Army Correspondence: September 3, 1864

Butler's Canal
Army Correspondence

From Rev. H. M. Turner

Headquarters 1st U.S.C. Troops

Near Point of Rocks, VA


Christian Recorder: September 3, 1864


Turner writes on the need for AME ministers to write more for the Recorder and updates on his regiment. 

Mr. Editor:--There is not much of interest going on in our immediate portion of the army, but as I promised you to correspond for the RECORDER, I wish to keep good my word, or as much as I can, practically, in connection with my other duties; and yet it is not without some diffidence that I correspond at all, especially when I see from the articles recently published, that they are nearly all the productions of soldiers.

The ministers of the A.M.E. Church must either be asleep or absorbed in some deep mathematical problem, which has so engaged all their intellectual forces, that a few leisure moments can’t be spared to write an occasional article for the benefit of your many patrons.

The RECORDER has an extensive circulation amongst the colored troops in this department. Its approach is watched with the utmost vigilance, and when it makes its appearance, it is seized and read with eager avidity.

That portion of our divines who stay at home, could do an incalculable amount of good by sending us through the open columns of the RECORDER a short sermon, occasionally. Unless our ministers come to the RECORDER’S assistance, it will go down in the estimation of the better-informed class of readers. But they say the editor this, and the editor that.

But I say the editor has now more to do than any two men ought to do. He is the General Book Steward for the entire connection, having all the Conferences to visit—more than any one of our bishops, - -Minutes, Hymn-books, Disciplines, &c., to publish revise and correct. Money or no money, this must be done, or else there is a whine and a growl through the whole church. The RECORDER must be published every week, and some able leader of editorial is looked for, and valuable productions abounding with the chasteness of grammar, rhetoric and logic—ever and anon darkened and lightened as the case may be with interspersed phrases of Latin, Greek, French and German.

I now ask, Is there a man in the connection who could do it without help? No, sir! He is not yet born.

Allowing this to be an established fact, let every minister in the A.M.E. Church who has the ability, write something for the RECORDER, while the rest work peculiarly.

If we had fifty young men in the ministry like R. H. Cain, B. T. Tanner and Henry J. Rhodes, the RECORDER would shine like the morning star. Yes, its balmy dews would emit a flavor in this very army, that would tell in the salvation of many as precious souls as any for whom Christ shed his blood. But there is a natural characteristic about our people, the issues of which are deplorable regretful. That is, unless there is some bone of contention at stake, it is next to impossible to arouse them. Since the days of the Bishop Nazrey controversy, there have been few contributors, and now the bishop is gone.

The Canadian affairs are settled, Bishop Green’s party having failed to be recognized and Clarke’s mould having been filled with two additional bishops. I presume we need look for nothing of much consequence for some time, unless it be an occasional criticism, fault-finding, or a big worded challenge from an awful empty stomach. But I hope this evil will be remedied by a plentiful supply of rich articles, coming flush from the pens of our ministers, on all subjects calculated to enlighten the mind, and Christianize the hearts, of our soldiers especially.

Nothing would be read more pleasantly and to more profit in this department, than a good, plain, yet practical gospel sermon.

Our regiment is once more favored with quarters, where we can have some leisure hours from duty, to spend in mutual benefit, such as drill practice, preaching, prayer meeting, choir-singing, reading, spelling, writing, &c.

Our inestimable Lieut. Col. Wright, having been promoted and taken from us, to command the 10th U. S. Colored Troops, leaves with the warmest regards of all in this regiment. Men who are brave and noble-hearted never fail to climb the ladder of distinction and fame with rapidity.

This naturally involves the command of the regiment upon Major Perkins, as the colonel is absent, caused by sickness.

Major Perkins is a tall, spare-formed gentleman, with features quite prepossessing. He has neither constitutionally nor assumptionally any of those austere, haughty, tyrannizing qualities, which are too often exhibited by men who are his inferiors. He has a voice mellowed by a sense of his high position. No effort is necessary to discover that he is kind, affable, easily approached and tender in his restriction, though, as a disciplinarian, he never varies, but is positive, pointed, and over to the purpose; possessing none of that sneaking treachery, that would smile in your face one moment, and the next in some surreptitious manner tear your vitals out. May his life long be spared to command the brave troops of color.

We are surrounded here with a retinue of brave regiments. 1st, 4th, 6th, 10th and 22nd Regts. U. S. Colored Troops.

The Johnnies take good care not to come into these quarters, and it is well they do not, for they would certainly find very inclement times in this part of old Virginia.

Most of the regiments, however, look much smaller, particularly my own. It often makes me feel sad when I remember how large and stalwart it once appeared, and how thin its ranks now appear to former days.

The canal, --which is known as Butler’s Canal, and which has been in process of excavation for some few weeks, is progressing finely; the rebels, though, harass the working parties occasionally, by complimentarily saluting them with a few shot and shell, at such intervals as they may propose.

The general in person visits the party almost daily, which is a source of great encouragement to those who are all the time periling their lives.

We will close this communication, as the pickets are gone to fire in another direction; we have not heard them lately. It possibly may be the prelude of a great contest. Should it be, they will have a sweet job of it.

I have the honor to be,

Yours very respectfully,

H. M. T