Leaves From an Officer's Journal
A white Civil War officer recounts his experience as Colonel of the first black regiment
[Read the November 1864 and December 1864 installments of Higginson's Leaves From an Officer's Journal]
CAMP SAXTON, NEAR BEAUFORT, S. C.
January 3, 1864.
Once, and once only, thus far, the water has frozen in my tent; and the next morning showed a dense white frost outside. We have still mocking-birds and crickets and rosebuds and occasional noonday baths in the river, though the butterflies have vanished, as I remember to have observed in Fayal, after December. I have been here nearly six weeks without a rainy day; one or two slight showers there have been, once interrupting a drill, but never dress parade. For climate, by day, we might be among the isles of Greece,--though it may be my constant familiarity with the names of her sages which suggests that impression. For instance, a voice just now called, near my tent,--"Cato, whar's Plato?"
The men have somehow got the impression that it is essential to the validity of a marriage that they should come to me for permission, just as they used to go to the master; and I rather encourage these little confidences, because it is so entertaining to hear them. "Now, Cunnel," said a faltering swain the other day, "I want for get me one good lady," which I approved, especially the limitation as to number. Afterwards I asked one of the bridegroom's friends whether he thought it a good match. "Oh, yes, Cunnel," said he, in all the cordiality of friendship, "John's gwine for marry Venus." I trust the goddess prove herself a better lady than she appeared during her previous career upon this planet. But this naturally suggests the isles of Greece again.
_January 7._--On first arriving, I found a good deal of anxiety among the officers as to the increase of desertions, that being the rock on which the "Hunter Regiment" split. Now this evil is very nearly stopped, and we are every day recovering the older absentees. One of the very best things that have happened to us was a half-accidental shooting of a man who had escaped from the guard-house, and was wounded by a squad sent in pursuit. He has since died; and this very evening, another man, who escaped with him, came and opened the door of my tent, after being five days in the woods, almost without food. His clothes were in rags, and he was nearly starved, poor foolish fellow, so that we can almost dispense with further punishment. Severe penalties would be wasted on these people, accustomed as they have been to the most violent passions on the part of white men; but a mild inexorableness tells on them, just as it does on any other children. It is something utterly new to them, and it is thus far perfectly efficacious. They have a great deal of pride as soldiers, and a very little of severity goes a great way, if it be firm and consistent. This is very encouraging.
The single question which I asked of some of the plantation-superintendents, on the voyage, was, "Do these people appreciate _justice_?" If they did, it was evident that all the rest would be easy. When a race is degraded beyond that point, it must be very hard to deal with them; they must mistake all kindness for indulgence, all strictness for cruelty. With these freed slaves there is no such trouble, not a particle: let an officer be only just and firm, with a cordial, kindly nature, and he has no sort of difficulty. The plantation-superintendents and teachers have the same experience, they say; but we have an immense advantage in the military organization, which helps in two ways: it increases their self-respect, and it gives us an admirable machinery for discipline, thus improving both the fulcrum and the lever.
The wounded man died in the hospital, and the general verdict seemed to be, "Him brought it on heself." Another soldier died of pneumonia on the same day, and we had the funerals in the evening. It was very impressive. A dense mist came up, with a moon behind it, and we had only the light of pine-splinters, as the procession wound along beneath the mighty moss-hung branches of the ancient grove. The groups around the grave, the dark faces, the red garments, the scattered lights, the misty boughs, were weird and strange. The men sang one of their own wild chants. Two crickets sang also, one on either side, and did not cease their little monotone, even when the three volleys were fired above the graves. Just before the coffins were lowered, an old man whispered to me that I must have their position altered,--the heads must be towards the west; so it was done,--though they are in a place so veiled in woods that either rising or setting sun will find it hard to spy them.
We have now a good regimental hospital, admirably arranged in a deserted gin-house,--a fine well of our own within the camp-lines,--a ful-allowance of tents, all floored,--a wooden cook-house to every company, with sometimes a palmetto mess-house beside,--a substantial wooden guard-house, with a fireplace five feet "in de clar," where the men off duty can dry themselves and sleep comfortably in bunks afterwards. We have also a great circular school-tent, made of condemned canvas, thirty feet in diameter, and looking like some of the Indian lodges I saw in Kansas. We now meditate a regimental bakery. Our aggregate has increased from four hundred and ninety to seven hundred and forty, besides a hundred recruits now waiting at St. Augustine, and we have practised through all the main movements in battalion drill.
