View Full Version : Researching opinions of soldiers...

01-16-2004, 02:10 AM
Hello pards,
I am working on a paper concerning white soldiers in the Union army and their views on black soldiers. I am looking for anything in the realm of primary sources that can help me identify the opinions and trends of the white troops (diaries, letters, memiors, etc.). I mean for this project to compliment another paper I wrote on the struggle for equality of black soldiers during the war. If anyone out there can help or offer advice I would GREATLY appreciate it. Thank you again. If you would like to contact me my email address is mpc_84@yahoo.com .

Matthew Cassady
Pvt. 104th Illinois Vol. Inf.

01-16-2004, 02:49 PM
Here's a primary source- from the book "Dear Companion", The Civil War letters of Silas I. Shearer
(Silas is a little weak on punctuation)
letter written from Brasheir City, La. Sept 23, 1863

"You to say about the negros as far as that is concerned I have nothing much to say for my eyes don't see as they did when I left home. Since I have got down here and seen what slavery was and where it had run to it changed me in a political since(sic) of view Slavery is what caused this War and the principle of it has changed me considerable. I have had prisioners to tell me that it made no difference how much a man was worth He was nothing thought of unless he owned a Negro or two and a poor man was not as much thought of as a Negro and I think the best thing we can do is wipe Slavery out but do not think it will be done at present but I do not think we will have Slavery directly but indirectly. I think it will be a gradual emanicipation and what will be fit for the Army will be put init. They are just as good Soldiers as the Whites They look like men when uniformedof I have seen regiment with commisioned officers of there(sic) own color and they look sniptiouis. Those men North that is so bitterly opposed to the emancipation of Slavery had serve as long a time in the South as I have There ideas would change two(sic) you people North reading knowes nothing about such things without experience. Experience teaches a dear School but fools will learn no other and the South is beginning to find out. Taking the negros from the South and arming them is one of the greatest blows that was struck. To put this rebellion down you people North may not see it but I see it here very plane(sic0. Now you may take me to be an abolitionist but that matter nothing. I am a War Democrat and you may call them what you please."

01-16-2004, 08:23 PM
Hello Gents. Here's a letter I found online on www.civilwarletters.com while looking for letters for reference. It's by Jonas H. Roe and he refers to the wrongs of slavery and refers to black soldiers in the army and his admiration for them.

" Vicksburg Miss

Dear Celina July 22nd 1864
By the goodness of God I am again blessed another opportunity of Writing to my much beloved Family and I am truly thankful to be able to inform you that I am in the enjoyment of excellent health. That the great I AM (By whose Infinite wisdom all things both in Heaven and upon Earth were Created and through whose Infinite goodness we have been shielded and protected up to the present time) art now blessing me both Physically and Spiritually I desire to become perfectly reconciled to all his dispensations realizing that he is the Author and Creator of all things Infinite + perfect in all of his attributes Your Letter of the twelfth has been received it was truly delightful to hear from our dearest Earthly friends to hear that they are in the possession of good health Celina you stated that the prospects of the termination of this great wreched and unholy Rebellion was very uncertain that our beloved Country is envelloped in Sin and morral darkness and that You wished me now to state my opinion in reference to the continuation and final results of this gygantic Rebellion Well Celina As it reguards the length of time that it will yet take to put it down is beyond the comprehension of finite minds to comprehend we have no means of arriving at any definite conclusion in that respect But Celina I have the same faith and confidence as I had when I entered the United States service that we through the assistance of a Almightly God will eventually crush this Rebellion. That the nation or in other words the Inhabitants thereof are now viewing their chastisements of the countless sins of Slavery My Heart beats with extatic joys when I reflect and fully realize that four millions of Slaves have been liberated from the worst system of Slavery that ever existed The Blacks make the best of soldiers they exhibit no symptoms of cowardice whatever on the last scouts in the vicinity of Jackson and Grand Gulf when our forces and the Rebs came into collision and the blacks was ordered to charge the enemy they done so with the ferosity of Tigers They asked no quarter and Celina they gave none At Grand Gulf The Rebs made an attack upon our guard And a Black Brigade of ours was laying in ambush close by the Pickets. They were ordered to charge the Rebs there were about five hund Rebs and the Blacks charged them with the greatest ferosity killing all that they could catch. I think those Rebs will never make another attack upon our guards in the night We have about one hundred thousand Blacks now in the service they are thoroughly drilled and they are continually coming before the close of this year I think we will have an other hundred thousand They take ask no quarter + they give no quarter. I guess the Rebs will forever regret their wicked + murders deeds at Fort Pillows
May the God of Heaven bless our people and universal peace again pervade our Country -
Please write soon
I am yours Affectionately
Celina Roe J.H. Roe "

