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by Andre E. Johnson
Director: The Henry McNeal Turner Project

I discovered Henry McNeal Turner by accident. While starting a seminar class in rhetorical criticism and trying to hone in on a dissertation topic, I ran across a speech delivered by Turner. He delivered the speech on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives as the House debated whether African Americans could hold office in the state of Georgia. I remember reading the speech and wondering if anyone had studied Turner’s rhetoric.

However, there was a problem. Since Turner lived during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was my belief that texts to study Turner would be difficult to find. Turner, like many of his contemporaries during this time, spoke extemporaneously—not from notes or prepared texts. Moreover, unlike many other speakers during this time, Turner did not travel with a stenographer—or someone who could have written what Turner said for later publication. Going into my project, I only hoped there were enough texts to do a solid dissertation.

Imagine my surprise though when I found that Turner was one of the most prolific writers and speakers during his time and that much of his writings were not lost to history. Turner published copious amounts of material for the newspapers, magazines, and journals of his day. Turner lectured throughout the country and wrote extensively on his travels to Africa. In short, many would consider Turner a public intellectual in today’s definition of the term.


Sadly, many today have not heard of Turner. Indeed, it is as if Turner has been lost to history. I found myself always explaining to people who Turner was and why I thought, at least, he was so important. This is why this site exists. It is our intent to recover a lost voice within American and African American history. Henry McNeal Turner deserves recognition and it is our fervent hope that this site begins to serve that purpose.

The South Carolina Annual Conference: June 6, 1866

The South Carolina Annual Conference

Christian Recorder: June 6, 1866

Tomorrow morning one of the most interesting and dignified Conferences ever held will end. The South Carolina Conference held in this city will always be remembered by those who witnessed it, and the future historian will review its actions and portray its doings with special delight, when posterity shall reflect upon the past, gleaning the gems of undying luster, which will ever tell in honor of God’s faithful laborers. The second session of the South Carolina Conference will mark the annals of Christian progress, and show the triumphs of the invincible march of truth. God seemed to have especially signalized this Conference in more than one respect.

The weather was fair, fine and salubrious. The ministers though very numerous (nearly sixty) are all comfortably provided for, provisions are in abundance, and those who serve appear to be of the most courteous character. The citizens are intelligent and well dressed. The newspaper reports far surpass the most sanguine expectation, and sessions are attended by the most elite, including several United States Officers.

Bishop Payne, our presiding officer, has acquitted himself with special dignity. I have never seen him rule with so much self possession, and Christian grace, as in this instance. One could but imagine his equals are only found in the persons of Wesley and St. Paul, his humanity seemed to have been utterly absorbed in Christ. And instead of rebuking a member of the conference, he with a singular love, reproved us, in a few instances, with such Christian simplicity, that several had to remark, “How angelic, how much like Christ is the Bishop.”

Nor are the ministers unworthy of notice in this review, they deliberated in fraternal harmony, and disposed of business with classic etiquette. Such men as Cain, Stanford, Handy, Pearce, Brodie, Williams, Carr, and others appear often to be inspired for the occasion. There was none of that mean, low and ignorant jealousy exhibited; such as, when a brother rises to speak, half dozen “timber heads” blasting out, “Sit down, sit down,” as though he was a monster from the bottom of perdition. But on the contrary, whenever a brother arose to say anything, it was presumed he had something to say worthy of attention and was therefore listened to accordingly, each elder, especially appeared to contemplate the good of the church, and when he represented any department, with which the others were not familiar, they presumed he told the truth in all his statements, and each one voted his request. Thus every thing was so orderly in its character, that several Georgians who were familiar with white conferences, had to acknowledge ours to be the gravest and most dignified conference ever held in the State.

During the entire session, no minister was asked to take his rest, before he got through with his speech: occasionally some one would rise to state a point of explanation, which never was refused by the speaker. And I found this to be a fact, by so doing we accomplished more, did business faster, more intelligently, and more to the interest of the church. A committee consisting of G. W. Brodie, A. L. Stanford, and H. M. Turner, had forty for (44) applicants to examine, for admission to deacons and elders orders, and such systematic harmony as prevailed in the course of examination, I have yet to see equaled. The fact is, each member of the committee treated the other as his superior, and wherever men so treat men, there will respect for each other prevail, and fraternal love exist.

