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MR. WICKLIFFE ENLIGHTENED BY GEN. HUNTER. 515
ganization and arming became the order of the day, a number of Blacks quietly hired a public hall and commenced drilling therein, in view of the possibility of a call to active service, they were promptly notified by the Chief of Police that they must desist from these military exercises, or he could not protect them from popular indignation and assault. They had no choice but to do as they were bidden.
Gen. Hunter, while in command at Hilton Head, was the first to direct the organization of colored men as soldiers, soon after issuing his order of general Emancipation throughout his department, already recorded.” This movement elicited “from Mr. Wickliffe, of Ky., in the IIouse, the following resolution of inquiry:
“Resolved, That the Secretary of War be directed to inform this House if Gen. IIunter, of the Department of South Carolina, has organized a regiment of South Carolina volunteers for the defense of the Union, composed of Black men (fugitive slaves), and appointed the Colonel and other of icers to command them. 2. Was he authorized by the Department to organize and muster into the Army of the United States, as soldiers, the fugitive or captured slaves? 3. Has he been furnished with clothing, uniforms, etc., for such force? 4. IIas he been furnished, by order of the War Department, with arms to be placed in the hands of these slaves? 5. To report any orders given said Hunter, and correspondence between him and the Department.”
Secretary Stanton replied” that Gen. IIunter had not been authorized to organize and muster into the service of the United States either fugitive or captured slaves, nor had he been furnished with clothing or arms for such slaves; and further, that the Government's orders to and correspondence with Gen. IIunter on
this subject could not be published
* See page 246. * June 5, 1862.
*7 June 14.
at this time without prejudice to the public welfare. But, some days later,” he made a further report, covering a letter” from Gen. Hunter, in reply to one addressed” to him by the Adjutant-General, asking for information on the subject; wherein Gen. II. makes answer to Mr. Wickliffe's several inquiries as follows:
“To the first question, therefore, I reply that no regiment of “fugitive slaves’ has been, or is being, organized in this department. There is, however, a fine regiment of persons whose late masters are “fugitive Rebels’—men who every where fly before the appearance of the national flag, leaving their servants behind them to shift as best they can for themselves. So far, indeed, are the loyal persons composing this regiment from seeking to avoid the presence of their late owners, that they are now, one and all, working with remarkable industry to place themselves in a position to go in full and effective pursuit of their fugacious and traitorous proprietors.
“To the second question, I have the honor to answer that the instructions given to Brig.-Gen. T. W. Sherman, by the Hon. Simon Cameron, late Secretary of War, and turned over to me by succession for my guidance, do distinctly authorize me to employ all loyal persons offering their services in defense of the Union and for the suppression of this Rebellion, in any manner I might see fit, or that the circumstances might call for. There is no restriction as to the character or color of the persons to be employed, or the nature of the employment, whether civil or military, in which their services should be used. I conclude, therefore, that I have been authorized to enlist fugitive slaves’ as soldiers, could any such be found in this Department. No such characters, however, have yet appeared within view of our most advanced pickets; the loyal slaves every where remaining on their plantations to welcome us, aid us, and supply us with food, labor, and information. It is the masters who have, in every instance, been the fugitives;’ running away from loyal slaves as well as loyal soldiers; and whom we have only partially been able to see—chiefly their heads over ramparts, or, rifle in hand, dodging behind trees—in the extreme distance. In the absence of any “fugitive-master law,” the deserted slaves would be wholly without remedy, had not the crime of treason given them the right to pursue, capture, and bring back, those persons of whose pro
* July 2, * Dated June 23. "June 13.
