Alongside the North’s notorious bounty system for attracting recruits and substitutes to its armies, was Lincoln’s authorization to count Southern black men toward his State troop quotas. The latter allowed Northern men a way to avoid military service and Northern governors a means to avoid being voted out of office. State agents seeking recruits immediately swarmed into Northern-occupied areas of the South beat others to the new source of manpower with which to subjugate the South. One Northern general who held little regard for black people was Sherman, whose adversaries in the North charged him with “an almost criminal dislike of colored people and with frustrating the Negroes cruelly in their attempts to follow the army from the interior.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Recruiting Lincoln’s Sable Arm
“The abuse of the freedmen that had always occurred whenever new troops came into the [Sea] island district was vigorously reenacted [when Sherman’s western troops arrived]. Some soldiers cheated the Negroes by selling them horses they did not own, and others behaved “like barbarians, shooting pigs, chickens and destroying other property.”
The brotherhood of the Western army stopped abruptly . . . at the color line. “Sherman and his men, explained Arthur Sumner to a Northern friend, “are impatient of darkies, and annoyed to see them so pampered, petted, and spoiled, as they have been here.”
Sherman was thought “foolish in his political opinions” by a [Northern] teacher who resented his crusty remark that “Massachusetts and South Carolina had brought on the war, and that he should like to see them cut off from the rest of the continent, and hauled out to sea together.”
On January 12, 1864, [Secretary of War Edwin M.] Stanton . . . met twenty Negro leaders at Sherman’s headquarters [in Savanna] and asked their opinion on a dozen problems involving their welfare. They advised Stanton that the State recruiters should be promptly withdrawn from the district, sagely pointing out that Negro soldiers recruited in this system merely served to replace Northern white men who would otherwise be drafted to fill State quotas.
They said they well knew, that their ministers could do a better job of persuading young men to enlist than could mercenary bounty agents.
Coming up to Beaufort on a steamer with Stanton, [General Rufus Saxton] asked most particularly whether the freedmen would be maintained in possession [of property], and the Secretary had most heartily reassured him.
On December 30, 1864, he had written a bitter letter to Stanton, reviewing the long series of frustrations he had endured in his Sea Island work. Over and over he had been the unwitting agent of the erection of false hopes among the freedmen.
In the matter of recruiting he had assured the people that no man would be taken against his will, but he had been undone by General [David] Hunter in the first place, by General Quincy Gillmore in the second place, and at last by General John G. Foster, who in 1864 resumed wholesale recruiting “of every able-bodied [black] male in the department.”
The atrocious impressment of boys of fourteen and responsible men with large dependent families, and the shooting down of Negroes who resisted, were all common occurrences.
The Negroes who were enlisted were promised the same pay as other soldiers. They had received it for a time, “but at length it was reduced, and they received but little more than one-half what was promised.”
(Rehearsal for Reconstruction, the Port Royal Experiment, Willie Lee Rose, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1964, excerpts pp. 322-329)