Indeed our conference was a model meeting; it would have done honor to a convention of Bishops. Sure, we differed on points, and questions, and in the modus operandi. But differences were adjusted so cautiously and respectfully, that they resulted in creating a higher consideration for the contendents when settled. Where some of our ministers ever got that low and vile spirit of jealously from, which so much represents the snapping turtle, ready to snap at every body whom they imagine might equal or excel them, I can’t see. But it is a fact, that many are given to that ugly habit; but God grant that our Southern Conferences may ever be above it. I predict however a glorious era in our church, by the reformation which will follow Southern annexation.

God of mercy, let our year’s labors be as sweet as our conference session.




From Georgia: March 17, 1866

From Georgia

Christian Recorder: March 17, 1866


Mr. Editor – I promised you last week that in my next letter, I would give you the circumstances attending the affair in Montgomery, Ala. Which led to a collision between me and the leading men of the colored Churches. Having visited all my Churches in this state, when it was considered safe for me to go, I proposed, while in Columbus, Ga (as it was the nearest point) to run over to Montgomery for the purpose of seeing my aunt, and six or seven cousins of mine who live there. These dear relatives I had not seen for many years.

However on Thursday morning of the 18th inst., I left Columbus and arrived in Montgomery the same morning; so after a kissing spree with Aunt Mary, Cousin Bill, &s, I asked the condition of the church and brethren, which was answered with the pleasing anticipation of meeting with my old friends in the bliss of the fellowship of former days, yet death had played the ravages among…..some I once loved, and respected, particularly in the case of my uncle (Thomas Wilson) whom I learn had died in February, 1864; still, his old age and triumphant death were so cheering that one could hardly mourn for the consolation the intelligence afforded. The following morning my aunt insisted on my going to prayer-meeting at the church, which was held at sunrise, stating as a reason, that my brethren would be so glad to see me, as they had not enjoyed that privilege for nine years. The news of my arrival, however spread among them and after meeting was over, none of the official brethren with whom, I had once been acquainted called up on me at all; but I learn; next the Rev. John Butler, with whom I had never been acquainted, to hear, I suppose, how I talked. Pursuant to orders, he came and was introduced to me by Aunt Mary, and after some preliminary conversation, the subject turned upon the Church, I stated that I had learned, while in Augusta, that they had united with the A.M.E. Zion Connexion, and was glad to hear that they were not still crouching before the rebels.

Whereupon he inquired the name of my Church, to which interrogatory I freely answered, and the substance, if not the precise dialogue ensued, said he, “What is the difference between your church and ours?” “Well, said I, “very little; our cardinal doctrine is the same; there is some difference in our church polity; but the most prominent difference is that one has Bishops and the other has not.” Said he, I suppose you don’t all have Bishops then.” Yes,” said I, we do, but you don’t.” Said he, “Who” said I? Why Bishop Clinton.” “No,” I said, “Bishop Clinton is not a Bishop but a superintendent: he is reelected or rejected every four years, whereas a Bishop is ordained to his office and he holds it for life. “But,” said he, “Bishop Clinton came here and ordained ministers: how could he do that without authority”? Well, said I, “he did have authority; he was strictly in line of his duty. He was doing what his discipline and general conference both authorized him to do. I know Superintendent Clinton; he is a gentleman, Christian, and scholar; but the Zion church does not recognize the third ordination.” Said I,” “Did you not know that?” “No,” He said, “I know no such thing.” “Well,” said I, “I see his photograph here, look at that, and see if he don’t sign himself Superintendent of the A.M.E. Zion church.” Finding, however, he had begun to suppose I was trying to speak disrespectfully of his church, and manifesting quite a vexed sensation under the smarts of a supposed insult, said I, “See here: are you not satisfied with your church?” “Yes I am,” said he. “So am I,” said I, “so let us quit talking on the subject.” But finding that he was not willing to stop, I then proceeded to try to explain the difference, in the spirit of calmness: told of the separation which had taken place, how we recognize each other, and what our prospects were of uniting, how highly I respected many of their ministers and how particular I was about interfering with the harmony of their Churches, and before we separated, I thought I had actually succeeded in removing from his mind and suspicions, as to my desire to agitate any sectional feelings whatsoever.

