“Fighting Rebels with Only One Hand”

August 26, 1861/2011
Volume 2, Issue 36 (46 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

Vermont Recruits!

August 19, 1861. Countless recruiting posters nationwide encouraged men to enlist. They relied on, among other things, local pride, camaraderie, patriotism, national need, and, pride in one’s skill as a marksman.

Windham County, Vermont recruiting poster, August 19, 1861. Courtesy Vermont Historical Society

Windham County, Vermont recruiting poster, August 19, 1861. Courtesy Vermont Historical Society

Lincoln Fond of Kittens

August 31, 1861. Seward, who had given Lincoln some kittens, saw him playing with them in a hallway in the White House, and noted on this day that, “Mr. L seems quite fond of them. Says they climb all over him.”

Philip Kunhardt, Lincoln, An Illustrated Biography, pp. 157, 156

“Fighting Rebels with Only One Hand”
by Frederick Douglass from Douglass’s Monthly

September 1861. What on earth is the matter with the American Government and people? Do they really covet the world’s ridicule as well as their own social and political ruin? . . . They are sorely pressed on every hand by a vast army of slaveholding rebels, flushed with success, and infuriated by the darkest inspirations of a deadly hate, bound to rule or ruin. Washington, the seat of Government, after

Frederick Douglass, c. 1850-1860, Library of Congress

Frederick Douglass, c. 1850-1860, Library of Congress

ten thousand assurances to the contrary, is now positively in danger of falling before the rebel army. Maryland, a little while ago considered safe for the Union, is now admitted to be studded with the materials for insurrection, and which may flame forth at any moment. . . . Yet . . . [o]ur Presidents, Governors, Generals and Secretaries are calling, with almost frantic vehemance, for men. –“Men! men! send us men!” they scream, or the cause of the Union is gone . . . [A]nd yet these very officers, representing the people and Government, steadily and persistently refuse to receive the very class of men which have a deeper interest in the defeat and humiliation of the rebels, than all others. . . What a spectacle of blind, unreasoning prejudice and pusillanimity is this! The national edifice is on fire. Every man who can carry a bucket of water, or remove a brick, is wanted; but those who have the care of the building, having a profound respect for the feeling of the national burglars who set the building on fire, are determined that the flames shall only be extinguished by Indo-Caucasian hands, and to have the building burnt rather than save it by means of any other. Such is the pride, the stupid prejudice and folly that rules the hour.

Why does the Government reject the Negro? Is he not a man? Can he not wield a sword, fire a gun, march and countermarch, and obey orders like any other? . . .

If persons so humble as we can be allowed to speak to the President of the United States, we should ask him if this dark and terrible hour of the nation’s extremity is a time for consulting a mere vulgar and unnatural prejudice? . . . We would tell him that General Jackson in a slave state fought side by side with Negroes at New Orleans, and . . . he bore testimony to their bravery at the close of the war. We would tell him that colored men in Rhode Island and Connecticut performed their full share in the war of the Revolution. . . . We would tell him that this is no time to fight with one hand, when both are needed; that this is no time to fight only with your white hand, and allow your black hand to remain tied. . . .

[W]hile the Government continues to refuse the aid of colored men, thus alienating them from the national cause, and giving the rebels the advantage of them, it will not deserve better fortunes than it has thus far experienced.–Men in earnest don’t fight with one hand, when they might fight with two, and a man drowning would not refuse to be saved even by a colored hand.


Frederick Douglass Speeches

The Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress

More about Frederick Douglass – Wikipedia

Frederick Douglass on PBS.org

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Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1861

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