Washington Correspondence: June 27, 1863

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Washington Correspondence

Christian Recorder: June 27, 1863


*Turner also wrote under the pseudonym Uncle Sam


Mr. Editor: Dark and gloomy lowerly thick and thunderingly loquacious to the pusillanimous appear the signs of the times. Danger seems to respond to danger, and dread echoes to fear while God in the harmony of his nature but in the chivalry of his sublime majesty, works from confusion to order a state of moral beatification which shall ride time’s rolling waves eternally, untrammeled. But, to the brave or to the individual who sees in Providence a revolution demanding the fiat of Omnipotence, steered by the skill of uncreated geniuses, rolling on the right amid the evening cataracts of opposition producing a harsh rumble but never damming up the flowing current. I say, to such, no dread concern tortures of the mind nor imagined missiles engenders fear.

But the rebel raid (supposititious) which has been going on here of late, has been by many timid souls, construed into a very dangerous affair. Thus many have said, “This is the darkest hour of the nation yet,” while others have remarked, “Oh, what shall we do?” and others "Oh, what will become of the colored people?” Bah! You cowards, I can tell you to fly to your arms. The government has a gun for every colored man whose freedom of life is jeopardized and if he won’t take it, let him abide the consequences. The time has come when we can rather fight or run it will strongly argue our incapacity for self-government.

The great cry has been show us a chance and we will free ourselves and the long clamored for chance has been showed with every other immunity desirable such as citizenship recognition, equal pay with the white soldiers, equal chance for promotion for meritorious services, the right to vote for the chief magistrate of the nation; and exclusive of all the other inducements held out to colored soldiers is the recent guarantee of pledge of the Union league to render assistance to the family of every colored soldier who may go to battle for his country and for his freedom.

Now this shuts the mouths of all who are skulking around family considerations and trying to shuffle off the duty under the pretext of leaving a wife and helpless children behind. The Union League is made up of some of the richest men in the nation and numbers over fifteen thousand persons who are initiated in the order under the most solemn obligations to perform whatever they promise: I would as soon risk my family into their care as in the care of the Treasury Department.

If this be not sufficient, then nothing is sufficient and the only sufficiency which we will make available at all is to gab, gas, and spout until we are nabbed by old Jeff and thus doomed to endless vassalage (if not for God’s mercy), and assigned to a haggardness and triple degradation. But thank Heaven this dread senseless spirit don’t actuate all of them. There are many who are invincible, too characteristic, too noble and emulant to allow such a blind lethargy to numb their great-hearted philanthropy and the activity of their broad patriotic souls.

The first Colored Regiment of the District of Columbia is getting on finely. They have nearly six companies mustered in and an everyday influx. They were preached to last Sabbath afternoon, by Rev. H M Turner, chaplain prospectively, under a beautiful grove near their camp, after which they turned out on dress parade amid the glaring stare of a large concourse of spectators, a good share of whom we colored. The soldiers executed the different drill maneuvers so exceedingly well that all sorts of prudish remarks were made by our people such as: “Don’t they do it; Look at the coons will you; Now don’t them darkies know its against the law to do that?” “When do you reckon Mr. White Man thinks of that?” “Ah, boys go it can’t be better employed.” Ha, ha, ha, look yonder at that fellow don’t he hold his head high, take care old fellow Jeff will get you he will limber that neck,” &c.

The next day (Monday) Col. Birney marched then down to Alexandria, where I am informed by Sergeant Major Arno, that they were received with the greatest manifestations of joy. The people came from all directions, with baskets of pies, cakes, candies, preserves, &c., until there was neither room in the stomachs nor haversacks of the soldiers for anymore. A certain officer remarked “that the noblest thing about the whole affair was, Col Birney dismissed them for so long a time, to meet, walk about and sleep, &c., and that every soldier was back at the very minute he was ordered and not one had touched a drop of liquor, an unprecedented thing for a white regiment.” This seemed to be a puzzle to the officer.

I am sorry to inform you that Col. Turner, and Lieut. Col. Raymond, in whom our people so highly confided, were rejected by the Board of Examination last week, upon the assumption of military incompetency. The rejection is thought to have grown out of a deceptive conspiracy or some sketchy modus operandi based upon a prejudicial unction of unhallowed influences. But I deem it impracticable to offer any comment at this time.

Another very remarkable rejection to which I wish to bring to your attention is the case of Lieut. Stiles. This is the second Lieutenant who was detailed by some of Gen. Heintzlman’s aid de camps, to take charge of the colored troops and rose so high in his own estimation as to threaten the arrest of two ministers and one Lieut. Colonel. But after Col. Birney took charge it was not long before his good friend found himself sitting flat on his sitting place outside of the colored camp. This Mr. Stiles turned out all the original officers who had labored in the beginning and appointed in their stead, a Lieut. Rosby and a Lieut. Prudens—great assumption indeed. But it was not long endurance; soon were he and all his holy angels sent tumbling over the battlements of the negro quarters, no more to threaten the arrest of others equally estimable.