But on entering church in the afternoon, I soon found something was wrong: I walked in, but instead of being escorted to the pulpit where I used to stand, and preach apparently to the joy of thousands, I had to politely take my seat outside the altar.

So a brother took for his text, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” and such a raking as he gave Church—disturbers was never given before. He run it so far, that it evidently turned into a repetition of ribaldry. He thundered against men going about in the name of preachers disturbing the quietness of churches. Having closed, however, Mr. Butler rose and backed it up, showing less intelligence than his predecessor, by far; and at this dictum they went to prayer, and another brother was invited to lead off, who prayed among other things, “for God to prepare the Church for the terrible battle that awaited them, by reason of the Wolf who was about.” This showed me at once that Mr. Butler had made a wrong impression on all their minds. For years ago, I had worshipped with both these brethren on terms of Christian fellowship, and now, before they had even spoken to me, they were preaching and praying against me. Vast numbers of my friends, seeing the treatment given, resolved to have me speak, if I had to go to the old field. But Rev. Mr. Davis, D.D., (white) on application of Mr. Peter Goode, a very distinguished gentleman, kindly threw open his church, in which I preached two successive nights, and to my surprise, Mr. Butler was one of my auditors; but I did not fail to sell the attention of the public to how I had been slandered falsely. So that I actually had to vindicate my own cause, and tell the public the facts as they really existed, which I had never contemplated, nor would have existed, had not a report gotten all over town that I was a Bethelite, and did not believe in a hell; that I believed Jesus Christ was a mere man, and another report, which was that I was a Campbellite, whose doctrine was that women had no souls, and that the devil would every day break his chain and get loose, and all such nonsense—so that I was necessarily compelled to say something. Dr. Davis justified me in the same, and I trust -- for that Divine, though a southern minister, and though I look in his pulpit the most radical grounds for the black race, yet he never murmured against it; and without say knowledge of his intention, after I closed my discourse, he made the people give me a decent sum of money, (a thing seldom done by the colored people,) besides paying my feeble sermons the most complimentary tribute, an act which so greatly surprised me….

I was afterwards informed that it was determined before my arrival to the city, that owing to my….flippant tongue not to let me preach; for if they did, I would seduce their members and unsettle the faith of the Church, by Bethel heresy, as the Bethelites were unbelievers, and therefore dangerous. Nor was I the only one who shared this fate—Rev. Robert Alexander, one of our preachers whom I licensed in Atlanta, was told, before asking for it, “you can’t get into our pulpit, etc.,” --; and he only went there to see his brother. Rev. Lynch Lamah, of Columbus, Ga., also one of our preachers, passed through there, and his feelings were painfully wounded. Both of these brethren are worthy men, and Lynch Lamah is a host in himself.

Now, it is not that I cared a cent individually about their attempted disrespect, nor did any one of my preachers care, I judge. For I had more to do already than I had strength or ability to perform. But the point, on which I propose speaking, is the existence of these two Churches. Had our Church and the Zion Church untied last General Conference, none of these things could have existed. But that matter they postponed till ’68, and I fear that it will die before that time. This makes the fifth instance which I could mention at the South, where our members or preachers, who were once friendly, have been wrangling and quarrelling, telling the most egregious stories about each other you ever heard. At whose door, I ask, Mr. Editor, will that sin with all its guilt and crime lie! Can you blame these people for their ignorance! I would regard myself an idiot to think of harboring a revengeful feeling toward Mr. Butler for his ignorance. That man verily thought, when I said Brother Clinton was not a Bishop that I had some for the purpose of destroying his Church, and slandering their head man, as he was called.

In conclusion, I would say that the people in Columbus can’t be expelled. Rev. Mark Stewart, full brother to Rev. Esop Smith, pastor of our church in Columbia, SC, is pastor of our Church here. He is a great man; - was ordained a deacon many years ago, by the white Methodist Conference.

Macon, GA, March 1st, 1864

Just arrived here. The Church here has at last concluded to join us. It numbers nearly a thousand. There were some objections which I explained; and here they come by hundred:- tell you more next week.

