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Dear Doctor:

Notwithstanding the liberal
employment of colored men in the various De-
​ here, our first visit early one morn-
​ to one of these Departments created, both
among colored and white employees, no little
surprise I thought. Whether because so few
black strangers find it in their business to come
here, or whether it was thought since one black
Lion having just gone two others had come
(mistaken thought), or whether some of that
other feeling which sees you out of the corners
of the eyes alike pervaded all, I know not.
Certain it is, there was for the moment some
commotion, yet notwithstanding everybody
was civil and even courteous. We are under
obligation to many gentlemen, among whom I
cannot forego the name of the Hon. Judge Day,
for the many kind attentions shown us here.
But for him we should, in all probability, have
lost much. Among other places in which he
introduced us was the famous Old White House,
the place where Abraham Lincoln holds court,
and where Washington and Jefferson, and
Madison and the Adamses, and Monroe and
Jackson (forgive me, but I must skip many of
the others) held court before him. This famous
mansion has been so often, and of course so
well described, that it were worse than useless
for me to trouble you with any impression of
mine; and I have but to say, that as I stood
within the great Reception Room, with its gor-
​ velvet linings, and massive hangings,
and antique but costly furniture, my mind re-
​ back to other days. It glanced back
from these days of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln to the
day when Mrs. Martha Washington swayed the
sceptre there; the days of the Republican
Court when Ladies Adams and Jay and Hamil-
​ guided the fashionable circle; when Lady
Knox moved her large and commanding figure
gracefully there; when Ladies Madison, Izard,
Custis, Clinton, and a host of others of the same
ilk led the van, and the beautiful Misses Chews
here exhibited their charms to the admiring
crowds of buckled and belted knights and chi-
​ swains.

Lost amid these scenes and these thoughts,
the voice of my friend G. crying out, "Your pre-
​, sir, is required at the War Department,"
recalled me to consciousness. I moved for the
door and followed him.

It may be pleasant for you to know, well for
our people and for the country to know, that
the colored troops mustered into service are to
be manned by the best officers, in head and
heart, that the country possesses.

During an interview at the War Department
with Capt. F——, head of the bureau for Colored
Troops, or rather American troops of African
descent, he emphatically declared that none but
the very best qualified officers shall, by any
possible means, pass from this Bureau to the
command of colored troops. A valuable decla-

Among the notables whom the strange events
of the hour have thrown here and to whom I
was introduced, I beg to mention one or two.
Did you or did you not, my dear sir, ever meet
anywhere a plain old man, tall, thin, well knit,
muscular, active; his countenance indicative
of all mildness, and all determination combined;
his head a model for a sculptor, his long iron-
​ hair combed back behind his ears, what of
it would not, in spite of himself, bristle up
erect; his beard longer and greyer even than
his hair; his eye blue and cold till lighted up
by kind words uttered with a voice at times as
it were a woman's; or that same cold, blue eye
gleam with the fierceness of a lion, or that same
voice thunder as it were in the storm as the
story of wronged humanity was by him being
told? Did you, I say, ever meet in your life-
​ this plain old man, a real home-body, and
yet seemingly a homeless wanderer going about
and speaking of them that are bound in bonds
as bound with them? If you did, and should
you come here and just step into the Treasury
Department, behold not the man himself, for
time has thrown upon the surface but one John
Brown, he is gone—but a faint, very faint, re-
​ to him in the person of his brother
Mr. S. Brown. Yes, sir, a brother of the im-
​ John Brown, of Harper's Ferry fame, is
an employee in the Treasury of these United
States to-day. Verily time moves on apace!

Now, sir, pass thence into the Auditor's
Department and you will be quite apt to meet
a man far, very far, advanced in years, and very
remarkable in appearance; so much so that in
an assemblage of fifty old men you would forget
all and notice only him. I have said he is very
old. How would you know that? Certainly
not by his tall and reed-like figure, nor by his
quick and boy-like movements, nor yet by his
flashing eye and energetic speech, but by the
majesty of a full head of hair, purely white and
long, every lock of which still bear him com-
​. By this alone would you know that he
is old. Some 80 Winters, I think, have passed
over that white head. The presence of this
man is inspiration itself. With his soft, deep
blue eye—deeper and clearer than the sky
above you—to which they are directed, and his
flowing white hair, every spray of which is kiss-
​ the air about him; his every word music,
and gesture eloquence, he stands before you
the personification of all that is ideal and beau-
​. Do you recognize the picture? It is
that of the scholar, Orator, Poet, Divine—Rev.
John Pierpont. He, too, is here a clerk in the
Treasury Department.

Here, too, you will find the noted Mrs. Swiss-
​, whose pen, dipped into the ink of irony
and sarcasm (I have often desired to know
where she got such ink) has so often made the
villain of this Republic wince and scoundrelly
coward run skulking to their dens.

Among the good things here is the appoint-
​ of Dr. Augusta, of Canada, as Surgeon in
the Army. The Doctor wears his well-earned
honors with all becoming dignity and sports
his shoulder-straps, leaf, and double-breasted
coat with the ease of a Major whose rank he
takes. So also Drs. Powell and Abbot, his first
and second Assistants, who also take to the
shoulder straps, and minus the leaf and double
buttons. The three make as fine a trio of
American soldiers of African descent as you
would wish to see; of course I am writing of
them far away from the smell of Uncle Sam's
powder or the glitter of his steel. These gen-
​ have charge of the Freedmen's Camp
here, an interesting field, and one which they
occupy with credit to themselves and honor to
our people. They furnish a fine example to
our young men of talents which should lead
others to speedily follow. We are invited by
these gentlemen to the camp to dine and shall
avail ourselves of the pleasure and thus learn
something of life on the tented field; the sunny
side only, I think I hear you say.

But it is late, and my friend G. is sick and
has taken possession of my bed. Though out
of deference, on coming here, I yielded what
was regarded the best bed to him, now that he
is ill he thinks mine the best (a good joke, by
the way) and is master of the situation, so I
shall go to the other to dream doubtless of
camp life in Dixie. More anon.

Yours truly,

To James M'Cune Smith, M.D.