Governor of Iowa to the General-in-Chief of the Army

[Des Moines] Iowa  August 5 1862

General   You will bear me witness I have not trouble on the “negro” subject but there is as it seems to me so much good sense in the following extract from a letter to me from one of the best colonels this state has in the service that I have yielded to the temptation to send it to you–  It is as follows.  “I hope under the confiscation and emancipation bill just passed by Congress1 to supply my regiment with a sufficient number of ‘contrabands’ to do all the ‘extra duty’ labor of my camp.  I have now sixty men on extra duty as teamsters &c. whose places could just as well be filled with niggers–  We do not need a single negro in the army to fight but we could use to good advantage about one hundred & fifty with a regiment as teamsters & for making roads, chopping wood, policing camp &c.  There are enough soldiers on extra duty in the army to take Richmond or any other rebel city if they were in the ranks instead of doing negro work.”

I have but one remark to add and that in regard to the negroes fighting–  it is this–When this war is over & we have summed up the entire loss of life it has imposed on the country I shall not have any regrets if it is found that a part of the dead are niggers and that all are not white men–

. . . .

Samuel J Kirkwood

Samuel J Kirkwood to General [Henry W. Halleck], 5 Aug. 1862, K-493 1862, Letters Received, series 22, Headquarters of the Army, Record Group 108, National Archives.

1. The Second Confiscation Act and the Militia Act, both enacted on July 17, 1862.

Published in The Black Military Experience, pp. 85–86, in Free at Last, pp. 67–68, and in Freedom's Soldiers, pp. 87–88.