H. M. Turner




Rev. Henry M. Turner writes from Columbus, Ohio: March 17, 1866

Rev. Henry M. Turner writes from Columbus, Ohio

Christian Recorder: March 17, 1866

Please tell our Bishop, my humble opinion is, that they had better send one, two, or three ministers to the Southern General Conference, which meets in New Orleans. There are certain reasons why we should send delegates to that Conference, and if they do so, it will save trouble. But if they do not, you may look for war after that body adjourns. My earnest hope is that our connexion will delegate to the Southern Methodist General Conference, and let them be our ablest men."

A Letter from Rev. H. M. Turner: December 30, 1865

A Letter from Rev. H. M. Turner

ATLANTA, GA, Dec. 20, 1865

Christian Recorder: December 30, 1865

MR. EDITOR:--Pressing engagements have long delayed my correspondence. You must have concluded that I had forsaken the Recorder.

About the 7th of November, I left home for the Department of Georgia, where I had been ordered to report for duty, under a new assignment as Chaplain U.S.A.

My first point en route to my new field of labor, was Norfolk, VA., where I remained a week, stopping at the house of Rev. John M. Brown, and receiving at the hands of his estimable lady, all that kind attention, for which she and her distinguished husband are so characteristically known. But Brother B. was at that time on a visit to New Orleans.

Rev. J. R. V. Thomas was still at his post and looked for fifty more years. Finally, leaving that place, I proceeded to Roanoke Island, N.C., per Steamer Clinton, whose Captain was clever to me personally, but unworthy the respect of the colored race, yet for some personal favors, I will not bear too hard on him this time.

Arriving, however, at Roanoke after a delay of some days, I disembarked with the intention of remaining two days there and then proceeding to Newbern, N. C., but owing to bad weather the boats failed to connect and I was detained nearly a week.

To my surprise, I found Miss Sarah A. Carr, a worthy young lady, formerly of Hollidaysburg, Pa., and Mr. Jerry Roberson, late emissary-sergeant of the 1st U.S.C.T., had married a few days before my arrival.

Miss Carr came to that regiment as a teacher last summer and remained with it till it was discharged, after which one of its brave members proposed accompanying her through life. With the exception of some literary deficiencies, she has all the man.

There is much on this Island to regret. God alone will have to reckon with some of the pretended benefactors of the colored race here, who magnify their own merits and solemnize their own privations but make lucre the chief idol of their devoted shrine.

Having disposed of my business here, I took passage on the iron steamship Jupiter for Newbern, N. C……Arriving, at length, in Newbern, however, this negro freezing vessel was forsaken, for the comfortable quarters of the Rev. Brother Hood, whose high-toned Christian demeanor and exemplary hospitality ever make his house feel as welcome as my own.

He soon searched up Rev. Brother Rue, and both together gave me a cordial welcome to their city. I was proud to find such brotherly unity existing between those two divines. Yet, each is strenuous advocates for their own branch of the Church, and both standing as professional doctors, differing only in name.

Leaving there on Saturday evening, for Goldsboro, N.C., at which place I arrived about 9 o’clock at night. Here the cars went no further. Therefore necessity compelled me to remain till Sabbath evening.

Sabbath morning was fair, warm and beautiful, and I went to the church, where the colored people worshipped. A fine looking brother was in the pulpit opening the services and finally preaching. But he was terribly wanting in all the accomplishments of a minister. He quoted scripture that I had never heard of before in all my life.

Yet he evinced some native genius, and as long as he confined himself where he was moderately interesting, but gracious when he went into history or scripture, but where little is given, but little is required.

I labored for them, however, in the afternoon and then the cars, who in return took me clink-to-clink to Raleigh, N. C., but did not, as I expected, arrive before church was out. This I desired to do, as I had learned Brother Brodie was absent; and the church there was rather disturbed. But, contrary to my expectation, the Pastor was there. And a man he is. While it is a place of heavy responsibilities, the match for them is found in Brother Brodie.

Monday night following Colonel Clap, of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and myself, addressed a large audience in the church, which was as fine a demonstration of the colored man’s capacity of appreciating intellectual treats as I ever saw in any audience.

But leaving this place, I proceeded to Charlotte, N. C., where, for the want of colored acquaintances, I stopped at one of the first white hotels in the city, and, contrary to my expectations, I was received and treated with marked respect. Here I remained a few days and addressed large audiences.

