Letter from Washington
Christian Recorder: September 6, 1862

Turner writes about the war, the lyceum at Israel Church and other happenings in Washington, DC in particular his response to a writer named Cerebus

Keywords: Stonewall Jackson, Israel Church, Cerebus
Mr. Editor:-- Our city is full of excitement. A report has gained considerable circulation that (Thomas Jonathan Stonewall) Jackson and his rebel army are within nine miles of Washington, which has thrown the populace upon the heels of excitement. Many are of the opinion that they hear the thunder chattering of war implements conversing most destructively between the defenders of right and the perpetrators of wrong. Every little piece of information coming across the Potomac is seized by some news-hungry creature, masticated in the jaws of his own opinion, and devoured world without end. Every available vehicle is packed to overflowing with persons in search of the battle-field, while all the boats engaged between here and Alexandria are incompetent to the task of transporting the eager souls who are desirous of going to the scene of the conflict. But the most sad spectacle upon which I have looked is the thousands of wounded soldiers who are being brought into the hospitals of the city. Severed arms and shattered legs are no unfrequent sights, and holes perforated by bullets through hand, ears, shoulders, and calf of the legs, are as common as they are horrible.
From all accounts, the battle is raging most furiously on the other side of the river. About six hundred thousand men are supposed to be engaged—three hundred thousand on each side. Many who have been in the battle pay the highest encomiums to rebel bravery. Contrabands are pouring in from all quarters, and some bring the most enormous burdens on their backs that were certainly ever conveyed by human muscles.

One of the contrabands told me that, beyond Manassas Junction, there was a large body of our people located at a certain place, and that an infamous gang of rebel devils came upon them and shot every one of them, and shortly afterwards two companies of some of the Pennsylvania volunteers surrounded ninety of the secession assassins, and the poor fellows wanted to surrender, but no surrender for such mortal fiends until the Union boys gave death the privilege of a hug at each one. But a synopsis of the inhuman atrocities—the diabolical flagitiousness of the villainous perpetrations done by the snake-hearted squatter-matters of the hydrophobic dropsy-headed oligarchy—is sufficient to shudder a nervous being, but such vile imps of creation God will judge and reward.

The improvements which have been going on in Israel Church for some three months are now complete except frescoing it. They now have one of the largest and finest lecture rooms that is attached to any church in the city, white or colored, besides a most handsome set of portable class rooms, which they can move at their option. Thus, when occasion requires it, turn the entire hall into one, and then in a few moments convert it into several. Last Monday night, several of our distinguished ladies, viz: Mrs. Frances Lee, Cassandra Dent, Catherine Hutchison, Catherine Henson, Elizabeth Davis, and others whose names are not just with me, gave one of the grandest entertainments of the season in the new hall, and cleared something near a hundred dollars.

There is a glorious revival going on at Wesley Zion Chapel every night. The altar is crowded with mourners seeking for that pearl of great price. Rev. J. D. Brooks, the pastor, is regarded as a very eccentric but an able minister, and one who will hold to position though the heavens fall.

Mr. G. F. Cook, a very talented and efficient school teacher, who teaches in Israel school room, resumed his school again this morning, vacation being out.

I see that some inconsiderable piece of humiliation, entitling himself Cerebus, who you have honored as a Washington correspondent, has been endeavoring to give the details, and exegetically treat the acts and doings of the committee who waited upon the President. Mr. Cerebus is a very easy and fluent writer, and I wish he would take my place, as I have so much upon my mind, that when I sit down to write for the Recorder, I have to do it so hurriedly very often that what literary tact I possess is marred for the want of time to revise and correct. But when a writer sits down to scrape up absurdities and brand everybody, I think he should hunt for a different occupation. I know that every one is liable to make misrepresentations now and then, but everything this piece of humiliation referred to is touched with his venom. He allows that the “originator of the meeting smelt the rat and was non est.” The President of the United States was the man who originated the meeting, but he has reference to a man that him and all the rest of rats could not have made non est if he had desired otherwise. He makes a great bugbear over the bogus committee representing the fifteen thousand colored persons in the District of Columbia, and then wishes to know who made them the representatives of the two hundred ten thousand colored inhabitants of the Free States? Now this is the silliest part of the whole. Will Mr. Cerebus tell me if he ever knew a colored representative? When did you see one? Who was he? What was he doing? From whence did he hail? What did he say? Of course, I know Mr. Cerebus will not refer to the ministers, for he and his party are generally ready, I presume, to flirt up and ram silence down his throat if he speaks of anything besides heaven and hell. Ministers these days don’t know what to talk, preach, and think. I want Mr. Cerebus to remember that colored people have no representative yet in a political point of view; and, while the bogus committee was not authorized to represent the 15,000 of the District, or the 200,000 North, neither was one of these vast numbers authorized to represent the views and sentiments of the committee. And as representation is an individual thing, every man and woman is his or her own representative, and has the right of representing themselves. So let the 15,000 of the District, and the 200,000 North, all go to the President and represent themselves individually, and then they will be satisfied. Besides, the President did not call for colored representation, but truthfully speaking, he called for a committee of ministers, or a committee of intelligent colored gentlemen, and not for a representative. For heaven’s sake, see the place, and stop your nonsense. I cannot justify the committee’s proceedings in every respect, but then let the clamoring party go and better it. I don’t reckon any one will care. Neither am I favorable to Central America, (if I have any proclivities, they are for Hayti,) but should that deter us from hearing what the President has to say? Mr. Cerebus talks as though the President has called a congress of colored representatives, and that they had been in session, and had cast the destinies of the colored man and the 225,000 of whom he speaks, and is endeavoring to assume the representation had no voice nor hearing, and that there was a certain prime mover, or “originator,” who had with almost omnipotent power united two of the most antagonistic elements in the world, and then smelt a rat and skedaddled. I have never seen a man who feared the representation of others in my life, that could properly represent himself. Such persons strain at gnats and swallow camels.

                                                                                                                                          H. M. T.

Washington, Sep.1, 1862

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