Abraham Lincoln eBook

George Haven Putnam
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 229 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln.
of January, 1863.  It did produce the hoped-for results.  The cause of the North was now placed on a consistent foundation.  It was made clear that when the fight for nationality had reached a successful termination, there was to be no further national responsibility for the great crime against civilisation.  The management of the contrabands, who were from week to week making their way into the lines of the Northern armies, was simplified.  There was no further question of holding coloured men subject to the possible claim of a possibly loyal master.  The work of organising coloured troops, which had begun in Massachusetts some months earlier in the year, was now pressed forward with some measure of efficiency.  Boston sent to the front the 54th and 55th Massachusetts regiments composed of coloured troops and led by such men as Shaw and Hallowell.  The first South Carolina coloured regiment was raised and placed under the command of Colonel Higginson.

I had myself some experience in Louisiana with the work of moulding plantation hands into disciplined soldiers and I was surprised at the promptness of the transformation.  A contraband who made his way into the camp from the old plantation with the vague idea that he was going to secure freedom was often in appearance but an unpromising specimen out of which to make a soldier.  He did not know how to hold himself upright or to look the other man in the face.  His gait was shambly, his perceptions dull.  It was difficult for him either to hear clearly, or to understand when heard, the word of instruction or command.  When, however, the plantation rags had been disposed of and (possibly after a souse in the Mississippi) the contraband had been put into the blue uniform and had had the gun placed on his shoulder, he developed at once from a “chattel” to a man.  He was still, for a time at least, clumsy and shambly.  The understanding of the word of command did not come at once and his individual action, if by any chance he should be left to act alone, was, as a rule, less intelligent, less to be depended upon, than that of the white man.  But he stood up straight in the garb of manhood, looked you fairly in the face, showed by his expression that he was anxious for the privilege of fighting for freedom and for citizenship, and in Louisiana, and throughout the whole territory of the War, every black regiment that came into engagement showed that it could be depended upon.  Before the War was closed, some two hundred thousand negroes had been brought into the ranks of the Federal army and their service constituted a very valuable factor in the final outcome of the campaigns.  A battle like that at Milliken’s Bend, Mississippi, inconsiderable in regard to the numbers engaged, was of distinctive importance in showing what the black man was able and willing to do when brought under fire for the first time.  A coloured regiment made up of men who only a few weeks before had been plantation hands,

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Abraham Lincoln from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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