Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Letters and diary of Laura M. Towne.

Letters and diary of Laura M. Towne.

December 25, 2012

Letters and diary of Laura M. Towne

Written from the Sea islands of South Carolina.

[Diary] December 25.

The celebration went off grandly. The church was beautiful. Lottie draped the pulpit in long moss and put a wreath of red holly and broad leaves along the top, from which the moss fell like a fringe. The words, “His People Are Free,” were put up opposite the pulpit. Festoons of green hung between the pillars, with a cluster of red berries and magnolia leaves looping each up. On the walls were circlets of green, each surrounding a little flag that Miss Ware sent us. It was beautiful. We teachers were dressed in blue garibaldis, with gilt buttons down the shoulders, and black skirts.

Lieutenant-Colonel Billings, whom they call “Liberty Billings,” of the First South Carolina Volunteers,[1] was there and addressed the children. Mr. Fairfield also and Mr. Hunn. The singing was only pretty good — they were too much excited. The following is ” Whittier’s Hymn,” to the tune of “I will believe”: —


“Oh, none in all the world before
Were ever glad as we.
We’re free on Carolina’s shore;
We’re all at home and free!


Thou friend and helper of the poor.
Who suffered for our sake,
To open every prison door
And every yoke to break,


Look down, O Saviour, sweet and mild,
To help us sing and pray;
The hands that blessed the little child
Upon our foreheads lay.


To-day in all our fields of corn,
No driver’s whip we hear.
The holy day that saw Thee born
Was never half so dear.


The very oaks are greener clad,
The waters brighter smile,
Oh, never shone a day so glad
In sweet St. Helen’s Isle.


For none in all the world before
Were ever glad as we.
We’re free on Carolina’s shore;
We’re all at home and free!”


Written for the Philadelphia School on St. Helena at the request of Miss Charlotte Forten, to be sung at Christmas, 1862, by John G. Whittier.

After the exercises we drew each class out in the cross aisle and gave each child a garment.

Mr. Soule has made an estimate that there are 1177 children on St. Helena and Ladies Islands attending school.

On Port Royal, about 550 average attendance.

In Florida, 400.

[1] A negro regiment; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, colonel.

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