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1863 March 2: “I predict the President’s Emancipation Proclamation will prove to be the most popular act of the administration”

March 2, 2013

This letter by William H. Winchester appeared in the March 25, 1863, issue of The Prescott Journal.  Winchester, like Jerry Flint, was from River Falls and was in the Hudson City Guards—Company G of the 4th Wisconsin Infantry.

Letter from ‘Bill’ Winchester.

Many of our readers will not fail to be interested in the following extract from a letter from a Mr. Winchester :

March 2d, 1863. }

DEAR LUTE :—I received two papers from you—one published January 14, and the other February 11 ;  the former several days ago, and the latter to-day ;  and it is like shaking hands with an old friend.  It is truly refreshing to see in the columns of the old “Journal” the clear, plain, unequivocal and outspoken truths of old.  The sentiments therein have the ring of the “true metal.”  There is no uncertain sound about them.  They go in for the “Union, one and inseperable [sic].”  And, as I said before, it is encouraging amongst so much disaffection and disloyalty as we hear of in the North, to know that some do yet stand by the “Old Flag,” and are determined never to forsake its folds.  I am surprised that there is any body at the North so ridiculously foolish as to cherich [sic] the idea of patching up a peace with the Rebels at this time.—If they could be here and view things from our “stand point” they must certainly relinquish all such hopes.  And any man holding such language, be he Democrat, Republican, or what not, it is eminently proper and safe to write opposite his name “traitor.”  Once in a great while we come across such a man in this department, but he finds no mercy ;  and when hearing such talk I am ready to enlist another three years, if necessary, to put down such.

This rebellion must be fought out to the bitter end, and either be crushed out or it will crush us, and it is worse than idle, it is criminal to parley, or attempt to ignore the fact.  They—the Rebels—are terribly in earnest ;  and while it is humiliating and discouraging to see the Government so slow to accept the fact, we must remember that the Government are but men, and all liable to err, but like a magnanimous nation, they will have the proud consciousness that in dealing with Rebels their greatest errers [sic] have been on the side of mercy.

I predict the President’s Emancipation Proclamation will prove to be the most popular act of the administration.  It is truly surprising as well as gratifying to see the old popular prejudice giving way with regard to negro soldiers.  Men who one year ago would scout at the idea of holding a commission in a black regiment, now are not only ready, but solicitously anxious to take command of them, having, in several instances, to my knowledge, already proferred their services.  We see no earthly reason why the slave should not be made serviceable in every way, especially so, as he is so well adapted for it in may [sic] ways, on account of climate ;  and from what experience we have had with them, the opinion is fast gaining they will make the best of soldiers with proper drilling and disciplining.

But, LUTE, I am spinning this out rather lengthy.  I seldom write on war matters, but there is very little of interest transgiring [sic] here just now.  Our regiment came down from Baton Rouge last week, and is encamped for a few days opposite the city, in Algiers, preparatory, as is supposed, to starting on an expedition to Texas.  Company G will doubtless remain here for the present, in charge of this “heavy battery,” where we have been all winter.

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