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[80] the best military critics as having been, except Cold Harbor, the most wasteful slaughter of the war.1 Yet it was brought about by the deliberate action of one of the most amiable and humane of the regular army generals, in opposition to the wishes both of the War Department at Washington and of almost all his own general officers.2

Xvii. Massachusetts and the colored troops.

It is a curious fact that one part of the Civil War in which Massachusetts may claim an unquestioned precedence is the one part for which all her previous traditions had especially fitted her,—the arming of the blacks. It was a movement which went on almost simultaneously in different directions and on widely various lines, but by a curious fatality every one of those lines passed through the hands of a Massachusetts man.

Negroes had long been employed in the navy,3 but it is probable that the first direct proposal looking toward the enlistment of colored men was in a letter from Governor Andrew to the Secretary of War, April 25, 1861, in which he says, ‘Will you authorize the enlistment here and mustering into the United States service Irish, Germans and other tough men, to be drilled and prepared here for service?’4 It is difficult to tell what these lines mean, which were underscored in the original letter, if they do not refer to the negroes.

It was, moreover, the State of Massachusetts which, in advance of all others, debated in its Legislature resolutions urging upon the general government the employment of colored soldiers; these resolutions receiving a clear majority in both houses, but being defeated by a technicality. The Senate passed them by a vote of 17 to 13, and the House voted to suspend the rules for the same purpose, 74 to 69; this being a defeat, as a two-thirds vote was required. It was the last day of the session, May 23, 1861, and this vote makes it probable that the resolutions would

1 It was also followed by much illness and much suffering among the wounded. Dr. Thomas F. Perley, medical inspector-general, reports (Jan. 8, 1863), ‘I do not believe I have ever seen greater misery from sickness than exists now in our Army of the Potomac.’

2 Compare Dodge's Bird's Eye View, p. 114. Official War Records, XXI, 67, 96, 940. It is to be remembered that McClellan had been removed for alleged inaction, and that Burnside was being at once held back and pushed on. See a letter urging increased action from Quartermaster-General Meigs. (Official War Records, XXI, 916 ) General Walker well describes Burnside as ‘the sweetest, kindest, most true-hearted of men, loving and lovable, dashing, romantic, picturesque, but he was not fit for the command of an army; he knew he was not.’ (2d Army Corps, p. 137.)

3 Ammen's The Old Navy and the New, p. 368.

4 Schouler, I, 122.

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