Affairs being thus prosperous, and yesterday having been six weeks since my last and only visit to Beaufort, I rode in, glanced at several camps, and dined with the General. It seemed absolutely like reentering the world; and I did not fully estimate my past seclusion till it occurred to me, as a strange and novel phenomenon, that the soldiers at the other camps were white.
_January 8._--This morning I went to Beaufort again, on necessary business, and by good luck happened upon a review and drill of the white regiments. The thing that struck me most was that same absence of uniformity, in minor points, that I noticed at first in my own officers. The best regiments in the Department are represented among my captains and lieutenants, and very well represented, too; yet it has cost much labor to bring them to any uniformity in their drill. There is no need of this, for the prescribed "Tactics" approach perfection: it is never left discretionary in what place an officer shall stand, or in what words he shall give his order. All variation would seem to imply negligence. Yet even West Point occasionally varies from the "Tactics,"--as, for instance, in requiring the line officers to face down the line, when each is giving the order to his company. In our strictest Massachusetts regiments this is not done.
It needs an artist's eye to make a perfect drill-master. Yet the small points are not merely a matter of punctilio; for, the more perfectly a battalion is drilled on the parade-ground, the more quietly it can be handled in action. Moreover, the great need of uniformity is this: that, in the field, soldiers of different companies, and even of different regiments, are liable to be intermingled, and a diversity of orders may throw everything into confusion. Confusion means Bull Run.
I wished my men at the review to-day; for, amidst all the rattling and noise of artillery and the galloping of cavalry, there was only one infantry movement that we have not practised, and that was done by only one regiment, and apparently considered quite a novelty, though it is easily taught,--forming square by Casey's method: forward on centre.
It is really just as easy to drill a regiment as a company,--perhaps easier, because one has more time to think; but it is just as essential to be sharp and decisive, perfectly clear-headed, and to put life into the men. A regiment seems small when one has learned how to handle it, a mere handful of men; and I have no doubt that a brigade or a division would soon appear equally small. But to handle either _judiciously_,--ah, that is another affair!
So of governing: it is as easy to govern a regiment as a school or a factory, and needs like qualities,--system, promptness, patience, tact; moreover, in a regiment one has the aid of the admirable machinery of the army, so that I see very ordinary men who succeed very tolerably.
Reports of a six months' armistice are rife here, and the thought is deplored by all. I cannot believe it, yet sometimes one feels very anxious about the ultimate fate of these poor people. After the experience of Hungary, one sees that revolutions may go backward; and the habit of injustice seems so deeply impressed upon the whites, that it is hard to believe in the possibility of anything better. I dare not yet hope that the promise of the President's Proclamation will be kept. For myself I can be indifferent, for the experience here has been its own daily and hourly reward; and the adaptedness of the freed slaves for drill and discipline is now thoroughly demonstrated and must soon be universally acknowledged. But it would be terrible to see this regiment disbanded or defrauded.
_January 12._--Many things glide by without time to narrate them. On Saturday we had a mail with the President's Second Message of Emancipation, and the next day it was read to the men. The words themselves did not stir them very much, because they have been often told that they were free, especially on New-Year's Day, and, being unversed in politics, they do not understand, as well as we do, the importance of each additional guaranty. But the chaplain spoke to them afterwards very effectively, as usual; and then I proposed to them to hold up their hands and pledge themselves to be faithful to those still in bondage. They entered heartily into this, and the scene was quite impressive, beneath the great oak-branches. I heard afterwards that only one man refused to raise his hand, saying bluntly that his wife was out of slavery with him, and he did not care to fight. The other soldiers of his company were very indignant, and shoved him about among them while marching back to their quarters, calling him "Coward." I was glad of their exhibition of feeling, though it is very possible that the one who had thus the moral courage to stand alone among his comrades might be more reliable, on a pinch, than some who yielded a more ready assent. But the whole response, on their part, was very hearty, and will be a good thing to which to hold them hereafter, at any time of discouragement or demoralization,--which was my chief reason for proposing it. With their simple natures, it is a great thing to tie them to some definite committal; they never forget a marked occurrence, and never seem disposed to evade a pledge.
It is this capacity of honor and fidelity which gives me such entire faith in them as soldiers. Without it, all their religious demonstration would be mere sentimentality. For instance, every one who visits the camp is struck with their bearing as sentinels. They exhibit, in this capacity, not an upstart conceit, but a steady, conscientious devotion to duty. They would stop their idolized General Saxton, if he attempted to cross their beat contrary to orders: I have seen them. No feeble or incompetent race could do this. The officers tell many amusing instances of this fidelity, but I think mine the best.
