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    On Picket,
    Camp of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers
    April 24th, 1863.

    Dear Doctor.

    I have waited, before I
    wrote you, until I had become fully con-
    versant with the facts of which you
    wished me to write you, and can now
    speak from my own observation and experience,
    as well as the concurrent testimony of the
    clearest heads here, for I find that those
    who have thought into the heart of the
    question, are apt to think precisely alike.

    I am sorry I cannot give you
    a better report of the condition of things
    here - there is a terrible amount of routine
    in this department, with the spirit left out.
    Some of the white regiments are demoralized
    beyond the extent which I supposed any in
    the service were - I found the men, in the
    three regiments I have seen the most of, at
    Beaufort, and in going down, and returning from
    Jacksonville, Florida, profoundly discouraged

    and utterly disgusted with their officers,
    who treat them as arrogantly as if they
    were a different race of men, and who
    mostly neglect all the duties they can, and
    spend their time, loafing, and drinking -
    In these regiments at least, the virus of
    West Point has done its work.

    The management of the Black troops
    is being conducted in a half-way spirit
    and the experiment is being muddled-

    for instance - only yesterday, I saw two men
    released from arrest in this regiment,
    when confined for deserting the third or
    fourth time, and excused from the pending
    court-martial, the loss of a few months pay
    being substituted - the effect of such management
    on the discipline and spirit of the men, is
    terrible, and comes out in many forms - looseness
    in obedience of officers, nervousness before the
    enemy in firing before they come in proper
    range, increased desertion, &c - I give this merely
    as an instance of the spirit in which things
    are conducted, of which I have seen many

    There is no seeking yet for earnest Anti-
    Slavery men to officer the black regiments.
    Those in command have not yet found out
    that it takes longer to turn a competent
    officer into a thorough Anti-Slavery man,
    than a thorough Anti-Slavery man into a
    competent officer - for there must be free
    spirit put into these blacks to make them
    really effective troops.

    There would, at present, be no chance
    of your obtaining a position at all worthy
    of you, and perhaps none at all.
    If you ever did come, you would find
    letters of recommendation from Governor Andrew,
    Wendell Phillips, &c of great use to you.

    I can see or hear of nothing here
    which it would be particularly useful for
    you to do     , which needs and can be done.
    Everything is systematized and formalized, but
    not yet spirit-ized.

    I am afraid I should discourage you,
    if I were to tell you all the unfavorable
    things I know of this regiment.

    The 2d Regiment S.C.V.'s, is being made
    up of drafted men, except two fine companies
    from Key West, Florida, all the able-bodied
    men there having volunteered splendidly, many
    of them having exchanged $2 or $3. a day for $13 a month,
    and in spite of being subjected to even worse
    abuse than the negroes of these Sea Islands.

    The conscription embraces all the able-
    bodied men on these plantations, &c, and they
    come very reluctantly, much more than nine
    tenths shamming sick or pretending to be disabled
    which many of them stick to, even after they are
    mustered into the regiment. Most of them, according
    to the stories they tell, have been run over by a cart,
    and one fellow declared he had been run over by
    a steamboat!

    Those left on the plantations, the old men,
    disabled men, or those who have procured surgeon's
    certificates of exemption as such, and the women, earn
    twenty-five cents a day, and have land & time to raise
    their own food-supplies, working for the Government, under Super-

    The labor system is a poor one and ill-conducted.
    The negroes know much more about farming than those set
    over them, many of whom scarce ever saw a farm.

    Government now owns most of the lands, having
    sold some of them a short time ago to speculators,
    who are of a better and more Anti-Slavery class
    than could be expected, or would be the case if
    the lands of the South were to be sold in a like manner.

    The most important measure I see to be
    done at the North at present, is to circulate
    the idea, so as to force Congress to early adopt
    it, of giving to every negro, when he enters
    the army
    , either as volunteer or conscript, fifty
    acres of cleared land
    , if possible on the
    plantation from which he comes, on which his
    family can be placed at once.

    This would make them self-sustaining
    and furnish the men a motive to fight hard,
    and the rest a motive to labor hard,
    & releive the men of any anxiety about their
    families, by making their interest and the
    interest of their families, coincide with the
    interest of the government and the country.

    If this is not done, these people will
    fall into the condition of a degraded peasantry
    (I speak of the South in general, in case we
    conquer it), who will be ground down by
    speculators, as no peasantry in Europe is -
    I think they have as much to fear from the
    Avarice of the North, as of the South, for the
    position and opportunity to accumulate rapid
    fortunes, would be apt to     proove too

    much and corrupt good men, and of
    course bring the worst out of bad men.

