Six replies to these inquiries were received from engineer officers who had been engaged in the siege, the substance of which is embraced in the following summary.
Following the summary, two of the replies are given in full.
1. To the first question, all answer that the black is more timorous than the white, but is in a corresponding degree more docile and obedient, hence more completely under the control of his commander, and much more influenced by his example.
2. All agree that the black is less skillful than the white soldier, but still enough so for most kinds of siege work.
3. The statements unanimously agree that the black will do a greater amount of work than the white soldier, because he labors more constantly.
4. The whites are decidedly superior in enthusiasm. The blacks cannot be easily hurried in their work, no matter what the emergency. 5. All agree that the colored troops recruited from free States are superior to those recruited from slave States.
It may with propriety be repeated here, that the average percentage of sick among the negro troops during the siege was 13.9, while that of the white infantry was 20.1 per cent. (See Note 18, above.)
The percentage of tours of duty performed by the black, as compared with the white, infantry, was as 56 to 41. But the grand-guard duty, which was considered much more wearing than fatigue, was all done by the whites.
The efficiency and health of a battalion depends so much upon its officers, that, in order to institute a fair comparison, when so small a number of troops are considered, this element should be eliminated. This has not, however, been attempted in this paper.
MORRIS ISLAND, S. C.,
September 11, 1863.
MAJOR: In answer to your several quarries as per circular of September 10, 1863, requesting my opinion as to the relative merits of white and black troops for work in the trenches, I have the honor to make the following replies:
I. Their courage as indicated by their behavior under fire.
I will say, in my opinion, their courage is rather of the passive than the active kind. They will stay, endure, resist, and follow, but they have not the restless, aggressive spirit. I do not believe they will desert their officers in trying moments in so great numbers as the whites; they have not the will, audacity, or fertility of excuse of the straggling white, and at the same time they have not the heroic, nervous energy, or vivid perception of the white, who stands firm or presses forward.
I do not remember a single instance, in my labors in the trenches, where the black man has skulked away from his duty, and I know that instances of that kind have occurred among the whites; still, I think that the superior energy and intelligence of those remaining, considering that the whites were the lesser number by the greater desertion, would more than compensate.
II. Skill and appreciation of their duties, referring to the quality of the work done.
They have a fair share of both, enough to make them very useful and efficient, but they have not apparently that superior intelligence