It was very dark the other night,--an unusual thing here,--and the rain fell in torrents; so I put on my India-rubber suit, and went the rounds of the sentinels, incognito, to test them. I can only say that I shall never try such an experiment again, and have cautioned my officers against it. 'T is a wonder I escaped with life and limb,--such a charging of bayonets and clicking of gun-locks. Sometimes I tempted them by refusing to give any countersign, but offering them a piece of tobacco, which they could not accept without allowing me nearer than the prescribed bayonet's distance. Tobacco is more than gold to them, and it was touching to watch the struggle in their minds; but they always did their duty at last, and I never could persuade them. One man, as if wishing to crush all his inward vacillations at one fell stroke, told me stoutly that he never used tobacco, though I found next day that he loved it as much as any one of them. It seemed wrong thus to tamper with their fidelity; yet it was a vital matter to me to know how far it could be trusted, out of my sight. It was so intensely dark that not more than one or two knew me, even after I had talked with the very next sentinel, especially as they had never seen me in India-rubber clothing, and I can always disguise my voice. It was easy to distinguish those who did make the discovery; they were always conscious and simpering when their turn came; while the others were stout and irreverent till I revealed myself, and then rather cowed and anxious, fearing to have offended.
It rained harder and harder, and when I had nearly made the rounds, I had had enough of it, and, simply giving the countersign to the challenging sentinel, undertook to pass within the lines.
"Halt!" exclaimed this dusky man and brother, bringing down his bayonet,--"de countersign not correck."
Now the magic word, in this case, was "Vicksburg," in honor of a rumored victory. But as I knew that these hard names became quite transformed upon their lips, "Carthage" being familiarized into Cartridge, and "Concord" into Corn-cob, how could I possibly tell what shade of pronunciation my friend might prefer for this particular proper name?
"Vicksburg," I repeated, blandly, but authoritatively, endeavoring, as zealously as one of Christy's Minstrels, to assimilate my speech to any supposed predilection of the Ethiop vocal organs.
"Halt dar! Countersign not correck," was the only answer.
The bayonet still maintained a position which, in a military point of view, was impressive.
I tried persuasion, orthography, threats, tobacco, all in vain. I could not pass in. Of course my pride was up; for was I to defer to an untutored African on a point of pronunciation? Classic shades of Harvard, forbid! Affecting scornful indifference, I tried to edge away, proposing to myself to enter the camp at some other point, where my elocution would be better appreciated. Not a step could I stir.
"Halt!" shouted my gentleman again, still holding me at his bayonet's point, and I wincing and halting.
I explained to him the extreme absurdity of this proceeding, called his attention to the state of the weather, which, indeed, spoke for itself so loudly that we could hardly hear each other speak, and requested permission to withdraw. The bayonet, with mute eloquence, refused the application.
There flashed into my mind, with more enjoyment in the retrospect than I had experienced at the time, an adventure on a lecturing tour in other years, when I had spent an hour in trying to scramble into a country tavern, after bed-time, on the coldest night of winter. On that occasion I ultimately found myself stuck midway in the window, with my head in a temperature of 80 degrees, and my heels in a temperature of -10degrees, with a heavy window-sash pinioning the small of my back. However, I had got safe out of that dilemma, and it was time to put an end to this one.
"Call the corporal of the guard," said I, at last, with dignity, unwilling either to make a night of it or to yield my incognito.
"Corporal ob de guard!" he shouted, lustily,--"Post Number Two!" while I could hear another sentinel chuckling with laughter. This last was a special guard, placed over a tent, with a prisoner in charge. Presently he broke silence.
"Who am dat?" he asked, in a stage whisper. "Am he a buckra [white man]?"
"Dunno whether he been a buckra or not," responded, doggedly, my Cerberus in uniform; "but I's bound to keep him here till de corporal ob de guard come."
Yet, when that dignitary arrived, and I revealed myself, poor Number Two appeared utterly transfixed with terror, and seemed to look for nothing less than immediate execution. Of course I praised his fidelity, and the next day complimented him before the guard, and mentioned him to his captain; and the whole affair was very good for them all. Hereafter, if Satan himself should approach them in darkness and storm, they will take him for "de Cunnel," and treat him with special severity.
