Soldier's Prayer

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Soldier Re-enactors


In January 1863 the first regiment of ex-slaves was mustered into service by the abolitionist Colonel Higginson who was one of John Brown's "Secret Six" supporters. They called them selves "The Gospel Army". The bible was their history and they looked forward to seeing their families in heaven. Higginson recorded a soldiers prayer that revealed the source of strength of the black soldier.

 " ' Let me so lib dat when I die I shall hab manners ; dat I shall know what to say when I see my heabenly Lord.

   " 'Let me lib wid de musket in one hand, an' de Bible  in de oder   dat if I die at de muzzle of de musket, die  in de water, die on de land, I may know I hab de bressed  Jesus in my hand, an' hab no fear.

   "'I hab lef my wife in de land o' bondage ; my little  ones dey say eb'ry night, " Whar is my fader?"  But

 when I die, when de breseed mornin' rises, when I shall  stan' in de glory, mid one foot on de water an' one foot  on do land, den, O Lord ! I shall see my wife an' my little  chil'en once more."'

Sergt. Spencer was one of the 150,000 black civil war soldiers that were enlisted from slavery. As a slave he carried loads, was denied education and suffered the indignities of being someone’s property. Things had changed however and now he carries a musket and a bayonet. During the siege of Port Huston, a new schoolhouse was erected for the black soldiers who had been enlisted in that vicinity ; and, when it was opened, Spencer was called to make a speech.

  " I has been a-thinkin' I was old man ; for, on de plantation, I was put down wid de old hands, and I quinsicontly feeled myself dat I was a old man.  But since I has come here to de Yankees, and been made a soldier for de Unite States, an' got dese beautiful clothes on.

 I feels like one young man ; and I doesn't call myself a old man nebber no more. An' I feels dis ebenin' dat, if de rebs came down here to dis old Fort Hudson, dat I could jus fight um as brave as any man what is in the Sebenth Regiment.  Sometimes I has mighty feelins in dis ole heart of mine, when I considers how dese ere ossifers come all de way from de North to fight in de cause what we is fighten fur.

 How many ossifers has died, and how many white soldiers has died, in dis great and glorious war what we is in !  And now I feels dat, fore I would turn coward away from dese ossifers, I feels dat I could drink my own blood, and be pierced through wid five thousand bullets.  I feels sometimes as doe I ought to tank Massa Linkern for dis blessin' what we has ; but again I comes to de solemn conclusion dat I ought to tank de Lord, Massa Linkern, and all dese ossifers.  'Fore I would be a slave 'gain, I would fight till de last drop of blood was gone.  I has 'cluded to fight for my liberty, and for dis eddication what we is now to receive in dis beautiful new house what we has.  Also I hasn't got any eddication nor no book-learnin', I has rose up dis blessed ebenin' to do my best afore dis congregation.  Dat's all what I has to say now ; but, at some future occasion, T may say more dan I has to say now, and edify you all when I has more preparation.  Dat's all what I has to say.  Amen."

The Negro in the American Rebellion, William Wells Brown



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Revised: 06/10/08.