The colored people have a fine church and are very intelligent. They have all united with Zion church, and several said they thought they had joined the regular A.M.E. Church, but that they were proud to learn we were going to unite. I told them we would if timber heads in both connections did not raise the devil and prevent it.

Finally, I left here for Columbia, South Carolina, and, passing through Chester and Winsboro, I saw many old friends and acquaintances. Some recognized me instantly, while others failed to do so, owing to the change made in my features by smallpox.

I would remark, however, that while passing through the states of North and South Carolina, the white people treated me with far more respect than I had in any way anticipated.

With many, I freely discussed the subject of slavery, and they thought it not above their pride to reply, on terms of manifest friendship. A great deal of my route was by stages, through the interior of the country. During my journey, I was frequently thrown in contact with ex-rebel officers, and by way of feeling their pulse would say to them “Why I thought you folks would kill me, when you got me off this way, in the woods, but you seem to be very friendly?” “O, yes,” they would say, “”you Yankees whipped us fair, and now we are tired of fighting.” One man wanted to see my pistol. “Yes,” I said, “”you can see it, but wait until I get another one out.” So while he examined one I held another in my hand. But on my arrival at Columbia the scene of meeting my old friends and acquaintances beggars all description. As the maiden sang of Rome, after its fall, “O, Rome, Rome thou art no more what thou has been,” so I could say of Columbia, my old home. Still, for me, a thousand voices said: “Welcome, welcome back to your friends.”

But I must reserve this part of my letter for another time. I was received with the greatest respect at every place I stopped, yet I felt the welcome Columbia gave me, a sufficient remuneration for all the privations, hardships, and sufferings I had endured through the military campaign. But leaving much that would be of importance, I come to one circumstance that deserves mention. Arriving at a certain depot on the Augusta railroad, we all had to take hacks for nearly fifty miles. Having a large crowd of whites to carry, the “big bugs” could only be accommodated, consequently, the poor white people and negroes must either lie over a few days or walk. This was a sad predicament for me to be placed in. Finally, several gentlemen, seeing my distress, (for the ladies took no notice,) made room for me in one of the conveyances in short order.

By the time I had arrived at Augusta, however, I had made up my mind to resign the chaplaincy. Remaining there a few days, and finding our people greatly agitated over the action of the Georgia Conference, I immediately sent my resignation to the War Department, and will not go on duty until I hear from the authorities that be. Bishop Payne has given me an order to see after the churches here, which have been regularly taken into the A.M.E. Conference by Brother Lynch. Brother Gaines, who died a few weeks ago, had the churches in charge previous to my arrival. The Georgia Conference have sent white ministers to all the colored churches, and several of the congregations have refused to accept them. At Marietta, on last Sabbath, they voted the minister out, and he in the pulpit at the time. Colored preachers, from all quarters, are calling upon me for authority to preach. I think we will soon be able to put a veto on the presumptuous action of the Georgia Conference.

The white people in this State are bitter, cross and peevish, and many of the colored people are timid, fearful and doubtful. There is a report going the rounds of the Southern papers to the effect, that General Grant reported to the President that the Southern people were all loyal and true to the Union and that the negroes were lazy, refused to work, and were a nuisance. I do wonder whether General Grant told any such story. If he did, I deny the charge and pronounce it a base slander upon a people who are struggling for their rights, and I will lay the true facts before the country.

H M T

Army Correspondence: August 5, 1865

Contraband Headquarters: Source: WikiCommons
Army Correspondence

By Chaplain Turner

Head Quarters 1st U.S.C.T

Roanoke Island, N.C., July 22, ‘65


Christian Recorder: August 5, 1865

Mr. Editor:--For some time I have cherished an idea which I hesitated to make public, owing to some misgivings which I had about its….expediency. And nothing less than a profound conviction of its irrefutable utility would induce me to advocate a policy, untried and vexed with prevaricate apprehensions; especially one involving, to some extent, the destiny of my people. For I hold, that this is no time to advance superficial theories, wholly impracticable, or, if not so, fraught with no ultimate benefit to a race, upon whom are fixed the eyes of the world, and to whose destinies are linked the unconjectured issues of unborn millions.