tection they have been thus suddenly bereft. “To the third interrogatory, it is my painful duty to reply that I never have received any specific authority for issues of clothing, uniforms, arms, equipments, and so forth, to the troops in question—my general instructions from Mr. Cameron to employ them in any manner I might find necessary, and the military exigencies of the Department and the country, being my only, but, in my judgment, sufficient justification. Neither have I had any specific authority for supplying these persons with shovels, spades, and pickaxes, when employing them as laborers, nor with boats and oars when using them aslightermen: but these are not points included in Mr. Wickliffe's resolution. To me, it seemed that liberty to employ men in any particular capacity implied with it liberty also to supply them with the necessary tools; and, acting upon this faith, I have clothed, equipped and armed, the only loyal regiment yet raised in South Carolina. “I must say, in vindication of my own conduct, that, had it not been for the many other diversified and imperative claims on my time, a much more satisfactory result might have been hoped for; and that, in place of only one, as at present, at least five or six well-drilled, brave, and thoroughly acclimated regiments, should by this time have been added to the loyal forces of the Union. “The experiment of arming the Blacks, so far as I have made it, has been a complete and even marvelous success. They are sober, docile, attentive, and enthusiastic; displaying great natural capacities for acquiring the duties of the soldier. They are eager beyond all things to take the field and be led into action; and it is the unanimous opinion of the officers who have had charge of them, that, in the peculiarities of this climate and country, they will prove invaluable auxiliaries—fully equal to the similar regiments so long and successfully used by the British authorities in the West India islands. “In conclusion, I would say it is my hope —there appearing no possibility of other reenforcements, owing to the exigencies of the campaign in the Peninsula—to have organized, by the end of next Fall, and to be able to present to the Government, from 48,000 to 50,000 of these hardy and devoted soldiers. “Trusting that this letter may form part of your answer to Mr. Wickliffe's resolutiqns, I have the honor to be, most respect#. your very obedient servant, “D. HUNTER, Maj.-Gen. Com'ding.”
These responses, though not particularly satisfactory to Mr. Wickliffe, appear to have been conclusive; though his colleague, Mr. Dunlap, proposed” that it be by the House
“Resolved, That the sentiments contained in the paper read to this body yesterday, approving the arming of slaves, emanating from Maj.-Gen. David Hunter, clothed in discourteous language, are an indignity to the American Congress, an insult to the American people and our brave soldiers in arms; for which sentiments, so uttered, he justly merits our condemnation and censure.”
The House did not so resolve; preferring to adjourn.
Gen. Hunter's original recruiting and organizing Blacks in South Carolina having been without express authority, there was no warrant for paying them; but this defect was cured, before Congress was ready to act decisively on the subject, by a special order from the Secretary of War,” directed to Gen. Rufus Saxton, Military Governor of the Sea Islands, which says:
“3. In view of the small force under your command, and the inability of the Government, at the present time, to increase it, in order to guard the plantations and settlements occupied by the United States from invasion, and protect the inhabitants thereof from captivity and murder by the enemy, you are also authorized to arm, uniform, equip and receive into the service of the United States, such number of Volunteers of African descent as you may deem expedient, not exceeding 5,000; and may detail officers to instruct them in military drill, discipline and duty, and to command them: the persons so received into service, and their officers, to be entitled to and receive the same pay and rations as are allowed by law to Volunteers in the service.
“4. You will occupy, if possible, all the islands and plantations heretofore occupied by the Government, and secure and harvest the crops, and cultivate and improve the plantations.
“5. The population of African descent, that cultivate the land and perform the labor of the Rebels, constitute a large share
* Aug. 25.
GEN. J. W. PII ELP'S ON N E G R O SOLDIERSHIP.
of their military strength, and enable the White masters to fill the Rebel armies, and wage a cruel and murderous war against the people of the Northern States. By reducing the laboring strength of the Rebels, their military power will be reduced. You are, therefore, authorized, by every means in your power, to withdraw from the enemy their laboring force and population, and to spare no effort, consistent with civilized warfare, to weaken, harass, and annoy them, and to establish the authority of the Government of the United States within your Department.”
