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[319] Most of the officers turned in to different camps as they came to them on the road or bivouacked by the fences. Henry reached camp with difficulty, and I came in with one man alongside and two just in front. Perhaps there might have been a dozen of my company who slept in their tents that night.


The first time his company and himself were under fire was when deployed as skirmishers in the advance of the army under Banks up the Shenandoah Valley. After describing the position of his men, he says:—

Then the shelling would be splendid for a minute or two, till the enemy retired. It was the first experience of our men under fire; and a grand display it was, like a terrible thunder-storm, only more exciting. . . . . Yesterday I picked the first flower I have seen,—a hepatica. I passed it running, for I had my company deployed as skirmishers, and was chasing away six or eight Rebel cavalry, who had the impertinence to approach our camp and fire on a squad going for water. It was getting dark; but as I ran through the wood, the flower attracted my attention, all alone as it stood up above the dry oak leaves, and I made a dash at it and captured it, though I believe the Rebels got off in safety, unless a bullet or two went with them.

He had steadily declined proffered promotion, which would remove him from his loved Second Regiment, saying that he would never leave it save for a colored regiment. But his ardent desire to aid the slave in securing his freedom was stronger than even his affection for his regiment. Major Copeland describes an interview with James when the question of raising such a colored regiment was discussed. The matter had been talked over between Major Copeland and Lieutenant Shaw, before mentioning it to James. He says:—

Savage came to my tent, back of Headquarters at Strasburg. The tent was pitched on a delicious bit of greensward,—a rare sight in these days; and for a few moments we lay on the grass, enjoying the sky, the air, and the fragrance. Presently I began to describe our plan for a colored regiment, and our belief that through it we could insert a wedge which would not only sever the connection between master and slave, but which would aid the race in its own regeneration. At length I said, “Now, Jim, we want you to go ”

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