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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment, Chapter 1: Introductory. (search)
anizing the First Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers, with every prospect of success. Your name has been spoken of, in connection with the command of this regiment, by some friends in whose judgment I have confidence. I take great pleasure in offering you the position of Colonel in it, and hope that you may be induced to accept. I shall not fill the place until I hear from you, or sufficient time shall have passed for me to receive your reply. Should you accept, I enclose a pass for Port Royal, of which I trust you will feel disposed to avail yourself at once. I am, with sincere regard, yours truly, R. Saxton, Brig.-Genl., Mil. Gov. Had an invitation reached me to take command of a regiment of Kalmuck Tartars, it could hardly have been more unexpected. I had always looked for the arming of the blacks, and had always felt a wish to be associated with them; had read the scanty accounts of General Hunter's abortive regiment, and had heard rumors of General Saxton's renew
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment, Chapter 3: up the St. Mary's. (search)
n waiting for our consort, and improved our time by verifying certain rumors about a quantity of new railroad-iron which was said to be concealed in the abandoned Rebel forts on St. Simon's and Jekyll Islands, and which would have much value at Port Royal, if we could only unearth it. Some of our men had worked upon these very batteries, so that they could easily guide us; and by the additional discovery of a large flat-boat we were enabled to go to work in earnest upon the removal of the treasu inevitable detention. I was by no means proud of their forlorn appearance, and besought Colonel Hawley to take them off my hands; but he was sending no flags of truce at that time, and liked their looks no better than I did. So I took them to Port Royal, where they were afterwards sent safely across the lines. Our men were pleased at taking them back with us, as they had already said, regretfully, S'pose we leave dem Secesh at Fernandina, General Saxby won't see 'em, --as if they were some ne
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment, Chapter 4: up the St. John's. (search)
ne has only brought ten days rations, so that they evidently are not to stay here; and yet where they go, or why they come, is a puzzle. Meanwhile we can sleep sound oa nights; and if the black and white babies do not quarrel and pull hair, we shall do very well. Colonel Rust, on arriving, said frankly that he knew nothing of the plans prevailing in the Department, but that General Hunter was certainly coming soon to act for himself; that it had been reported at the North, and even at Port Royal, that we had all been captured and shot (and, indeed, I had afterwards the pleasure of reading my own obituary in a Northern Democratic journal), and that we certainly needed reinforcements; that he himself had been sent with orders to carry out, so far as possible, the original plans of the expedition; that he regarded himself as only a visitor, and should remain chiefly on shipboard,--which he did. He would relieve the black provost-guard by a white one, if I approved,which I certainly
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment, Chapter 5: out on picket. (search)
egotiate through me or my officers,--a refusal which was kept up, greatly to the enemy's inconvenience, until our men finally captured some of the opposing pickets, and their friends had to waive all scruples in order to send them supplies. After this there was no trouble, and I think that the first Rebel officer in South Carolina who officially met any officer of colored troops under a flag of truce was Captain John C. Calhoun. In Florida we had been so recognized long before; but that was when they wished to frighten us out of Jacksonville. Such was our life on picket at Port Royal,--a thing whose memory is now fast melting into such stuff as dreams are made of. We stayed there more than two months at that time; the first attack on Charleston exploded with one puff, and had its end; General Hunter was ordered North, and the busy Gilmore reigned in his stead; and in June, when the blackberries were all eaten, we were summoned, nothing loath, to other scenes and encampments new.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment, Chapter 7: up the Edisto. (search)
hich might follow, while it was very clear that the raid would harass and confuse the enemy, and be the means of bringing away many of the slaves. General Hunter had, therefore, accepted the project mainly as a stroke for freedom and black recruits; and General Gillmore, because anything that looked toward action found favor in his eyes, and because it would be convenient to him at that time to effect a diversion, if nothing more. It must be remembered that, after the first capture of Port Royal, the outlying plantations along the whole Southern coast were abandoned, and the slaves withdrawn into the interior. It was necessary to ascend some river for thirty miles in order to reach the black population at all. This ascent could only be made by night, as it was a slow process, and the smoke of a steamboat could be seen for a great distance. The streams were usually shallow, winding, and muddy, and the difficulties of navigation were such as to require a full moon and a flood tide
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment, Chapter 12: the negro as a soldier. (search)
r which his father at last called him to account, as thus:-- Hi! Sammy, what you's doin‘, chile? Daddy, said the inquisitive youth, don't you know mas'r tell us Yankee hab tail? I don't see no tail, daddy! There were many who went to Port Royal during the war, in civil or military positions, whose previous impressions of the colored race were about as intelligent as Sam's view of themselves. But, for one, I had always had so much to do with fugitive slaves, and had studied the whole tlantic coast, which long seemed a merely subordinate and incidental part of the great contest, proved to be one of the final pivots on which it turned. All now admit that the fate of the Confederacy was decided by Sherman's march to the sea. Port Royal was the objective point to which he marched, and he found the Department of the South, when he reached it, held almost exclusively by colored troops. Next to the merit of those who made the march was that of those who held open the door. That