In 1859, Ned Hallowell, who was working as a stock broker, was elected a member of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. That April, together with his friend, Edward M. Davis, Jr., he drove Daniel Dangerfield from Philadelphia to "Norwood," the summer residence of the Hallowells at Chelten Hills.
Daniel Dangerfield had been arrested in Harrisburg by an armed U.S. Marshal claiming that he was a fugitive from the ownership of Elizabeth Simpson of Virginia. People in Harrisburg knew the arrested man as Daniel Webster -- a "peaceable, honest, and industrious" fence-maker. Marshals sent him immediately by train to Philadelphia so as to avoid demonstrations or attempts to free him in the town. Under the law, slaveholders need only sign affidavits like the one sworn against Dangerfield. Bystanders were required to help marshals grab their victims. Federal commissioners decided the cases, and defendants could not testify. The law, in historian Eric Foner's words, "made slavery a national institution."
On Monday, crowds numbering in the thousands waited outside
I ventured to step forward, and, in an undertone, expressed to him the earnest hope that his conscience would not allow him to send this poor man into slavery. He replied that he must be bound by his oath of office.
The other discrepancy was height: the Virginians said the missing slave was about 5-foot-6. Longstreth had the prisoner stand and be measured. Brewster objected: "Get his boots off, your honor." Webster removed his boots. Longstreth made a note: boots on, 5-foot-10; boots off, nearly 5-9. As the lawyer for the side that generally said Negroes were better off enslaved, Brewster could hardly argue that, after five years' freedom, a man might stand taller.
Final arguments began Tuesday evening and lasted through the night. By noon on Wednesday, anticipation of a verdict was "painful" in intensity, McKim wrote. At 4 p.m., the courtroom filled again. "All was silence and suspense," Mary Grew wrote, "and none dared hope for a favorable conclusion." Longstreth began reading his decision. He noted that along with property, the case "involved the liberty or bondage of a human being." He said the slaveholders had proven a lawful claim on Daniel Dangerfield, who had fled in 1854. But the testimony persuaded him that the defendant in the courtroom had lived in Harrisburg since 1853. When Longstreth noted that Webster was 5-foot-10 -- taller than the fugitive -- tears and hurrahs filled the room. Longstreth ordered the prisoner "discharged."
|James and Lucretia Coffin Mott|
127 S. Twelfth St. Phila. April 7th. 1859
My dear husband--
My last letter was delayed longer than I meant it should be and I am hardly rested enough from the exciting attendance at Court to be able to write now, but while every body is taking a nap I will give you a little history of our movements. I believe I told you that Miller feared there was no hope for the slave, but he was anxious that as many as could should go to the Commissioners office on Monday. Sister L. wrote to me to meet her there at 91/2. So Ellen and I started at 9 . . .we had leisure to admire the neatness of the office, a little back room, not half so large as your office. I doubt whether any but the claimants & witnesses & counsels would have been admitted, if we had not got foothold. People soon began to look in at the half glass door, and try the latch; Ellen helped me find out the secret of it, and we open’d the door for Sister L, Mrs. McClintock, Mrs. Truman, Anna Brown & others of our family & friends, & when the commissioner came from his back entrance, he must have been astonished to find a perfect jam. He said this case was not one for a town meeting. I will send you the papers telling of the adjournment to the Court House. When we got there there was a perfect jam and the door closed against us the moment they got the slave in amid the roars of the crowd.
Charles Walton had Ellen & Anna Davis under his care, and I kept by Sister L. & Miller McKim. It was very evident that none but the claimants and their friends were to be admitted, but by going round to another door, we got in and were fairly lifted from our feet by the pressure of the crowd to the little jury room. The glass was broken from the door, but we got the places we wanted. Sister L. held on to the slave & kept close by him all the time. The heat became almost insupportable, but we remained there till 1 P.M. & then adjourned to 4. We went early, & got in with less difficulty, but Mr. Furness who had dined with us at Edw. Hopper’s was excluded, & they wd. only admit ladies--by sending for the counsel however a good many managed to get in.
Thomas Mott, Charles Walton, & his brother, Ned Hallowell and other persevering ones. Abm. Barker & wife & many others of our friends, so that the room was nearly as crowded as the little jury room, tho’ twice as large. Sarah & Rebecca Yarnall went with us, on Tuesday. They adjourned between 9 & 10 to 4 P.M. on Tuesday. Sister L. & I dined at br. Benjamin’s & went early, but found the room nearly full. The excitement of the day before, and the heat of the room made me sick--my throat was inflamed & I had fever, but determined to remain as long as I could keep up. I could only stand it eight hours and then had to leave with Sarah & Rebecca at 1/2 past 11. They would have liked to stay longer, but Sarah urged me to go, seeing how sick I was.
Mary Grew begged me not to leave. I told her there was no hope for the slave & I was too ill to sit up. Thomas & Marianna & Miss Quincy were out at two parties & the girls had gone to bed, so being unable to get in, I waited on Sarah & Rebecca home, and staid all night there. Found in the morning that the decision was postponed to 4 P. M.--and then came home and went to bed, determined to go live or die. Took Belladonna & Mercurius--got up at 1/2 past 1--ready to receive Sister L. who came here to dinner, and accompanied by Thos. & Marianna Ellen & the Miss Waltons & Miss Quincy we started at 3--found a crowd at the door, many of them policemen, they said they had strict orders to admit only Mrs. Mott--we remonstrated, but finding them inexorable, Thos. advised her to go in, so she did, but we maintained our ground & at last they relented & let us in.
The first day Sister L. sat by the slave but the other days they took care to surround him. An old black man said if Mrs. Mott didn’t have a high place in Heaven he didn’t want to go there.
No one believed there was the remotest chance for the slave, it was therefore a joyful surprise when we found he was likely to be released. The officers couldn’t prevent the cheers that followed, and Charles Walton threw up the window & gave the word to the crowd below thronging the street. The slave was hurried into a carriage & borne off by his excited friends, and after dark they paraded up Arch Street to 13th, and past here giving before Edward Hopper’s and here “Three cheers for Lucretia Mott.”
You never saw such an excited & happy crowd--they had a carriage drawn by some of the crowd, with a long rope. Sister L. went out of town immediately after the decision. I was invited to go with her and spend the evening at Miller’s but did not feel well enough--did not expect even to sit up to hear Miss Quincy sing to a small company invited here, but felt a little better after tea & kept up.
Anna Hopper & Liv & Anna Davis were here notwithstanding. Anna D. & Ellen had seen the sun set and rise in the court room--they remained with Sister L. till the adjournment--after 6--Anna & Liv went home at 3 A. M. The party here was pleasant, every body was so elated at the unexpected decision. Miss Q. sang beautifully. She trembled with excitement, in court, and was very much overcome, as were some others at the decision, but said she wd. not have missed being there for a thousand pounds. She has always been so carefully guarded from everything, her brothers being rather conservative, that they would not have thought of the possibility of her being in such a crowd, but I have no doubt the determination of respectable people to witness the proceedings & to show their sympathy for the slave had a good effect. The counsel were serenaded last night. Perhaps you would rather I wd. not have written so much about it, and I would not, if there had been anything else, but I have neither seen nor heard anything else.
|The Motts' home, "Roadside"|
On February 22, 1860, Pro-slavery Southerners published a "Black List" in the New York Times:
Below we publish a list of the wholesale merchants doing business in Philadelphia, who are enemies to the institutions of the South. We were furnished this list by a true Southern man, one in whom we have implicit confidence. We have every reason to believe it is correct in every particular. The gentleman holds himself personally responsible for its correctness. We ask the attention of the Southern people to the names of the Black firms of Philadelphia:
THE BLACK LIST, OR ABOLITION HOUSES, OF PHILADELPHIA.Morris Hallowell's Company was at the top of a long list. According to a Hallowell family history:
Morris L. Hallowell & Co.
In 1861 the Rebellion for the perpetuation of slavery broke out in all its fury, and the wholesale repudiation by the Southern merchants of the debts due Northerners forced the house of Morris L Hallowell & Co. into liquidation ; the work of a lifetime was swept away, as it were, in a night. Dismayed, but not entirely disheartened, they set to work to reorganize their concern. . .
The Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, was fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg Maryland and the Antietam Creek. It was the first major battle in the war to take place in Union territory, and was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with a combined tally of dead, wounded, and missing at 22,717.
Attacks and counterattacks swept across Miller's
|Dead soldiers near the Dunker Church|
The Hallowell's unit, the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment had retreated to the Poffenberger farm, which was being used as a hospital for the wounded. Colonel William R. Lee (a distant relative of Robert E. Lee) of the 20th Massachusetts sent a detail of soldiers to assist in removing the wounded and burying the dead from the battlefield.
|Dead soldiers at Antietam|
Your Uncle Edward was not a contentious man, — far from it ; but he was one of the few men I knew who really seemed to enjoy a fight. He appeared to go into action with grim delight, and to get out of it with something like regret. And yet in a marked degree he had that peculiar tenderness which is so often the characteristic of strong men. I shall never forget him on Antietam day, as he dashed by with General N. J. T. Dana's staff, waving his sword in recognition of the 20th, with the light of battle on his countenance. Throughout that same Antietam night he wandered over the field, turning up the faces of dead men as he searched for the brother whom he thought was dead.Pen Hallowell and Oliver Wendell Holmes were taken to the Hallowells’ estate, referred to as the “House called Beautiful” by Holmes father and the Hallowell's family friend, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., who said it “was a haven of rest and refreshment for wounded soldiers of the Union Army."
|Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan|
Antietam after the battle
Ned Hallowell was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in November 1862. That same month in South Carolina, Confederate soldiers captured four black soldiers who were all wearing Union uniforms. Both Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon and President Jefferson Davis approved their “summary execution” and hoped it would serve as an example to other slaves who had ideas about joining the Union ranks.
|The Battle of Fredericksburg|
At the end of December 1863, President Davis issued an infamous Christmas Eve Proclamation. He promised several things, but the last two points were especially disturbing:
That all negro slaves captured in arms be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong to be dealt with according to the laws of said States.
That the like orders be executed in all cases with respect to all commissioned officers of the United States when found serving in company with armed slaves in insurrection against the authorities of the different States of the Confederacy.Former slaves would be returned to slavery or killed, while their white officers faced summary execution rather than being treated as prisoners of war.
|John A. Andrew|
|Newspaper notice about the 54th Regiment|
At at a time when state governors were responsible for the raising of regiments for federal service, Massachusetts was the first to respond with the formation of a black regiment. Andrew realized the financial costs involved in such an undertaking and set out to raise money; he appointed George L. Stearns as the leader of the recruiting process, and also appointed the so-called “Black Committee” of prominent and influential citizens. The committee and those providing encouragement included Frederick Douglass, Amos Lawrence, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips, and $5,000 was quickly raised for the cause. Richard Price Hallowell, brother of Ned and Pen Hallowell, was one of the members of the committee, acting as treasurer and fundraiser throughout the war.
Governor Andrew appointed a committee to superintend the raising of recruits for the colored regiment, consisting of George L. Stearns, Amos A. Lawrence, John M. Forbes, William I. Bowditch, Le Baron Russell, and Richard P Hallowell, of Boston; Mayor Howland and James B. Congdon, of New Bedford; Willard P Phillips, of Salem; and Francis G. Shaw, of New York. Subsequently the membership was increased to one hundred, and it became known as the "Black Committee." It was mainly instrumental in procuring the men of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry, the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry, besides 3,967 other colored men credited to the State. All the gentlemen named were persons of prominence. Most of them had been for years in the van of those advanced thinkers and workers who had striven to help and free the slave wherever found.
The first work of this committee was to collect money ; and in a very short time five thousand dollars was received, Gerrit Smith, of New York, sending his check for five hundred dollars. Altogether nearly one hundred thousand dollars was collected, which passed through the hands of Richard P. Hallowell, the treasurer, who was a brother of the Hallowells commissioned in the Fifty-fourth. A call for recruits was published in a hundred journals from east to west. Friends whose views were known were communicated with, and their aid solicited; but the response was not for a time encouraging.
|Robert Gould Shaw|
BOSTON, Jan. 30, 1863.
