Appendix C. General Saxton’s Instructions.

From: Army Life in a Black Regiment (1882)
Author: Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Published: Lee and Shepard 1882 Boston


  [THE following are the instructions under which my regiment was raised. It will be seen how unequivocal were the provisions in respect to pay, upon which so long and weary a contest was waged by our friends in Congress, before the fulfilment of the contract could be secured.]

August 25, 1862.

  GENERAL,—Your dispatch of the 16th has this moment been received. It is considered by the Department that the instructions given at the time of your appointment were sufficient to enable you to do what you have now requested authority for doing. But in order to place your authority beyond all doubt, you are hereby authorized and instructed,—

  1st, To organize in any convenient organization, by squads, companies, battalions, regiments, and brigades, or otherwise, colored persons of African descent for volunteer laborers, to a number not exceeding fifty thousand, and muster them into the service of the United States for the term of the war, at a rate of compensation not exceeding five dollars per month for common laborers, and eight dollars per month for mechanical or skilled laborers, and assign them to the Quartermaster’s Department, to do and perform such laborer’s duty as may be required during the present war, and to be subject to the rules and articles of war.

  2d. The laboring forces herein authorized shall, under the order of the General-in-Chief, or of this Department, be detailed by the Quartermaster-General for laboring service with the armies of the United States; and they shall be clothed and subsisted, after enrolment, in the same manner as other persons in the Quartermaster’s service.

  3d. In view of the small force under your command, and the inability of the government at the present time to increase it, in order to guard the plantations and settlements occupied by the United States from invasion, and protect the inhabitants thereof from captivity and murder by the enemy, you are also authorized to arm, uniform, equip, and receive into the service of the United States, such number of volunteers of African descent as you may deem expedient, not exceeding five thousand, and may detail officers to instruct them in military drill, discipline, and duty, and to command them. The persons so received into service, and their officers, to be entitled to, and receive, the same pay and rations as are allowed, by law, to volunteers in the service.

  4th. You will occupy, if possible, all the islands and plantations heretofore occupied by the government, and secure and harvest the crops, and cultivate and improve the plantations.

  5th. The population of African descent that cultivate the lands and perform the labor of the rebels constitute a large share of their military strength, and enable the white masters to fill the rebel armies, and wage a cruel and murderous war against the people of the Northern States. By reducing the laboring strength of the rebels, their military power will be reduced. You are therefore authorized by every means in your power, to withdraw from the enemy their laboring force and population, and to spare no effort, consistent with civilized warfare, to weaken, harass, and annoy them, and to establish the authority of the Government of the United States within your Department.

  6th. You may turn over to the navy any number of colored volunteers that may be required for the naval service.

  7th. By recent act of Congress, all men and boys received into the service of the United States, who may have been the slaves of rebel masters, are, with their wives, mothers, and children, declared to be forever free. You and all in your command will so treat and regard them.

Yours truly,
Secretary of War.


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