Edward Prince to Richard Yates


Edward Prince to Richard Yates


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Quincy Illinois April 7th 1862

Dear Sir Having been compelled to obtain a leave of absence for 20 days on account of a wound in right leg I have returned to Quincy for a few days.

Since in the service I have been compelled to be convinced of some things of which I was not before fully aware. And some experience in studying the character and minds of the confederates have made suspicious certainties.

It may safely be assumed that of the people who have been born and raised in our borde slave states or who have emigrated thither from other Slave States 9 out of every 11 of the whites are really secessionists. The difference between them being only in the Shades of opinion, and in the capacity and opportunity for doing evil. The causes which have induced this State of things are of course many but they all refer directly to the institution of slaver. Almost without an exception, the men in the State of Missouri, and probably in the other border Slave States, who own or are in favor of slave property, confound efforts with object, And as the prosecution of the war to a limited extent necessarily renders insecure slave property, they think this the sole object of the war. It is for this reason

that our unity and kindness towards the rebels is received with so little good. Their minds are firmly made up to believe that the object of the war is the destruction of slavery, and no amount of argument convinces them that this is not true, and in so many instances our kindness and unity is as lost upon them as it would be upon swine.

The cause of the war is probably the growth of two institutions (under the same general government) entirely incompatible and antagonistic – The weapons of ours are the emblems of educated peaceful and honest industry – and the instrument of the other ignorance and tyranny. Tho fire and water may be restrained in close proximity but will not unite – and have a permanent connection in the world it is that, of the free and slave State, (while so) there can never again be a union upon a permanent basis.

It might last for a few years but the tie which binds us would be severed again by one or the other, where war must follow. It may be that the constitution public opinion or the exigency or the times would not (now) authorize the directing the war against its real though remote cause. If so the peace obtained (at great disadvantage can only be the Hemlock not the olive branch – We may try as hard as we please while in camp to believe that the war has nothing to do with slavery, but its no use. There is not a


“[buttemuch?]” to ragged but knows it, a contraband so simple as not to show it, and it can be seen in various forms in General Orders, while it shades the countenances of all commanding generals. The negro builds for the rebels the impassable [illegible], and the invulnerable casemate, the bench and the curtain, drives the transport and ladles the metal for their guns-- If mutes did this they would soon be at work for us.

In view of all this I believe it is sincerely hoped, that of the great aim of this war, by removing our disadvantage. Thus – for instance – let us take all the negroes whom any general officer may believe to be the property of a rebel (and use them for all the needs of the army to which they can be applied. For the 7th Ills. Cav. Reg there are about 35 waggons – 35 troopers now dismount to drive them. I would remount these troopers, and the negroes should drive the waggons.

100 negroes – could be used, I can specify the places for them all – and will do so in infantry cavalry and artillery if you desire it – One thing which would probably be exceeding well – would be companies and regiments (sappers & Miners) of Negroes – commanded by competent engineers – and armed

with the axe, shovel and pick –

This would be a first step, others would be taken as the exigencies of the service required, or the nerve of the rebellion might render necessary. The fact now is, that negroes escape, and that the army gets the credit by ignorance of reporters, of liberating hundreds daily. I am not despondent but do feel that this war is not very near its end, and that we must fight rigorously and with such advantages as may come within our grasp – What harm can there be, if we then appropriate to our own use, some of the sinews the energy and shear Samson of his locks.

We must now conquer or be conquered and the sooner we avail ourselves of all opportunities the sooner will the result be known.

I have the honor to be with perfect respect Your Obt Sevt Edward Prince

His Excellency Richard Yates Springfield Ills.

Edwd Prince Quincy Apl 17/62 Private



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“Edward Prince to Richard Yates ,” Chronicling Illinois, accessed June 2, 2020, http://alplm-cdi.com/chroniclingillinois/items/show/3448.