_January 13._--In many ways the childish nature of this people shows itself. I have just had to make a change of officers in a company which has constantly complained, and with good reason, of neglect and improper treatment. Two excellent officers have been assigned to them; and yet they sent a deputation to me in the evening, in a state of utter wretchedness. "We's bery grieved dis evening, Cunnel; 'pears like we couldn't bear it, to lose de Cap'n and de Lieutenant, all two togeder." Argument was useless; and I could only fall back on the general theory, that I knew what was best for them, which had much more effect; and I also could cite the instance of another company, which had been much improved by a new captain, as they readily admitted. So with the promise that the new officers should not be "savage to we," which was the one thing they deprecated, I assuaged their woes. Twenty-four hours have passed, and I hear them singing most merrily all down that company-street.
I often notice how their griefs may be dispelled, like those of children, merely by permission to utter them: if they can tell their sorrows, they go away happy, even without asking to have anything done about them. I observe also a peculiar dislike of all _intermediate_ control: they always wish to pass by the company officer, and deal with me personally for everything. General Saxton notices the same thing with the people on the plantations as regards himself. I suppose this proceeds partly from the old habit of appealing to the master against the overseer. Kind words would cost the master nothing, and he could easily put off any non-fulfilment upon the overseer. Moreover, the negroes have acquired such constitutional distrust of white people, that it is perhaps as much as they can do to trust more than one person at a time. Meanwhile this constant personal intercourse is out of the question in a well-ordered regiment; and the remedy for it is to introduce by degrees more and more of system, so that their immediate officers will become all-sufficient for the daily routine.
It is perfectly true (as I find everybody takes for granted) that the first essential for an officer of colored troops is to gain their confidence. But it is equally true, though many persons do not appreciate it, that the admirable methods and proprieties of the regular army are equally available for all troops, and that the sublimest philanthropist, if he does not appreciate this, is unfit to command them.
Another childlike attribute in these men, which is less agreeable, is a sort of blunt insensibility to giving physical pain. If they are cruel to animals, for instance, it always reminds me of children pulling off flies' legs, in a sort of pitiless, untaught, experimental way. Yet I should not fear any wanton outrage from them. After all their wrongs, they are not really revengeful; and I would far rather enter a captured city with them than with white troops, for they would be more subordinate. But for mere physical suffering they would have no fine sympathies. The cruel things they have seen and undergone have helped to blunt them; and if I ordered them to put to death a dozen prisoners, I think they would do it without remonstrance.
Yet their religious spirit grows more beautiful to me in living longer with them: it is certainly far more so than at first, when it seemed rather a matter of phrase and habit. It influences them both on the negative and the positive side. That is, it cultivates the feminine virtues first,--makes them patient, meek, resigned. This is very evident in the hospital; there is nothing of the restless, defiant habit of white invalids. Perhaps, if they had more of this, they would resist disease better. Imbued from childhood with the habit of submission, drinking in through every pore that other-world trust which is the one spirit of their songs, they can endure everything. This I expected; but I am relieved to find that their religion strengthens them on the positive side also,--gives zeal, energy, daring. They could easily be made fanatics, if I chose; but I do not choose. Their whole mood is essentially Mohammedan, perhaps, in its strength and its weakness; and I feel the same degree of sympathy that I should, if I had a Turkish command,--that is, a sort of sympathetic admiration, not tending towards agreement, but towards cooperation. Their philosophizing is often the highest form of mysticism; and our dear surgeon declares that they are all natural transcendentalists. The white camps seem rough and secular, after this; and I hear our men talk about "a religious army," "a Gospel army," in their prayer-meetings. They are certainly evangelizing the chaplain, who was rather a heretic at the beginning; at least, this is his own admission. We have recruits on their way from St. Augustine, where the negroes are chiefly Roman Catholics; and it will be interesting to see how their type of character combines with that elder creed.
It is time for rest; and I have just looked out into the night, where the eternal stars shut down, in concave protection, over the yet glimmering camp, and Orion hangs above my tent-door, giving to me the sense of strength and assurance which these simple children obtain from their Moses and the Prophets. Yet external Nature does its share in their training; witness that most poetic of all their songs, which always reminds me of the "Lyke-Wake Dirge" in the "Scottish Border Minstrelsy":--
"I know moon-rise, I know star-rise;
Lay dis body down.
I walk in de moonlight, I walk in de starlight,
To lay dis body down.
I'll walk in de graveyard, I'll walk through the graveyard,
To lay dis body down.
I'll lie in de grave and stretch out my arms;
Lay dis body down.
I go to de Judgment in de evening ob de day
When I lay dis body down;
And my soul and your soul will meet in de day
When I lay dis body down."