FRANCIS G. SHAW, Esq., Staten Island
—As you may have seen by the newspapers, I am about to raise a colored regiment in Massachusetts. This I cannot but regard as perhaps the most important corps to be organized during the whole war, in view of what must be the composition of our new levies ; and therefore I am very anxious to organize it judiciously, in order that it may be a model for all future colored regiments. I am desirous to have for its officers — particularly for its field-officers — young men of military experience, of firm antislavery principles, ambitious, superior to a vulgar contempt for color, and having faith in the capacity of colored men for military service. Such officers must necessarily be gentlemen of the highest tone and honor; and I shall look for them in those circles of educated antislavery society which, next to the colored race itself, have the greatest interest in this experiment.
Reviewing the young men of the character I have described, now in the
Massachusetts service, it occurs to me to offer the colonelcy to your son, Captain Shaw, of the Second Massachusetts Infantry, and the lieutenant-colonelcy to Captain Hallowell of the Twentieth Massachusetts Infantry, the son of Mr. Morris L. Hallowell of Philadelphia.
Norwood "Pen" Hallowell
With my deep conviction of the importance of this undertaking, in view of the fact that it will be the first colored regiment to be raised in the free States, and that its success or its failure will go far to elevate or depress the estimation in which the character of the colored Americans will be held throughout the world, the command of such a regiment seems to me to be a high object of ambition for any officer.
. . . My mind is drawn towards Captain Shaw by many considerations. I am sure he would attract the support, sympathy, and active co-operation of many among his immediate family relatives. The more ardent, faithful, and true Republicans and friends of liberty would recognize in him a scion from a tree whose fruit and leaves have always contributed to the strength and healing of our generation.
So it is with Captain Hallowell. His father is a Quaker gentleman of Philadelphia, two of whose sons are officers in our army, and another is a merchant in Boston. Their house in Philadelphia is a hospital and home for Massachusetts officers; and the family are full of good works; and he was the adviser and confidant of our soldiery when sick or on duty in that city. I need not add that young Captain Hallowell is a gallant and fine fellow, true as steel to the cause of humanity, as well as to the flag of the country.
. . . Hoping to hear from you immediately on receiving this letter,
I am, with high regard,
Your obedient servant and friend,
JOHN A. ANDREW.
|John Murray Forbes|
It was also decided that the black soldiers would be paid the same as white soldiers, and this was promised in all the recruiting posters and newspaper advertisements. Andrew was assured by the War Department that the men would be paid, clothed, and treated in the same way as white troops. An advertisement was placed in the Boston Journal in February, addressed “To Colored Men”, which, like the recruiting posters, offered a “$100 bounty at the expiration of the term of service, pay $13 per month, and State aid for families.” Wendell Phillips and Edward Pierce spoke at the African Meeting House in Boston at a recruiting rally, encouraging free
George Stearns soon became aware that Massachusetts did not have enough eligible black men to fill a regiment, and recruiters were sent to states throughout the North and South, and into Canada. Most of the new recruits came from Pennsylvania, despite recent race riots in Philadelphia. Stearns’s line of recruiting stations from Buffalo. New York to St. Louis, Missouri, produced more volunteers: some of the men were former slaves, but most were freemen working as seamen, farmers, laborers, or carpenters.
|Recruiting poster for the 54th Regiment|
Ned Hallowell recruited African-American soldiers in Philadelphia and was the first officer to occupy the barracks set aside for the 54th at Camp Meigs in Readville. The publicity about the creation of the Fifty-fourth brought violent reactions from Northern racists, some of whom threatened and attacked recruits. In Philadelphia, recruits had to leave for Massachusetts in small groups, often traveling at night. Luis Emilio wrote in A Brave Black Regiment:
Early in February quite a number of colored men were recruited in Philadelphia, by Lieut. E. N. Hallowell, James M. Walton, who was subsequently commissioned in the Fifty-fourth, and Robert R. Corson, the Massachusetts State Agent. Recruiting there was attended with much annoyance. The gathering place had to be kept secret, and the men sent to Massachusetts in small parties to avoid molestation or excitement. Mr. Corson was obliged to purchase railroad tickets himself, and get the recruits one at a time on the cars or under cover of darkness. The men sent and brought from Philadelphia went to form the major part of Company B.
LIEUTENANT E. N. HALLOWELL, on Feb. 21, 1863, was ordered to Readville, Mass., where, at Camp Meigs, by direction of Brig. Gen. R. A. Peirce, commandant of camps, he took possession with twenty-seven men of the buildings assigned to the new regiment. Readville is on the Boston and Providence Railroad, a few miles from Boston. The ground was flat, and well adapted for drilling, but in wet weather was muddy, and in the winter season bleak and cheerless. The barracks were great barn-like structures of wood with sleeping-bunks on either side. The field, staff, and company officers were quartered in smaller buildings. In other barracks near by was the larger part of the Second Massachusetts Cavalry, under Col. Charles R. Lowell, Jr. , a brother-in-law of Colonel Shaw.
|Ralph Waldo Emerson|
In February, Robert Gould Shaw wrote to his fiancee, Annie Haggerty:
Feb. 23, (Monday) 1863
We have opened the camp at Readville, got the barracks in good order, and sent twenty-seven men out there. I have a good quartermaster, who has got all the necessary stores out there, and seems to be attending to his business in the most satisfactory manner. Captain Edward Hallowell, a brother of the Lieutenant-Colonel, is in command of the camp. Day before yesterday he had the men all washed and uniformed, which pleased them amazingly. They are being drilled as much as is possible in-doors, for it is too cold out there to keep them in the open air for any length of time. These twenty-seven men are all from Philadelphia and Boston.
From other recruiting-offices we hear very good accounts, and the men seem to be enlisting quite fast. Governor Sprague has authorized a recruiting-office to be opened in Providence for this regiment. We have an officer at Fortress Monroe, but he has to be very secret about his work; and to-day three men are going on a campaign into Canada. By these different means we expect, or rather hope, to fill our ranks pretty rapidly. We are getting men from Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. So far, they are not of the best class, because the good ones are loath to leave their families, while there is a hope of getting a bounty later. Now, they receive only the $100 from the Federal government at the expiration of their term of enlistment.
Hallowell and I get along together in the pleasantest way. I like Governor Andrew more and more every day. As Charles Lowell says: “It was worth while to come home, if it were only to get acquainted with him.” … All my mornings are spent in the State-House; and as in-door, furnace-heated work does not agree with me, I shall get out to Readville as soon as possible.
Good bye for the present, my darling.
Always your loving Rob
Lenox May 7, 1863
I have just received a telegram from Hallowell, saying that the Governor is going to send us off on the 20th. Please drop a line to Mother, and tell her this. We go down Saturday instead of Monday.
O, how glum I feel! Colonel Hallowell remains at Readville to start the Fifty-fifth. If I lose the Major too, I don’t know what I shall do.
Give my love to Robert, and tell him his cigars are splendid. Annie sends her best love. I shall send this to Father, so you needn’t write to Mother.
Always dear Susie,
Your loving Brother
By May 11, more recruits had arrived than were required, and the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts was begun with the surplus on the succeeding day. They occupied the old cavalry camp. Of the following officers transferred to it from the Fifty-fourth, N. P Hallowell became colonel.
Camp Meigs, Readville, May 18
Today the long talked of presentation of flags came off. At 11 o’clock the column was formed, ready to receive His Excellency the Governor. Between four and five hundred people were on the ground before the hour fixed for the parade; when the 11 A.M. train stopped, there was a motley mass of people emerging from the cars, among which were the ladies of Boston, who were the makers of the colors, and the donors. . . . After all the preliminaries were settled, Rev. Mr. Grimes of Boston, offered a very impressive prayer. The Governor and staff, Gen. Pierce and staff, with the whole regiment, during the prayer remained uncovered. The Governor then stepped forward and in substance spoke as follows:
COLONEL SHAW: As the official representative of the Commonwealth, and by
favor of various ladies and gentlemen, citizens of the Commonwealth, and friends of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, I have the honor and the satisfaction of being permitted to join you this morning for the purpose of presenting to your regiment the national flag, the State colors of Massachusetts, and the emblematic banners which the cordial, generous, and patriotic friendship of its patrons has seen fit to present to you.
Robert Gould Shaw
. . . One circumstance pertaining to the composition of the Fifty-fourth Regiment, exceptional in its character, when compared with anything we have seen before, gives to this hour an interest and importance, solemn and yet grand, because the occasion marks an era in the history of the war, of the Commonwealth, of the country, and of humanity. I need not dwell upon the fact that the enlisted men constituting the rank and file of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment are drawn from a race not hitherto connected with the fortunes of the war; and yet I cannot forbear to allude to the circumstance for a brief moment, since it is uppermost in your thoughts, and since this regiment, which for many months has been the desire of my own heart, is present now before this vast assembly of friendly citizens of Massachusetts, prepared to vindicate by its future, — as it has already begun to do by its brief history of camp life here, — to vindicate in its own person, and in the presence, I trust, of all who belong to it, the character, the manly character, the zeal, the manly zeal, of the colored citizens of Massachusetts, and of those other States which have cast their lot with ours.
. . . We will follow your fortunes in the camp and in the field with the anxious eyes of brethren, and the proud hearts of citizens. . . . These men, sir, have now, in the Providence of God, given to them an opportunity which, while it is personal to themselves, is still an opportunity for a whole race of men. With arms possessed of might to strike a blow, they have found breathed into their hearts an inspiration of devoted patriotism and regard for their brethren of their own color, which has inspired them with a purpose to nerve that arm, that it may strike a blow which, while it shall help to raise aloft their country’s flag — their country’s flag, now, as well as ours—by striking down the foes which oppose it, strikes also the last shackle which binds the limbs of the bondmen in the Rebel States. . . .
May God hold you always— most of all, first of all, and last of all — up to the highest and holiest conception of duty, so that if, on the field of stricken fight, your souls shall be delivered from the thraldom of the flesh, your spirits shall go home to God, bearing aloft the exulting thought of duty well performed, of glory and reward won, even at the hands of the angels who shall watch over you from above !
Mr. Commander, you, sir, and most of your officers, have been carefully selected from among the most intelligent and experienced officers who have already performed illustrious service upon the field during the two years of our national conflict. . .
And now, Mr. Commander, it is my most agreeable duty and high honor to hand to you, as the representative of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, the American flag, “the star-spangled banner” of the Republic.
Wherever its folds shall be unfurled, it will mark the path of glory.
Let its stars be the inspiration of yourself, your officers, and your men. As the gift of the young ladies of the city of Boston to their brethren in arms, they will cherish it as the lover cherishes the recollection and fondness of his mistress; and the white stripes of its field will be red with their blood before it shall be surrendered to the foe.
I have also the honor, Mr. Commander, to present to you the State colors of Massachusetts, — the State colors of the old Bay State, borne already by fifty-three regiments of Massachusetts soldiers, white men thus far, now to be borne by the Fifty-fourth Regiment of soldiers, not less of Massachusetts than the others. Whatever may be said, Mr. Commander, of any other flag which has ever kissed the sunlight or been borne on any field, I have the pride and honor to be able to declare before you, your regiment, and these witnesses, that from the beginning till now, the State colors of Massachusetts have never been surrendered to any foe. The Fifty-fourth now holds in possession this sacred charge, in the performance of their duties as citizen soldiers. You will never part with that flag so long as a splinter of the staff or a thread of its web remains within your grasp. The State colors are presented to the Fifty-fourth by the Relief Society, composed of colored ladies of Boston.