I hope this helps you!

NY Pvt
01-19-2004, 11:20 AM
Here in a letter from Capt Woodin of the 150th NY. Woodin writes to the home town newspaper called the Dailey Eagle, which is now know Poughkeepsie Journal. So the letter was indended to be read by everyone in the county. Just as a side note. Capt. Woodin was known around the regiment and back home in Poughkeepsie where he was a lawyer as someone who liked to drink.


HEADQUARTERS, I 't Battalion, I' Brigade Provisional Division, Department of the


It is such a long time since my agitated quill commenced a document for your valuable paper, that the idea of writing to the Eagle seems a novelty enough to interrupt the horrid monotony of spending day and night in the entrenchments without anything to do except watching infatuated Johnnies on the neighboring His, and investigating the nutritious properties of hard tack; and during the long intermission in our correspondence, how many elaborate articles, otherwise known as "big things," have been achieved. Uncle Abraham has received another lease of the White House- Mr. Fenton has been induced to take charge of matters at Albany, and boss the Empire State- Colonel Ketcham has been seduced into a Congressional arrangement; the Republican party has been on the rampage; Governor Morton waked up the voters of Dutchess county with western common sense; and several young men have been arrested for trifling with soldiers' votes, and fooling with one of the sacred rights guarantied by the Constitution of these United States. While these highly important and beneficial matters were being worked out by the honest patriots of the north, many of their brethren were following the fortunes of Major General Sherman, and in his command marched the 150' N.Y. Vols.; and as communication with Sherman is not one of the easiest things imaginable, it follows as a natural consequence that the individuals belonging to his command who are left behind, must patiently wait until he strikes an available point. The "patient waiters" in this neighborhood have been organized into Battalions, Brigades, and Divisions, and are now comfortably cold in the luxurious ditches surrounding Nashville, with Hood's beautiful followers a few hundred yards beyond the aforesaid ditches. The I" Battalion of this organization is commanded by Lieut. Col. Salomon, and is composed of men from the Regiments of the I' Division, 20ffi Corps, and comprises all who hail from the 150 Ih N.Y. Capt. John L. Green, Capt. R. Titus, Lieut. Wm. Van Keuren, Sergt. J.C. Smith (comniissioned as a 2d Lieutenant in Company A, but not mustered,) and privates Velic, Wagner, Matthews, McGowan, Haight, and S.B. Fitch. Are the immortal few who propose "to fight it out on this line," until Sherman sends for them.

We have had a regular northern snow storm, but the boys are in good health, and with a good supply of blankets and overcoats they care very little for the inclemency of out-doors, and sing, "Why do summer roses fade," with impunity,

If any of the fliends at home are anxious to send letters to the young men above mentioned, and wish the letters to be received, my advice is to direct them the same as this document is headed- although I think we will be able to get but a small amount of our correspondence, because we are expecting to receive orders every day to rejoin Sherman, and as the 20'h Corps mail is packed up it will not be opened until it reaches the Corps. The report is that all of the 20' Corps troops will be sent to New York soon, to be shipped to their command; but we may remain here some time yet. If Hood makes an attack here, Gen. Thomas will need us, and if Hood falls back, it will require all of Thomas's forces to follow him up, and if we are not taken into the field we will be needed to garrison the place. The defences of Nashville are so well constructed that I do not mean to convey the idea that Thomas is in want of troops by writing that we shall probably be kept here, but as Thomas invariably makes a "sure thing" of his operations, it is presumed that he will avail himself of every man near him.

