Today, in honor of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw's 171st birthday, I present a song written by a private serving with Company A of the 54th Massachusetts (my source does not give his name):
Give Us A Flag
Frémont he told them when the war it first begun,
How to save the Union, and the way it should be done;
But Kentucky swore so hard and old Abe he had his fears,
Till every hope was lost but the colored volunteers.
Oh! give us a flag, all free without a slave,
We'll fight to defend it as our fathers did so brave:
The gallant Comp'ny "A" will make the rebels dance;
And we'll stand by the Union if we only have a chance.
McClellan went to Richmond with two hundred thousand brave:
He said, 'keep back the niggers' and the Union he would save.
Little Mac he had his way, still the Union is in tears,
Now they call for the help of the colored volunteers.
Old Jeff says he'll hang us if we dare to meet him armed:
A very big thing, but we are not at all alarmed;
For he first has got to catch us before the way is clear,
And 'that's what's the matter' with the colored volunteer.
So rally, boys, rally, let us never mind the past:
We had a hard road to travel, but our day is coming fast;
For God is for the right, and we have no need to fear:
The Union must be saved by the colored volunteer.
(Some sources add the following verse, but it does not appear in The Negro in the American Rebellion (1867), and I don't have access to the original source, the Boston Transcript. I can't confirm its authenticity at the moment, but I don't doubt that it may be original — poems in 19th century newspapers generally go on at some length.)
Then here is to the 54th, which has been nobly tried,
They were willing, they were ready, with their bayonets by their side,
Colonel Shaw led them on and he had no cause to fear,
About the courage of the colored volunteer.