A New Year, Still at War, African Americans in Memphis Celebrate Emancipation
January 1, 1865 – Emancipation Day Parade in Occupied Memphis
“The pageant of our colored population yesterday was susceptible of a similar duplex aspect. There may have been some ludicrous things, some foolish things some absurd things about the procession yesterday. Men who are so fearful of the bugaboo of negro social equality and amalgamation — so apprehensive of the blacks surpassing the whites in intellectual and industrial pursuits that they fear to deal justice to the negro, and cannot see that the true interest of Tennessee lies in wiping out the effete institution of slavery, encouraging the emigration hither of free white labor and frankly, according with the policy of Government and the will of the nation, doubtless saw much to ridicule in the exhibition of the humble callings pursued by the blacks, their parade of school children, and their display of benevolent organizations, as well as their speeches, prayers and singing. The man who looked . . . to ascertain . . . their law abiding character, their loyalty to the Union, their wish to educate their children, their profound gratitude to God, saw more than laughable or absurd incidents. He saw a race rising from ignorant, imbruted chattelism to manhood. He saw them. . . not thirsting for revenge . . . not dreaming of lying in idleness, but with prayers . . . hymns . . . cheers for Lincoln, expressions of intense regard for Union soldiers, and . . . exhorting each other to manful lives and honest labor.”
Memphis Bulletin, January 2, 1865.
– Submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Vermont Humanities Council executive director
January 1, 1865, Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook
Union Soldier Steadfast as Fourth Year of War Begins
January 1, 1865. On New Year’s Day, in the Union trenches in front of Petersburg, Elisha Hunt Rhodes of the Second Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, who had been in the War from the beginning, wrote in his journal, “New Years Day again and this is the fourth that I have passed in the US Army. The war drags along, but we feel that we are gaining all the time, and when Petersburg and Richmond fall, as they must soon, the war will end.”
– Submitted by Bill Halainen, Milford, PA
Elisha Hunt Rhodes, Second Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, excerpted from All For The Union: The Civil War Diary and Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes, p. 197.