Return to General David Hunter
See also Department of the South
General David Hunter to Rev. Stephen H Tying
President of the National Freedmen's Relief Association
July 17, 1862
From The American Missionary, September 1862
Headquarters Dept of the South,
Hilton Head, Port Royal S. C.
July 17, 1862

Rev. Stephen H. Tying,
President of the National Freedmen’s Relief Association,
New York City

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication dated June 2, 1862,
expressing to me the approval of my course in regard to the freed slaves of this Department by the
important and benevolent association of which you are President.

Satisfied of having attempted, in the absence of instructions, to do my duty in the matter according
to the best lights of my judgment and long experience, every assurance of sympathy from men
whose characters I esteem is gratifying, and enables me to wait with more patience for those
inevitable days which are to give a policy on the slavery question to our Government.

It is my only fear that the lesson may not be understood and acted upon until read in characters of
blood at the fireside of every Northern family. To attain wisdom we must suffer; but that wisdom on
the Slavery question must finally be obtained, is my sustaining faith.

Our people are not dull of comprehension in regard to matters about which free play is given to their
common sense. When a fire is spreading through a block of houses, they do not hesitate to batter
down an intermediate house to save the remainder of the block. When the plague occupies an
infected district, the district is quarantined, and every resource of science and industry put forth to
rid the locality of its presence. The soldiers of health are by no means ordered to mount guard over
each smitten house and see that the vested interests of pestilence are protected. “Break open
doors if they be not opened,� is the order on these occasions. “Let in fresh air and sunlight:
let purity replace corruption.�

But in presence of one great evil, which has so long brooded over our country, the intelligence of a
large portion of our people would seem paralyzed and helpless. Their moral nerves lie torpid under
its benumbing shadow. Its breath has been the pestilence of the political atmosphere in which our
statesmen have been nurtured; and never, I fear, until its beak is dripping with the best blood of the
country, and its talons tangled in her vitals, will the free masses of the loyal States be fully aroused
to the necessity of abating the abomination at whatever cost and by whatever agencies.

This is written, not politically, but according to my profession in the military sense. Looking forward,
their looms up a possibility (only too possible) of a peace which shall be nothing but an armistice,
with every advantage secured to the Rebellion. Nothing can give us permanent peace but a
successful prosecution of the war, with every weapon and energy at our command, to its logical and
legitimate conclusion. The fermenting cause of the Rebellion must be abated; the ax must be laid to
the root of the upas tree which has rained down such bitter fruit upon our country, before anything
like a permanent peace can be justly hoped.

Already I see signs in many influential quarters, heretofore opposed to my views in favor of arming
the blacks of a change of sentiment. Our recent disasters before Richmond have served to
illuminate many minds.

To speak of using, the Negroes merely for throwing up entrenchments is a step in the right direction,
though far short of what must be the end. It has the advantage however, of making the further and
final steps necessary; for men working in face of the enemy must have arms with which to protect
themselves if suddenly attacked.

On the whole, there is much reason to be satisfied with the progress made by public sentiment,
considering how deeply-rooted were the prejudices to be overcome the general failure of the nation
to realize at first the proportions of the war, and the impunity still extended to those Northern traitors
who are plunderers of the Government by means of  fraudulent army and navy contracts on the one
hand, while using every energy of tongue and pen to excise discontent with our Government and
sympathy with the more ? and courageous traitors of the South who are in arms against us.

In conclusion, it may be not inappropriate to say that in transmitting the approval of the National
Freedmans’ Relief Association of my course you were—doubtless unconsciously –indorsing
views which your own earnest eloquence had no slight share in maturing. Through without the
pleasure of your personal acquaintance, I was, during a year, a member of your congregation, and
take this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging my indebtedness to your teachings.

Believe me, Sir, very truly, your obliged and obedient servant
D. Hunter.

P.S.—None of the carefully fostered delusions by which Slavery has sustained itself at the North is
more absurd than the bugbear of “general migration of Negroes to the North,� as a
necessary sequence of emancipation. So far as this from being the fact, that although it is well
known that I give passes North to all Negroes asking them, not more than a dozen have applied to
me for such passes since my arrival here, their local attachments being apparently much stronger
than with the white race. My experience leads me to believe that the exact reverse of the received
opinion on this subject would form the rule, and that nearly if not quite all the Negroes of the North
would migrate South whenever they shall be at liberty to do so without fear of the block.

N. Y. Tribune.
General David Hunter