These words were written by James F. O’Brien of the Forty-eighth Massachusetts Infantry a week before the Irish-born lieutenant colonel was killed in action while leading a 200-man storming party on a “Forlorn Hope” against the formidable defenses of Port Hudson on May 27, 1863.
O’Brien stated, “I say that the crime of rebellion which has caused thousands of our citizens to fill bloody graves is but partially atoned for in the sweeping array of the noxious institution of slavery. The policy of our government with respect to that institution is just, and wise, as any thinking man who has an opportunity of practically witnessing its effect will acknowledge. Slave labor feeds our enemy in the field, digs his ditches, and builds his fortifications. Every slave liberated by our arms is a diminishment of rebel power. Every slave who wields a spade or musket in our cause is so much added to our strength. This is my belief with respect to the Emancipation policy of the Government.”