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  --  IN THE FIELD.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XXIII.

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



THE excitement attending the scenes of the evacuation of the city and its occupation by the Union forces was scarcely lulled, when it rose again on the arrival of the "black major," to whom the rural preceding his advent had given the rank of Major General.

Arriving in the city on the Sabbath, when most of the people were gathered at the various places of worship, the news soon became noised about. And from the early forenoon until long after nightfall, a continuous stream of visitors poured in upon him, eager to pay their respects to him. These composed the colored residents of both sexes, representing every age and condition; nor did this cease when their curiosity became satisfied, but grew with their acquaintance and increased with time. At the time of his arrival the population of the once proud city was limited, consisting only of a few regiments of Union soldiers on duty, the former free people, the new freedmen, -- a greater portion of the latter being driven from the plantations around the city, and from the upper portions of the state,-- and a few white families representing the old element. An air of mournful desolation seemed to brood over the conquered

city. There existed no signs of traffic, except in the sutlers' stores of the regiments.

Confederate bonds and scrip were most plenteous, and but a small amount of currency was in circulation with which to purchase the common necessaries of life. For this cause thousands were thrown upon the charity of the government for daily subsistence. Nor was it confined to the colored people; it was no uncommon sight to meet daily in the streets many of the former enemies of the government, loaded with its injustice (!) to them in the form of a huge basket of subsistence received from the quartermaster's department, and in many instances assisted by some former chattel, who in several known cases, afterwards, with five negro generosity, divided heir own portion with them. Such was their position after the evacuation of the city. Never before in the history of Anglo-Saxon civilization were there such manifestations of genuine charity and forbearance towards an unscrupulous and implacable foe, as indicated by the actions of government. "I was hungry and ye gave me meat, naked and ye clothed me," were literally proven by these recipients of its immense charities. This gave promise of more converts than the sword. While the great concourse of people, gathered for rations at different places, attracted thither the curious visitor, he would turn from this to the many evidences of the unerring precision of the batteries of Morris Island, which met his gaze on every hand, suggestive of the tales of horror, and in many instances of retributive justice, through which they had so recently passed. Much property was destroyed and but few lives during the siege.


There were incidents related of marvellous escapes from the reach of these shells, and also deaths of a most appalling character on being overtake by them,--the greater portion of the latter being colored persons, the innocent sharing swore fate than the guilty.

One case of cad interest happened at midnight, while the siege was at its height, occurring in a family representing the wealth, culture, and refinement of the respectable colored citizens of the city. The father of this family, a man of great mechanical genius, accumulated considerable property and established for himself a well-earned reputation as a skilful machinist throughout the state. They were aroused one night by the noise which usually precedes the near approach of a shell, which was seen by a member of the family to fall within a few feet of the house, who, occupying the third story of the building, attempted to escape below with his wife; but before either could escape from the room, a second report was heard, followed almost immediately by the appearance of a shell entering the roof above them, crashing through the ceilings, which, in covering the latter with is débris , preserved her life, the fragments scattering, one of the pieces falling into the float room beneath, only disfiguring a bedstead, but not injuring its occupants, while another piece, more remorseless, taking another direction, entered the back room, burying itself in the side of an interesting boy of twelve years, the little grandson of the old gentleman. The child, startled from its sleep by the double shock of the explosion and terrible wound, rushed from the room, exclaiming, in his agony, "Mother! mother! I am killed!" It was eleven days of the most excruciating

agony before the angel of death relieved little Weston McKenlay. Never did Christianity and true womanhood beam more beauteously than at the moment when the mother of that child, relating the wild confusion of that night, laying aside her own personal sorrow, said, "It was God's will that the deliverance of the South should coat files all something." Major Delany, in speaking of this class of Charlestonians, as well as the colored people generally, says, "Their courtesy and natural kindness I have never seen equalled, while instance of their humanity to the Union prisoners at the risk of their own lives, speak in trumpet tones to their credit, of which the country is already cognizant." On Tuesday after his arrival, an immense gathering greeted him at Zion's Church, the largest in the city, indescribable in enthusiasm and numbers. In the church were supposed to be upwards of three thousand, while the yard and street leading to the church were densely packed.

The resolutions passed on this memorable occasion by them we present here, embodying a testimony of their gratitude for their signal deliverance from a conflagration which threatened to involve there in a general desolation, and of their patriotism, setting aside forever the error that the sympathies of the free colored citizens were enlisted on the aide of their enemies, and not that of the Union, for many they were who participated in this meeting. We reproduce it also as expressive of the sentiments gushing from the hearts of a people for the erst time in their history holdup a political meeting on the soil of Carolina, with open doors with none to condemn it as "an unlawful assemblage," amenable to law for the act.