The addition of the liberated people in the South has engaged the attention, and become a cause of much concern, by thousands of Northern philanthropists. Hence, the rise….given to such a vast number of….associations; for the number and variety of millions bent upon the ultimate amelioration of the condition of the colored race in this country seems to have sprung into existence by strong impulse and to have spread with unrivaled celerity.

And to calculate their good; yea, the unquestionable mutual good done by the Christian because of teachers and books, including Bibles….primers, spellers, daily and weekly papers, clothing of every description, and missionaries, accompanied by millions of fervent petitions to God for success and His constant, watchful care, would paralyze the most florid pen of heavenly messengers, and then the half would not be told. The progress made in that direction, first contemplated in what many thought to be a dubious project, has so attested the utility of the scheme, inaugurated in its incipiency by the precious few, that the most vacillating have become settled on that subject.

Thus, we see religious bodies of every faith and order, and even the infidel and skeptic, including humanitarians of every form, have made the colored race a central object of regard and commiseration; erecting a monument to their honor more lasting than the pyramids of Egypt.

Yet there is a broad arena of work still lying before us. Theoretical, if not practical, freedom has been secured to the colored race, and the nation pledged to its maintenance. The dying groans and crimson gore of ten thousand colored heroes, clotted in the mangled carcasses of the ball-riddled defenders of the nation’s rights, ask in tones of thunder for their children’s rights, at the hands of the same nation, and better that she drink hemlock and bitter gall than prove treacherous to their demands.

But all this guarantee of liberty, this superficial freedom, this dreamy idea of “do as you please,” does not half cancel the debt of obligation. The societies and benevolent institutions already referred to have done much, yea, wonders. They have established several schools, but have not met the wants of our people by a hundred degrees. They have educated, and are still educating thousands, but millions have not seen their teachers yet. They have given them raiment by thousands, but millions are still clad in the coarse, tattered garments of slavery. These people, too, at least three millions of them, are without money, land, homes, and houses; and many, to all noble purposes of life, are insensible. They want instruction in ordinary affairs, viz: economy, industry, and thriftiness of every species. They need to be taught the value of wealth, and to desire the acquisition of money; for I hold it to be a part of our nature to strive after this. They want to know what to do with freedom, its resources, responsibilities, liabilities, dangers, and securities. It is not natural that a people who have been held as chattels for two hundred years, should thoroughly comprehend the limits of freedom’s empire: the scope is too large for minds so untutored to enter upon at once.

We find races, free from time immemorial, boasting of their noted ancestors and civilization, handling the tool of freedom quite injudiciously, at times, for their own interests. Then, to expect it at once from a people, for ages subjected to the most inhuman vassalage, is like trying to extort manhood of an infant. I do not expect a high state of things, in this day at most: it will be impossible for the present generation to become wonders of the world. Nothing more than a partial state of civilization and moral attainment can be hoped for by the most sanguine. But a medium state of things can be obtained by timely efforts, managed by that kind of dexterity and skill which thoroughly looks into and contemplates the necessities of a people, whose surrounding hitherto have made other minds better arbiters than their own, in matters affecting their individual and collective welfare.

As one of the bastion fulcrums, to this great scheme of reformatory elevation, I would suggest and urge the propriety of the government, and all associations thus engaged, employing educated colored preachers and lecturers, to travel through the South, and collect and address colored assemblies on all topics of consideration in the arena of man’s sphere of action. I mean morally, economically, politically, philosophically, &c., but especially those bearing upon his industrial pursuits. I argue the peculiar fitness of the colored man for that position because about him the most incredulous would have no doubt; Neither could he be bribed by the deceptive flippancy of the oily-tongued slaveocrats, who too often becloud the understanding of the whites. No sumptuous tables, fine charmers, attractive misses, springy buggies, or swinging carriages would filch the time and labor he came to bestow because he would find his level only among the colored race. Being accessible, too, to their huts or homes, weddings, parties, promenades, and all other social gatherings, his influence and personal identification with them would go further than the white man’s.

