes. Besides the departure of the One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York, on the 21st, the Morris Island garrison was further reduced by the transfer of the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York to Beaufort. This necessitated the detail the next day of Lieutenant Leonard and Company K as provost guard, and Company A joined in that duty shortly after. At a meeting of the officers on the 24th the Rev. James Lynch, a colored man, was elected chaplain of the Fifty-fourth. He was subsequently commissioned, but not mustered. Sergeant Cezar, of Company D, was appointed acting sergeant-major, and Wm. J. Netson, principal musician. With a diminished garrison the duties bore heavily on the remaining troops. The Fifty-fourth began furnishing grand-guard details when relieved of the prisoners. It was nearly two miles from the camp to Gregg. Reliefs going beyond Wagner were exposed to the enemy's fire. On this service, after the pickets were established on posts about the works, and along the water-fronts, the reserves were held inside the forts, sheltered in the damp and vermininfested bombproofs. The officers were generally the guests of the permanent officers in charge, and occupied tents. There were also the ceaseless calls for fatigue details to land ordnance and other stores at the wharf, drag guns to the front, and return disabled pieces to the depot, besides constant work repairing the batteries damaged by the enemy's fire or the elements.  A large sidewheel steamer with smokestacks painted red and lead-color, called the ‘Flore,’ was chased ashore on Sullivan's Island during the night of the 22d, and was destroyed the next day by our guns. On or about the 29th, Brig.-Gen. Edward E. Potter assumed command of the district, relieving General Scammon. About this period our fire upon the city was stronger than for some time. November 5, a small vessel was discovered ashore in front of Fort Moultrie. She seemed to be loaded with cotton and turpentine, for our shells soon set her on fire, and she burned until after dark. Colonel Mulford, our commissioner of exchange, had arrived at Hilton Head with 3,200 Confederate prisoners. He met Captain Black, the Confederate agent, on the 11th, in the Savannah River, and arranged for exchanges at that point which took place soon afterward. With November came colder and more stormy days, rendering it bleak and cheerless on Morris Island, exposed to the chilling winds and damp atmosphere. News of the re-election of President Lincoln was received with enthusiasm as a guarantee that the war would be vigorously prosecuted. Brigadier-General Hatch relieved General Potter on the 17th of the district command. Some changes had taken place among the officers since the return from James Island. Lieut. Frederick H. Webster reported for duty July 16, and Asst.-Surg. Louis D. Radzinsky, August 16. Captain Jones departed North sick, July 29, and never returned. Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, Adjutant Howard, Quartermaster Ritchie, and Captains Emilio and Tucker received leave of absence for short periods. Lieutenant Swails was furloughed to prosecute his claims for muster in the North. Captain Bridge was  in command of the regiment during Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper's absence; and Lieut. David Reid acted as quartermaster while Lieutenant Ritchie was away. Thanksgiving Day, November 24, Colonel Hallowell assembled the regiment and conducted proper services. Afterward there were foot and sack races on the beach, ‘Spanish horse,’ and various sports. In the evening the Shaw Glee Club gave a musical performance in the storehouse of the post quartermaster. Orders were received on the 24th for the Fifty-fourth to be prepared for moving at short notice. When the departure took place, Colonel Hallowell remained in command of Morris Island with Captain Walton and Lieutenant Duren on his staff. Captain Bridge with Company F at Battery Purviance, Lieutenant Newell with Company B at Fort Green, and Lieutenant Edmands with part of Company F at Black Island remained at their posts. Companies C and I at Black Island were relieved by two companies of the Fifty-second Pennsylvania, under Capt. John B. Fisk, and reported at camp to proceed with the regiment. Lieutenant Littlefield was ordered to remain in charge of the camp and sick on Morris Island. Owing to the scarcity of transportation, the Fifty-fourth departed in detachments. Acting Major Pope, with Companies A, D, I, and K, crossed to Folly Island on the evening of the 26th, made a night march, and arrived at Stono about midnight. At dark the next day this force embarked with the Fifty-sixth New York and General Hatch and staff on the ‘Cosmopolitan,’ reaching Hilton Head on the 28th. Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, with Companies C, E, G, and H, left Morris Island on the steamer ‘General Hooker’ on the 27th, arriving at Hilton Head about  3 A. M. the next day. This departure from Morris Island was the final one for these eight companies and their officers. The companies of the regiment that remained held their several stations until Charleston fell into our hands.