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Dear Doctor:

We were up betimes the next
day; people here rise before the Larks; and
if you wish to stand well you must rise with
the people. We were up, therefore, and to
business early, that we might have no hin-
​ to our afternoon's visit to the Freed-
​ Camp at Washington, intimated in my

Business over, we found ourselves at the
camp by 2 o'clock p.m., and very cordially re-
​ by Drs. Powell and Abbot, Dr. Augusta
coming into camp shortly after our arrival.
Dinner was in waiting, and we were, by rea-
​ of the hour and the result of the day's
work, well prepared to do it justice. Have
you a clear idea of a camp dinner—I mean not
among the rank and file, but among the belted
and epauletted gentlemen? If you have not,
rid yourself of the thought of tough junk beef,
salt hickory pork, Bohea tea, sugarless; black
bread without butter, and soft, watery pota-
​ with the skins on. Rid yourself, also, of
the idea of dirty sleeves and dirtier aprons,
bad cooking, and rough pine tables without
covers, and smoky coffee in tin cans. All this
may sound well in romance, and may be lite-
​ true somewhere; but be assured, my
dear sir, none of it was apparent at the dinner
given by The Shoulder-Straps to their friends
at Camp in these Latter Days at Washington.

You have but to subtract out of the account
unceiled hat-rooms and unplained and uncar-
​ floors, iron knives with backs and blades
undistinguishable, and shapeless forks with
pointless prongs; and for the rest, a camp
dinner with the elect—the Shoulder-Straps—is
one of the cosiest, jolliest, longest-to-be-remem-
things conceivable; presenting the best
viands the land affords, and served up in the
best manner imaginable. Ours, on this occa-
​, was so eminently so in every particular
that I should fail to do it justice were I to
attempt any further description of it. A
smart-looking little fellow, and a fine, frank,
intelligent buxom lass, both having been not
long since transferred from bits of property to
good specimens of humanity, curtesied in at-
​ upon us as we regaled ourselves
from the rich repast so bountifully provided.

It may seem undignified in a gentleman—a
guest at dinner-table—to converse with the
servants thereof; but as our visit had a dou-
​ purpose—to dine with our friends proper
and to take a look in at our recently emanci-
​ friends—we broke through all rule and
began with these two, who occupied the back
ground of the Officers' Camp Dining Room.
"How old are you?" said I to the one of the
feminine gender. "Just twenty, sir," she re-
​ in a good round ringing voice that
was truly electric*; while her countenance
lighted up with an intelligence usually found
only among the most refined. "Were you a
slave?" "Oh, yes sir; always till the Yan-
​ come done​ here, sir." "How did you
get free?" "Why, when the Yankees, some
of them, one time, got upset from a small boat
and were about to drown, I swam off and saved
the lives of several of them; and they freed
me and took me along.​ The recital of this
simple story, of which this is but the outline,
though Dr. Augusta attested to its truthful-
​, so effected me that I forgot to inquire
when and where it occurred. So pleased was
I with the ready intelligence and frankness of
this girl, that I tauntingly quizzed one of the
doctors about her; and he will not, I trust,
now challenge me to mortal combat if I con-
​, that in my imagination (which is ever
running astray) I see him striding down Penn-
​ avenue with this bouncing lass tug-
​ away at his arm, a la Darby and Joan,
she only a few steps in the rear.

After dinner we accompanied the Doctor and
assistants through the hospital, and found, to
our high satisfaction, everything clean and in
good order. Too much praise cannot be given
to these gentlemen for their efforts to afford
every comfort to those under their charge here.

There were, I think, some 129 patients under
their care, among whom I found many interest-
​ cases. He who will go from camp to
camp, and sit down and listen to and gather
up the simple stories of these once hard op-
​ but now liberated people, and in all
faithfulness print them, will produce the great-
​ book of the age—the book of America—a
book beside which "Dred," and "Among the
Pines," and "Uncle Tom's Cabin," will seldom
be mentioned.

We listened to many of these stories in
brief, and felt often our throat swelling and
the tear starting; often the cold sweat upon
our brow, often a sudden dizziness seized upon
us as we heard and felt, and reflected:
"Oh righteous God, we know Thy justice sleepeth not!"

