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Emancipation Day



"Emancipation Day" - Beaufort, SC

Letter from Dr. Seth Rogers to wife Hannah Mitchell Rogers, January 1, 1863:


“This is the evening of the most eventful day of my life. Our barbeque was a most wonderful success. Two steamboats came loaded with people from Beaufort, St. Helena Island and Hilton Head. Among the visitors were some of my new acquaintances, [including] my friend, Mr. Hall of the voyage Delaware. But the dearest friend I found among them was Miss [Charlotte] Forten, whom you remember. She is a teacher of the freed children on St. Helena Island. Gen [Rufus] Saxton and his father and others came from Beaufort, and several cavalry officers hovered around the outskirts of our multitude of black soldiers and civilians, and in the centre of all was the speakers’ stand where the General and our Colonel and some others, with the band, performed the ceremonies of the day. Several good speeches were made, but the most impressive scene was that which occurred at the presentation of the Dr. Cheever flag to our regiment. After the presentation speech had been made, and just as Col. Higginson advanced to take the flag and respond, a negro woman standing near began to sing “America”, and soon many voices of freedmen and women joined in the beautiful hymn, and sang it so touchingly that every one was thrilled beyond measure. Nothing could have been more unexpected or more inspiring. The President’s [September 22, 1862] proclamation and General Saxton’s New Year’s greeting had been read, and this spontaneous outburst of love and loyalty to a country that has heretofore so terribly wronged these blacks, was the birth of a new hope in the honesty of her intention. I most earnestly trust they not hope in vain. Col. H. was so much inspired by the remarkable thought of, and singing of, the hymn that he made one of his most effective speeches. Then came Gen. Saxton with a most earnest and brotherly speech to the blacks and then Mrs. Frances D. Gage, and finally all joined in the John Brown hymn, and then to dinner. A hundred things of interest occurred which I have not time to relate. Everybody was happy in the bright sunshine, and in the great hope.”

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