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"Men of Color, To Arms!" Topic

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09 Jul 2021 5:54 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from 18th Century Discussion board

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Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2021 3:21 p.m. PST

Frederick Douglass was instrumental in having black regiments formed and organized for the Union Army. His influential speech, 'Men of Color, To Arms!' is one of the great speeches of the period.

Raymond St Jacques portrayed Douglass in the excellent motion picture 'Glory' but unfortunately, the portion filmed of an edited portion of the speech was left out of the final cut.

Rochester, March 2, 1863.

'…Only a moderate share of sagacity was needed to see that the arm of the slave was the best defense against the arm of the slaveholder. Hence, with every reverse to national arms, with every exulting shout of victory raised by the slaveholding rebels, I have implored the imperiled nation to unchain against her foes her powerful black hand. Slowly and reluctantly that appeal is beginning to be heeded. Stop not now to complain that it was not heeded sooner…'

'…Action! action! not criticism, is the plain duty of this hour. Words are now useful only as they stimulate to blows…'

'…The tide is at its flood that leads on to fortune. From East to West, from North to South, the sky is written all over, 'NOW OR NEVER.' Liberty, won by white men would lose half its luster. Who would be free themselves must strike the blow. Better to die free, than to live slaves.'..'

'…They tell you this is the white man's war-that you will be no better off after than before the war-that getting of you into the army is to sacrifice you on the first opportunity. Believe them not; cowards themselves, they do not wish to have their cowardice shamed by your brave example…'

'By every consideration which binds to to your enslaved fellow-countrymen and to the peace and welfare of your country, by every aspiration which you cherish for the freedom and equality of yourselves and your children, by all the ties of blood and identity which make us one with the brave black men now fighting our battles in Louisiana and in South Carolina. I urge you to fly to arms, and smit with death the power that would bury the government and your liberty in the same hopeless grave…'

'…We can get at the throat of treason and slavery through the State of Massachusetts. She was the first in the War of Independence, first to break the chains of her slaves, first to make the black man equal before the law, first to admit colored children to her common schools, and she was first to answer with her blood the alarm-cry of the nation, when its capital was menaced by rebels…'

'…The day dawns-the morning star is bright upon the horizon! The iron gate of our prison stands half open. One gallant rush from the North will fling it wide open, while four millions of our brothers and sisters shall march out into liberty. The chance is now given you to end in a day the bondage of centuries, and to rise in one bound from social degradation to the place of common equality with all other varieties of men…'

'…The case is before you. This is our golden opportunity. Let us accept it, and forever wipe out the dark reproaches unsparingly hurled against us by our enemies. Let us win for ourselves the gratitude of our country, and the best blessings of our posterity through all time…'

The two sons of Frederick Douglass enlisted in the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one becoming the regiment's sergeant major. Interestingly, when the different black regiments' numerical designations were changed to US Colored Troops, the three black Massachusetts regiments maintained their identity and numbers as Massachusetts' regiments.

This speech is contained in The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, pages 244-246.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2021 4:38 p.m. PST

What tie-in are you trying to make to the 18th century?

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2021 5:40 p.m. PST

Part of the discussion on slavery…

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2021 5:57 p.m. PST

To what purpose?

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2021 6:08 p.m. PST

Pin it in the ACW board.
Sheesh. This politicization of everything is absurd.
The first date you give is 1863.
As you said on another board, "quod erant demonstrandum". Pardon my Latin.

If you want to bring up Blacks in the AWI, there's Crispus Attucks, the 1st (2nd?) Rhode Island, the 10% Black Freedmen in the Massachusetts MILITIA, and so on.
I have no idea why Frederick Douglass (a fine American) is relevant to the AWI, or the 18th Century.
Is the Slavery Question also relavant to GASLIGHT, Star Wars and Roman Media?

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2021 4:31 a.m. PST

It is on the Civil War Board…

Crispus Attucks, along with his 'comrades' who staged the riot, were nothing but thugs who were 'enlisted' by Sam Adams to start trouble.

And they brought rocks and bottles to what evolved into a gun fight.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2021 10:35 a.m. PST

Well, NOW it's on the ACW board, grin but it started on 18th Century Discussion. And an identical thread started yesterday on the AWI Board.

Your "opinion" of Crispus Attucks is certainly not the currently accepted politically correct version. My Goodness. Can you back it up without "walls of text"?
I'm as willing as anyone else to slander Sam Adams (I don't even like his beer…) but I've never heard that before. Maybe I'll go back and watch John Adams on HBO.

