September 24, 1864
THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER,
For the Christian Recorder.
FOLLY ISLAND CORRESPONDENCE.
Folly Island, S.C., Aug. 21st, 1864.
DEAR RECORDER: - I sit down this beautiful morning to let the many admirers of your useful paper have some idea of things in this department. The sun arose arrayed in all the beauties of the brightest ethereal. We were mustered this morning, according to custom, for pay, and our Colonel administered the oath presented by the recent law concerning persons of African descent, in the military service of the United States' and touching the law of 1861 concerning free, able-bodied citizens from that time forward. The reason given for administering this oath is in order to procure the just wages of a soldier. It looks like going a step backward to be obliged to swear that we are free in order to get our just dues, having been born in states where our right to freedom was not questioned. But we had no right to doubt the veracity of our gallant Colonel, and we consented in our company to a man; and we now have our names enrolled with the promise of our just pay, for once in seventeen months: that is better than never!
If we should not be again deceived, our distressed wives and children will hail the happy moment to be relieved from suffering, and they may with glad hearts offer up prayers and tears for the speedy end of this great rebellion, and the enjoyment of our firesides in peace and happiness. In the promise of our pay, we were not promised promotion. I will say something about the prejudice in our own regiment when we returned from Olustee to Jacksonville. One of our Captains was sick, and there was no doctor there excepting our hospital steward, who administered medicines and effected a cure; he was a colored man, Dr. Becker, and a competent physician, and, through the exertions of this recovered Captain, there was a petition got up for his promotion. All the officers signed the petition but three, Captain Briggs, and two lieutenants; they admitted he was a smart man and understood medicine, but he was a negro, and they did not want a negro Doctor, neither did they want negro officers. The Colonel, seeing so much prejudice among his officers, destroyed the document, therefore the negro is not yet acknowledged.
Notwithstanding all these grievances we prefer the Union rather than the Rebel government, and will sustain the Union if the United States will give us other rights. We will calmly submit to white officers, though some of them are not so well acquainted with military matters as our orderly sergeants, and some of the officers have gone so far as to say that a negro stank under their noses. This is not very pleasant, but we must give the officers in company B, of the 54th Massachusetts regiment, their just dues; they generally show us the respect due to soldiers, and scorn any attempt to treat us otherwise.
Since we have moved into Fort Green, our officers have advised us to improve in the drilling of heavy artillery, and show the advantages derived therefrom. They give us all the encouragement they can to best up under the grievance of not getting our pay; telling us that firmness of purpose and rigorous performance of our duty must command respect, and our good example may be a lasting name in history, which must have a tendency to elevate our race; there is no great end accomplished without long perseverance and many sacrifices of comfort; but, suffice it to say, enough has been said in regard to elevation, promotion, &c.
Let us look a little to the majority of our race. Do they use every means to elevate themselves? Do they sacrifice carnal enjoyments to procure wealth, in order to engage in respectable business, to concentrate their capital and associate in companies to give employment to the accomplished colored book-keeper or salesman, and command respect from other nations? All this has a tendency to elevate our race, and the more wealth we possess the more we shall be respected in commercial society. All this must be accomplished before we can fully realize equality; let each patronize the other in business, and give aid and good counsel, and use our influence to start young men in business. When these things are practised, among us then we will command the respect of the Anglo-Saxon race.
I must tell you something about our living in the army. We have not had enough to eat for several weeks, being on three quarter rations, and for the last twelve or thirteen days, have been cut short of that, having no beans, peas, rice or molasses; in a word, nothing but salt beef and pork, tea and coffee half sweetened, and one loaf of bread per day or three-quarter rations of hard tack or bread. We would think it impossible to live on at home, but here we are obliged to; and, beside the short allowance of the government, it is said we are cut shorter by the quarter-master's department. From all appearances, our molasses has been out in the rain; our coffee has the essence extracted before it comes to camp, and then the sugar is very sparingly used. This may be a saving to the United States, but it is a grievous nuisance to us.
Concerning things before Charleston, the rebels still throw an occasional shell into our camp on Morris Island, which is quite annoying, but no recent casualties. The Union men vigorously return the fire, shelling the rebel camp, hospital, and every available place to do the most damage in retaliation for their inhuman and unjust fighting tactics.
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