By Chaplain Turner
Head Quarters, 1st U.S.C.T., near
Richmond, Nov. 28th, 1864
Christian Recorder: December 17, 1864
Turner writes from the battlefield.
Mr. Editor: It has been some time since I last penned anything for your ever-interesting columns. This failure is either attributable to indolence, or business. You may act as umpire in the case. It would be a contradiction of truth, to say there were nothing here interesting to persons in civil life; yet there is nothing of that character, which is generally pleasing to those who are always in anxious suspense, to hear of great battles, but never willing to take part in fighting them. It is a very easy thing to say, “Well done, brave solider, bravely did you contest that ground, gallantly did you make that charge, and nobly did you die.”
But when the clamorous parties are invited to shoulder a musket, and assist the noble enterprise, they shrink back horror-struck, and stand appalled at the very idea. And should the uncompromising hand of stern draft seize him by the collar, which is generally relentless amid sighs and groans, a wailing cry is soon substituted for, “Hurrah, hurrah, brave boys, hurrah!”
The Recorder is looked for weekly, as a precious visitor, in this part of our noble army. It is dearly prized by many of our gallant soldiers, who, I am happy to say, are trying to prepare for whatever position the future may offer them: likely nothing could have inspired a more eager ambition into the men of my regiment for literary attainments, than the vast number of Recorders and Anglos, which weekly find their way into our different companies.
One very ordinary-looking fellow takes up the paper, and begins to lay open its columns, and to throw a glare of interest, where, to the uneducated all seems to be darkness and gloom, and a more stalwart and finer-looking fellow listens awhile, and becoming jealous at the idea, starts off in search of a spelling-book saying to himself (as he fancies his superior abilities), “I won’t listen to him. I am going to do my own reading,” and away he wends himself from tent to tent, and from one place to another, until a spelling-book is procured, regardless of price. All that is then necessary, is to watch him a few months, and you will see him blundering through the newspaper like a child learning to walk. You had as well loose him, and let him go then, for you may be sure he is gone.
But the most pleasing feature about the Recorder, is its rapid progress, editorially and in all other respects calculated to enhance its value and raise it to the standard of a first rate newspaper. When it was first resurrected from its long entombed silence, it continued to be the organ of picnics, fine suppers, Sabbath school demonstrations, and such other trashy matter, as no well informed person could be induced to appreciate. But the day of small things was not to be despised: with good reason and effort on its side, it ploughed through every seeming impossibility and has begun to demand a respect that none dare gainsay. I have lately read several articles with pleasure that the faculty ones could not mar. Theology, philosophy….and all other questions connected with religious literature are now treated or discussed with a surprising masterliness.
I neglected to inform your many patrons of our narrow escape on the 28th ult., when our regiment charged upon the works before Richmond and nearly 200 were either killed, wounded or captured, whom our colonel and several other brave officers suffered by wounds, death and capture, when I rode among the rebel pickets and made a narrow, but merciful escape, &c. But as it is too late to refer to it now in detail, I wish to say that the remaining portion are eager for the fray again as though no devastating hand had swept their ranks.
Thousands of colored soldiers are here, standing as it were, upon the very threshold of Richmond. In the distance several fine mansions can be seen towering high in the atmosphere, while broad acres of land lay silently in our front and rear on which many of our armed colored heroes once labored purchasing the most bitter execrations by the sweat of their brow and were rewarded by the infamous lash, whose marks they are now carrying and will carry to the grave. They are anxious to winter in Richmond and I have heard hundreds say, if Gen. Butler let them winter there, they would go in, or shake the doomed city to its very foundation. But as Dutch Gap is nearly finished, you may look out for startling news before long.
Having received a letter inquiring after Quarter-Master Sergeant George H. Pollard, I avail myself of this opportunity of saying, that this very efficient officer is here and quite well. I take great pleasure in speaking of him from the fact that his quietness amid the possession of such rare attainments is very remarkable. It is needless for me to say that he is a gentleman; all who know him can bear testimony to that fact. But his intellectual sagacity and ready wit, blended with a fine English education, which fits him for any suitable position that fortune may ever offer him, is a subject paramount in consideration to all others. There is not a man from the colonel down but what places the highest importance upon his judgment, touching any point in the sphere of his duties and many things disconnected with it. I am looking forward to the day when he shall fill some office trust with honor and distinction.
It would be rather difficult to say too much in favor of Orderly Sergeant Henry Green, who is also both a gentleman and well-versed in military science: all that disqualifies him to command a company, is the want of a commission. Its requirements are thoroughly understood, and his ability is unquestionably adequate to the task, yet, both of these gentlemen hail from a hard part of the country: the former from Mobile, Ala., and the latter from New Orleans, La. Pardon the defects of this letter, as it was written at intervals.
H. M. T.