I'm reminded of Sean Connery "Leave it to a Bleeped text to bring a bottle to a gun fight."

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2021 3:31 p.m. PST

All three went up at the same time yesterday.

Regarding Attucks and the 'massacre' all you have to do is a little research along with the required reading…

By the way, it isn't 'slander' if it is accurate or the 'truth.'

Bill N11 Jul 2021 6:51 a.m. PST

First off I was not aware that the 54th Massachusetts was raised from a number of states. So thanks for that Kevin.

As for the the Boston Massacre bit, British troops were in Boston for the express purpose of intimidating the citizens of the city and the colony of Massachusetts and the lawfully elected representatives of the Massachusetts Court. In early 1770 the Governor Hutchinson wrote "Nothing but a sharp external force will bring Boston to a state of due subordination." The statement may not have been known to the people of Boston but the sentiment was. The British forces in Boston were there as an occupying army. So Sam Adams recruited a bunch of underemployed wharf rats to counteract them, big deal. The British army wasn't exactly recruited from the cream of English society.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2021 7:03 a.m. PST

What could have started out as a good discussion went off the rails when the OP posted in the AWI and 18th Century forums. And, to back-up John, this thread didn't appear in my ACW feed until Bill put it there.

Bill N, a contingent of Blacks from Ohio went to MA as Ohio had already mustered in all of the colored troops that they intended to do at that time.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2021 7:46 a.m. PST

The 54th Massachusetts also recruited from free blacks in Canada. And all the troops recruited were freedmen, or were born free in the North and Canada. They were also literate as I have seen some of the letters written by them.

The regimental history, A Brave Black Regiment: History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (452 Pages), was written by Luis Emilio, who was the senior non-wounded surviving officer of the assault on Battery/Fort Wagner. It is an excellent memoir.

The 54th went on to distinguish itself in other battles in secondary theaters. Also noteworthy, as four black soldiers in the regiment were later commissioned.

Baranovich11 Jul 2021 10:01 a.m. PST

"Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny he has earned the right to citizenship."

One of the greatest quotes in American history.

42flanker11 Jul 2021 2:20 p.m. PST

"British troops were in Boston for the express purpose of intimidating the citizens of the city"

- if true, not all the citizens, presumably. Only some.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2021 3:31 p.m. PST

One of the greatest quotes in American history.

Absolutely. Well said.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2021 7:52 p.m. PST

I don't think it matters much where this post "belongs". It is always good when Douglas gets some attention. He is an unsung hero of the times.

I think you are right 42flanker, the loyalists who were being harassed were likely glad to see the troops. There were a lot of upset people in the city after the various tax acts went into effect. In the end, they were not so much intimidated either.

Blutarski11 Jul 2021 8:56 p.m. PST

Native Bostonian here, who worked for ten years within a block of the site of the Boston Massacre. The story is a little more complicated than first glance might suggest. After murder charges were brought against the British soldiers, an attorney stepped forward and volunteered to defend them in court. His name was John Adams, later to become the second President of the United States.

Take a moment to think about what that suggests about the founding fathers of this great nation we call the United States of America.


mildbill12 Jul 2021 9:19 a.m. PST

The second black regiment raised in the ACW was the First Kansas Coloured in Kansas by Jim Lane, Kansas Senator. This was unauthorized by the Federal government. The first black Regiment raised was LA miltia regiment for the confederates. The CSA declined its services.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2021 10:10 a.m. PST

The First Kansas was raised as a state regiment, so the lack of federal recognition did not keep them from being mustered in or from seeing action.

mildbill12 Jul 2021 5:01 p.m. PST

But old Abe did not approve.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2021 3:49 a.m. PST

What did Lincoln disapprove of? The recruitment and employment of black troops? I don't believe that is correct.

See Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers by Joseph Glatthar, page 9.

As an addendum, the 54th Massachusetts was the first black regiment raised in the North.

stephen116213 Jul 2021 10:33 a.m. PST

So where did the 54th do its recruiting?

Where there enough recruits in Massachusetts at the time or did they have to go beyond the state borders?

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2021 1:17 p.m. PST

Neighboring states and in Canada, as well as Massachusetts.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP15 Jul 2021 2:07 p.m. PST

The thing I really liked about Glory was that the Blacks did not want their freedom handed to them. They demanded the right to fight for it.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Jul 2021 4:37 a.m. PST

Glory was a very accurate movie on the 54th Massachusetts.