. . . And now, Mr. Commander, the sacred, holy Cross, representing passion, the highest heroism, I scarcely dare trust myself to present to you. It is the emblem of Christianity. I have parted with the emblems of the State, of the nation, — heroic, patriotic emblems they are, dear, inexpressibly dear to all our hearts; but now In hoc signo vinces, — the Cross which represents the passion of our Lord, I now dare to pass into your soldier hands; for we are fighting now a battle, not merely for country, not merely for humanity, not only for civilization, but for the religion of our Lord itself.
|Christiana Cardeaux Bannister|
On May 28, the regiment marched through Boston before boarded a ship for South Carolina. Henry James later wrote of
. . . the sight of that march of the 54th Massachusetts out of Boston, "Bob" Shaw at its head and our exalted Wilky among its officers, of which a great sculptor was, on the spot of their vividest passing, to set the image aloft forever. . . . He had begun by volunteering in a company that gave him half the ingenuous youth of the circle within our social ken for brothers-in-arms, and it was to that pair of Readville afternoons I must have owed my all so emphasized vision of handsome young Cabot Russell, who, again to be his closest brother-in-arms in the 54th, irrecoverably lost himself, as we have seen, at Fort Wagner.
Garth "Wilky" James
The steamer DeMolay brought the regiment to South Carolina on June 3; Robert Shaw wrote a letter to his cousin:
Here we are (the 54th Mass. Vols, (coloured) close to our Department, and in a very different condition from that in which you left us. Our recruiting system did not get well under weigh, until sometime after you went, and then we filled up very rapidly. The Governor gave Ned Hallowell the Majority without any difficulty, and soon after Norwood was ordered to take the 55th which was started about the 10th of May. He refused the Colonelcy for some time, but has finally decided to take it, as the Governor wouldn’t let him come with us, at any rate.
The 54th has been a success from beginning to end. The drill & discipline are all that anyone could expect. Crowds of people came to our battalion drills & dress parades every afternoon, and we have heard nothing but words of praise & astonishment from friend & foe — from hunkers & fogeys, old and young. The camp was crowded on the day of our banner presentation — and the Governor made an excellent speech. Last Thursday, 28 May, we left Readville at 7 A.M. & went by rail to Boston. We marched from the Providence Depot through Essex, Federal, Franklin, School Sts., Pemberton Square, Beacon St. to the Common — then by Tremont & State Sts. to Battery Wharf where we embarked. The streets were crowded, & I have not seen such enthusiasm since the first troops left for the war.General David Hunter, who at that time was commanding the Army of the South, sent a
HEADQUARTERS DEP’T OP THE SOUTH,Ned Hallowell and Robert Shaw soon met Thomas Higginson, the commander of the First
HILTON HEAD, PORT ROYAL, S. C, June 3, 1863.
His EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR ANDREW, Massachusetts.
GOVERNOR, — I have the honor to announce that the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts (colored) troops, Colonel Shaw commanding, arrived safely in this harbor this afternoon and have been sent to Port Royal Island. The regiment had an excellent passage, and from the appearance of the men I doubt not that this command will yet win a reputation and place in history deserving the patronage you have given them. Just as they were steaming up the bay I received from Col. James Montgomery,
commanding Second South Carolina Regiment, a telegraphic despatch, of which certified copy is enclosed. Colonel Montgomery’s is but the initial step of a system of operations which will rapidly compel the Rebels either to lay down their arms and sue for restoration to the Union or to withdraw their slaves into the interior, thus leaving desolate the most fertile and productive of their counties along the Atlantic seaboard.
The Fifty-fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers shall soon be profitably and honorably employed; and I beg that you will send for service in this department the other colored regiment which Colonel Shaw tells me you are now organizing and have in forward preparation.
Thanking you heartily for the kindness and promptness with which you have met my views in this matter, and referring you to my letter to Mr. Jefferson Davis as a guarantee that all soldiers fighting for the flag of their country in this department will be protected, irrespective of any accident of color or birth,
I have the honor to be, Governor, with the highest esteem,
Your very obedient servant,
In the streets of Beaufort I had met Colonel Shaw, riding with his lieutenant-colonel and successor, Edward Hallowell, and had gone back with them to share their first meal in camp. I should have known Shaw anywhere by his resemblance to his kindred, nor did it take long to perceive that he shared their habitual truthfulness and courage. Moreover, he and Hallowell had already got beyond the commonplaces of inexperience, in regard to colored troops, and, for a wonder, asked only sensible questions.
At Beaufort, they met Colonel James Montgomery, commanding the Second South Carolina, another regiment made up of "contraband" soldiers. They were returning from a raid at Combahee Ferry on June 3, the same day the 54th arrived. Harriet Tubman worked with Montgomery and the Second SC as a scout.
|Beaufort - residence of school teaachers|
Ned Hallowell and Shaw also spent time with Charlotte Forten, who Hallowell had known in Philadelphia. She had arrived in South Carolina in October 1862 to teach former slaves in the Port Royal Experiment. The Pennsylvania Freedmen's Relief Association was founded in 1862 to assist former slaves at Port Royal; Ned's father, Morris Hallowell, was on its board of directors.
The Port Royal Experiment was a program in which former slaves successfully worked on the land abandoned by plantation owners. When the Union army liberated the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and and their main harbor, Port Royal, the white residents fled. Several private Northern charity organizations stepped in to help the former slaves become self-sufficient. The result was a model of what Reconstruction could have been. The African Americans demonstrated their ability to work the land efficiently and live independently of white control. They assigned themselves daily tasks for cotton growing and spent their extra time cultivating their own crops, fishing and hunting. By selling their surplus crops, the locals acquired small amounts of property.
Although the men of the 54th had enlisted with the promise of pay and allowances equal to their white counterparts, they were informed upon arriving in South Carolina that the Department of the South would pay them only $7 per month ($10 with $3 withheld for clothing, while white soldiers did not pay for clothing at all.) Shaw, Hallowell and other officers immediately began protesting the measure. Shaw wrote to Governor Andrew that if the government refused to honor its promise, the regiment should be disbanded. A member of the 54th wrote home:
When we enlisted we were to get $13 per month, clothing and rations, and treatment the same as white soldiers; and now they want to cheat us out of what is justly due us, but paying us off with $10 per month, and taking three dollars out of that for clothing. Why are we not worth as much as white soldiers?The regiment began a boycott of the pay tables on paydays, which would continue until the issue was resolved in the following year. In the meantime, their families suffered from lack of funds.
The regiment was ordered to Georgia, where they participated in raids with Montgomery. On June 9, Shaw established his headquarters on Saint Simons Island in an abandoned plantation house. Later that month, he wrote his sister-in-law, Clemence Haggerty:
You can't imagine what a spooney, home-sick set we are here . . . Major Hallowell lies on his back singing, -
"No one to love, none to caress, None to respond to this heart's wretchedness"
and we all feel just so.The regiment returned to Hilton Head on June 25. They celebrated Independence Day on July 4 with a few thousand people outside of their camp. Shaw wrote to his mother, "Can you imagine anything more wonderful than a coloured Abolitionist meeting on a South Carolina plantation? Here were collected all the freed slaves . . . while two years ago, their masters were still here . . " Shaw, Hallowell, and the other officers visited Charlotte Forten and other civilian women for tea over the next few days. When they parted, Shaw told Forten, "Goodbye. If I don't see you again down here I hope to see you at our house."
|Folly Island Camp|
Cole’s Island (opposite Folly Island)
July 17th, 4 P.M.
James Island was evacuated last night by our forces. My regiment started first, at 91/2 P.M. Not a thing was moved until after dark, and the Rebels must have been astonished this morning. Terry went there originally only to create a diversion from Morris Island, and it was useless to stay and risk being driven off, after Morris was taken. It thundered and lightened, and rained hard all night, and it took us from 10 P.M. to 5 A.M. to come four miles. Most of the way we had to march in single file along the narrow paths through the swamps. For nearly half a mile we had to pass over a bridge of one, and in some places, two planks wide, without a railing, and slippery with rain— mud and water below several feet deep—and then over a narrow dike so slippery as to make it almost impossible to keep one’s feet. It took my regiment alone nearly two hours to pass the bridge and dike. By the time we got over, it was nearly daylight, and the Brigade behind us had a pretty easy time. I never had such an extraordinary walk.
We are now lying on the beach opposite the southern point of Folly Island, and have been here since five this morning. When they can get boats, they will set us across, I suppose.
There is hardly any water to be got here, and the sun and sand arc dazzling and roasting us. I shouldn’t like you to see me as I am now; I haven’t washed my face since day before yesterday. My conscience is perfectly easy about it, though, for it was an impossibility, and every one is in the same condition. Open air dirt, i.e. mud, & is not like the indoor article.
. . . I have had nothing but crackers and coffee these two days. It seems like old times in the army of the Potomac.
Good bye again, darling Annie.
Oh, Ned! If I could only live a few weeks longer with my wife, and be home a little while, I think I might die happy, but it cannot be. I do not believe I will live through our next fight.
The New York Tribune published a letter from Robert J. Simmons, 1st Sergeant, Co. B:
Folly Island, South Carolina July 18, 1863;
We are on the march to Fort Wagner, to storm it. We have just completed our successful retreat from James Island; we fought a desperate battle there Thursday morning. Three companies of us, B, H, and K, were out on picket about a good mile in advance of the regiment. We were attacked early in the morning. Our company was in the reserve, when the outposts were attacked by rebel infantry and cavalry. I was sent out by our Captain in command of a squad of men to support the left flank. The bullets fairly rained around us; when I got there the poor fellows were falling down around me, with pitiful groans. Our pickets only numbered about 250 men, attacked by about 900. It is supposed by the line of battle in the distance, that they were supported by reserve of 3,000 men. We had to fire and retreat toward our own encampment. One poor Sergeant of ours was shot down along side of me; several others were wounded near me.
(Simmons was wounded and captured in the assault on Wagner, the same day he wrote this letter; he died in a Charleston prison in August.)
God has protected me through this, my first fiery, leaden trial, and I do give Him the glory, and render my praises unto His holy name. My poor friend Vogelsang is shot through the lungs; his case is critical, but the doctor says he may probably live. His company suffered very much. Poor good and brave Sergeant Wilson of his company, after killing four rebels with his bayonet, was shot through the head by the fifth one. Poor fellow! May his noble spirit rest in peace. The General has complimented the Colonel on the gallantry and bravery of his regiment.
The exhausted and hungry soldiers arrived on Morris Island, where the Union fleet had spent nearly the entire daytime hours pounding Confederate-held Fort Wagner. The prior week, the Union had sustained heavy losses in an attack on the beachhead fortification, and now Brigadier General George C. Strong wanted to try again. Shaw reported to General Strong's headquarters. When the generals had been planning the next assault on Battery Wagner, General Truman Seymour had said to General Quincy Gillmore:
Well I guess we will let Strong put those d____d negroes from Massachusetts in the advance, we may as well get rid of them, one time as another.Strong asked the 54th Regiment, the largest among the Union’s 5,000 soldiers on the island, to lead the attack. Strong told Shaw, “Your men, I know, are worn out, but do as you choose!” Even though Shaw knew the headfirst assault would result in severe casualties, he saw no choice; the 54th had to fight to prove their bravery and worth. Luis Emilio wrote
During the afternoon a mail was received. After reading their letters Colonel Shaw and Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell conversed. The colonel asked the major if he believed in presentiments, and added that he felt he would be killed in the first action. Asked to try to shake off the feeling, he quietly said, "I will try."
. . . Colonel Shaw, at about 6.30 p. m., mounted and accompanied General Strong toward the front. After proceeding a short distance, he turned back, and gave to Mr. Edward L. Pierce, a personal friend, who had been General Strong's guest for several days, his letters and some papers, with a request to forward them to his family if anything occurred to him requiring such service. . .