Boast not today in haughty pride

Tomorrow’s sum may stop thy ride

Time’s rolling wheel may change they sphere

And check thy strider with baser gear

I must say for Colonel Birney that no man could manifest a greater concern and take more interest in the colored troops than he does; albeit being a thorough military man, he does all he can for his men. He marched them on Thursday last to Israel Church, very unexpectedly to anyone and requested the pastor to sing and pray with his men; which was very cordially complied with; and while droves of persons congregated in the streets, he appeared to assume an air of almost unearthly nobility.

The ladies of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church have been holding a festival for the purpose of procuring means to purchase a flag to present to the colored regiment. I do not recollect any of the names of the ladies except Mrs. Wm. Slade, who is generally first in every noble enterprise. I know of none whose industry and moral integrity towers paradigmatically above hers.

We learn that Rev. Wm. H. Gallard is very low. It appears that that foul monster consumption, who seldom let’s go his grip, has seized him and will we fear, soon lay that massive intellect in the grave. May God avert it!

I think I can mention with some propriety, the name of Thos. H.C. Hinton, in this correspondence, as one worthy of particular notice. He was formerly of the city of Buffalo, New York. He is certainly a young man of rare genius. The part he had acted in raising the first regiment of colored troops in this district deserves the highest encomiums. He has indeed been the Alpha and Omega of the movement at the suggestion of Colonel Turner. In his person he is rather common looking, always wearing a cunning smile on his countenance; hat sitting rather helter-skelter; in dress somewhat eccentric; in manners quite prepossessing; yet he is always at home in the most referred society. Intellectually he is a giant and in his advocacy of human rights, bold and fearless. He is a man who prizes literature in all its bearing almost to idolization. Upon the whole, he is a young man that I would recommend all aspiring young men to emulate.

The Evening Star, a paper of some considerable notoriety in this city has given quite a complimentary article to what it calls the “pure blacks,” stating in somewhat an indirect manner, that the war spirit which actuates them is much more commendable than that which moves the straw-colored and mulattoes, &c.

It then goes on to prove the declaration by referring to their exceedingly small representation in the colored regiment; hardly a dozen; but to the large number of “pure blacks,” who crowd its columns. This is a fact, so far as that regiment is concerned, irrefutable, it likely grows out of the inbred sensitiveness of the latter, and the hastier decision of the former.

But this is not the time to agitate that Quixotically critical or censorious question; though I admit that the mulattoes should not stand back and wait for the “pure blacks” to do all the fighting. If they do, they should not only be told of it, but branded with eternal infamy. But if the Star wishes to divide our people, let it commence to harp on the diabolical note: no one would do it but an evil genius.

I have a report of a debate, which came off last Wednesday evening, at the Island Literary Association (Mr. J. Taliaferro, President) but have not the space to insert it. It was between Mr. Bowen, A.W. Winfield, John W. Lee, and Judge Wilkinson.

Subject of the discourse was, “Upon which does a nation mostly depend? On the virtue and integrity of its women, or the strength and industry of its men?”

The disputants were fluent and ordinarily worded, but very poorly ideaed, by no means as well as I have heard them. I attributed it to the ….weather, as some of the same men I have heard do so well, appeared to be dull on that occasion. The discussion, however, was not closed and the boys pledged themselves to each other, to go down into the very arena in history, by next Wednesday evening. Go to it ye sons of literature; go to it!

The Evening Star, to which I referred….stated that according to the act approved July 17, that colored soldiers will only be allowed $10 per month and $3 of that will be reserved for clothing, allowing only $7 per month for his pay exclusive of the reserved. This is another hoax, which is highly characteristic of that misrepresentable news fumbler. There never was such an act passed, much less approved of and the Star knows it.

Star of the evening, give us light
But never, never, cast a blight
Is truth corrupt, why then resort
Such wholesale falsehoods to import?
Madame Jenkins of New York and Sarah Bowers of Philadelphia, gave a concert of vocal music, last Tuesday evening at Mrs. Wm. Myers; tickets 50 cents; and closed the affair with a hop ball. The company was composed of several of the elite of the city; but the most startling feature connected with the affair was that so many dancers seemed to be puzzled at the religious house being allowed for this species of desecration, but they were misinformed. Mrs. Meyers is not a religious lady, though one of very moral habits.

Mrs. Mary Thomas, who we thought could never recover, is now in a hopeful state of convalesce.

We have just learned that Colonel Turner is ordered to appear before the board again, and that he now stands a chance of getting such a position as will, with a little promotion, secure him the colonelcy of the first colored regiment.

Just as I was enveloping my correspondence the Recorder came in and I am happy to learn that the article in last week’s issue, which embodied such a mess of infamous conglomerations was the intended ventilations of that unadulterated spleen that the writer designed, whatever might be the sacrifice of truth. I never thought at the time I was penning that paragraph that you would get stack up at it. I knew I was telling the truth and I farther stated that the matter had been compromised between us. But supposed I had made these remarks indignantly, (which I deny) it was your business, knowing what you did, to say nothing and thank God they were so mild. Now, my friend, I do not want to hurt you. I have always respected you and have labored hard for you and your paper, and I have not done it for windy puffs either. I never asked you for a puff, and don’t intend to till after the resurrection. What I do I do from principle, and whoever says to the contrary bellies me. And I now ask you friendly and dispassionately, to light off Uncle Sam.

Uncle Sam