The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing
2013, Volume 34
"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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FOR THE ANGLO-AFRICAN.
TO THE COLORED VOLUNTEER.
Go! Your country calls; though late The summons, yet at last 'Tis heard: do not hesitate, Brooding over the past.
Out of death comes life; the day From darkness springs; e'en so Truth must assert her sway— Justice awaits you: Go!
Go valiantly! the scoffing sneer Of traitors do not heed: Let not their hate nor hidden fear Wrest from you valor's meed.
Go! register in blood again Your claim to human right— The bayonet's a doughty pen— Go! gird you for the fight.
Go modestly! intent to bear Your part in manly deeds For freedom's cause, where'er Your country's banner leads.
Go! make a rampart of your breast— Willing to stand or fall— If but your brothers' wrong's redressed, You thus undo their thrall.
- After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter (April 12–13, 1861), African American men from Northern cities were eager to volunteer for military service, but whites rejected their offers (David Yacovone, ed., A Voice of Thunder: A Black Soldier's Civil War [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998], 14). The Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863) sanctioned the recruitment of "suitable" freedmen, and thus "signaled a major reversal in policy'" (John David Smith, "Let Us All Be Grateful That We Have Colored Troops That Will Fight," in Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era, ed. John David Smith [Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002], 1). Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts received War Department authorization to raise the first Northern regiment of African American volunteers in late January 1863.For African American New Yorkers, the "summons" to join a New York regiment came later still. Horatio Seymour, the state's Democratic governor, refused to support black recruitment; only in late 1863 did the War Department intervene, as a result of pressure from groups like the Association for Promoting Colored Volunteers and the Union League Club (William Seraile, New York's Black Regiments during the Civil War [London: Routledge, 2001], 24–25). The influential Union League Club received federal authorization to raise the Twentieth Regiment United States Colored Troops in early December 1863; the full regiment was mustered into service in February and presented with its colors after a grand parade on March 5, 1864 (25–26).
- "Copperheads"; in a New York context, the line might target prominent Democrat politicians like Horatio Seymour and Fernando Wood.
- In Hebrew, the word means "laborer" or "servant."In the Bible, Ebedmelech (alternately Ebed-melech and Ebed-Melech) was an Ethiopian who rescued the prophet Jeremiah from the dungeon. See Jeremiah 38:1–12. Ebedmelech was a character known to antebellum and Civil War–era Christians. In 1859, for example, an article titled "Zedekiah and Ebed-Melech: The Base King and the Good Slave" appeared in the New York Evangelist (April 14, 1859), and a piece in Littell's Living Age of August 1862 ("Dr. Williams—National Crisis") similarly refers to Ebedmelech in relation to American slavery and the Civil War.Elsewhere in the Bible, a man named Ebed is identified as a son of Jonathan and the father of Gaal (see Ezra 8:6 and Judges 9:28–35)."To the Colored Volunteer" is the only poem attributed to EBED in the Anglo-African from January 1863 through April 1865. The same writer produced at least two articles for the newspaper, "Do You Speak Russian?" (October 24 1863, ) and "Presentation of Colors to the Seventh Regiment Corps D'Afrique" (October 31, 1863, ). The former article gestures to the visiting Russian fleet in New York harbor; EBED may have been based in or nearby New York City in the final months of 1863.