It would be contrary to General Orders to give you a complete account of matters here, but I can state that the North need not indulge in unnecessary anxiety over Thomas's situation. Indeed, the only anxiety here is that Hood will not make an attack, because if he could be persuaded to indulge in something warlike, it would be the tragical conclusion of his martial career. Our troops are yet in possession of Murfreesboro, and gave the Johnnies particular fits a few days ago, for attempting to come within the fortifications without a proper pass, and we still hold Stevenson, Bridgeport, Chattanooga and its surroundings, and any one who is acquainted with the country between Nashville and Chattanooga knows that the Yankees hold everything worth holding. The country for over one hundred and fifty miles behind Hood cannot give him a superfluous abundance of supplies, for the simple reason that we gathered all of the corn and fodder, and drove in all of the stock, as we fell back; but then a reb will live a month on an ear of corn, and grow fat upon dried apples and water.

Everyday there is a reconnoisance made, and we manage to keep well posted in the situation of matters on the other side of the fence. Since the snow storm, however, reconnoitering is not a very pleasant job. The ground is covered with a crust hard enough to bear a man's weight; and as our line runs on the crest of a hill, and as the rebel line runs on the crest of the next hill, neither party can leave their works without sliding down hill into the valley, where the musketry is rather effective.

As there is a Brigade of colored troops on our right and left, we have a good chance to see whether "niggers" make soldiers or not, and the exhibitions we have already had of their coolness, discipline, and good behavior have convinced quite a number that darkeys are good institutions in a fight. Two days ago, the 14' colored troops, under Lieut. Col. Jackson; advanced upon the skirmish lines, and drove the Johnnies speedily from their rifle pits, and their orders were to stop after doing this, but they were so elated with their success that they pushed ahead and sailed into the main line of the rebels. Imagine about three or four hundred men, charging up a steep hillside covered with ice, with the intention of taking a strong line of earthworks! The niggers' intentions were good, and they climbed about half way up the hill- but the fire was too strong, and they were compelled to turn; and such a "gettin down stairs," has not been seen here lately. The hillside was so slippery they could hardly stand up, and the moment they turned to come back every "American citizen of Aftican descent" lost his centre of gravity, and came down like a highly-colored sheaf of straw. The bullets were flying around rather uncomfortably, but the "monks" kicked and shouted, and came into camp "showing their ivories as if nothing more than a possum hunt had transpired.

I have heard disinterested citizens at the north laugh about making soldiers of "niggers," and I must confess that I did not entertain a very large idea of colored troops a short time ago, but my private opinion now is that I prefer to fight rebels rather than darkeys. If we get a little the

best of Johnnies, they are sensible enough to fall back, but I'm afraid that "niggers" do not know when they ought to give up, and they fight with a determination strikingly foolish.

Nashville does not look very much like a besieged city. The Theatres are in full blast, business is first rate, and the citizens appear about as innocent of the close proximity of an enemy as though the rebellion had never broken out, for great is their faith in Thomas. Yours quietly,


01-21-2004, 02:27 PM
Hello all,
Thanks a lot for pointing me in the right direction. If anyone can find anything else, please let me know. I REALLY appreciate this.

Matthew Cassady
Pvt. 104th IL Vol. Inf.

01-21-2004, 05:25 PM
This is a paragraph from a letter written by a wife to her husband. Her name was Charity Champlin and her husband, William Chaplin, was 1st sgt 24th Ky inf (usa). They were from Williamsburg, KY.
"I am told that King's men is all coming home they say their Col. told them to draw their pay and come home if they want to. That they was not compelled to fight for abolitionist, I hope if that will release the 3 year volunteer that you will come home. For I assure you we need your presence badly."
I'm assuming this was in response to the Emancipation Proclamation.
bluegrass rifles

01-28-2004, 12:19 AM
Hello again,
Do any of you know of Northern newspapers that argued both for and against the arming of blacks in the war? Also, would there be any newspapers that were ambivilant? Any help would be appreciated.

