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Letter of Members of All Companies, Third North Carolina Infantry, U.S.V. to Secretary of War, October 5, 1898

Title

Letter of Members of All Companies, Third North Carolina Infantry, U.S.V. to Secretary of War, October 5, 1898

Description

In April 1898 President William McKinley made a general call of volunteer soldiers to join the American Army in assisting the revolt against the Spanish in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. African Americans responded by joining all-black, volunteer regiments. North Carolina Governor Daniel L. Russell commissioned the editor of the Raleigh Gazette and former state representative James H. Young to command the Third North Carolina, an all-black, volunteer regiment. The regiment was first stationed at Fort Macon, North Carolina, before being transferred to Knoxville, Tennessee, in September 1898. The Third N.C. Regiment never deployed to Cuba, causing many African Americans to question their willingness to continue service in the army.

Creator

Members of All Companies, Third North Carolina Infantry, U.S.V.

Source

Letter of Members of All Companies, Third North Carolina Infantry, U.S.V. to Secretary of War, October 5, 1898 in "Smoked Yankees" and the Struggle for Empire: Letters from Negro Soldiers, 1898-1902, ed. Willard B. Gatewood, Jr. (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1971).

Date

1898-10-05

Type

Document

Original Format

Correspondence

Text

Secretary of War,
Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir:
We the undersigned many soldiers, heard that you had been instructed that we wanted to stay in service, as garrison duty, but, my dear sir, we are now pleading with mercy and deny any such report as there has been reported, and we feel that our superior officers has treated us wrong to hold us in service without we knowing anything about it.
We the undersigned did not join the service for garrison duty. we only sacrificed our lives and left our homes simply for the honor of our flag. . . as the War was going on at that time, but now the war is over and we do feel that we might be mustered out of service because we are getting letters from our families every day or two stating their suffering condition, and oh my-God, the way we are treated. We have to drill harder than any other regiment on the grounds and after drilling so hard we have to work so hard. We have to cut ditches, sink holes and fill up gullies, put in water pipes. We, the 3rd N.C. regiment soldiers, have not had but one pair of pants, one coat, two undershirts, one top shirt. We are in a bad fix. Our food is not fit to eat, and oh, my dear sir, we are bound up in a little place about 400 feet long, 3 feet wide. Just think of the confinement we are under because we volunteered freely to fight for our country.
We, the undersigned many soldiers, did not volunteer for garrison duty and we do not think that our honorable gov't will take advantage of willing and faithful men who came to the rescue of the flag, stars and stripes. We have a great deal more to tell you but we cannot express ourselves like it ought to be done.
Down at Fort Macon we was misled. The question was asked who wanted to stay in the service and go to the front if necessary [and] called upon them to raise hands, but the question never was asked if we wanted to do garrison duty. If they had of asked that question we never would of been in Knoxville today. Why, don't you know as a good thinking man that we don't want to have to leave our wives and families to go on garrison duty. Why, if so you would have had more applications in the white house than the mail box would have helt.
You know that these officers is getting a very good salary and they would go in three miles of hell after that dollar, but we who are brave men did not come for the sake of that $15.60, but we gloried in the flag and come to hold it up.
. . .So as we did not get a chance to do so we hope that you will consider the matter. Look it over, give us the judgement of justice and if you do we will go home to our families who are in a suffering condition, so we will not write any more.
We the undersigned await your earliest reply. . .

Members of all Companies,
Third N.C. Reiment

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Members of All Companies, Third North Carolina Infantry, U.S.V., Letter of Members of All Companies, Third North Carolina Infantry, U.S.V. to Secretary of War, October 5, 1898, Civil War Era NC, accessed October 17, 2017, https://cwnc.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/37.