Letter from H. M. Turner to Adjutant-General U. S. Army
From: National Archives: Chaplain Henry McNeal Turner to Adjutant General U S Army, 29 June 1865, T-736 1865, Letters Received, ser. 12, [K-537]
Sir. I have the honor to submit the following report, as embracing the moral and religious condition of my regiment.
After we left the Fort of Richmond and started on the Fort Fisher expedition, our campaign was so constant and uncertain, and being a part of the time detailed on extra duty, which subjected our religious exercises to so many disappointments, I thought it unnecessary to forward any more reports, until so much of our active duties, should be over, as would enable us to have some assurance, that our religious efforts and plans would not always be thwarted by unavoidable disappointments.
During this intermedium, however, we have had preaching, prayer meetings, and other moral or religious exercises, as frequently, as circumstances would permit, so much so, that no one could frame for an excuse, that his identity with sin, was founded upon the ground, that he was not taught better.
But for the last six weeks, our regimental church has been systematically carried on, and I believe beneficially disposed of. It gives me great pleasure to still acknowledge the religious integrity of several in the regiment, as well as the profound anxiety manifested by several others, who are yet strangers to Christ, in obtaining the pearl of Great Price.
Should it please God to let us remain in our present quarters for a reasonable time, surrounded with our present favorable conveniences, I cherish the hope, that many will be added to the lists of the faithful, and many others, if not actually purged by Grace, brought to so comprehend their future destiny, as to lay the base of a reformatory course of action. Upon the whole, the moral and religious aspects of the regiment will tally quite favorable with any in the service.
Having constantly kept the subject of education before our soldiers, I flatter our literary success unequaled considering our time and chance. But at present, all literary efforts must remain at a partial stand, owing to want of books, to supply the heavy demand, for whom it appears almost impossible to procure them.
Had my repeated application for leave of absence, been granted, I intended to have supplied this want, even, at my own expense. But as it was not granted, I hope it will not be an outrage upon the rights of Petition, to most respectfully request, that you have my regiment furnished with at least (500) five hundred spelling books.
The most of these books too should be of the advanced kind, as a large portion of the Troops, who can read and write some, need to be much better drilled in spelling. And hundreds for whom I had gotten books, had them destroyed in their knapsacks, by the sinking of a boat in the Cape Fear River. I claim this favor for my regiment, upon the ground, that she is the mother of Colored Troops, and that in nine battles, regardless of skirmishes, she has never faltered, give way, or retreated, unless ordered by the General Commanding. Her record for bravery, courage, or invincibleness deifies the ridicule of the world. I challenge mortal means to make brave soldiers, good and intelligent citizens, I must respectfully ask for 500 spellings books. I hope this application may meet a speedy and favorable consideration.
The health of our regiment is excellent at this time. Military decorum and soldierly deportment, are peculiarly characteristic of our officers as a general thing. I have the honor to be your servant.
Henry M Turner