The US Civil War Lewis Henry Douglass Letter, May 1863

‘Think of me as aiding in the glorious work of bursting loose those chains which keeps the husbands, wives, children, lovers and friends, of millions asunder’
Lewis Henry Douglass

Having enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment of the Union army, Lewis Henry Douglass (1840-1908) went to war leaving behind the love of his life, Helen Amelia Loguen (1843-1936), a free woman and a social justice campaigner, radical educator, and activist in her own right. Lewis Henry’s letter, addressed to 'My Own Dear Amelia' expresses his love for her and his death-defying commitment to the war and to the abolitionist cause. The letter sheds powerful light on why Black men fought: to end slavery and to usher in a new ‘dawn of freedom’ of equal rights for all.


Camp Meigs Readville May 20, 1863

My Own Dear Amelia, I have not had a word from you for more than a week, but I cannot complain when I remember my own shortcomings, and when I do remember them I reproach myself, and can only wish it had not been so. Mother and Rosetta are now stopping in Boston at Mrs. De Mortie’s they see us every day, we are soon to leave a week longer we may stay, then we go to the south where I know not exactly Who will return? Selfishness I have always tried to avoid, but I hope I may return, and love the one who so clearly loves me, one whose love all the treasures of the south cannot purchase from me, the love of your own dear self. Charley is sick in the hospital, I trust nothing serious he has a severe cold, he is however somewhat better than he has been.

My dear girl while I am away, do not fret yourself to death, oh! I beg of you, do not. Remember that if I fall that it is in the cause of humanity, that I am striking a blow for the welfare of the most abused and despised race on the face of the earth, that in the solution of this strife rests the question of our elevation, or our degradation, our happiness or our misery. Would you wish me absent from such a strife? I know that your love of me wishes that it were not necessary that I should go but I trust that your love of the happiness of your race and my race, reconciles you to our separation which may be forever!

Think of me often you will, but do not let your thoughts be worrying, do not think of me in pain, do not think of me enduring hardships, do not think of me grappling with that non-respecter of persons Death! But Think of me as aiding in the glorious work of bursting loose those chains which keeps the husbands, wives, children, lovers and friends, of millions asunder, as aiding to the overthrow a system, the cruelty, tyranny and crime of which degrades millions of human beings to a level scarcely on a footing with the brutes. Think of the joy, the inexpressible joy to those millions, freed from such a foul system, and then think that I threw in my mite to bring about that joy, that happiness, then rejoice yourself that you encouraged one you held dear to help bring about this bliss. My dear girl I am sorry I did not bring your photograph with me, I shall send you mine as I am now, a soldier, which you will keep, I trust you may never be ashamed of it. Loved one Good night, I will not say Good Bye. Give my love to your mother and Father and all

Ever your own