Thus, with twenty-five colored men of good common sense and education, scattered through the South; say ten preachers and fifteen lecturers whose entire business it would be to treat all subjects after their own manner, the moral, political, and social status of the colored race would everywhere be enhanced more towards making them good, intelligent citizens, in one year, than it would be in five, if left entirely to depend upon contingencies. There are thousands of them who cherish old slavish habits and ideas, about which they need plain talk. Even to children the most simple instructions, such as attention to personal habits, cleanliness, general deportment in conversation, domestic economy, attention to their own business, &c., would have a good effect.

Then, they need to be told all about virtue, chastity, honor, the value of a promise made, the contemptibleness of dishonesty and indolence. But it is useless to enumerate; suffice it to say, they need instruction in everything, and especially the little things of life, such points of attention as thousands would never stoop to surmise.

But, someone may say, why do you represent the freedmen as being more ignorant than any people I have heard of? No, that is not my intention; I claim for them superior ability. I have heard the greatest ministers and statesmen of this country, from Henry Ward Beecher and Charles Sumner down, but I have yet to hear greater eloquence that I have heard from the lips of Austin Allen, a black slave of South Carolina. In short, the ablest historian, the greatest orator, and the most skillful architect and mechanic I have ever seen, were all slaves in the South. Having traveled through all the slave States except Texas, prior to the war, my observations have been extensive; thus I speak what I know, and the fact that one negro is smart argues the possibility of another, and another ad infinitum.

But the cases referred to are such exceptions as mastered circumstances, and rose above their own level, extraordinary projections.

Again, if we go into cities such as Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, New Orleans, &c., and make the colored people their samples of their intellectual status, in the main, we will have no use for such arguments as I have adduced. But leave these cities, go to the cotton field, rice swamps, sugar plantations, and find, as I have found, by the hundreds, men, and women fifty years old, and never five miles from some of their huts, except when they went to another farm to work. If that will not do, come here to Roanoke Island, where there are about four thousand colored people, and you will soon see the importance of my suggestion.

As this article is already too long, I must close by reasserting that twenty-five colored orators employed by the Government or associations, to traverse the South through, and lecture to the people on all subjects pertaining to their interest, would affect a revolution for the better, faster and more surely than any other agency or instrumentality in the circle of benevolent efforts yet engaged in it. I regard it as the one great lack, and if Congress would make an appropriation of $25,000 a year for the employment of such men, it would pay the nation quadruply; in less than five years it would yield the government an annual benefit of $100,000. The great revenue growing out of the intelligence of the people would bring the nation inexhaustible wealth and strength.

I do not impose this as a duty upon the government, nor would I have called the government in question on the subject, had it not created a bureau claiming special interest in the freed people, and engaged white men in reforming their condition. So this is only, in my opinion, a more effective means, looking to the same end as that already in operation.

Army Correspondence: July 22, 1865

Army Correspondence

By Chaplain Turner

Head Quarters, 1st U.S.C.T.

Roanoke Island, N.C.,

July 7th, 1865

Christian Recorder: July 22, 1865


MR. EDITOR:--The extreme sultriness and heat of the weather has for several days past palsied all my efforts to throw together a correspondence.

The 5th of July was surpassingly warm. The oldest inhabitants of this place speak of it as being one the warmest days witnessed here for many years. In the shade, the thermometer stood at 104 degrees. This kind of weather, as you are aware, is by no means aggregate to brain work. Though, I suppose, you will smile to yourself and say, “Where is the brain work about such letters as you write?” Well, I can only say as a reply, if they will pass for good nonsense, I shall regard myself as rewarded, for good nonsense is not unfrequently appreciated as our most interesting literature.

Roanoke Island is still the theatre of many interesting incidents. Every imaginable phase of characters, every question having….virtue, however, hatched with uncertainties through the phantasm scope of suspicion, or open in the vulgar revelry of the unconscionable audacious, are ever and anon before the bar of adjustment.

A strong, athletic young man is not satisfied with being granted the loan of a horse, by the Post commander; but if the horse should back his ears, and look rather earnestly at the fellow seeking to astride a lazy carcass upon his back, he will stop, and in a mass of deliberation, return to Head Quarters and report the disagreeable looking features of the horse. It is nothing uncommon to have reports of dogs barking, and such trivial affairs, handed in at Head Quarters.

Colonel Holman, however, listens to them all, passes judgment upon them, and the parties respectfully retire.