A few comments:

-The movie pictured most of the troops as former slaves, which is inaccurate. THey were overwhelmingly northern freemen and volunteered to serve as such.

-If you take a look at a photograph of the regimental commander, Col Robert Gould Shaw, you'll see that he has a striking resemblance to Matthew Broderick who portrayed him in the movie. Shaw was a blonde, however, and not a brown-haired.

-The regimental XO was Ned Hallowell, who was badly wounded in the assault on Battery Wagner-he was shot in the ditch-but survived and commanded the regiment for the rest of the war.

-Battery Wagner was taken by siege by the Union army.

-The assault pictured in the movie is backwards-the regiment's right flank units were on the ocean front, not the other way round.

-The regimental sergeant major was Lewis Douglass, one of Frederick Douglass sons, and somewhat younger than pictured in the movie.

-Col Shaw did not volunteer the regiment to lead the assault on Battery Wagner. The brigade commander, General Strong (who was a friend of Shaw's) asked him to lead the assault. Strong was killed during the attack itself.

-The national colors were saved and brought back by Sgt Carney (who received the medal of honor for his gallantry during the attack). The state colors were ripped from their staff and lost. The staff was brought back from the assault. The regiment later received a new state color because there was no disgrace attached to the loss. That color is in the state house in Boston.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Jul 2021 4:57 a.m. PST

From the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave by Himself, pages vii-viii.

'What is slavery?'

'Why am I a slave?'

'Why are some people slaves, and others masters?

'Was there ever a time when this was not so?'

'How did this relationship commence?

'Was color the basis of slavery?'

'I knew of blacks who were not slaves; I knew of whites who were not slaveholders; and I knew of persons who were nearly white, who were slaves. Color, therefore, was a very unsatisfactory basis for slavery.'

'It was not color, but crime, not God, but man, that afforded the true explanation of the existence of slavery; nor was I long in finding out another important truth, viz: what man can make, man can unmake. The appalling darkness faded away, and I was master of the subject.'

'We owe something to the slave south of the line as well as to those north of it; and in aiding the latter on their way to freedom, we should be careful to do nothing which would be likely to hinder the former from escaping from slavery.'

On page x, Douglass describes the character and actions of a slave overseer:

'Mr Gore was proud, ambitious, and persevering. He was artful, cruel, and obdurate. He was just the man for such a place, and it was just the place for such a man. It afforded scope for the full exercise of all his powers, and he seemed to be perfectly at home in it…No matter how innocent a slave might be it availed him nothing when accused by Mr Gore of any misdeneanor. To be accused was to be convicted, and to be convicted was to be punished; the one always followed the other with immutable certainty.'

'Mr Gore was a grave man, and though a young man he indulged in nor jokes, said no funny words, seldom smiled. His words were in perfect keeping with his looks, and his looks were in perfect keeping with his words…He was in word a man of the most inflexible firmness and stone-like coolness. His savage barbarity was equaled only by the consummate coolness with which he committed the grossest and most savage deeds upon the slaves under his charge.'

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Jul 2021 5:08 a.m. PST

Frederick Douglass on Christianity, page xi-xii:

'What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference-so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be friend of the one is of necessity to be the enemy of the other.'

'I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling this religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.'

'We have men-stealers for ministers, woman-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin-a vicious form of whip-during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus…He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me…Here we have religion, and robbery the allies of each other-devils dressed in angels' robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.

The hypocrisy described by Frederick Douglass is not a one-off, but an attempt by the slaveholding South to justify the 'peculiar institution' and its inherent cruelty and moral turpitude.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Jul 2021 5:19 a.m. PST

From the Introduction to Frederick Douglass' narrative by Peter Gomes, x-xi:

'This chilling portrait, and the account of the barbarities committed by Mr Gore in the discharge of his duty, reads like an account of Holocaust survivors describing the demeanor and conduct of the Nazi captors in the concentration camps of the Third Reich. It had the same effect, serving to strip the veil of Southern sanctimony from the atrocities of a system maintained in the name of Christian civilization, which benefitted from the lack of exposure to the moral scrutiny of the world. Only in one significant respect do slave narratives such as Douglass' differ from those of Nazi concentration camp survivors: the survivors of Auschwitz, Dachau, and Ravensbrook speak in the retrospective horror of the liberation of those places of death. Douglass and the other ex-slave narrators speak of a system still in full and unchallenged vigor. They were not writing as historians but as witnesses, and not merely of the past but of the present. It is this existential reality that gives the Narrative of Frederick Douglass such uncompromising power and authority.'

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

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