Among the dark soldiers who were to lead veteran regiments which were equal in drill and discipline to any in the country, there was a lack of their usual light-heartedness, for they realized, partially at least, the dangers they were to encounter. But there was little nervousness and no depression observable. It took but a touch to bring out their irrepressible spirit and humor in the old way. When a cannon-shot from the enemy came toward the line and passed over, a man or two moved nervously, calling out a sharp reproof from Lieutenant- Colonel Hallowell, whom the men still spoke of as "the major." Thereupon one soldier quietly remarked to his comrades, " I guess the major forgets what kind of balls them is ! " Another added, thinking of the foe, " I guess they kind of 'spec's we 're coming ! "Shell after shell burst over and within Fort Wagner’s ramparts, dismounting cannons and blasting wooden barracks and storehouses to splinters. In the words of one Southern officer, the fort was ‘pounded into an almost shapeless mass!’ Although most of the Confederates were safe within Wagner’s massive bombproof, the strain was immense as the structure reeled and shook around them. Confederate General Taliaferro would later write:
Words cannot depict the thunder, the smoke, the lifted sand and the general havoc; the whole island smoked like a furnace and trembled as from an earthquake!Waves of sand were blown over the exposed troops of the Charleston Battalion, and Taliaferro himself was buried to the waist while encouraging his beleaguered defenders. But despite the tempest of fire, Confederate fatalities were few.
Lieutenant James W. Grace of the 54th wrote on July 22:
We were on the move three days and nights before the Fight on this Island. When we arrived here, we were very much exhausted, tired and hungry, not having any thing to eat for twenty four hours. . . . We arrived on the Island about 3 o’clock, rested a short time, and then moved forward to the upper end of the Island (the Island is about four miles long). When we arrived within one thousand yards of Fort Wagner, we laid down waiting for our support to come up. We laid there about thirty minutes when we were ordered to rise up and charge on the works, which we did at double quick time with a tremendous scream. When we arrived within a short distance of the works, the Rebels opened on us with grape and canister accompanied with a thousand muskets, mowing our men down by the hundreds. This caused us to fall back a little, but we soon made another rush to the works, when we received another tremendous discharge of musketry, and also grape and canister. Such a tremendous fire right in our faces caused us to fall back, which we did in very good order. . . . Many of our men went on to the works and fought hand to hand with the Enemy.
|Charge of 54th Massachusetts, July 18, 1863|
Taliaferro’s defenders took their battle stations, artillerists ramming charges down half a dozen guns that had survived the shelling unscathed. The infantry leveled their muskets, and when the Yankees were within 150 yards, Taliaferro gave the order to fire. James Gooding wrote for the Mercury:
We had heard of the previous attempt to take it by storm, and knew that
nothing but hard fighting, with great sacrifice of life, could result in a successful storming of it. Gen. Strong, the hero of the attack of Saturday, when our regiment reached within range of the shells of the fort, rode out bravely a hundred yards in advance of us and reconnoitered the fort and its surroundings. Rode back to us and briefly addressed us, and asked, “Massachusetts men, are you ready to take that fort ?” The universal answer was, “We will try.” “They are nearly played out. They have but two effective guns,” said he. About sundown we were ordered to advance at the double quickstep, cheering as if going on some mirthful errand. The rebs withheld their fire until we reached within fifty yards of the work, when jets of flame darted forth from every corner and embrasure, and even Fort Sumter poured solid shot and shell on our heads. The 54th, undaunted by the hellish storm, pushed up to the work, down into the moat, and like demons ascended the parapet . .
|Aftermath at Fort Wagner|
As a Confederate later commented, he and his comrades were "maddened and infuriated at the sight of Negro troops." At one point a Southerner ripped the white Massachusetts banner from its staff, only to have it snatched back in hand-to-hand combat. After the battle, the bloody flag would be found under a pile of dead men in the ditch.
In front of the fort the scene of carnage is indescribable. I have never seen so many dead in the same space.At a cost of 36 killed and 145 wounded and missing, Taliaferro's garrison had inflicted more than 1,500 casualties on their assailants. The soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts had sustained the heaviest loss: 281 men, of whom 54 were killed or fatally wounded, and another 48 never accounted for. The Confederates stripped the dead of useful apparel and souvenirs, then piled the bodies into mass graves. Shaw's body was stripped to his underwear, and then singled out for what the Southerners considered the ultimate insult: being interred with his fallen black troops in a trench near the fort.
The injured blacks were transported to a hospital where army surgeons, along with Harriet Tubman and others, provided nursing to hundreds of casualties. Sarah Bradford later quoted Tubman in her biography:
I'd go to de hospital, I would, early eb'ry mornin'. I'd get a big chunk of ice, I would, and put it in a basin, and fill it with water; den I'd take a sponge and begin. Fust man I'd come to, I'd thrash away de flies, an' dey'd rise, dey would, like bees roun' a hive. Den I'd begin to bathe der wounds, an' by de time I'd bathed off three or four, de fire and heat would have melted de ice and made de water warm, an' it would be as red as clar blood. Den I'd go an' git more ice, I would, an' by de time I got to de nex' ones, de flies would be roun' de fust ones, black an' thick as eber.
MORRIS ISLAND. S. C. July 20
MY DEAR AMELIA: I have been in two fights, and am unhurt. I am about to go in another I believe to-night. Our men fought well on both occasions. The last was desperate we charged that terrible battery on Morris Island known as Fort Wagoner, and were repulsed. . . I escaped unhurt from amidst that perfect hail of shot and shell. It was terrible. I need not particularize the papers will give a better than I have time to give. My thoughts are with you often, you are as dear as ever, be good enough to remember it as I no doubt you will. As I said before we are on the eve of another fight and I am very busy and have just snatched a moment to write you. I must necessarily be brief. Should I fall in the next fight killed or wounded I hope to fall with my face to the foe. If I survive I shall write you a long letter. DeForrest of your city is wounded George Washington is missing, Jacob Carter is missing, Chas Reason wounded Chas Whiting, Chas Creamer all wounded. The above are in hospital.
This regiment has established its reputation as a fighting regiment not a man flinched, though it was a trying time. Men fell all around me. A shell would explode and clear a space of twenty feet, our men would close up again, but it was no use we had to retreat, which was a very hazardous undertaking. How I got out of that fight alive I cannot tell, but I am here.
My Dear girl I hope again to see you. I must bid you farewell should I be killed. Remember if I die I die in a good cause. I wish we had a hundred thousand colored troops we would put an end to this war. Good Bye to all Write soon Your own loving LEWISWilky James nearly died after being wounded in the foot and the side near the spine; he was later taken to his family's home in Newport, Rhode Island. Henry James had a letter from his family while Wilky was recovering:
Wilky had a bad day yesterday . . . He is very severely wounded both in the ankle and in the side—where he doesn't heal so fast as the doctor wishes in consequence of the shell having made a pouch which collects matter and
retards nature. They cut it open yesterday, and to-day he is better, or will be. The wound in the ankle was made by a cannister ball an inch and a half in diameter, which lodged eight days in the foot and was finally dislodged by cutting down through (the foot) and taking it out at the sole. He is excessively weak, unable to do anything but lie passive, even to turn himself on his pillow. He will probably have a slow and tedious recovery—the doctors say of a year at least; but he knows nothing of this himself and speaks, so far as he does talk, but of going back in the Fall. If you write please say nothing of this; he is so distressed at the thought of a long sickness. He is vastly attached to the negro-soldier cause . . and is sure that enormous results to civilisation are coming out of it. We heard from Bob this morning at Morris Island; with his regiment, building earthworks and mounting guns. Hot, he says, but breezy; also that the shells make for them every few minutes—while he and his men betake themselves to the trenches and holes in the earth "like so many land-crabs in distress." He writes in the highest spirits. Cabot Russell, Wilky's dearest friend, is, we fear, a prisoner and wounded. We hear nothing decisive, but the indications point that way. Poor Wilky cries aloud for his friends gone and missing. . .
|Drawing of the wounded Wilky James by his brother, William James|
Beaufort, July 21. Came to town to-day hearing that nurses were sadly needed. . . . Made arrangements for my entering one of the hospitals to-morrow. . .
Wednesday, July 22. My hospital life began to-day. Went early this morning. . . Mrs. Saxton gave me some sewing to do - mending the pantaloons and jackets of the poor fellows. (They are all of the 54th.) It was with a full heart that I sewed by bullet holes and bayonet cuts. Sometimes I found a jacket that told a sad tale - so torn to pieces that it was far past mending. After awhile I went through the wards. . . . And I was surprised to see such cheerful faces looking up from the beds. Talked a little with some of the patients and assisted Mrs. G. in distributing medicines. . .
Thursday, July 23. . . . Took a more thorough survey of the hospital to-day. It is a large new brick building - quite close to the water - two-storied, many windowed, and very airy - in every way well adapted for a hospital. Yesterday I was employed part of the time in writing letters for the men. It was pleasant to see the brave, cheerful, uncomplaining spirit which they all breathed. . . . Talked with them much to-day. . . One poor fellow here . . . is very young, only nineteen, comes from Michigan. He is very badly wounded - in both legs, and there is a ball - in the stomach - it is thought that cannot be extracted. this poor fellow suffers terribly. His groans are pitiful to here But he utters no complaint, and it is touching to see his gratitude for the least kindness that one does him. . . . When I went in this morning and found my patients so cheerful . . . I tho't it c'ld not be possible that they were badly wounded. Many, indeed have only flesh wounds. But there are others who are severely wounded - some dangerously so. . . .
Friday, July 24. To-day the news of Col. Shaw's death is confirmed. There can no longer be any doubt. . . . His death is a very sad loss to us. . . . Oh, it is terrible. . . .
Mr. Pierce who has been unremitting in his attention to the wounded - called at our building to-day, and took me to the Officers Hospital, which is but a very short distance from here. It is in one of the finest residences in Beaufort, and is surrounded by beautiful ground. Saw Major Hallowell, who, though badly wounded - in three places - is hope to be slowly improving. A little more than a week ago I parted with him, after an exciting horseback ride, how strong, how well, how vigorous he was then! And now thoroughly prostrated! But he with all the other officers of the 54th, like the privates, are brave, patient, cheerful. With deep sadness he spoke of Col Shaw . . .Ned Hallowell suffered three wounds in the assault, wounded in the groin and face, losing an eye. He went home to the Hallowell house in Philadelphia, which served as hospital and home for Massachusetts officers. In August, Charlotte Forten, who had returned North, visited Ned at his family's home:
Went to call on Col. Hallowell. Found him much improved, sitting up and looking quite cheerful and happy . . . It seems as if one could not but get well in such a lovely place and with such tender care. Had a very pleasant chat with the Col. recalling our southern life, but would not stay long lest I should weary them. His stately mother and sisters were very gracious.The Hallowell family also collected money throughout the war for the relief of families of soldiers in the 54th. Ned Hallowell was promoted to colonel and returned to command the 54th in October 1863. He remained in command for the rest of the war.
In response to Confederate threats concerning black prisoners of war and their white officers, on July 30, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the following executive order:
It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations and the usages and customs of war, as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies. To sell or enslave any captured person on account of his color, and for no offense against the laws of war, is a relapse into barbarism and a crime against the civilization of the age.
The Government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our possession.
It is therefore ordered, That for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war a rebel soldier shall be executed, and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN.The August 15th issue of Harper’s Weekly wrote about TREATMENT OF CAPTURED COLORED SOLDIERS:
AFTER the assault upon Fort Wagner there was the usual meeting of officers from both sides to negotiate for the care of the wounded and the exchange of prisoners. The Government officer said to the rebel agent that the officers and men of the colored regiments were to be treated like all others. The rebel agent replied that that was a question for the consideration of his superiors.
That may be, but it is no question for the Government of the United States. Not only do its articles of war provide for the case of foul play upon the part of the enemy, but its honor is inextricably associated with the enforcement of those articles; and the Government is bound to be especially alert in the case of these prisoners, because they are peculiarly exposed. It must take nothing for granted but the ill-faith of the rebels. Their spirit is sufficiently shown by the amusing indignation they express at our employment of colored soldiers, and the poor insult they intended for Colonel Shaw of the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth, in burying him under a score of his own men. Where else could he be so nobly and fitly buried? With those devoted soldiers of his and of the country, and for them and the country, he faced that storm of rebel fire, and died smiling. Where should he be buried but with them? On all the soil of South Carolina there is no spot so holy and prophetic as that grave.