But here is a circumstance to which I most respectfully invite your attention. The narrative runs as follows: Near Edenton, (a place about one hundred miles from the island,) lives an old rich slave-holder, who in the days of southern rights wielded an immense power in that community, or, in other words, he was one of the lords of the land.

He visited Wilmington about twelve years ago, and there saw a very handsome mulatto girl, or rather a lady, around whom his licentious affections clustered. Thus, she was bought, and conveyed to his country mansion, and admitted to the lofty honors of sacred concubinage. In that very wholesome situation, she has remained ever since, giving birth to six children, all illegitimate production of purchased connection. Providentially, both of these individuals had business before the Colonel, and during the investigation, the Colonel’s attention was called to their mode of living. The matter was referred to the Chaplain for counsel and advice, as it was a subject of morality, who decided with the Colonel that he should marry her at once. But he (the slaveholder,) could not see the point; he showed many reasons why it would not do to marry a colored woman, in this part of the country. He argued skillfully in the false logic generally produced by slave-owners; finally, he was dismissed and left with an exultant sense of his victory over Yankee morality.

Colonel Holman, after weighing the matter again, sent for me, and finding the parties already there, rose upon his feet, and commenced as follows: “Sir, (looking at the slave-owner,) I have talked to you as a brother and friend: you have had this woman twelve years acting as your wife; she, in the sacred honesty of a lady, has in return given to you, your country and your God, six children: you brought her away from her home, her relations and friends, as a man would convey his wife; you have also devoured the flower of her youth, and torn from her cheeks the flush beauties of maidenhood; you have reaped and consumed these charms, which God gave her to find a happy partner in life, and make her existence pleasant to the grave, ay! and to an eternal future. You have desecrated the sanctity of the matrimonial institution by force and unjust authority. But your day is gone: this is my day, and this great nation’s day—and as an officer of the United States, invested with power to execute justice, and carry out the proclamations of the President,--I tell you and your comrades, I tell all in my military district, such conduct shall not be tolerated. You can take your choice, either marry the woman, or endow her and her children with property sufficient to support them for life, or I will demolish everything you have, hang, shoot or bury you alive, before you shall turn that helpless woman and your ill-begotten children away to die, or to be fed by my country, and your property given to hellish rebels. I will hang you on the tallest tree in the state of North Carolina. You starved our prisoners to death, you cut the throats of our soldiers and murdered in cold blood the best men God ever made, to sustain your infamous rotten oligarchy, and now, to add insult and injury, you propose to turn out your children. By the eternal God, I will sweep you all with one blast.”

At this point, he raised his head, and in a trembling voice said: “Colonel, you need not say anymore. I can’t marry Susie and stay here; but if you will give me time to dispose of my personal property, I will take her and go to the North, or to Canada and there marry her; I will sell my lower plantation, but my upper one I will hold on to.”

“Well,” said the Colonel, “do you promise in the presence of myself and the chaplain to marry Miss Susan?”

“Yes, sir, I will; for I know it is wrong to throw her and the children away, for Suse has been a mighty good gal.”

At this point, we all shook hands over the prospects, and the court adjourned, to meet again when he gets ready to marry Susan and go North.

The fourth of July was very enthusiastically celebrated here. Early in the morning, the course notes of the artillery began to proclaim its approach, and the bands broke out at several points in the sweetest melody. About ten o’clock 3000 persons had assembled before the Head Quarters to hear an address from the Chaplain. But knowing he had made a miserable failure at Norfolk, Va., could barely muster up the courage to speak, yet, after he started he did better than he expected. This same speaker, a week before, made the poorest effect in Norfolk I ever heard. The evening was disposed of in prayer meetings, singing parties, shindigs, &c.

Several marriages have taken place since our arrival here, and several more are in contemplation: officer’s wives are coming in from all quarters, and others are desiring leave of absence, in order to get married.

I expect soon to put my entire regiment through a course of a literary drill. Several young ladies, white and colored, are coming from the North to teach in my regiment, besides two young men from New York, who will soon be here also: we allow them $30 a month: our first school will be opened on Monday. I still hope to leave my regiment with every man in it reading and writing. If I can accomplish that, I shall say to myself, Well done!

H.M.T.