Meantime, Brig.-Gen. J.W. Phelps, commanding under Gen. Butler at Carrollton, La., finding his camp continually beset by fugitives from Slavery on the adjacent plantations, but especially from that of Mr. B. La Blanche, a wealthy and eminent sugar-planter just above New Orleans —(who, it appears, being vexed by military interference with the police of his plantation, had driven off all his negroes, telling them to go to their friends, the Yankees)—had involved himself in a difference with his superior, by harboring and protecting those and other fugitives, contrary to the policy of the Government, which Gen. Butler was endeavoring, so far as possible, to conform to. Gen. Phelps, in his report” to Gen. Butler's Adjutant, justifying his conduct in the premises—after setting forth the impossibility of putting down the Rebellion and at the same time upholding its parent, Slavery, and the absolute necessity of adopting a decided anti-Slavery policy—says:
of retrenching our liberties, as we should do by a large army exclusively of Whites. For it is evident that a considerable army of Whites would give stringency to our Government; while an army partly of Blacks would naturally operate in favor of freedom and against those influences which at present most endanger our liberties. At the end of five years, they could be sent to Africa, and their places filled with new enlistments.”
Receiving no specific response to this overture, Gen. Phelps made “a requisition of arms, clothing, &c., for “three regiments of Africans, which I propose to raise for the defense of this point;” adding:
“The enfranchisement of the people of Europe has been, and is still, going on, through the instrumentality of military service; and by this means our slaves might be raised in the scale of civilization and prepared for freedom. Fifty regiments might be raised among them at once, which
could be employed in this climate to preserve order, and thus prevent the necessity
*June 16, 1862.
“The location is swampy and unhealthy; and our men are dying at the rate of two or three a day. “The Southern loyalists are willing, as I understand, to furnish their share of the tax for the support of the war; but they should also furnish their quota of men ; which they have not thus far done. An opportunity now offers of supplying the deficiency; and it is not safe to neglect opportunities in war. I think that, with the proper facilities, I could raise the three regiments proposed in a short time. Without holding out any inducements, or offering any reward, I have now upward of 300 Africans organized into five companies, who are all willing and ready to show their devotion to our cause in any way that it may be put to the test. They are willing to submit to anything rather than to Slavery. “Society, in the South, seems to be on the point of dissolution; and the best way of preventing the African from becoming instrumental in a general state of anarchy, is to enlist him in the cause of the Republic. If we reject his services, any petty military chieftain, by offering him freedom, can have them for the purpose of robbery and plunder. It is for the interests of the South, as well as of the North, that the African should be permitted to offer his block for the temple of freedom. Sentiments unworthy of the man of the present day—worthy only of another Cain—could alone prevent such an offer from being accepted. “I would recommend that the cadet graduates of the present year should be sent to South Carolina and this point, to organize and discipline our African levies; and that the more promising non-commissioned officers and privates of the army be
appointed as company officers to command them. Prompt and energetic efforts in this direction would probably accomplish more toward a speedy termination of the war, and an early restoration of peace and unity, than any other course which could be adopted.” Gen. Butler, in response, instructed Gen. Phelps to employ his ‘contrabands’ in cutting down trees and forming abatis for the defense of his lines, instead of organizing them as soldiers. This Gen. P. peremptorily declined “ to do; saying, “I am not willing to become the mere slavedriver you propose, having no qualifications that way,” and thereupon throwing up his commission. Gen. Butler declined to accept his resignation; but it was, on reference to Washington, accepted by the Government; whereupon, he quit the service and returned to his Vermont home, leaving 600 able-bodied negro men in his camp, and a very decided tendency on the adjacent plantations to increase the number. The current of events soon carried Gen. Butler along with it; so that— though he was almost isolated from the Government, with which he communicated but fitfully—at least a fortnight being usually required to send a dispatch from New Orleans to Washington and receive an answer —he felt constrained by the necessities and perils of his position, just the day before Stanton's direction to Saxton aforesaid, to appeal to the free colored men of New Orleans to take up arms in the National service; which appeal was responded to with alaćrity and enthusiasm, and a first regiment, 1,000 strong, filled within 14 days—all its line officers colored as well as the rank and file. His next regiment, filled soon afterward,
had its two highest officers White; all the rest colored. His third was officered by the best men that could be had, regardless of color. His two batteries were officered by Whites only ; for the simple reason that there were no others who had any knowledge of artillery. On the reception at Richmond of tidings of Gen. Hunter's and Gen. Phelps's proceedings with reference to the enlistment of negro soldiers for the Union armies, Jefferson Davis issued “an order directing that said Generals be no longer regarded as public enemies of the Confederacy, but as outlaws; and that, in the event of the capture of either of them, or of any other commissioned officer. employed in organizing, drilling, or instructing slaves, he should not be treated as a prisoner of war, but held in close confinement for execution as a felon, at such time and place as he (J.D.) should order. It is not recorded that any one was ever actually hung under this order.
