Chaplain of a Louisiana Black Regiment to the Commander of a Black Division

Port Hudson La  April 8th 1864

General:  I have the honor to report that I have visited the schools established and organized by you in the regiments of the 2d Brigade of your Division, and respectfuly submit the following statement of their condition.

There are, at the present time, four schools in successful operation.  The buildings, which also serve as Churches and Lecture rooms, are large and comfortable structures, neatly whitewashed, and fitted with well made seats, desks and blackboards.  The attendance of the men has been as regular as was consistent with the performance of their military duties, and they have made rapid progress in learning to read and write.

I am sure that I never witnessed greater eagerness for study; and all, who have examined the writing books and listened to the recitations in the schools, have expressed their astonishment and admiration.  A majority of the men seem to regard their books as an indespensable portion of their equipments, and the cartridge box and spelling book are attached to the same belt.  There are nearly five hundred men in the four regiments of the Brigade which bears your name, who have learned to read quite well, and also quite a large number who are able to write.  A short time ago scarcely one of these men knew a letter of the alphabet.  Many of the Sergeants who came into the regiment six months ago, entirely ignorant of the alphabet, are now able to make out their own Rolls.  Instruction to a considerable extent has also been given in the Geography of the Country, especially as regards the States, their capitals, rivers, population &c.  The accomplishment of so much, under the circumstances, is an additional proof of the intellectual capacity of the race.  Their extreme eagerness & ability to improve is established.

Chaplains Chase Camp and Paterson have cheerfuly cooperated in the organizing & conducting of the schools, and especial mention may be made of Messrs Seymour Young and North, who were appointed by you as Instructors.  In the death of the last-named officer, the Corps and especially the 9th Regt suffers a serious loss.

This excellent movement for the instruction of our soldiers, inaugerated by yourself and rendered successful by your exertions & by a timely supply of books obtained from the North through your influence, deserves the approbation of every friend of the Freedmen, and your personal efforts in their behalf, will be gratefully remembered by us all in the future.  I am, very respectfuly Your obt servt

E. S. Wheeler

Chaplain E. S. Wheeler to Brig. Genl. Ullmann, 8 Apr. 1864, D. Ullmann Papers, Generals' Papers & Books, series 159, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, National Archives.

Published in The Black Military Experience, pp. 618–19.