Matt Cassady
Pvt. 104th IL Vol. Inf.

Michael Comer
01-28-2004, 12:31 AM
The classic standard, "The Life of Billy Yank" by Bell Wiley has a chapter on just that thing. He quotes several letters from Union soldiers in the chapter. It is a good bird's-eye view of what Federals thought about black folks.

02-14-2004, 05:59 PM
Thanks for referencing my site containing the letters from Jonas H. Roe and family. There are several other letters that speak about the heroism of black men that he encounters on and off the field of battle. Just wanted to make a correction to the URL: www.civilwarletters.150m.com (http://www.civilwarletters.150m.com/). Thanks again and good luck with the research. - Erik

Erik, please sign your full name to all posts. - Mike Chapman

06-26-2004, 01:49 PM
5 January 1863 - Monday (5 days before the Battle of Arkansas Post)

* PVT. JOSIAH F. W. SANBORN, CO. A, 31<SUP>ST</SUP> I<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com /><st1:date Month=5 January 1863</st1:date> - Monday (5 Days before the Battle of Arkansas Post)

<st1:State>OWA </ST1:p</st1:State><ST1:p<st1:City>INFANTRY</st1:City>, <st1:country-region>U.S.</st1:country-region></ST1:p<O:p</O:p</FONT></P>


ď<st1:time Hour="3" Minute="0">3 a.m.</st1:time> We landed {at Millicanís <ST1:p<st1:City>Bend</st1:City>, <st1:State>Arkansas</st1:State></ST1:p} where the captain thought to find some wood and were not disappointed. We have carried wood on board until <st1:time Hour="9" Minute="0">9 a.m.</st1:time> It was dry cottonwood and light to handle. We must now have 150 or 200 cords of rails and dry wood aboard. While here the captain of the boat (the <st1:State><ST1:pNebraska</ST1:p</st1:State>) found 4 negros on board who had come on where we got the rails 60 miles below hid away somewhere. He ordered them off swearing he'd kill them if they did not leave and hollered to the soldiers on shore to kill them shoot them. The poor fellows were terribly frightened and put out in a hurry - we said nothing to them one way or the other. The poor nigs were sadly disappointed no doubt.</P>


[Diary of Josiah Fisher Wilson Sanborn - <ST1:p<st1:PlaceName>Linn</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType>County</st1:PlaceType></ST1:p Historical Museum - Linn County, <st1:State><ST1:pIowa</ST1:p</st1:State>]<O:p</O:p</P></FONT>





Possum Skinner
06-26-2004, 02:54 PM
Mr. Cassady,

I would like to bring to your attention a resource called Blue & Gray in Black & White: Newspapers in the Civil War by Brayton Harris.

Chapter 14 of this book deals very specifically with the issue of emancipation and the building of the negro regiments. It is titled "A Matter of Color" it uses numerous excerpts from newspapers North, South, and from England as primary sources.

A review of these sources will leave little doubt that the issue was very controversial and debated upon from all angles. Everything from downright hatred of the idea to the emboldened cries of stark abolitionists and every view in between can be found in the newspapers of the era.

06-29-2004, 04:53 PM
From the memoirs of David E Johnston of Co D, 7th VA Inf

Page 353-354
" We often talked along the skirmish lines with Union soldiers and they invariably and vehemently denied that they were fighting to abolish or destroy slavery. Particularly was this true of those from the Northwestern states. In opposition to our claim or contention that we were fighting for independence - separate government - they insisted that they were fighting for the Union, a common, undivided country; did not want to see the country broken up by division; and I feel fairly safe in stating that this feeling and sentiment largely dominated the great majority of the Union soldiers. I recall one or more conversations with Union soldiers along the lines on the above subject, in which they told me that if they believed they were fighting to free the slaves they would quit the army and go home."