So long as the ranks of the Union armies were satisfactorily filled by volunteering alone, and Whites stood ready to answer promptly every requisition for more men, negroes or mulattoes were not accepted as soldiers; though they were, as they had ever been, freely enlisted and extensively employed in the navy, with the same pay and allowances as Whites. At no time during the war was a colored person, if known as such, accepted—as many had been throughout our own Revolutionary War—for service in a regiment or other organization preponderantly
White.” But no sooner had McClellan's campaign against Richmond culminated in disaster and a requisition upon the loyal States for Six Hundred Thousand more recruits to our armies, rendering conscription in some localities unavoidable, than the barriers of caste began to give way.” Thus, Mr. Wilson, of Mass., having reported” to the Senate a bill to amend the act of 1795, prescribing the manner of calling forth the Militia to suppress insurrection, &c., Mr. Grimes, of Iowa, moved “ that henceforth there shall be no exemption from Military duty because of color. On the suggestion of Mr. Preston King, of N. Y., this proposition was so amended as to authorize the President to accept “persons of African descent, for the purpose of constructing intrenchments, or performing camp service, or any war service for which they may be found competent.” This, and the whole project, were vehemently opposed by Messrs. Saulsbury, of Del., G. Davis, of Ky., Carlile, of Va., and others of the Opposition. Mr. G. Davis endeavored to strike out the words last above quoted; but failed: Yeas, 11; Nays, 27. Af. ter much debate, the Senate decided, by close votes, to free, as a reward for services in the Union armies, the slaves of Rebels only, and not to free the wives and children even of these. In this shape, the bill passed “ the Senate: Yeas 28 (including Mr. Rice, of Minn.); Nays 9 (all the Opposition present and voting but Mr. Rice
aforesaid). And the bill going thence to the House, Mr. Stevens, of Pa., at once demanded and obtained the Previous Question thereon; and an attempt to lay it on the table having failed (Yeas 30; Nays 77), it was passed,” and signed next day by the President. By another act of like date and similar history, Congress prescribed that “the enrollment of the Militia shall in all cases include all able-bodied male citizens between the ages of 18 and 45.”
In the next Congress, the enrollment of the National forces being under consideration in the House, Mr. Stevens, of Pa.,” moved to amend it by striking out the 27th section, and inserting instead the following:
“And be it further enacted, That all ablebodied male persons of African descent, between the ages of 20 and 45, whether citizens or not, shall be enrolled and made a part of the National forces; and, when enrolled and drafted into the service, his master shall be entitled to receive $300, and the drafted man shall be free.”
Mr. S. II. Boyd, of Mo., suggested that only loyal masters be entitled to the $300 bounty; which Mr. Stevens readily accepted; but, on motion of Mr. Webster, of Md., it was afterward decided–67 to 44– that any bounty accruing to a drafted man who is a slave shall be paid to his master. Mr. B. G. Harris, of Md., denied “that you have a right to enlist or enroll a slave.” Mr. Fernando Wood, of N. Y., denounced the measure as “clearly, palpably in violation of the Constitution.” Mr.
* At an early stage of the war, a son of old John Brown influentially aided the enlistment of a regiment of volunteers in Northern New York; and, uniting zeal and ability with some military experience, was appointed a Lieutenant therein; but his brother officers evinced such dissatisfaction that he was obliged to resign.
* “I have never,” said Mr. Broomall, of Pa., in the House (Feb. 11th, 1863), “found the most snaky constituent of mine, who, when he was drafled, refused to let the blackest negro in the district go as a substitute for him.” *July 8, 1862. * July 9. * July 15. “July 16. *Feb. 10, 1864.