23 February 1863: “The negro soldiers have surpassed the expectations even of most of their friends.”

Item description: Letter, 23 February 1863, from Captain Edward W. Hooper (1839-1901) to Henry W. Foote. Capt. Hooper was serving on the staff of Gen. Rufus Saxton during the “Port Royal Experiment.”

Item citation: Folder 1a in the Penn School Papers, #3615, Southern Historical Collection,Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

Beaufort, S.C.
Feby. 23d. 1863

Dear Henry

Yours of Feby 6th, telling me of your engagement to Miss Eliot, came by the last mail. I thank you for remembering me in this way. I congratulate you on what I think a very happy event, so far as I have any right to think anything about it. I always consider that “outside barbarians” that is to say one’s friends, have very little right to say a single word about an engagement, for it is too sacred a thing to be talked about. I shall take great pleasure, however, in calling on Miss Eliot, or perhaps Mrs. Foote, the next time I come home. I hope at least to lay my bones in the neighborhood of the “Hub,” and perhaps even to pass many pleasant hours with my friends before the time comes for laying my bones anywhere.

Everything is going on very satisfactorily here, under the circumstances. The negro soldiers have surpassed the expectations even of most of their friends. I went down to their camp this afternoon, and was very much pleased, as usual, with their very good appearance. Their fighting qualities have been pretty thoroughly tested upon several expeditions into the enemy’s country, and even those not friendly to them admit that they have fought bravely on those expeditions.

The plantations here are to be sold for taxes, but the President has appointed Gen. Hunter, Gen. Saxton, and the three Tax Commissioners who are good men, a Board to select and bid in for the Govt. all lands which in their opinion are needed for military, educational, or charitable purposes. This is a very satisfactory arrangement. We are all, I think, becoming more and more convinced in this Department that the negroes are quite ready to become industrious and self supporting free laborers under any fairly administered “equal laws.”

Yours truly,
E.W. Hooper

to Henry W. Foote

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