_January 14._--In speaking of the military qualities of the blacks, I should add, that the only point where I am disappointed is one I have never seen raised by the most incredulous newspaper critics,--namely their physical condition. They often look magnificently to my gymnasium-trained eye; and I always like to observe them when bathing,--such splendid muscular development, set off by that smooth coating of adipose tissue which makes them, like the South-Sea Islanders, appear even more muscular than they are. Their skins are also of finer grain than those of whites, the surgeons say, and certainly are smoother and far more free from hair. Their weakness is pulmonary; pneumonia and pleurisy are their besetting ailments; they are easily made ill,--and easily cured, if promptly treated: childish organization again. Guard-duty injures them more than whites, apparently; and double-quick movements, in choking dust, set them coughing badly. But then it is to be remembered that this is their sickly season, from January to March, and that their healthy season will come in summer, when the whites break down. Still my conviction of the physical superiority of more highly civilized races is strengthened on the whole, not weakened, by observing them. As to availability for military drill and duty in other respects, the only question I ever hear debated among the officers is, whether they are equal or superior to whites. I have never heard it suggested that they were inferior, although I expected frequently to hear such complaints from hasty or unsuccessful officers.
Of one thing I am sure, that their best qualities will be wasted by merely keeping them for garrison duty. They seem peculiarly fitted for offensive operations, and especially for partisan warfare; they have so much dash and such abundant resources, combined with such an Indian-like knowledge of the country and its ways. These traits have been often illustrated in expeditions sent after deserters. For instance, I despatched one of my best lieutenants and my best sergeant with a squad of men to search a certain plantation, where there were two separate negro villages. They went by night, and the force was divided. The lieutenant took one set of huts, the sergeant the other. Before the lieutenant had reached his first house, every man in the village was in the woods, innocent and guilty alike. But the sergeant's mode of operation was thus described by a corporal from a white regiment who happened to be in one of the negro houses. He said that not a sound was heard until suddenly a red leg appeared in the open doorway, and a voice outside said, "Rally." Going to the door, he observed a similar pair of red legs before every hut, and not a person was allowed to go out, until the quarters had been thoroughly searched, and the three deserters found. This was managed by Sergeant Prince Rivers, our color-sergeant, who is provost-sergeant also, and has entire charge of the prisoners and of the daily policing of the camp. He is a man of distinguished appearance, and in old times was the crack coachman of Beaufort, in which capacity he once drove Beauregard from this plantation to Charleston, I believe. They tell me that he was once allowed to present a petition to the Governor of South Carolina in behalf of slaves, for the redress of certain grievances; and that a placard, offering two thousand dollars for his recapture, is still to be seen by the wayside between here and Charleston. He was a sergeant in the old "Hunter Regiment," and was taken by General Hunter to New York last spring, where the _chevrons_ on his arm brought a mob upon him in Broadway, whom he kept off till the police interfered. There is not a white officer in this regiment who has more administrative ability, or more absolute authority over the men; they do not love him, but his mere presence has controlling power over them. He writes well enough to prepare for me a daily report of his duties in the camp: if his education reached a higher point, I see no reason why he should not command the Army of the Potomac. He is jet-black, or rather, I should say, _wine-black_; his complexion, like that of others of my darkest men, having a sort of rich, clear depth, without a trace of sootiness, and to my eye very handsome. His features are tolerably regular, and full of command, and his figure superior to that of any of our white officers,--being six feet high, perfectly proportioned, and of apparently inexhaustible strength and activity. His gait is like a panther's; I never saw such a tread. No anti-slavery novel has described a man of such marked ability. He makes Toussaint perfectly intelligible; and if there should ever be a black monarchy in South Carolina, he will be its king.
_January 15._--This morning is like May. Yesterday I saw bluebirds and a butterfly; so this winter of a fortnight is over. I fancy a trifle less coughing in the camp. We hear of other stations in the Department where the mortality, chiefly from yellow fever, has been frightful. Dr. ---- is rubbing his hands professionally over the fearful tales of the surgeon of a New York regiment, just from Key West, who has had two hundred cases of the fever. "I suppose he is a skilful, highly educated man," said I; "Yes," he responded with enthusiasm. "Why, he had seventy deaths!"--as if that proved his superiority past question.
"And first, sitting proud as a king on his throne,
At the head of them all rode Sir Richard Tyrone."