But the malice of the rebels is not less, and their spirit is apparent; and that the officers and soldiers of the colored regiments will be treated as honorable prisoners is a hopeless expectation.
We invited these men to fight for us. We did not give them an equal pay with other soldiers; we did not allot to them the offices of honor; we adjured them by a flag whose protection we doubtfully concede to them; we required, in a word, of these men, whom our prejudices have hitherto kept at every conceivable disadvantage, the qualities that only the proudest and most self-dependent people show, and we promised them but a very uncertain reward for all their fighting. . . . The experiment has begun. The discipline, endurance, and fiery heroism of these troops are already established. . . . Now then is the time to show every colored man in the land whether we are in earnest, or whether he would be simply a fool to fight for a flag which does not protect him.
How can a solitary man of that race, except the few sublimely heroic, enlist, until he knows the fate of his brethren captured at Wagner? Or how can we ask any man whatsoever to imperil his life for us, without promising him equal fair play with every other? The Government can not evade the question.
. . . It will, of course, be difficult for the Government to ascertain the fate of these unfortunate men. But it should not suffer itself to be cozened by the rebels. It should at once demand from the rebel ringleaders an explicit guarantee of the same treatment that all our soldiers in their hands receive, and the rebels should be apprised that an answer must be made. After due delay, if the Government should find that the natural suspicion of foul play is correct, then if its retaliation is not swift, sure, and deadly, if the rebels are not taught, as by fire that every man who fights beneath the national flag is equally protected by the people whose sovereignty that flag symbolizes, we are simply unworthy of success.Union supporters in Abraham Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Illinois, asked him to speak
Executive Mansion,Washington, August 26, 1863.
Hon. James C. Conkling
My Dear Sir.
Your letter inviting me to attend a mass-meeting of unconditional Union-men, to be held at the Capitol of Illinois, on the 3d day of September, has been received. It would be very agreeable to me, to thus meet my old friends, at my own home; but I can not, just now, be absent from here, so long as a visit there, would require.
The meeting is to be of all those who maintain unconditional devotion to the Union . . . There are those who are dissatisfied with me. To such I would say: You desire peace; and you blame me that we do not have it. But how can we attain it? There are but three conceivable ways.
First, to suppress the rebellion by force of arms. This I am trying to do. Are you for it? If you are, so far we are agreed.
If you are not for it, a second way is to give up the Union. I am against this. Are you for it? If you are, you should say so plainly. If you are not for force, nor yet for dissolution, there only remains some imaginable compromise.
I do not believe any compromise, embracing the maintenance of the Union, is now possible. All I learn, leads to a directly opposite belief. The strength of the rebellion, is its military--its army. That army dominates all the country, and all the people, within its range. Any offer of terms made by any man or men within that range, in opposition to that army, is simply nothing for the present; because such man or men, have no power whatever to enforce their side of a compromise, if one were made with them. . . . In an effort at such compromise we should waste time, which the enemy would improve to our disadvantage; and that would be all. A compromise, to be effective, must be made either with those who control the rebel army, or with the people first liberated from the domination of that army, by the success of our own army. Now allow me to assure you, that no word or intimation, from that rebel army, or from any of the men controlling it, in relation to any peace compromise, has ever come to my knowledge or belief. All charges and insinuations to the contrary, are deceptive and groundless. . . .
But to be plain, you are dissatisfied with me about the negro. Quite likely there is a difference of opinion between you and myself upon that subject. I certainly wish that all men could be free, while I suppose you do not. Yet I have neither adopted, nor proposed any measure, which is not consistent with even your view, provided you are for the Union.
I suggested compensated emancipation; to which you replied you wished not to be taxed to buy negroes. But I had not asked you to be taxed to buy negroes, except in such way, as to save you from greater taxation to save the Union exclusively by other means.
You dislike the emancipation proclamation; and, perhaps, would have it retracted. You say it is unconstitutional--I think differently. I think the constitution invests its Commander-in-chief, with the law of war, in time of war. The most that can be said, if so much, is, that slaves are property. Is there--has there ever been--any question that by the law of war, property, both of enemies and friends, may be taken when needed? And is it not needed whenever taking it, helps us, or hurts the enemy? Armies, the world over, destroy enemies' property when they can not use it; and even destroy their own to keep it from the enemy. Civilized belligerents do all in their power to help themselves, or hurt the enemy, except a few things regarded as barbarous or cruel. Among the exceptions are the massacre of vanquished foes, and non-combatants, male and female.
But the proclamation, as law, either is valid, or is not valid. If it is not valid, it needs no retraction. If it is valid, it can not be retracted, any more than the dead can be brought to life. Some of you profess to think its retraction would operate favorably for the Union. Why better after the retraction, than before the issue?
There was more than a year and a half of trial to suppress the rebellion before the proclamation issued, the last one hundred days of which passed under an explicit notice that it was coming, unless averted by those in revolt, returning to their allegiance.
The war has certainly progressed as favorably for us, since the issue of proclamation as before. I know, as fully as one can know the opinions of others, that some of the commanders of our armies in the field who have given us our most important successes believe the emancipation policy and the use of the colored troops constitute the heaviest blow yet dealt to the Rebellion, and that at least one of these important successes could not have been achieved when it was but for the aid of black soldiers. Among the commanders holding these views are some who have never had any affinity with what is called abolitionism or with the Republican party policies but who held them purely as military opinions.
I submit these opinions as being entitled to some weight against the objections often urged that emancipation and arming the blacks are unwise as military measures and were not adopted as such in good faith.
You say you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but, no matter. Fight you, then exclusively to save the Union. I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union. Whenever you shall have conquered all resistance to the Union, if I shall urge you to continue fighting, it will be an apt time, then, for you to declare you will not fight to free negroes.
I thought that in your struggle for the Union, to whatever extent the negroes should cease helping the enemy, to that extent it weakened the enemy in his resistance to you. Do you think differently? I thought that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves just so much less for white soldiers to do, in saving the Union. Does it appear otherwise to you? But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do any thing for us, if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive--even the promise of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept.
. . . Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time. It will then have been proved that, among free men, there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case, and pay the cost.
And then, there will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation; while, I fear, there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with malignant heart, and deceitful speech, they strove to hinder it.
Still, let us not be over-sanguine of a speedy final triumph. Let us be quite sober. Let us diligently apply the means, never doubting that a just God, in his own good time, will give us the rightful result.
Yours very truly
|The 54th Massachusetts troops in trenches|
In his history of the regiment, Emilio described another incident in the on-going pay disputes, which would last until the U.S. Congress took action in 1864:
Paymaster Usher arrived in camp September 27, ready to pay the men $10 per month from enlistment, less $3 per month deducted for clothing.
Upon the non-commissioned officers being assembled, they with great unanimity declined the reduced payment for themselves and their comrades.
The paymaster again came on the 30th to renew his offer. It was on this date that Colonel Montgomery appeared and made the men a remarkable and characteristic address, which Sergeant George Stephens of Company B has given in substance as follows: —
"Men: the paymaster is here to pay you. You ought to be glad to pay for the privilege to fight, instead of squabbling about money. A great many of you are fugitive slaves, and can by law be returned to your masters. . . . You want to be placed on the same footing as white soldiers. You must show yourselves as good soldiers as the white. . . You must remember you have not proved yourselves soldiers. You must take notice that the Government has virtually paid you a thousand dollars apiece for setting you free. Nor should you expect to be placed on the same footing with white men. Any one listening to your shouting and singing can see how grotesquely ignorant you are.You are a race of slaves. A few years ago your fathers worshipped snakes and crocodiles in Africa . . . Your religious exercises in this camp is a mixture of barbarism and Christianity. . . I am your friend and the friend of the negro. I was the first person in the country to employ nigger soldiers in the United States Army. I was out in Kansas. I was short of men. I had a lot of niggers and a lot of mules; and you know a nigger and a mule go very well together. I therefore enlisted the niggers, and made teamsters of them. In refusing to take the pay offered you, and what you are only legally entitled to, you are guilty of insubordination and mutiny, and can be tried and shot by court-martial. It is mutiny to refuse to take your pay, and mutiny is punishable with death.”
Montgomery besides made some gross and invidious insinuations and reflections because the Fifty-fourth men were so light-colored, which it would be improper to repeat. The colonel seemed to be unaware that his remarks were insulting, and most of the men he addressed born free.George Stephens responded in writing to Montgomery's insistence that blacks should be grateful for the privilege of fighting in the Union army:
We did not enlist for money, but we feel that the men who enlisted us and those who accepted our service never intended that we should be treated different from other Massachusetts men. If the government had been too poor to pay us we would have been willing to give our services for nothing. But the government seems fully able to pay her soldiers . . . After we have endured a slavery of two hundred and fifty years we are to pay for the privilege to fight and die to enable the North to conquer the South - what an idea! . . . For what are we to be grateful? Here the white man has grown rich on our unpaid labor - has sold our children - insulted our wives - shut us out from the light of education, and even kept the Bible from us . . . I think it is a question of repentance on his part instead of gratitude on ours.James Gooding wrote an open letter to President Abraham Lincoln on September 28:
Morris Island. Sept 28th 1863.
Your Excellency will pardon the presumption of an humble individual like myself, in addressing you. but the earnest Solicitation of my Comrades in Arms, besides the genuine interest felt by myself in the matter is my excuse, for placing before the Executive head of the Nation our Common Grievance: On the 6th of the last Month, the Paymaster of the department, informed us, that if we would decide to receive the sum of $10 (ten dollars) per month, he would come and pay us that sum, but, that, on the sitting of Congress, the Regt would, in his opinion, be allowed the other 3 (three.) He did not give us any guarantee that this would be, as he hoped, certainly he had no authority for making any such guarantee, and we can not suppose him acting in any way interested.
Now the main question is. Are we Soldiers, or are we LABOURERS? We are fully armed, and equipped, have done all the various Duties, pertaining to a Soldiers life, have conducted ourselves, to the complete satisfaction of General Officers, who, were if any, prejudiced against us, but who now accord us all the encouragement, and honour due us: have shared the perils, and Labour, of Reducing the first stronghold, that flaunted a Traitor Flag: and more, Mr President.
Today, the Anglo Saxon Mother, Wife, or Sister, are not alone, in tears for departed Sons, Husbands, and Brothers. The patient Trusting Descendants of Africs Clime, have dyed the ground with blood, in defense of the Union, and Democracy. Men too your Excellency, who know in a measure, the cruelties of the Iron heel of oppression, which in years gone by, the very Power, their blood is now being spilled to maintain, ever ground them to the dust. . . . The Black man laid his life at the Altar of the Nation, -and he was refused. When the arms of the Union, were beaten, in the first year of the War, and the Executive called more food for its ravaging maw, again the black man begged, the privilege of Aiding his Country in her need, to be again refused,
And now, he is in the War. . . Now Your Excellency, We have done a Soldiers Duty. Why cant we have a Soldiers pay? You caution the Rebel Chieftain, that the United States, knows no distinction, in her Soldiers: She insists on having all her Soldiers, or whatever, creed or Color, to be treated, according to the usages of War. Now if the United States exacts uniformity of treatment of her Soldiers, from the Insurgents, would it not be well, and consistent, to set the example herself, by paying all her Soldiers alike?
We of this Regt. were not enlisted under any "contraband" act. . . . Freemen by birth, and consequently, having the advantage of thinking, and acting for ourselves, so far as the Laws would allow us. We do not consider ourselves fit subjects for the Contraband act.