Brevet Major General Saxton, and other distinguished office were present, and freely took part in the proceedings. Here Major Delany, for the first time, introduced the subject foremost in his mind, that of raising an argue d'Afrique, which subject met the enthusiastic approval of his auditors, and the movement for its organization soon became popular.

The eventful 14th of April, which was so eagerly awaited, came, and the earliest became of the morning found the "City of the Sea" alive with preparations for the brilliant scene at Sumter, unconscious of its few full tragic close at Washington. The city was almost deserted during the ceremony in the harbor, for all were anxious to witness the flag in its accustomed place, with its higher, truer symbol, placed there by the same hands which were once compelled to lower it to a jubilant but now conquered foe, maddened prior to their destruction. As the old silken bunting winged itself to its long-deserted state thousands of shouts, and prayers fervent and deep, accompanying, greeted its reappearance.

Major Delany embarked to witness the ceremony on the historical steamer Planter, with its gallant coriander, Robert Small, whose deeds will live in song and story, whose unparalleled feat and heroic courage in the harbor of Charleston, under the bristling guns of rebel batteries, bearing comparison with the proudest record of our war, will remain, commemorative of negro strategy and valor.

On the quarter-deck of the steamer the major retained an interested witness. Beside him stood one, whose father, believing and loving the doctrine that all

men were born free and equal, and within sight of the emblem of freedom as it floated from the battlements of Sumter, dared to aim a blow by which to free his race. Betrayed before his plans were matured, the scaffold gave to Denmark Vesey and his twenty-two slave-hero compatriots in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1822, the like answer which Charlestown, Virginia, gave John Brown in 1859.

Virginia was free, and black soldier were now quartered in the citadel of Charleston, and garrisoned Fort Sumter. The martyred reformers had not died in vain.

The excitement attending the scene continued during the week, occasioned by the presence of the distinguished company who came to participate in the restoration of the Bag at Fort Sumter. There were seen the veterans of the anti-slavery cause, the inspired and dauntless apostle of liberty, William Lloyd Ganieon, the time-honored Joshua Leavitt, the eloquent George Thompson of England; then the glorious young editor of the Independent, the able and accomplished orator of the day, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Judge Kellogg, and others, all anxious to tell the truths of freedom to there hungry souls. The colored schools paraded the streets to honor these visitors, flanked by thousands of adults, marshalled by their, superintendent and assistants, and led by stirring bands discoursing martial music, the citadel square densely crowded, and the great Zion's Church packed to overflowing. There were speakers on the stands erected on the square -- speakers at the church. There were shouts for liberty had for the Union, shouts for their great liberator, shouts for the army, rousing cheers for the speakers, for their

loved General Saxton, and for the "black major;" the people swayed to and for like a rolling sea.

On Saturday morning, when the visitors left, an immense concourse followed to the wharf; the steamer seemed loaded with moral gifts, the graceful ovation of the colored people to their friends. Cheer her cheer resounded for a parting word from them. They were answered by Messrs. Thompson and Tilton; at last came forth the immortal Garrison in answer to an irresistible call.

Major Delany, describing this parting scene at the dock, says, "The mind was forcibly carried back to the days of the young and ardent advocate of emancipation, incarcerated in a Baltimore prison, peering through the gates and bars, hurling defiance at his cowardly opponents, exclaiming, 'No difficulty, no dangers, shall deter me: at the East or at the West, at the North or at the South, wherever Providence may call me, my voice shall be heard in behalf of the perishing slave, and against the claims of his oppressors.' Again did the mind revert to him in after years, as a man of high integrity in the city of Boston, led as a beast to the slaughter, with the lyncher's rope around his neck, only escaping death by imprisonment. When exhausted, he fell to the floor, exclaiming, 'Never was man so glad to get into prison before! And in this his last speech he was more sublime than ever. There he stood in the harbor of Charleston, surrounded by the emancipated slave, giving his last anti-slavery advice:--

"And now, my friends, I bid you farewell. I have always advocated non-resistance; but this much I say

to you, Come what will never do you submit again to slavery I Do anything; die first But Don't submit again to them--ever again be slaves . farewell.

``When the steamer gracefully glided from the pier, the music struck up in stirring strains, shouts rent the air, and the masses, after gazing with tearful eyes, commenced slowly retracing their steps homeward. Never can I forget the scenes transpiring in this eventful week of my arrival at Charleston, nor on different similar occasions during my official station there."