But I fancy that Sir Richard felt not much better satisfied with his following than I to-day. J. R. L. said once that nothing was quite so good as turtle-soup, except mock-turtle; and I have heard officers declare that nothing was so stirring as real war, except some exciting parade. To-day, for the first time, I marched the whole regiment through Beaufort and back,--the first appearance of such a novelty on any stage. They did march splendidly: this all admit. M----'s prediction was fulfilled:
"Will not ---- be in bliss? A thousand men, every one black as a coal!" I confess it. To look back on twenty broad double-ranks of men, (for they marched by platoons,)--every polished musket having a black face beside it, and every face set steadily to the front,--a regiment of freed slaves marching on into the future,--it was something to remember; and when they returned through the same streets, marching by the flank, with guns at a "support," and each man covering his file-leader handsomely, the effect on the eye was almost as fine. The band of the Eighth Maine joined us at the entrance of the town, and escorted us in. Sergeant Rivers said ecstatically afterwards, in describing the affair,--"And when dat band wheel in before us, and march on,--my God! I quit dis world altogeder." I wonder if he pictured to himself the many dusky regiments, now unformed, which I seemed to see marching up behind us, gathering shape out of the dim air.
I had cautioned the men, before leaving camp, not to be staring about them as they marched, but to look straight to the front, every man; and they did it with their accustomed fidelity, aided by the sort of spontaneous eye-for-effect which is in all their melodramatic natures. One of them was heard to say exultingly afterwards,--"We didn't look to de right nor to de leff. I didn't see notin' in Beaufort. Eb'ry step was worth a half-a-dollar." And they all marched as if it were so. They knew well that they were marching through throngs of officers and soldiers who had drilled as many months as we had drilled weeks, and whose eyes would readily spy out every defect. And I must say, that, on the whole, with a few trivial exceptions, those spectators behaved in a manly and courteous manner, and I do not care to write down all the handsome things that were said. Whether said or not, they were deserved; and there is no danger that our men will not take sufficient satisfaction in their good appearance. I was especially amused at one of our recruits, who did not march in the ranks, and who said, after watching the astonishment of some white soldiers,--"De buckra sojers look like a man who been-a-steal a sheep,"--that is, I suppose, sheepish.
After passing and repassing through the town, we marched to the parade-ground and went through an hour's drill, forming squares and reducing them, and doing other things which look hard on paper and are perfectly easy in fact; and we were to have been reviewed by General Saxton, but he had been unexpectedly called to Ladies Island, and did not see us at all, which was the only thing to mar the men's enjoyment. Then we marched back to camp, (three miles,) the men singing the "John Brown Song," and all manner of things,--as happy creatures as one can well conceive.
It is worth mentioning, before I close, that we have just received an article about "Negro Troops," from the London "Spectator," which is so admirably true to our experience that it seems as if written by one of us. I am confident that there never has been, in any American newspaper, a treatment of the subject so discriminating and so wise.
_January 21._--To-day brought a visit from Major-General Hunter and his staff, by General Saxton's invitation,--the former having just arrived in the Department. I expected them at dress parade, but they came during battalion drill, rather to my dismay, and we were caught in our old clothes. It was our first review, and I dare say we did tolerably; but of course it seemed to me that the men never appeared so ill before,--just as one always thinks a party at one's own house a failure, even if the guests seem to enjoy it, because one is so keenly sensitive to every little thing that goes wrong. After review and drill, General Hunter made the men a little speech, at my request, and told them that he wished there were fifty thousand of them. General Saxton spoke to them afterwards, and said that fifty thousand muskets were on their way for colored troops. The men cheered both the Generals lustily; and they were complimentary afterwards, though I knew that the regiment could not have appeared nearly so well as on its visit to Beaufort. I suppose I felt like some anxious mamma whose children have accidentally appeared at dancing-school in their old clothes.
General Hunter promises us all we want,--pay when the funds arrive, Springfield rifled muskets, and blue trousers. Moreover, he has graciously consented that we should go on an expedition along the coast, to pick up cotton, lumber, and, above all, recruits. I declined an offer like this just after my arrival, because the regiment was not drilled or disciplined, not even the officers; but it is all we wish for now.
"What care I how black I be?
Forty pounds will marry me,"
quoth Mother Goose. Forty _rounds_ will marry us to the American Army, past divorcing, if we can only use them well. Our success or failure may make or mar the prospects of colored troops. But it is well to remember in advance that military success is really less satisfactory than any other, because it may depend on a moment's turn of events, and that may be determined by some trivial thing, neither to be anticipated nor controlled. Napoleon ought to have won at Waterloo by all reasonable calculations; but who cares? All that one can expect is, to do one's best, and to take with equanimity the fortune of war.