We appeal to You, Sir: as the Executive of the Nation, to have us Justly Dealt with. The Regt, do pray, that they be assured their service will be fairly appreciated, by paying them as American SOLDIERS, not as menial hirelings. Black men You may well know, are poor, three dollars per month, for a year, will supply their needy Wives, and little ones, with fuel. If you, as chief Magistrate of the Nation, will assure us, of our whole pay. We are content, our Patriotism, our enthusiasm will have a new impetus, to exert our energy more and more to aid Our Country. Not that our hearts ever flagged, in Devotion, spite the evident apathy displayed in our behalf, but We feel as though, our Country spurned us, now we are sworn to serve her.
Please give this a moments attention
James Henry GoodingIn October James Gooding wrote a letter to the Mercury which was published on November
|Charleston Harbor, September 1863|
Morris Island, Oct. 17, 1863The paymaster returned on October 31; Hallowell had returned from his convalescence by that time, and supported the regiment's refusal to accept the $7 offer, saying:
. . . The troops here have not been playing holiday at any time since Wagner was taken. And be it further known, that any department under command of a General like Gen. Gillmore will always earn the gratitude of the nation, — saying nothing about the government funds. If success be the fruit of perseverance, then the army of the South will be successful in an eminent degree, and every man feels sure of success . . .
The rebels have been very quiet the past week. It is very unaccountable, but they let our working parties work almost the whole day without molesting them; but all the suspicious work is done under cover of night, so the rebels probably suppose the Yankees are only making themselves comfortable for the winter; but they may find out pretty soon that we want better accommodations than this sand patch affords . . .The health of the troops is improving since the cool weather has set in permanently; I have not noticed an ambulance pass by our street but twice during the past week, but I take the large number of men returning to duty as a test, rather than any diminution in the calls of ambulances.
Col. E N Hallowell returned to his command today. He is looking quite hale and hearty after his severe sickness, caused by wounds received before Fort Wagner on the 18th July. His familiar voice acted like electricity on the men on dress parade today, and Col. Littlefield says he never saw such an apt illustration of the adage that “sheep know the Shepherd’s voice.”
My honor as a soldier & a gentleman, the honor of Massachusetts & the honor of the government of the United States, was pledged to the officers & men of the Fifty-fourth that they should in all respects be treated as other soldiers of the U.S. Army.However, anonymous letters appeared in Hallowell's tent, threatening that the men would refuse to fight if not immediately given equal pay. Some of the men talked openly of refusing duty until given their full pay. Governor Andrew and the Massachusetts legislature, feeling responsible for the $3 discrepancy in pay promised to the troops, passed an act in November of 1863 providing the difference from state funds. The men, while appreciating the state's support, refused to accept this resolution, demanding that they receive full soldier pay from the federal government.
Ned Hallowell wrote his official report on the Fort Wagner assault on November 7, 1863:
MORRIS ISLAND, S. C., November 7, 1863.
Gen. TRUMAN SEYMOUR, Cmdg. U. S. Forces, Morris Island, S. C.
GEN.: In answer to your request that I furnish a report of the part taken by the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers in the late assault upon Fort Wagner, I have to state:
During the afternoon of the 18th of July last, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, Col. R. G. Shaw commanding, landed upon Morris Island and reported at about 6 p. m. to Brig. Gen. G. C. Strong. Col.Shaw's command present consisted of a lieutenant-colonel of the field, a surgeon, adjutant and quartermaster of the staff, 8 captains, and 11 subaltern officers of the line and 600 enlisted men. Gen. Strong presented himself to the regiment and informed the men of the contemplated assault upon Fort Wagner and asked them if they would lead it. They answered in the affirmative. The regiment was then formed in column by wing, at a point upon the beach a short distance in the advance of the Beacon House. Col. R.G. Shaw commanded the right wing, and Lieut. Col. E. N. Hallowell the left. In this formation, as the dusk of the evening came on, the regiment advanced at quick time, leading the column; the enemy opened upon us a brisk fire; our peace now gradually increased till it became a run. Soon canister and musketry begun to tell upon us. With Col. Shaw leading, the assault was commenced. Exposed to the direct fire of canister and musketry,and, as the ramparts were mounted, to a like fire on our flanks, the havoc made in our ranks was very great. Upon leaving the ditch for the parapet,they obstinately contested with the bayonet our advance. Notwithstanding these difficulties, the men succeeded in driving the enemy from most of their guns, many following the enemy into the fort. It was here, upon the crest of the parapet, that Col. Shaw fell; here fell Capt.'s Russell and Simpkins; here also were most of the officers wounded. The colors of the regiment reached the crest, and were there fought for by the enemy; the State flag then torn from its staff, but the staff remains with us.Hand-grenades were now added to the missiles directed against the men.
The fight raged here for about an hour. When compelled to abandon the fort,the men formed a line about 700 yards from the fort, under the command of Capt. Luis F. Emilio, the ninth captain in the line. The other captains were either killed or wounded.
. . . So many of the officers behaved with marked coolness and bravery, I cannot mention any above the others.
It is due, however, to the following-named enlisted men that they be recorded above their fellows for special merit: Sergt. Robert J. Simmons, Company B; Sergt. William H.Carney, Company C; Corpl. Henry F. Peal, Company F; Private George Wilson, Company A.
54 Regt Mass VolNov 23rd 1863
To His Excellency John A. Andrew, Governor of Massachusetts
Governor, Copies of your address, delivered to the Legislature of Massachusetts Nov. 11, 1863 have been received in this regiment. Such parts of it as recommend the General Court to authorize the payment to the enlisted men of the 54th Mass. Vols. of that portion of the lawful monthly pay of United States Volunteers which has been or may be refused them by the Paymaster of the United States, are received unfavorably by the enlisted men of this Regiment.
They were enlisted and mustered into the Service of the United States with the understanding that they would be treated in all respects as other soldiers from Massachusetts. They will refuse to accept any money from the United States until the United States is willing to pay them according to the terms of this enlistment. They feel that by accepting a portion of this just dues from Massachusetts and a portion from the United States, they would be as acknowledging a right on the part of the United States to draw a distinction between them and other Soldiers from Massachusetts and in so doing they would compromise their self respect.
They enlisted because men were called for, and because the Government signified its willingness to accept them as such not because of the money offered them. They would rather work and fight until they are mustered out of the Service, without any pay than accept from the Government less than it gives to other soldiers from Massachusetts, and by so accepting acknowledge that because they have African blood in their veins, they are less men, than those who have Saxon.
Thanking you in behalf of the men, for the kind spirit you have always manifested in your efforts to establish to their just rights.
I remainVery RespectfullyYour Obdt. Svt.
E. Hallowell Col. Comdg. 54 Mass
|The Battle of Olustee|
On the morning of 22 February, as the Union forces were still retreating to Jacksonville, the 54th Massachusetts was ordered to counter-march back to Ten-Mile Station. The locomotive of a train carrying wounded Union soldiers had broken down and the wounded were in danger of capture. When the 54th Massachusetts arrived, the men attached ropes to the engine and cars and manually pulled the train approximately three miles to Camp Finnegan, where horses were secured to help pull the train. After that, the train was pulled by both men and horses to Jacksonville for a total distance of ten miles.
Corporal James H. Gooding, whose letters had been published in the New Bedford Mercury, was killed at Olustee. Captain James Grace wrote the following letter to the editors:
Jacksonville, Fla., Feb.25, 1864Hallowell submitted his official report a few days later:
Messrs. Editors: I am pained to inform you that Corporal James H. Gooding was killed in battle on the 20th inst. at Olustee Station. He was one of the Color Corporals and was with the colors at the time. So great was the rout of our troops that we left nearly all our dead and wounded on the field. The fight lasted four hours. We were badly beaten that night, and the next day we kept falling back, until we reached Jacksonville. . . .The total loss of the regiment, I am unable to give you at this time. All we want now is more troops; with them we would go forward again and drive the rebels from the State.
Your friend/James W. Grace/ Captain Fifty-Fourth Regiment
HDQRS. FIFTY-FOURTH MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEERS
After their slaughter at Olustee, the 8th U.S. Colored Troops remained for a time in Jacksonville. First Lieutenant Oliver Willcox Norton of Company K wrote a letter to his father describing the surrounding area, giving his comments on the events of the battle as well. The following is from his letter dated March 1, 1864:Jacksonville, Fla., March 1, 1864.
LIEUTENANT: At 8.30 o'clock on the morning of February 20, 1864, the Fifty-
fourth Massachusetts Volunteers left Barber's with its colonel, lieutenant-colonel, 13 line officers, and about 480 enlisted men, the rest of the regiment having been detailed for other duty. It marched in charge of wagon train to Olustee, at which place the train was stopped and the regiment moved forward at the double-quick about 2 miles, where it was formed in line between the railroad and dirt road, under a sharp fire from the enemy. In this formation it advanced some 200 yards through a swamp, driving the enemy from some guns, and checking the advance of a column of the enemy's infantry. After firing about 20,000 cartridges, the melt of the regiment were ordered to retreat by Col. James Montgomery, commanding brigade. A new line was formed on the right of the dirt road, where the regiment staid till after dark, when it was ordered, through Colonel Barton, to march back to Barber's, where it arrived one hour after midnight.
. . . The State color three times fell and each time was caught up by another
corporal. Segt. Stephen A. Swails, acting sergeant-major, deserves special praise for his coolness, bravery, and efficiency during the action; he received a severe but not mortal wound in the head.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. N. HALLOWELL,Colonel Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers
I shall give you more particularly my own ideas of the performance of our own men. I want to be true and I cannot endorse all that has been said of them. First, I think no battle was ever more wretchedly fought. I was going to say planned, but there was no plan. No new regiment ever went into their first fight in more unfavorable circumstances. Second, no braver men ever faced an enemy. To have made these men fight well, I would have halted them out of range of the firing, formed my line, unslung knapsacks, got my cartridge boxes ready, and loaded. Then I would have moved it up to the support of a regiment already engaged. I would have had them lie down and let the balls and shells whistle over them till they got a little used to it. Then I would have moved them to the front, told them to get as close to the ground as they could and go in....
You may judge of the severity of the fight by this: Of fifty-five men in Company K who went into the fight but two came out untouched by balls. Of twenty-two officers engaged but two were untouched. I got a ball in my hat that made five holes and drew blood on my head. Another took off the corner of my haversack.In a letter dated March 20, 1864 to the editor of the Christian Recorder, Sergeant Major Rufus S. Jones, an NCO of the 8th U.S. Colored Troops, told his story of the battle:
I cannot but speak of the conduct of Dr. Alex P. Heichold, Surgeon of the Eighth, who was particular in collecting the colored troops who were wounded, and placed them in his ambulance and pushed on for a place of safety. Some one thought the white troops should be brought away also; but Dr. H. said: "I know what will become of the white troops who fall into the enemy's possession, but I am not certain as to the fate of the colored troops," and pushed with alacrity towards Baldwin. He also dressed the wounds of all the Eighth that came into camp at Barber, and a great many others belonging to white regiments. It looked sad to see men wounded coming into camp with their arms and equipments on, so great was their endurance and so determined were they to defend themselves till the death.
Hallowell wrote to Governor Andrew about the poor morale of the regiment, due to the pay crisis:
The men are in a state of extreme dissatisfaction bordering on mutiny. . .Some men did mutiny. In one confrontation, Hallowell and Appleton pointed their revolvers at protesting soldiers and give them a count of three: "Do you refuse to go on guard? One, two. . . " The men replied "No Sir!" as Hallowell went down the line asking the question as he pointed his pistol at each man's head. All the men fell into line.
Hallowell was torn between his sympathy for the men and his duty as commanding officer.
In February, Hallowell had recommended to Governor Andrew that Sergeant Stephen Swails be commissioned in recognition of his qualities and his gallantry at Olustee. At the end of March 1864, the regiment received a list of promotions approved by Governor Andrew, one of which was Swails' promotion to 2nd lieutenant. But in May 1864, while the regiment was posted on Morris Island, Swails' application to muster as a 2nd Lieutenant with the regiment was refused by the War Department. The reason given was "Lieutenant Swails' African descent." Colonel William Gurney, the post commander, ordered Swails to remove his officer's uniform and reassume duties as an enlisted man. Colonel Hallowell obtained a furlough for Swails and sent him, along with all the necessary paperwork, to General John Foster, commander of the Department of the South. Once there, Lieutenant Swails presented his case, and received General Foster's recommendation, which was forwarded to higher authority. Swails then returned to duty with the regiment. In addition to correspondence between the Department of the South, Governor Andrew and the War Department, Swails also received a furlough to travel to Washington to present his own case.