At meeting of the colored citizens of Charleston, South Carolina, held at Zion Presbyterian Church, March 20, 1865, the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted:--

Whereas itis fitting that an expression should be given to the sentiments of deep-seated gratitude that pervade our breasted, be it.

Resolved, 1. That by the timely arrival of the army of the United States in the city of Charleston, on the 18th of February, 1865, our city was saved from a vast conflagration, our house from devastation, and our person from those indignities that they would have been subjected to.

Resolved, 2. That our thanks are due, and are hereby freely tendered, to the district commander, brigadier General Hatch, and through him to the officers and soldiers under his command, for the protection that they have so readily and so impartially bestowed since their occupation of this city.

Resolved, 3. That to Admiral Dahlgren, United States Navy, we do hereby return our most sincere thankers for the noble manner in which he cared for and administered to the wants of our people but Georgetown, South Carolina; and be he assured that the same shall ever be held in grateful remembrance by us.

Resolved, 4. That to his Excellency, the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, we return our most sincere

thanks and never-dying gratitude for the noble and patriotic manner in which he promulgated the doctrines of republicanism, and for his consistency in not only promising, but invariably conforming his actions thereto; and we shall ever be pleased to acknowledge and hail him as the champion of the rights of freemen.

Resolved, 5. That a copy of these resolutions be transmitted to Brigadier General Hatch, Admiral Dahlgren, and his Excellency, the President of the United States and that they be published in the Charleston Courier.

Moses B. Camplin , Chairman

Robert C. De Large. Secretary .

The following we quote from him as descriptive of his impressions on his arrival at Charleston:--

"I entered the city, which, from earliest childhood and through life, I had learned to contemplate with feelings of the utmost abhorrence--place of the most insufferable assumption and cruelty to the blacks; where the sound of the lash at the whipping-post, and the hammer of the auctioneer, were coordinate sounds in thrilling harmony; that place which had ever been closed against liberty by an arrogantly assumptuous despotism, such as well might have vied with the infamous King of Dahomey; the place from which had been expelled the envoy of Massachusetts, for daring to present the claims of the commonwealth in behalf of her free citizens, and into which, but a few a few days before, had proudly entered in triumph the gallant Schemmelfening, leading with wild shouts the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth Regiment, composed of some of the best blood and finest youths of the colored citizens of the Union. For a moment I paused,-- then, impelled by the impulse of my mission, I found myself

dashing on in unmeasured strides through the city; as if under a forceps march to attack the already crushers and fallen enemy. Again I halted to look upon the shattered walls of the once stately but now deserted edifices of the proud and supercilious occupants. doomed city it appeared to be, with few, or none but soldier and the colored inhabitants. The haughty Carelinians, who believed their state an empire, this city incomparable, and themselves invincible, had fled in dismay and consternation at the approach of their conquerors, leaving the metropolis to its fate. And butfor the vigilance and fidelity of the colored firemen, and other colored inhabitants, there would have been nothing left but a smouldering plain of ruins in the place where Charleston once stood, from the firebrands in the handed of the lying whites. Reaching the upper district, in the neighborhood of the citadel, I imagined at the private residence of one of the most respectable colored citizens (grey before the war), until quarters suitable could be secured. Whatever impressions may have previously been entertained concerning the free colored people of Charleston, their manifestation from my advent till my departure, gave evidence of their pride in identity and appreciation of race that equal in extent the proudest Caucasian."

Many were the scenes of interest there related, on the entry of the troops into Charleston, some of a most thrilling character. It was a memorable day to the enslaved. An incident is related -- that a soldier, mounted on a mule, dashed up Meeting Street, at the head of the advancing column, bearing in his hand, as

he rode, a white flag, upon which was inscribed, in large black letters, LIBERTY! and loudly proclaiming it as he went. An old woman, who the night before had lain down a slave, and even on that morning was uncertain of her master's movements, whether or not she should be carried into the interior of the state, as had been proposed with the evacuation, now heard the shouts of people and the cry of liberty reechoed by hundreds of voice. In the deep gratitude of her heart to God, she was seen to rush with outstretched arms, as if to clasp this herald of freedom. The soldier being in the saddle, and consequently beyond her reach, unconsciously she hugged the mule around the neck, shouting, "Thank God l thank God I" So fraught with deep emotion were the bystanders at this scene, that it drew tears from the eyes of many, instead of creating merriment, as it would have done under different circumstances.

A lady, in rehearsing to another this scene and other of that day, said, "O, had you been here, you would have felt like embracing something yourself, had it been but to grasp a flag-staff, or touch the drapery of the Boating colors."


  --  IN THE FIELD.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XXIII.