What is remarkable, and what I leave for
ethnologists to decipher, is the many cases of
very aged persons to be found among these

For example: Morton Rector, a slave boy,
aged 80 (of course, all are boys here until
they can't work), quite interesting, a slave all
his life till the Yankees came, and only since
then has he left off work. George Thornton, a
boy of 73 years of age, is taking matters a lit-
​ easy now for the first time. Nora Wright,
a girl, aged 67, has worked in the field of an
old Virginia white brother since she was seven
years old. Knew that the Yankees were com-
​; was right glad of it; did not dare to say
so. They entered old master's premises, and
old master and all his household skedaddled
in double quick save the girl Nora and her
sable kith and kin, who saw the Yankees eat
up all old massa's bacon and drink up all his
wine, etc., etc.; and then Nora and all the
black household struck out for other parts.
Nora is now taking a little comfort at Wash-
Camp. Ellen Washington, a girl of
52, has seen much of slave life's rough wea-
​, and has been obliged to have both legs
cut off, and sits in the Contraband Camp to-day
a picture of American slavery. George Ford,
a boy who has neither feet nor hands—the
miraculous institution has brought out the fact
such can be made to work—is quite handy.
This boy George lost these unimportant mem-
​ of his body forty years ago, and is now
63, but till recently has never ceased to work
for old master. George is from "my Mary-
​"; and one day hearing of these same
confounded Yankees being in that vicinity, and
having a mother somewhere in the District,
kindly told his master that he was going to
see her. And so George, though footless,
stepped out; and the Yankees, so he says,
with a kind of twinkle in his eyes, detained
him. No matter; George's hands and feet
and legs are still up in "my Maryland," and
perhaps old master L——, being a doctor (no
offence, sir), may be able to resurrect and gal-
​ these, and be satisfied. George has
language large, is witty, sensible, fluent in
speech, and is quite a companionable fellow;
another picture of the slavocracy's idea of a
brute. Then, again, here is Henson Mathews.
This is the oldest boy of the camp—or I sup-
​ we may now call him a man, since he was
compelled to leave off work—that is, regular
work—three years ago. Henson Mathews is
now 109 years of age, and has worked, of
course, for Masters B—— well nigh for one
hundred years, for he has been handed down
from father to son since his birth. Henson
remembers the Father of his Country, Gen.
Washington, well; rowed him many a time
across the Potomac, James, and other rivers
of the Old Domain; has a clear remembrance
of the remarkable countenance of the old Gene-
​, and of his staid manners and great auste-
​, so becoming his large bony frame and
large immovable features. Henson, as you
may know, is himself a scion of the Old Do-
​ also. Mr. Mathews (for I must so de-
​ him) is a carpenter by trade; and
only think of ninety full years of hard, unre-
​ service given by this one man to a sin-
​ family, and but wounds, and bruises and
scars in return for it! Not a dollar nor even
a wherewith at 109 years of age to pillow his
whitened head; another picture of the infamous
monster slavery, who pursues a man a hundred
years, into old age, aye, to the very grave's
mouth, for dominion and for greed. But the
owner of this man—where is he? With all
his once hoarded wealth, and once many broad
plantation acres, he is to-day an infirm, help-
​ creature, skulking and crawling through
the fastnesses of his long-cherished and native
State; while old Father Mathews, with head
erect, and eye that yet flashes with the fire of
youth and vigor, and has never yet been
shaded with glasses or other helps, sits in the
door of his tent enjoying the setting sun of his
life as he watches each day's setting sun which
so much resembles his own. The old man oc-
​ his leisure in making pocket combs,
which he sells to visitors, one of which we
purchased and put into our pocket as a me-
​ of him. Having seen the beginning,
may he be preserved to see the last relict​ of
American barbarism swept away, and a higher
state than any man has yet any where attained
to be inaugurated in its stead; and then say,
"Now let'st thy servant depart in peace."

Of the Camp here and its management much
can and ought to be said. If these freed peo-
​ are to be raised up and fitted for full mem-
​ in this Republic, with its new modeling
and new destiny, a radical change in the man-
​ of all these camps and this people is
imperatively and immediately demanded.
More anon.

Yours truly,

To James M'Cune Smith, M.D.
* Hem!—[P?].D.