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Civil War letter from Thomas Wentworth Higginson to his brother, Stephen
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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In 1862, Thomas Wentworth Higginson was chosen to lead the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first regiment of former slaves organized by the Union Army. Camp Saxton was in Beaufort, South Carolina, on the site where a large celebration was held on New Year's Day, 1863, in honor of the Emancipation Proclamation. After the Proclamation was read, the First South Carolina Volunteers [Colored] received their national and regimental colors [flags]. Higginson wrote, "Just think of it! - the first day they had ever had a country, the first flag they had seen which promised anything to their people." The regiment had been formed in August, 1862, when President Lincoln authorized General Rufus Saxton, military governor of the Department of the South, to recruit and train a regiment of former slaves. Higginson says in this letter, dated March 1, 1863, that the regiment is under marching orders and, in fact, they left Camp Saxton on March 6 for a march to Florida. The importance of news from home to soldiers on the front is evident in Higginson's comments about the newspapers. The soldiers not only wanted to see what was being reported, they often wrote letters home telling their loved ones not to believe everything they read.
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