War of the Rebellion: Serial 125 Page 0271 UNION AUTHORITIES.

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colored persons in the army or volunteer service of the United States, together with the accompanying papers.*


[Inclosure Numbers 1.]


April 23, 1864.


SIR: You have done me the honor to refer to me a communication to yourself from His Excellency John A. Andrew, Governor of Massachusetts, with accompanying papers, relative to the claim of Rev. Samuel Harrison for pay as chaplain of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers.

It appears by Governor Andrew's letter and the other papers that Mr. Harrison, who is a colored man, was duly elected, and on the 8th day of September, 1863, commissioned by Governor Andrew as chaplain of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers in the service of the United States at Morrison Island, S. C., by the proper mustering officer, and actually performed the duties of chaplain of that regiment them and since serving in South Carolina. On demanding his pay as chaplain he was me by the following refusal writing, signal by the paymaster at Hilton Head:

Samuel Harrison, chaplin of the Fifty-fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers (colored troops), asks pay at the usual rate, $100 per month and two rations, which, he being of African descent, I decline paying, under act of Congress, passed July 17, 1862, employing persons of African descent in the military service of the United States. The chaplain declines to receive anything less.

You have requested my opinion whether the paymaster should have paid as demanded, and, if he should,m whether it is your duty to order him to do so.

The Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers was organized in the same manner as were other regiments of State volunteers under the following order of the War Department, dated January 26, 1863, viz:

Ordered, That Governor Andrew, of Massachusetts, is authorized, until further orders, to raise such number of volunteer companies of artillery, for duty in the forts of Massachusetts and elsewhere, and such corps of infantry for the volunteer military service as he may find convenient, such volunteers to be enlisted for three years or until sooner discharged, and may include persons of African descent, organized into separate corps. He will make the usual needful requisitions on the appropriate staff bureaus and officers for the transportation, organization, supplies subsistence, arms, and equipments of such volunteers.


Secretary of War.

I do not know that any rule of law, constitutional or statutory, ever prohibited the acceptance, organization, and muster of "persons of African descent" into the military service of the United States as enlisted men or volunteers. But whatever doubt might have existed on the subject had been fully resolved before this order was issued, by the eleventh section of the act of July 17, 1862, chapter 195, which


* The commissions of Chaplain Harrison by the Governor of Massachusetts, the certificate of his muster into the U. S. service, and letter from the Attorney-General's Office, dated May 4, 1864, transmitting copy of the opinion in this case, are here omitted.