‘It dont seem to you that are home true that this can be but upon honor it is the truth and to day there are men dying out to camp’
Charles Remond Douglass (1844-1920) enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts regiment only to later join the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry when he became a First Sergeant. In his letters he told his father, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), of his own and his men’s exposure to white racist abuses and proved he was his father’s son by refusing to surrender to all physical threats. Throughout his military career, he courageously faced down his white racist tormentors and protested against all forms of abuse and intimidation.
Boston Sept. 8th 1863
I have just received your letter of Aug 28th with five dollars enclosed which I am very thankful for as I was in want of it very much. I have never brought any disgrace upon the family and I never mean to I have never stolen from any body a chicken or any thing else no one can bring any such thing up against me I have said that I would take a chicken or any thing else to eat when I was hungry but I have not done so I wrote that there had been chickens stolen by the boys in camp but as I have had to take change of the camp I have never left it without permission and I have the praise to day or Gen. Peirce of keeping things up neat and orderly about the camp when all were sick except myself I worked hard to supply all the wants of the sick as I was the only one able to do duty some nights I was up all night and stood over those that died and laid them out wrote to their friends and in fact done most all that was to do except doctor them and I felt after a while to get sick myself I could not drink coffee sweetened with molasses and of course I had to eat dry bread alone for we only got meat once a week and that was used to make soup for the sick we could say nothing to nobody against it I was the only one on the ground that could get a chance to speak the rest being sick I feel away like a skeleton. I spoke to the doctor about it he could not account for it nor did he care he had plenty, they would tell us that hospital rations were small and that we could not draw full rations that is a funny way to starve a lot of men in a State where there was is plenty We were used mean and when I wrote home I said anything that came in my head. It dont seem to you that are home true that this can be but upon honor it is the truth and to day there are men dying out to camp I was out last night for the first time in a week and the boys said that there had been no doctor there all that day and there is one man then that will ‘die’ and others that are very sick I am going ‘to complain’ about it to day. We were treated like men when the Regt. was here but now they are treated worse than dogs I am treated better now that I am in the city and Lieut. Wulff is a man every inch of him he is a Sweede [sic] by birth but he is my friend he has done all he could to have the men satisfied but there are higher officers than him the fault lies in the Quarter master it is for the benefit of his pocket that we dont have our rations. Lieut. Wulff to day is a going to establish a new camp new tents and every thing for the fifty fourth men that we are recruiting and he will have charge of everything commissary department and all and then our men will have what is right. I am well and in the office I stay in Boston altogether. I saw a discharged soldier yesterday from the fifty fourth and he told me that he saw Lewis the day he left and that Lewis had been sick (this the 17th of Aug) but that he was better again they have such poor water down there and a great many are sick from the effects of it. I have been told that the fifty fourth would get their full pay in a month it has been explained that the U.S Government would pay us ten dollars per month and Massachusetts will pay the other three and that we will get just what was promised us I hope that our boys wont except [sic] of any less than what they enlisted for. I can get my full pay next month right here when any of my acquaintances meet me in the street they say why how thin you are I once could say that it was from sickness but this time it was from something else. give my love to all at home and don't think hard of me because of what I said a person will do most anything before they will starve and will say anything I did not starve but I felt myself falling away more and more and one while I did expect to be laid up sick.
Your Aff. Son
Charles R Douglass
Please direct care Lieut Wulff Readville