Francis H. Fletcher, a 22-year-old clerk from Salem, Massachusetts, enlisted as a private in Company A of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment on February 13, 1863. On May 28, 1864, exactly one year after the regiment left Boston with great fanfare, Fletcher wrote to his friend Jacob C. Safford regarding the discrimination and hardships black soldiers encountered when they were denied the same pay as white soldiers.
Just one year ago to day our regt was received in Boston with almost an ovation, and at 5 P. M. it will be one year since we were safely on board transport clear of Battery Wharf and bound to this Department: in that one year no man of our regiment has received a cent of monthly pay all through the glaring perfidy of the U.S. Gov’t. . . . All the misery and degradation suffered in our regiment by its members’ families is not atoned for by the passage of the bill for equal pay.
It was not until late September of 1864 that the men of the 54th received any financial compensation, finally receiving their full pay since the time of enlistment, totalling $170,000. Most of the men had served 18 months. They were finally able to send money home to their family.
The Battle of Honey Hill was fought on November 30, 1864; it was a failed Union Army expedition under General John Hatch that attempted to cut off the Charleston and Savannah Railroad in support of Sherman's projected arrival in Savannah. Hatch's expeditionary force left Hilton Head for Boyd’s Neck (above Beaufort) on November 28. It consisted of 5,000 men. However, the expedition maps and guides proved worthless and Hatch was unable to proceed on the right road until the morning of November 30. At Honey Hill he encountered a Confederate force with a battery of seven guns across the road. Determined attacks were launched by black troops including a brigade led by Colonel Alfred
In January 1865, the 54th took part in the siege of Fort Fisher and Charleston. Hallowell was often in brigade command, with Lieutenant Colonel Henry Hooper assuming command of the 54th. At the beginning of February, the Fifty-Fourth was moving through James Island, seizing supplies and destroying Confederate property. Hallowell wrote to a sister that
We always leave the negro shanties, but the mansion houses are sure to go. . . It makes me sick to see such elegant furniture destroyed, but its South Carolina and it must be. . . The soldiers enjoy their work!
|Ruins of Train Depot in Charleston, South Carolina|
On the 21st of April, the 54th marched to Georgetown, South Carolina and camped at Milford plantation, owned by John Lawrence Manning, a former governor of the state. As the regiment ate dinner that evening, they received the news that Lee had surrendered his troops to Grant. As soldiers had discovered Manning's wine cellar, they celebrated with "wine aplenty." The mansion itself was saved by the intervention of the commander, General Edward Potter of New York, whose exchange with Manning was recorded as follows:
Potter: This is a fine structure.
Manning: Well, the house was built by a Potter (Nathaniel Potter, the architect) and it looks as though it will be destroyed by a Potter.
Potter: No, you are protected. Nathaniel Potter was my brother.Three days later, the 54th learned of Lincoln's assassination. One officer wrote:
We could not at first comprehend it . . . . It was too overwhelming, too lamentable, too distressing.Although the war was officially ending, Hooper wrote that he believed everyone in the regiment wanted to load their weapons and "exterminate the race that can do such things." Shorty after the news of Lincoln's death, the 54th learned that most of the soldiers who had been taken prisoner during the assault on Battery Wagner had been either killed outright or died in prison. Out of nearly 100 men wounded or missing in action, only 17 survived the war. Hallowell, feeling the anger of his unit, wrote that the rebels
must be exterminated, unless they quickly get down on their knees . . We must hunt them down till there is not a vestige of Rebel left in the land.The 54th returned to Charleston to serve as provost guard. A correspondent for the Boston Transcript wrote that
The war is not ended, as many fondly imagine . . It only changes form.Southern whites now focused their anger on the "free" blacks, and the Boston Commonwealth reported that the countryside was "fetid with the decaying bodies of colored men, who have been shot down when trying to escape their oppressors." In July, Union army regiments from New York attacked the 54th in street battles, demanding that they be withdrawn from the city. General Gillmore seized the New York regimental colors and ordered the unit confined to Battery Wagner and Fort Sumter. Despite his actions, other white regiments continued the assaults.
The churches were not exempt from racism; Private Benjamin Bond wrote a letter in July which was published in the Weekly Anglo-African:
We reject such distinction as set forth in the resolutions at the reorganization of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston . . . The setting apart of separate seats is unworthy of the name of Christian. If we are Christians we must be loving Christians, as well all promise that we are the true children of God . . . We cannot be true Christians without fellowship with each other. . . but if we are held as inferiors and unfit for equal and social religious privileges we must stand on our dignity and absent ourselves from their fraternity . . .In addition to outside assaults, the 54th was torn from within by white officers' objections to
The regiment finally left the South in August, and returned to Boston on September 2. The regiment paraded before crowds along the same streets they had marched along two years before. After speeches, their last event together was a celebration feast at the Charles Street Mall.
Although the Massachusetts 54th Regiment was the first to enlist black men as soldiers in the North, it was only the beginning for blacks as Union soldiers. By the end of the war, a total of 167 units, including other state regiments and the United States Colored Troops, were raised, totaling 186,097 men of African descent recruited into federal service. A New York Tribune editorial published on September 8, 1865, honored the contributions of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment:
It is not too much to say that if this Massachusetts 54th had faltered when its trial came, two hundred thousand troops for whom it was the pioneer would never have been put into the field, or would not have been put in for another year, which would have been equivalent to protracting the war in 1866. But it did not falter. It made Fort Wagner such a name for the colored race as Bunker Hill has been for 90 years to the white Yankees.
New York, 596 Broadway, Room 10, December 13, 1865
To Adjutant General, State of Massachusetts, Boston:
Will you be pleased to give me the name of some officer of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Colored Regiment, so that I can obtain information concerning the famous assault that regiment made on Fort "Wagner. I wish to learn all the facts relating to the wounded color bearer, who, though wounded severely, bore the flag heroically while crawling from the parapet to his retreating or repulsed regiment. It would make a splendid subject for a statuette.
Respectfully, T. H. Bartlett, Sculptor.William Schouler immediately forwarded the letter to the Hallowells; the following was Ned Hallowell's reply:
Boston, December 18, 1865.
William Schouler, AdjutantGeneral
Your letter of the 15th, to my brother, enclosing one from Mr. Bartlett, and requesting me to furnish a statement of facts relating to Sergeant Carney, of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, is received. The following statement is, to the best of my knowledge and belief, correct; but you must remember it is made up principally from hearsay, no one person having seen every incident, except the sergeant.
During the assault upon Fort Wagner, July 18, 1863, the sergeant carrying the national colors of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Volunteers fell, but before the colors reached the ground Sergeant Carney, of Company " C " grasped them, and bore them to the parapet of the fort where he received wounds in both legs, in the breast, and in the right arm. He, however, refused to give up his trust. When the regiment retired from the fort. Sergeant Carney, by the aid of his comrades, succeeded in reaching the hospital, still holding on to the flag, where he fell exhausted and almost lifeless on the floor, saying "The old flag never touched the ground, boys!"
William Carney and the flag
At the time the above happened, I was not in a condition to verify the truth of the statements made to me; but they come to me from very reliable parties, and from very many different people; so, after a close cross-examination of the sergeant, who was known as a truthful man, I have concluded that the statement I have made is substantially correct.On January 13, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Ned Hallowell for the award of the honorary grade of brevet brigadier general of volunteers to rank from June 27, 1865 for "meritorious services" during the war. The Senate confirmed the award on March 12, 1866.
After the war, Ned Hallowell joined the firm of Hallowell & Coburn, wool commission merchants in Boston. In February 1869, he married Charlotte Bartlett Wilhelmina Swett, who was known to family and friends as "Wilmina." She was not a Quaker, but they were married in a Society of Friends ceremony at the residence of her mother and stepfather in Belmont, Massachusetts. The couple made their home in West Medford, Massachusetts.
Ned and Wilmina had two daughters: Charlotte, born in January 1870, and named for her mother, and Emily, born on the 5th of June, 1871, who was named for Ned's younger sister, Emily.
Ned Hallowell died less than two months after his daughter, Emily was born. According to the obituary, he died of effects of the disease and wounds he had suffered during the war. When he passed away on July 26, 1871, he was a few months away from his 35th birthday.
The Boston Evening Transcript reported:
The death of General Edward N. Hallowell, at West Medford, Mass., is another sad proof that the casualties of the cruel war are not yet ended, and that brave men are still falling, as truly as if finding their graves on the battle field. The disease which ended the life of this gallant soldier, faithful citizen, and true-hearted, honorable man, was contracted in the army; where his services were as arduous and dangerous as they were unwearied.
Gen. Hallowell belonged to a well-known, thoroughly loyal, and philanthropic Philadelphia family, and was one of three brothers who joined the army in obedience to their convictions as to what the cause of humanity and liberty demanded of their manhood.
|Grave of Edward Hallowell and his wife|
Less than 2 months later, their first daughter, Charlotte, died in September.
Ned's widow, Wilmina, was a patron of the arts, and served as a trustee of the Boston Museum of Fine Art. She counted poet John Greenleaf Whittier and painter Winslow Homer among her friends. A supporter of Women's Suffrage in 1892 she signed on to a campaign by William Ingersoll Bowditch advertised as: "Woman suffrage a right, not a privilege." A supporter of racial and religious tolerance, she was a member of the Free Religious Association. The FRA was described as a "spiritual anti-slavery society" to "emancipate religion from dogmatic traditions." The FRA was opposed to organized religion and super-naturalism, and "affirmed the supremacy of individual conscience and reason." It included among its members, Quakers, Jews, Unitarians, Agnostics, Spiritualists, Deists and Scientific Theists.
Richard Price Hallowell
He also worked with his brother Pen to honor the memory of African Americans who served in the Civil War. In the 1890s, he wrote of their service:
We had appealed to him [black men] to fight for the life of the nation, and nearly 200,000 of his race had enlisted in the army. Braver or better soldiers never wore the federal military uniform.Richard Hallowell was also a staunch supporter of Women's Suffrage and religious tolerance. He served as Vice President of the Women's Suffrage Association, and was a founding member and treasurer of the Free Religious Association.
Ned and Wilmina's daughter, Emily, studied music, and was said to have had a remarkably fine soprano voice, trained under the direction of highly competent teachers, both in Florence, Italy, and in Boston. She was a member of the Boston Symphony Chorus. In 1907, Emily Hallowell, published Calhoun Plantation Songs, a book of African American folk songs which she had collected and edited at the Calhoun School.
|Harvard's Memorial Hall|
You may think that I have lapsed into an eulogy of rebels. And indeed it is pleasant to dwell upon the virtues of our old friends, the enemy.
And yet there should be neither mental nor moral confusion as to the real meaning of this Memorial Day and this Memorial Hall. I unite with the late William J. Potter, of the Class of 1854, who warns us not to be caught by the sentimental sophistry that since there were heroism and fidelity to conviction on both sides, we may commemorate those virtues of both armies as American, and thereby try to forget there were ever two armies or two causes.
Fidelity to conviction is praiseworthy; but the conviction is sometimes very far from praiseworthy. Slavery and polygamy were convictions. Such monuments as Memorial Hall commemorate the valor and heroism that maintained certain principles, — justice, order, and liberty.
To ignore the irreconcilable distinction between the cause of the North and that of the South is to degrade the war to the level of a mere fratricidal strife for the display of military prowess and strength.
War, horrid war, waged for its own sake is ignoble, brutal; but when waged in defence of convictions which deserve to prevail, then indeed may war be glorified and sanctified by the sufferings and lives of its victims.
