“Cast off the Millstone” Frederick Douglass

September 23, 1861/2011
Volume 2, Issue 40 (50 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

 Ten Consecutive Shots in a Ten-Inch Ring Required of New Recruits

September 23, 1861. Vermont Governor Erastus Fairbanks authorized the raising of a second company of sharpshooters to join the one already in the field. The company was easily recruited in a few days.

The record notes that “All these men were required to stand the special test of making ten consecutive shots with a rifle, placing each shot inside a ten-inch ring at a distance of three hundred yards, and must in every way stand the physical examination required of all recruits to the army at the time.”

— Submitted by Tom Ledoux


Revised roster of Vermont volunteers and lists of Vermonters who served in the army and navy of the United States during the war of the rebellion, 1861-66 (1892), p. 605 

Frederick Douglass: “Cast off the Millstone”

An excerpt from Douglass’ Monthly, September 1861

. . . The present policy of our Government is evidently to put down the slaveholding rebellion, and at the same time protect and preserve slavery. This policy hangs like a mill-stone about the neck of our people. . . . This policy offends reason, wounds the sensibilities, and shocks the moral sentiments of men. . . .

Frederick Douglass, circa 1850-1860

Frederick Douglass, circa 1850-1860

Can the friends of that policy tell us why this should not be an abolition war? . . . Are not the rebels determined to make the war on their part a war for the utter destruction of liberty and the complete mastery of slavery over every other right and interest in the land? .–And is not an abolition war on our part the natural and logical answer to be made to the rebels? We all know it is. But it is said that for the Government to adopt the abolition policy, would involve the loss of the support of the Union men of the Border Slave States. Grant it, and what is such friendship worth? We are stronger without than with such friendship. It arms the enemy, while it disarms its friends. . . .[S]o long as slavery is respected and protected by our Government, the slaveholders can carry on the rebellion, and no longer. –Slavery is the stomach of the rebellion. The bread that feeds the rebel army, the cotton that clothes them, and the money that arms them and keeps them supplied with powder and bullets, come from the slaves. . . Strike here, cut off the connection between the fighting master and the working slave, and you at once put an end to this rebellion . . .. Shall this not be done, because we shall offend the Union men in the Border States? . . .

A very palpable evil involved in the policy of leaving slavery untouched, is that it holds out the idea that we are, in the end, to be treated to another compromise, and the old virus left to heal over, only to fester deeper, and break out more violently again some time not far distant, perhaps, to the utter destruction of the Government for which the people are now spilling their blood and spending their money. . . .

Another evil of the policy of protecting and preserving slavery, is that it deprives us of the important aid which might be rendered to the Government by the four million slaves. . . . If they must remain slaves, they would rather fight for than against the masters which we of the North mean to compel them to serve. Who can blame them? They are men, and like men governed by their interests. . . .

Douglass' Monthly, Cornell Division of Rare and Manuscript Collection

Douglass’ Monthly, Cornell Division of Rare and Manuscript Collection

A third evil of this policy, is the chilling effect it exerts upon the moral sentiment of mankind. Vast is the power of the sympathy of the civilized world. . . . On the briny wing of every eastern gale there comes [from Europe] a depressing chill to the North, while to the South it brings encouragement and hope. Our policy gives the rebels the advantage of seeming to be merely fighting for the right to govern themselves. . . . The idea that people have a right to govern themselves, whether true or false, has a very strong hold upon the minds of men throughout the world. They naturally side with those who assert this right by force in any part of the world. . . . Our slave-holding, slave-catching and slave insurrection policy gives to the South the sympathy which would naturally and certainly flow towards us, and which would be mightier than lightning, whirlwind or earthquake in extinguishing the flames of this momentous slave-holding war.

Another evil arising from this mischievous slave-holding policy, is that it invites the interference of other Governments with our blockade. Break up the blockade, and the war is ended, and the rebels are victorious, and the South is independent. It is already evident that France and England will not long endure a war whose only effect is to starve thousands of their people, slaughter thousands of our own, and sink millions of money. If they are to suffer with us, they will demand–and they have a perfect right to demand–that something shall be gained to the cause of humanity and civilization. Let the war be made an abolition war, and no statesman in England or France would dare even, if inclined, to propose any disturbance of the blockade. Make this an abolition war, and you at once unite the world against the rebels, and in favor of the Government.”


“Cast off the Millstone,” Douglass’ Monthly


The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Virtual Museum

Image of Douglass’ Monthly

University of Rochester Frederick Douglass Project 

Frederick Douglass: Let African Americans Fight (Civil War Book of Days, May 27, 2011)


Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1861

2 responses to ““Cast off the Millstone” Frederick Douglass

  1. Pingback: Frederick Douglass: Abolition is Essential to End the War | Civil War Book of Days

  2. Pingback: Frederick Douglass: Abolition is Essential to End the War | Vermont Humanities

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