Journal of an Expedition against Charleston
John Henry Westervelt, “Journal of an Expedition against Charleston,” Diary of a Yankee Engineer: the Civil War Story of John H. Westervelt, Engineer, 1st New York Volunteer Engineer Corps, North’s Civil War, edited by Anita Palladino (New York: Fordham University Press, 1997), 43-45.
I cannot pass further by without again referring to our colored troops. I mean those enlisted at the north. As I said before they are much more intelligent and require different treatment from those of the south. The prejudice of the white soldier is gradually wearing away as their usefulness can no longer by denied. Now I am far from being what is termed a nigger worshiper, but still I cannot help but notice that they are an ill used race, ill used by those whose duty it is to look after their interest and see them get what Uncle Sam intends to provide for all alike both white and black. I believe none of them have been paid yet by government as they refuse to receive less than 13 dols per month the same as white infantry. There is some dispute about this matter, the paymasters claiming that government enlisted them for 11 dols per month which they deny. I cannot undertake to say how it is but I cannot see why they should not receive the same pay as the white soldier. They certainly do more fatigue duty, and I believe there is no longer any question about their being good fighters. They are put at the hardest as well as the meanest kinds of work. I have seen them policing (cleaning up filth and rubbish) white regiments camps. If a spirited white soldier were to do this except as a punishment for some offence I think he would die first.
From my own observations and what some of them tell me, they do not get the same allowance of rations. We have numbers of them to do the labouring work at the depot and it is a common thing to see them waiting around our cookhouse to get what bean or pea soup we leave. It is allowed in plentifull quantities by government and goes begging with us, by they receive it with eagerness and swallow it with voracity. Bread is served them only once a week they tell me. When they first came out they were willing and took pride in doing as much as they could and doing it well, but although they are far superiour to the southern blacks (whom I hate) yet their unrewarded exertions are discouraging and demoralizing them as fast as possible. They object strongly to working under white infantry, considering themselves as equals but say they are willing and like to work under Engineers as they should as mechanics be over them. But I suppose I have said enough on the subject, if I say more you will accuse me of being an abolitionist. That is not the case but my love of the rights of man, whether black or white has induced me to extend my sermon to this perhaps inexcusable length. Justice should be though the heavens should fall.
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