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Rollin, Frank [Frances] A.
Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany



No Sabbath in war times, we are told, and there was no exception in this case. The following morning (Sabbath), in accordance with the appointment, Delany reported himself at the office of the adjutant general, who accompanied him to the war department. Here the secretary, making the necessary inquiries of the adjutant, received the parchment from him. History repeated itself--the Hebrew in the palaces, the Hun in high places. At that moment the great war minister of our revolution, affixing his official signature, made an epoch in the history of a hitherto unrecognized race, and a pledge in the name of the nation to them irrevocable through all time. It seemed remarkable that in two hemispheres this man should be selected from among so many others to represent marked events in the history of his race! Says Lamartine, "We should not despite any, for the finger of destiny marks in the soul, and not upon the brow."

So long had Delany fought against error and injustice towards his race, that it seemed almost hopeless to witness, in his day, the faintest semblance of recognition of their right in this land, and for him to be the first to receive that appointment seemed indeed to promise an age "of better metal."


While the interesting ceremony was being performed, a major general entered the apartment, followed soon after by Senator Ben Wade, of Ohio, now president of the Senate, before whom the new officer was addressed for the first time with a military title

"Gentlemen," said the secretary, "I am just now creating a black field officer for the United States service." Then addressing himself directly to the new officer, he said, "Major Delany, I take great pleasure in handing you this commission of Major in the United States army. You are the first of your race who has been thus honored by the government; therefore much depends and will be expected of you. But I feel assured it is safe in your hands".

"Honorable Secretary," replied the major, as the secretary concluded his remarks, "I can assure you, whatever be my failure to meet the expectations concerning me, on one thing you may depend-- that this parchment will never be dishonored in my hands."

"Of this I am satisfied. God bless you! Good by," With a hearty shake of the hand, the secretary concluded, when the first black major in the history of the republic left the department.

If the war had not ended so soon after the major received his commission, there exists no doubt but that his merits would have received further recognition. It is unlikely that the government would have given an unmeaning promotion, and thus debar him from rising to the higher ranks of the army through the same medium as other officers. On returning to the office of the adjutant general, the adjutant remarked, "Major Delany, you have now a great charge intrusted

to you,-- a great responsibility, certainly, and much will be expected of you, both by your friends and others. You have now an opportunity, if the war continues, of riding in your position to the highest field rank --that of a major general.

His reply was, that he hoped to be able to perform his duty, so as to merit the approval of his government and his superior officers, and, as a matter of course, intimated courteously that further promotion would not be unacceptable to him.

The following commission is in the usual form; but, being the first on the records of our country credited to a colored American, we reproduce it here.

The Secretary of War of the United States of America

To all who shall see these presents, greetings:

Know ye, that, reposing special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity, and abilities of MARTIN R. DELANY, the president does hereby appoint him Major, in the One Hundred and Fourth Regiment of United States Colored Troops, in the service of the United States, to rank as such from the day of his muster into service, by the duly appointed commissary of masters, for the command to which said regiment belongs.

He is therefore carefully and diligently to discharge the duty of Major, by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging. And I do strictly charge, and require, all officers and soldiers under his command to be obedient to his orders as Major. And he is to observe and follow such orders and directions, from time to time, as he shall receive from me or the future Secretary of War, or other superior officers set over him, according to the rules and discipline of war. This appointment to continue in force during the pleasure of the President for the time being.

Given under my hand at the War Department, in the City of

Washington, D.C., this twenty-sixth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five.

By the Secretary of War

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War

C.E.Foster, Assistant Adjutant General Volunteers .

( Indorsement )

Mustered into the United States Service, February 27, 1865

Henry Ketellas Captain 15th Infantary ,
Chief Muster and District Officer.

Adjutant General's Office ,
Washington , Feb 27, 1865.

Sir: I forward herewith your appointment of Major in the U.S.Colored Troops; your receipt and acceptance of which you will please acknowledge without delay, reporting at the same time your age and residence when appointed, the state where born and your full name correctly written . Fill up, subscribe , and return as soon as possible, the accompanying oath, duly and carefully executed .

You will report in person to Brevet Major General R. Saxton, Beaufort, South Carolina.

I am, sir, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
C.W. Foster,
Assistant Adjutant General Volunteers.

Major Martin R. Delany, U.S. colored Troops.

War Department, A.G. Office,
Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 1865.

Captain Henry Ketellas , 15th U.S. Infantary ,
Commissary of Musters, :

I am directed by the Secretary of War to instruct you to muster Major Martin R. Delany, U.S. Colored Troops, regiment into the service of the United States, for the period of three years, or during the war, as of this date.

very respectfully, your obedient servant,
(signed) C.W. Foster,
Assistant Adjutant General Volunteers


Official copy, respectfully furnished for the information of Major Martin 14. Delany, U. S. Colored Troops.

C. W. Foster

Assistant Adjutant General Volunteers.

War Department , A. G. Office,
Washington , Feb. 27, 1866.

Brevet Major General R. Saxton , supt Recruitment and
Organization of Colored Troops, Dept. of the
South, Hilton head, S.C.

General: I am directed by the Secret of War to inform you that the bearer Major M.R. Delany , U.S. Colored Troops, has been appointed for the purpose of aiding and assisting you in recruiting and organizing colored troops, and to carry out this object you will assign him to duty in the city of Charleston S.C.

You will observe that the regiment to which Major Delany is appointed is not designated, although he has been mustered into service. You will cause Major Delany to be assigned to, and his name placed upon the rolls of, the first regiment of colored troops you may organize, with his proper rank, not, however, with a view to his duty in such regiment.

I am also directed to say, that Major Delany has the entire confidence of the Department.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,


C. W. Foster

Assistant Adjutant General Volunteers

Official. C. W. Foster ,

Assistant Adjutant General Volunteers.