The spiritual or religious sentiment also strongly characterizes the African race; developed in somewhat rude phase, it is true, among Southern slaves, especially rude in the cotton States, but powerful, if appealed to by leaders who share it, as an element of enthusiasm. If the officers of colored regiments themselves feel, and impart, as they readily may, to their men the feelings that they are fighting in the cause of God and liberty, there will be no portion of the Army, the Commission believe, more to be relied on than negro regiments. (a)
But with these people, rather than with a more independent race, success depends upon whether their leaders are in sympathy with them, have gained their confidence, and can arouse their devotion.
For this reason, however important a judicious choice of officers is in all cases, the Commission consider that more depends upon this in the case of colored regiments than in that of the white troops. It is probable enough that colored regiments badly officered would be more liable to give way than badly officered regiments of the more self-reliant white race.
Colonel Higginson testifies:
I think they will depend more upon their officers than white troops, and be more influenced by their conduct. If their officers are intimidated, they will be; and if their officers stand their ground, so will they. If they lose their officers the effect will be worse upon them than upon white troops; not because they are timid, but because they are less accustomed to entire self-reliance. They criticism their officers very sharply. There is as much difference here in the standing of the various officers as in any white regiment.
Major-General Butler expressed to the Commission, in this connection, an opinion which they believe to be correct. He said:
Negroes are gregarious in fright, and in that particular the opposite of the Yankee. If a crowd of Yankees gets frightened, it is "every one for himself and God for us all." Now, the negroes have been accustomed to stand in a body against master and overseer. At a sudden alarm they segregate, they run to each other.
In connection with the value of the negro as a soldier the Commission earnestly invite your attention to the valuable assistance which our generals in command may obtain in exploring the enemy's country and detecting his position and plans, by the organization of companies of colored guides in connection with each army corps. On
a This was written previously to the publication of Major-General Banks" official report of the assault upon Port Hudson on May 27, in which he bears the following testimony to the good conduct of the colored troops who formed part of the assaulting force:
"On the extreme right of our line I posted the First and Third Regiments of negro troops. The First Regiment of Louisiana Engineers, composed exclusively of colored men, excepting the officers, was also engaged in the operations of the day. The position occupied by these troops was one of importance, and called for the utmost steadiness and bravery in those to whom it was confided. It gives me pleasure to report that they answered every expectation. In many respects their conduct was heroic. No troops could be more determined or more daring. They made during the day three charges upon the batteries of the enemy, suffering very heavy losses and holding their position at nightfall with the other troops on the right of our line. The highest commendation is bestowed upon them by all the officers in command on the right. Whatever doubt may have existed heretofore as to the efficiency of organizations of this character, the history of this day proves conclusively to those who were in condition to observe the conduct of these regiments that the Government will find in this class of troops effective supporters and defenders. The severe test to which they were subjected, and the determined manner in which they encountered the enemy, leaves upon my mind no doubt of their ultimate success. They require only good officers, commands of limited numbers, and careful discipline to make them excellent soldiers."