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[140] of ‘an aggregation of town meetings.’ The governor himself wrote, on June 4, 1862, to Col. G. H. Gordon, commanding a brigade under Major-General Banks: ‘Permit me, in closing, to congratulate you upon your nomination to the rank of brigadier-general, and also upon the brilliant success achieved by the withdrawal of our forces, with so little loss.’1

Xxvi. Massachusetts in the field.

The patriot Garibaldi told Gen. W. F. Bartlett that he had seen from the beginning that there was only one question pending in the world, and that was the American question.2 It was not the fault of Massachusetts if other nations and even our own nation failed at first to recognize the greatness of this question, or the fact that slavery was an essential factor in the war. Even some who finally were active in recognizing it, as General Butler, held back from it at first, and would gladly have seen the matter adjusted without liberating a slave. Col. George D. Wells, one of the most brilliant of the younger Massachusetts commanders, advocated this policy in his recruiting speeches at Worcester, and yet afterwards became a member of a board to examine officers for colored troops. The increasing tendency to an emancipation policy swept all before it, and carried Massachusetts first; yet the repugnance to this attitude died hard among many Massachusetts officers, and unfortunately among some of the best of these.3

The good sanitary condition of the Massachusetts regiments was admitted by many witnesses, the camps being kept in such order, sometimes, that when an inspection by a regular officer was announced for a certain day not the slightest special preparation was made for that ceremony.4 The early surgical examination of soldiers was often so carelessly conducted as to bring many men not properly inspected into the regiments,5 but after being there they were fairly well attended and supervised.6 The percentage of

1 Schouler, I, 334. After the Fredericksburg defeat, a New Hampshire colonel gave in his report this frank explanation of his regiment's large losses: ‘Allow me to state that the reason why the loss of my regiment was so heavy was, the men held their ground and endeavored to whip the enemy, instead of skulking or shamefully leaving the field, as many of the new regiments did.’ Official War Records, XXI, 235. Compare Mil. Hist. Society's Papers, II, 37.

2 Palfrey's Bartlett, p. 185.

3 Lincoln's 34th Mass., p. 100. The author does not mention any actual surrender of slaves to their owners by this regiment, but this is attributed to it by Cudworth, in 1st Mass. Regiment, p. 90. Walcott, in his 21st Mass. (p. 14), relates an incident of positive refusal to hunt slaves.

4 Lincoln's 34th Mass., p. 71.

5 It has been urged, however, that these examinations were still less strict at a later day. Billings's Hard Tack and Coffee, p. 173.

6 Lincoln, pp. 18, 19, 34.

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