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Shields Green and Copeland, who followed noble John Brown, and fell as
glorious martyrs for the cause of the slave. Remember that in a contest with
oppression, the Almighty has no attribute which can take sides with oppressors.
The case is before you. This is our golden opportunity. Let us accept it,
and forever wipe out the dark reproaches unsparingly hurled against us by
our enemies. Let us win for ourselves the gratitude of our country, and the
best blessings of our posterity through all time. The nucleus of this first regiment
is now in camp at Readville, a short distance from Boston. I will undertake
to forward to Boston all persons adjudged fit to be mustered into the
regiment, who shall apply to me at any time within the next two weeks.

"ROCHESTER, March 2, 1863."

Immediately after authority had been given by President Lincoln to
Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts to raise and equip two regiments
of colored men for the war. I received a letter from George L. Stearns
of Boston, a noble worker for freedom in Kansas, and a warm friend of John
Brown, earnestly entreating me to assist in raising the required number of
men. It was presumed that by my labors in the anti-slavery cause, I had
gamed some influence with the colored men of the country, and that they
would listen to me in this emergency; which supposition, I am happy to say,
was supported by the results. There were fewer colored people in
Massachusetts then than now, and it was necessary in order to make up the
full quota of these regiments, to recruit for them in other northern States. The
nominal conditions upon which colored men were asked to enlist, were not
satisfactory to me or them; but assurances from Governor Andrew that they
would in the end be made just and equal, together with my faith in the logic
of events, and my conviction that the wise thing to do was for the colored
man to get into the army by any door open to him, no matter how narrow,
made me accept with alacrity the work to which I was invited. The raising
of these two regiments — the 54th and 55th — and their splendid behavior in
South and North Carolina were the beginnings of great things for the colored
people of the whole country; and not the least satisfaction I now have in
contemplating my humble part in raising them, is the fact that my two sons,
Charles and Lewis, were the first two in the State of New York to enlist in
them. The 54th was not long in the field before it proved itself gallant and
strong, worthy to rank with the most courageous of its white companions in
arms. Its assault upon Fort Wagner, in which it was so fearfully cut to pieces,
and lost nearly half its officers, including its beloved and trusted commander,
Col. Shaw, at once gave it a name and a fame throughout the country. In that

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