    Yankee shrewdness will grind this
    poor people to powder, if they have not
    land enough to stand upon - then, it
    will help them as much as it would
    otherwise hurt.

    One of the main reasons of reluctance
    these men have in going into the army,
    besides the discouragement produced by abuse,
    and those things which are discourageing to
    us, (besides cowardice, for these negroes are
    the lowest of the whole country, having almost
    a seperate dialect, which in some, we and
    even the Florida blacks could not understand),
    is their unwillingness to leave their families.

    The whole thing here is muddled -
    It had already served its purpose, in prooving
    and convincing the North that negroes will
    work without the lash.

    I find many of the officers and black
    soldiers, all whom I have spoken with about
    it, agree with me, that men taken fresh from
    Slavery, and taught that they must earn

    their own liberty with arms in their hands,
    would in a very few weeks, make for better
    soldiers than these of     more than
    half a year's drilling - yet these could be
    made of good use, if the right system
    were severely adopted.

    I know these things look fairer on
    paper as they reach you through the press
    at the North - take the Expedition to
    Jacksonville for instance - the truth is,
    it was a contemptible fizzle - they were
    sent there to raise black troops - the net
    results of three weeks time and great
    expense, were fifteen prisoners, some plunder,
    half a dozen killed and wounded on each
    side, much powder wasted, and fifteen
    recruits, between the two regiments, when
    in a third of the time, by a little vigor
    they could have had a thousand - I
    speak from thorough knowledge of the
    ground, verrified by a number of men
    from the spot, 50 to 100 miles from
    Jacksonville - in fact Montgomery
    wanted to do just what I had seen

    ought to be done.

    Jacksonville, which we left three
    weeks ago, was not more than a tenth
    part burned, though I presume you
    heard it was burned up.

    I sat on the deck of the steamer
    enjoying the magnificent beauty of the
    fire-king's short reign, with much pleasure
    A week previously, I had the satisfaction
    of burning with my own hand, by permission
    of the officers, half a dozen houses, when
    the town was being reduced to a convenient
    size for holding - It was a new feeling, to
    be burning Southern houses under Government
    authority, by a John Brown man & go unhung.

    I have submitted plans of special
    operations to those in authority, being warmly
    recommended, by some of the highest & they are
    under consideration.

    I am not yet in a regiment, though
    I was acting as officer a few days at Jacksonville.

    I find a bitter, crushing opposition to me
    from those I had the best right to expect would
    be my friends, which has thus far kept me out.

    But for it, it was already settled I should have
    a position far higher than what I asked for, and
    they boast of having kept me from getting even a Lieutenant's
    place. I have had to hunt down slanders - one that
    I deserted, and threatened to betray John Brown.

    [In left margin ] I am sorry to say that this originated with C.P. Tidd, who thought it convenient to charge upon me,
    what he had been guilty of, and so shelter himself from suspicion, though we all kept it sacredly secret,

    though it did not amount to more
    than fractiousness and disobedience.
    I was stupefied when I heard it came from

    I have stuck and hung thus far,
    and have not given up yet -
    I speak of the work, not the place,
    for Gen. Ullman offered me a commission,
    in a black regiment, which I declined,
    knowing I could be of more use in
    this region than his.

    I have found some who take hold
    of the matter almost as warmly as I do.

    The negroes are none too liberty-loving,
    & they need to have all the available
    Anti-Slavery of the North brought
    down and poured into them -

    I find some splendid, manly fellows
    among them, and in general, they will
    be very good material, with which can
    be produced the highest results, if used
    in just the right manner, and very
    poor material, if used in a poor manner.

    I should hardly dare to tell you all I know unfavorable
    about this regiment, and it is so unfortunate, for so much
    depends upon this experiment - Col. Montgomery is open in his expression
    of contempt of Col. Higinson as a military man, & he blundered sadly at Jacksonville.

    Present my regards to your wife.

    I should be glad to hear from you.
    My Address is, Beaufort, South Carolina.
    Let my writing on my knee in a tent,
    excuse the poor writing.

    You might find it a pleasant
    pleasure-trip to come down here, but
    not as much so as I thought in Boston.

    Perhaps the country pales beside my
    Hayti recollections - still, it is semi-
    tropical, though sandy.

    All this region is level and the soil
    is very loamy for sand, and very sandy
    for loam, though very productive when cultivated.

    Things are in a transition state here now.
    For the general war news of this department,
    you are probably better posted through the
    papers than I.

    The expedition has sailed again for
    Charleston, this time to take it, if possible.
    I think highly of Gen. Hunter.

    I must bring my long letter to a close.
    Very Truly,
    Yours, Francis J. Meriam.