A Song Dedicated to the Colored Volunteer
[Philadelphia]: Published by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments, .
[Philadelphia]: Published by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments, . First edition. Broadsheet printed to recto, measuring 243 x 150mm. A Fine copy of a scarce and surviving ephemeral piece, designed as a supplement to the campaign to recruit Black men in the North to join the Union Army. OCLC reports 15 physical copies in U.S. libraries, and its only appearance in the modern auction record dates to 1907. It is the only example currently on the market.
In July 1863, a Mass Meeting was held in at the National Hall in Philadelphia to encourage free Black men to volunteer for the Union Army. Among the speakers responding to the Secretary of War's request "to raise three regiments for three years or the war, from among the colored population of Philadelphia" was Frederick Douglass, who could speak to the cause most powerfully and from the most personal perspective (Addresses at a Mass Meeting). As important as it was for Black Americans to see one of their own supporting the cause, however, the campaign organizers understood that single events and celebrity activists would not be enough. Speeches from Douglass might spark some volunteerism, but there needed to be a more widespread and popular push as well that could exist and spread in everyday life outside of meeting halls.
To this end, A Song Dedicated to the Colored Volunteer was added to the repertory. Attributed to Black Southern songwriter Tom Craig, the stirring, defiant, and catchy song encouraged Black men to join white compatriots in fighting against a Confederate force that insisted on their inferiority.And it urged them to recognize themselves as a crucial part of the military and the U.S. citizenry. "Give us the flag, all free without one slave, And we will defend it as our fathers did so brave. Onward! boys, Onward! It's the year of Jubilee, God Bless America, the land of Liberty...Jeff Davis says he'll hang us If we dare meet him in arms, It's a very big thing, But we are not alarmed; He has first got to catch us, Before he way is clear, For there is not a faint heart in the Colored Volunteer." It was one more key component in a successful campaign.
The 127th U.S. Colored Infantry that resulted from this call to action joined in military action the following year; and their service at Appomattox was crucial to the closing phases of the battle and the war. In June 1865, they joined the U.S. Army's 25th Corps to Texas, where still-enslaved Black Americans would learn of their Emancipation. (Item #5552)