Jacksonville, Fla., March 14, 1864.
Camp 1st N.C. (Colored) Vols.
To the Editor of the Transcript:
Ours has been a busy time since the arrival of our troops in this place. Important events have transpired, our advance into the interior of the State has been disputed and in a measure we have been repulsed, but it has not been all lost. Seventeen hundred, brave and true dead, wounded and missing, testify to the obstinacy with which every inch of ground was contested, by our brave but small band, against a vastly superior force of the enemy's veterans. They went in to win, and with the prayers that go up for the fallen and suffering, will come the assurance, that they died and suffered as brave men in the discharge of their duty. One year has gone, and once, twice, thrice, has the freeman showed the world that he is worthy of his freedom, that he will convince the most unbelieving, that his race has the germ of manhood intact, that only await Egypt, to bring forth in full power the man, competent to earn a place in the world's confidence, by the most cool and heroic bravery.
A brief recital of a few events maybe worthy of notice in connection with the important part taken by the colored troops in the recent action at Oluskie. A full report of the action has been laid before your readers, but I will notice one simple instance of cool bravery, that came under my own observation; - Color Sergeant Johnson, of Co. H, 1st N.C.(Colored) troops, while nobly facing the foe, had his right arm badly shattered by a minnie ball, nothing daunted, he kneeled and held high "the dear old flag," with his remaining arm, until he was compelled reluctantly to give it up. Shall we refuse protection to those who so nobly fight in our defense? God and humanity forbid!
Henceforth the long disputed question: will the negro fight? Can he be made available in this our nation's conflict? is irrevocably settled. Events have proven it beyond cavil. Say to the world, that the negro will fight and earn the long desired boon of liberty to his down trodden race. We mourn the loss of three of our officers and six wounded. Our dear brother officers have performed the duty assigned them faithfully. Lieut. John D. Mireck, a resident of Worcester and formerly of the 25th Mass. Vols., was one whom we all loved and respected, of irreproachable character. An efficient officer, he had won an enviable position in the hearts of his brother officers, and sadly do we mourn his loss. Our men are not dispirited at their repulse, but are eager to hear the order "Forward!" and bitterly will they avenge the loss of their 200 absent brothers, when the opportunity is given them.
Rumor says that soon we shall try this affair over again. Our forces now hold the River for 75 miles. The 24th Mass. Vols. Are doing Provost duty in the town. The general health of the troops is good. Most of the seriously wounded have been sent to the general hospitals at Hilton Head and Beaufort, S.C. Weather mild and warm.
P.S. Capt. Jalam Gates of Worcester, wounded in his arm, is trying to get a furlough and go home as soon as he is able. He was at Beaufort, S.C. hospital, and it is feared he will lose his arm, but I hope not. He acted most nobly in the action, it was a hot place for all hands, our boys behaved splendidly. Not a man flinched.
March 15. I learn from head quarters of Gen. Seymour, that deserters report Major A. Boyle of our regiment is living, and a prisoner at Lake City. He was supposed to be killed, and reported in first accounts as such, also that our wounded officers and men are well treated by the enemy without regard to color, or regiment. This information I think perfectly reliable, and certainly most refreshing for us to hear.
We sleep under shelter, tents, and the mosquitoes make us nightly calls, presenting their bills very uncomfortably when standing at "Parade Rest" in our evening "Dress Parade."
Our mails come and go North once in 8 days.
Printed in the Worcester Aegis and Transcript; 2 April 1864; pg. 4, col. 1.
It is made available here through the courtesy of Thomas Hayes.
Thomas Hayes created an historical reference Web site, Letters of the Civil War, from the newspapers of the cities and towns of Massachusetts. He researched the Boston Herald, Chelsea Telegraph and Pioneer, Dedham Gazette, Roxbury Gazette, Randolph Transcript, Worcester Transcript and the Malden Messenger. Unfortunately, his site is no longer available.
Hayes stated, "I have filed, by date, a little over 3,300 letters. These are from the Soldiers, Sailors, Nurses, Correspondents and Politicans. This project started out as a simple endeavor to find that one letter from my Grandfather, Walter A. Hewes, who served in the 1st Mass. Infantry and 4th Mass. Cavalry. To date, no luck, but I have about 30 more papers to research."
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