So long, then, as there is a distinction between the principles of liberty and those of slavery, may monuments to Confederate dead be erected on Southern, not on Northern soil, and may this Memorial Hall stand for those Harvard men who fought for liberty, and not for those who fought for slavery.
The courage necessary to face death in battle is not of the highest order; that of the non-resistant is of a better kind. Some forty Friends, called Quakers, of North Carolina, were forced into the rebel service. Their religious convictions would not let them fight. They refused to drill or carry a musket. They were prodded with bayonets, strung up by the thumbs, knocked down with the butt-ends of muskets, lashed on the bare back, starved in jails until, in some instances, death ended their sufferings.
You and I, my veteran friends, were courageous, I daresay; but to sustain us we had the vicissitudes of camp life, of the march, and of battle. The women who stayed at home to work, to endure, and to suffer in silence, — they, too, were courageous.
One of the best examples of courage, combined with dignity, self-respect, and self-control, was the conduct of our colored troops in the matter of pay. They were promised the same pay and in general the same treatment as white soldiers. No one expected the same treatment in the sense of courtesy, but every one believed a great nation would keep faith with its soldiers in the beggarly matter of pay. They were promised $13 per month. They were insulted by an offer of $10. Massachusetts resented the insult, and endeavored to remedy the wrong by offering to make good the difference between the $13 promised and the $10 offered. The State agents with money in hand visited the camps on Folly and Morris Islands, and pleaded with the men by every argument, by every persuasion they could command, to accept State money. In vain. They were soldiers of the Union, not of a State. They would be paid by the United States in full or they would not be paid at all. The nation might break its faith, but they would keep theirs. Every mail brought letters from wives and children asking for money. In some instances homes were broken up and the almshouse received their families. At times our regiments were driven to the verge of mutiny. In point of fact, the Fifty-fifth did stack arms one morning, not in an angry, tumultuous way, but in a sullen, desperate mood that expressed a wish to be marched out to be shot down rather than longer hear the cries from home and longer endure the galling sense of humiliation and wrong. But better counsels prevailed, and a grand catastrophe was averted by the patriotism and innate good sense of the men, added to the sympathy and firmness of the officers. One poor fellow, a sergeant in the Third South Carolina, induced his company to stack arms on the ground that he was "released from duty by the refusal of the Government to fulfil its share of the contract." He was logical, but it was in time of war. The only thing to be done, was done. He was court-martialled and shot. In the scathing words of Governor Andrew, "The Government which found no law to pay him except as a nondescript and a contraband, nevertheless found law enough to shoot him as a soldier."
. . . The men of the Fifty-Fourth for eighteen months, toiled on and fought on without one cent of pay. At last they won — won through long suffering and patient endurance, won through a higher and rarer courage than the courage of battle — a victory that is not inscribed on their flags by the side of Wagner, James Island, Olustee, and Honey Hill, but which, none the less, fills one of the best and brightest pages in the history of their race.On May 31, 1897, the City of Boston unveiled the Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment. The bronze relief sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the edge of the Boston Common depicted the 54th Massachusetts Regiment marching on May 28, 1863. The ceremony, which consisted of a parade, speeches, and music, was considered "particularly sacred" and "a patriotic occasion" by a Boston Globe reporter. Among those present at the dedication were veterans of the Massachusetts 54th and other regiments who fought in the Civil War, as well as Colonel Norwood Penrose Hallowell, Booker T. Washington, William James, and Governor Roger Wolcott. At the head of the procession were the remaining officers and soldiers of the 54th, including, as flagbearer, Sergeant William H. Carney, who would be the first Black man to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor three years later.
Look at the monument and read the story; see the mingling of elements which the sculptor's genius has brought so vividly before the eye. There on foot go the dark out-casts, so true to nature that one can almost hear them breathing as they march.
State after State by its laws had denied them to be human persons. The Southern leaders in congressional debates, insolent in their security, loved most to designate them by the contemptuous collective epithet of "this peculiar kind of property."
There they march, warm-blooded champions of a better day for man. There on horseback, among them, in his very habit as he lived, sits the blue-eyed child of fortune, upon whose happy youth every divinity had smiled. Onward they move together, a single resolution kindled in their eyes, and animating their otherwise so different frames. The bronze that makes their memory eternal betrays the very soul and secret of those awful years.
Since the 'thirties the slavery question had been the only question, and by the end of the 'fifties our land lay sick and shaking with it like a traveller who has thrown himself down at night beside a pestilential swamp, and in the morning finds the fever through the marrow of his bones. "Only muzzle the Abolition fanatics," said the South, "and all will be well again!"
But the Abolitionists would not be muzzled, - they were the voice of the world's conscience, they were a part of destiny. Weak as they were, they drove the South to madness. . . . And when South Carolina took the final step in battering down Fort Sumter, it was the fanatics of slavery themselves who called upon their idolized institution ruin swift and complete. What law and reason were unable to accomplish, had now to be done by that uncertain and dreadful dispenser of God's judgments, War - War, with its abominably casual, inaccurate methods, destroying good and bad together, but at last able to hew a way out of intolerable situations, when through man's delusion of perversity every better way is blocked.
Our great western republic had from its origin been a singular anomaly. A land of freedom, boastfully so-called, with human slavery enthroned at the heart of it, and at last dictating terms of unconditional surrender to every other organ of its life, what was it but a thing of falsehood and horrible self-contradiction?
For three-quarters of a century it had nevertheless endured, kept together by policy compromise, and concession. But at last; that republic was torn in two; and truth was to be possible under the flag.
. . . Our nation had been founded in what we may call our American religion, baptized and reared in the faith that a man requires no master to take care of him, and that common people can work out their salvation well enough together if left free to try.
But the founders had not dared to touch the great intractable exception; and slavery had wrought until at last the only alternative for the nation was to fight or die. What Shaw and his comrades stand for and show us is that in such an emergency Americans of all complexions and conditions can go forth like brothers, and meet death cheerfully if need be, in order that this religion of our native land shall not become a failure on earth.
. . . For a large party of us this was still exclusively a white man's war; and should colored troops be tried and not succeed, confusion would grow worse confounded. Shaw was a captain in the Massachusetts Second, when Governor Andrew invited him to take the lead in the experiment. He was very modest, and doubted, for a moment, his own capacity for so responsible a post. We may also imagine human motives whispering other doubts. Shaw loved the Second Regiment, illustrious already, and was sure of promotion where he stood. In this new negro soldier venture, loneliness was certain, ridicule inevitable, failure possible; and Shaw was only twenty-five; and, although he had stood among the bullets at Cedar Mountain and Antietam, he had till then been walking socially on the sunny side of life. But whatever doubts may have beset him, they were over in a day, for he inclined naturally toward difficult resolves. He accepted the proffered command, and from that moment lived but for one object, to establish the honor of the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth.
1897 Illustration of back of memorial
I have had the privilege of reading his letters to his family from the day of April when, as a private in the New York Seventh, he obeyed the President's first call. Some day they must be published, for they form a veritable poem for serenity and simplicity of tone. He took to camp life as if it were his native element, and (like so many of our young soldiers) he was at first all eagerness to make arms his permanent profession. Drilling and disciplining; interminable marching and counter-marching, and picket-duty on the Upper Potomac as lieutenant in our Second Regiment, to which post he had soon been promoted; pride at the discipline attained by the Second, and horror at the bad discipline of other regiments; these are the staple matter of earlier letters, and last for many months. . . . Robert Shaw quickly inspired others with his own love of discipline. There was something almost pathetic in the earnestness with which both the officers and men of the Fifty-fourth embraced their mission of showing that a black regiment could excel in every virtue known to man. They had good success, and the Fifty-fourth became a model in all possible respects. . .
How soon, indeed, are human things forgotten! As we meet here this morning, the Southern sun is shining on their place of burial, and the waves sparkling and the sea-gulls circling around Fort Wagner’s ancient site. But the great earthworks and their thundering cannon, the commanders and their followers, the wild assault and repulse that for a brief space made night hideous on that far-off evening, have all sunk into the blue gulf of the past, and for the majority of this generation are hardly more than an abstract name, a picture, a tale that is told. Only when some yellow-bleached photograph of a soldier of the ‘sixties comes into our hands…do we realize the concreteness of that by-gone history…The photographs themselves erelong will fade utterly, and books of history and monuments like this alone will tell the tale.
. . . War has been much praised and celebrated among us of late as a school of manly virtue; but it is easy to exaggerate upon this point. . . . What we really need the poet's and orator's help to keep alive in us is not, then, the common and gregarious courage which Robert Shaw showed when he marched with you, men of the Seventh Regiment. It is that more lonely courage which he showed when he dropped his warm commission in the glorious Second to head your dubious fortunes, negroes of the Fifty-fourth.
That lonely kind of courage (civic courage as we call it in times of peace) is the
kind of valor to which the monuments of nations should most of all be reared, for the survival of the fittest has not bred it into the bone of human beings as it has bred military valor; and of five hundred of us who could storm a battery side by side with others, perhaps not one would be found ready to risk his worldly fortunes all alone in resisting an enthroned abuse.
Shaw Memorial, Boston Commons
The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes; they always dwell within their borders. And from these internal enemies civilization is always in need of being saved.
The nation blest above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day, by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks.
Such nations have no need of wars to save them. Their accounts with righteousness are always even; and God's judgments do not have to overtake them fitfully in bloody spasms and convulsions of the race.
The lesson that our war ought most of all to teach us is the lesson that evils must be checked in time, before they grow so great.
. . . Our present situation, with its rancors and delusions, what is it but the direct outcome of the added powers of government, the corruptions and inflations of the war?
Every war leaves such miserable legacies, fatal seeds of future war and revolution, unless the civic virtues of the people save the State in time.
. . . North and South, how many lives as sweet, unmonumented for the most part, commemorated solely in the hearts of mourning mothers, widowed brides, or friends did the inexorable war mow down! Instead of the full years of natural service from so many of her children, our country counts but their poor memories . . . lingering like echoes of past music on the vacant air. . .
As we face the future, tasks enough await us. . . . Democracy is still upon its trial. The civic genius of our people is its only bulwark, and neither laws nor monuments, neither battleships nor public libraries, nor great newspapers nor booming stocks; neither mechanical invention nor political adroitness, nor churches nor universities nor civil service examinations can save us from degeneration if the inner mystery be lost. That mystery, at once the secret and the glory of our English speaking race, consists in nothing but two common habits, two inveterate habits carried into public life, - habits so homely that they lend themselves to no rhetorical expression, yet habits more precious, perhaps, than any that the human race has gained. They can never be too often pointed out or praised.
One of them is the habit of trained and disciplined good temper towards the opposite party when it fairly wins its innings. It was by breaking away from this habit that the Slave States nearly wrecked our Nation.
The other is that of fierce and merciless resentment toward every man or set of men who break the public peace. By holding to this habit the free States saved her life.
The Shaw Memorial and the events it commemorates compel us to acknowledge that wars have meanings that we are obliged to discern and that nations still have histories and once had (and may still have) a need for a sense of mission. Questions such as these force us to confront others that are central to African American history. Why did it take total war on such a scale to begin to make black people free in America?
. . . Answers to these questions lie deep in our political and cultural history and deep in the nature of racism itself. . . . The search for answers to these questions might reveal a narrative of authentic tragedy at the heart of the Civil War, and therefor at the center of American history. Americans rarely have been fond of seeing their history as tragic; this forward-looking, expanding republic with great resources and a providential sense of its destiny has allowed little room for treating the darker, fated collisions and biter contradictions in our past. Victory narratives - of conquest, of social and economic progress - have always sold best in the American marketplace . . .
The tyranny of slavery brought America to the bloodletting of 1861. . . If America is about new beginnings for fundamental ideas, if the Civil War was a second founding of the American republic and a "new birth" of freedom, then the story of the Fifty-fourth regiment and the Shaw Memorial is . . . about our national promises and betrayals . . . and about the transcendence that makes all tragedy meaningful.