Soldiers of a Massachusetts Black Regiment to the President

Folly island  South Carolina  July 16th 18.64

Sir   We The Members of Co D of the 55th Massechusetts vols Call the attention of your Excellency to our case

1st   First We wase enlisted under the act of Congress of July 18.61 Placing the officers non Commissioned officers & Privates of the volunteer forces in all Respects as to Pay on the footing of Similar Corps of the Regular Army   2nd  We Have Been in the Field now thirteen months & a Great many yet longer   We Have Recieved no Pay & Have Been offered only seven Dollars Pr month Which the Paymaster Has said was all He Had ever Been authorized to Pay Colored Troops   this was not acording to our enlistment   Consequently We Refused the Money   the Commonwealth of Massechusetts then Passed an act to make up all Deficienceys which the general Government Refused To Pay But this We Could not Recieve as The Troops in the general service are not Paid Partly By Government & Partly By State   3rd that to us money is no object   we came to fight For Liberty justice & Equality.  These are gifts we Prise more Highly than Gold   For these We Left our Homes our Famileys Friends & Relatives most Dear to take as it ware our Lives in our Hands To Do Battle for God & Liberty

4th  after the elaps of over thirteen months spent cheerfully & willingly Doing our Duty most faithfuly in the Trenches Fatiegue Duty in camp and conspicious valor & endurence in Battle as our Past History will Show

P 5th  therefore we Deem these sufficient Reasons for Demanding our Pay from the Date of our inlistment & our imediate Discharge Having Been enlisted under False Prentence as the Past History of the Company will Prove

6th  Be it further Resolved that if imediate steps are not takened to Relieve us we will Resort to more stringent mesures

We have the Honor to Remin your Obedint Servants   The members of Co D

[74 signatures]

Sergt. John F. Shorter et al. to the President of the United States, 16 July 1864, L-211 1864, Letters Received, series 360, Colored Troops Division, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, National Archives. Five sergeants and six corporals are among the signatories, most of whom appear to have signed their own names.

Published in The Black Military Experience, pp. 401–2, in Free at Last, pp. 473–74, and in Freedom's Soldiers, pp. 124–25.