Tag Archives: Letters

1850 (Arguing for Justice) William Still

William Still (House Divided)

Sources
A key primary source is William Still’s The Underground Rail Road (1872). In addition, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has Still’s “Journal C of Station No. 2 of the Underground Railroad, 1852-1857” and the “Minute Book of the Vigilant Committee of Philadelphia.” have been digitized and are available online. Several historians have focused on Still’s work as an abolitionist, including Larry Gara’s “William Still and the Underground RailroadPennsylvania History (1961) and Stephen G. Hall’s “To Render the Private Public: William Still and the Selling of the Underground Rail Road,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (2003). Other important sources on the Underground Railroad include Robert Clemens Smedley’s History of Read the rest

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1856 (Arguing for Justice) Joseph C. Bustill

Narrative
Joseph Bustill was a teacher and an Underground Railroad agent from Harrisburg who helped create a “Fugitive Aid Society” in Pennsylvania’s capital city during the 1850s.  He is one of the few agents who left behind operational letters, including this one to William Still from 1856 that refers to the escape of four adult slaves and two children (“four large and two small hams”).

Life & Family
The Bustill family were prominent black Quakers from Philadelphia. Joseph Bustill was the great uncle of legendary singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson.

Sources
Important primary sources include three letters that Bustill sent William Still in 1856. These letters were later published in Still’s  Underground Rail Road (1872). You can also read them on House … Read the rest

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1859 (Fighting for Liberty) Dangerfield Newby

Dangerfield Newby (House Divided)

Sources
Important primary sources on Brown’s Harpers Ferry raid include James Redpath’s The Public Life of Capt. John Brown (1860), Franklin B. Sanborn’s The Life and Letters of John Brown, Liberator of Kansas, and Martyr of Virginia (1885), and Richard J. Hinton’s John Brown and His Men; With Some Account of the Roads Traveled to Reach Harper’s Ferry (1894). Osborne Anderson, who participated in Brown’s raid but managed to escape, also published his account  in 1861: A Voice from Harper’s Ferry: A Narrative of Events at Harper’s Ferry. Important secondary sources include Benjamin Quarles’ Allies for Freedom; Blacks and John Brown (1974), Paul Finkelman’s His Soul Goes Marching On: Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid (1995), … Read the rest

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1861 (Fighting for Liberty) Ivey W. Duggan

Duggan - (History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia)

Sources
A profile of Duggan is in Samuel Boykin’s History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia (2001). In addition, Dave Dameron discusses the unit that Duggan served with in  Benning’s Brigade: A History and Roster of the Fifteenth Georgia By (1997).

Artifacts
The Georgia Archives has the 15th Georgia Infantry Regiment flag.

Images
An image is in Samuel Boykin’s History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia (2001).

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1861 (Fighting for Liberty) James Smith Colwell

James Colwell (Cumberland County Historical Society)

Narrative
James Smith Colwell, who worked as a lawyer in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was one of the men who answered President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers after Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Colwell joined the Carlisle Fencibles, a local volunteer company under the command of Robert Henderson, as a first lieutenant. Six weeks later the Fencibles left Carlisle for Camp Wayne in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where they received training and were designated Company A of the 7th Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserve Corps. His wife, Ann, had not been happy with that decision. “You left me without talking about it,” as Ann reminded him. While James admitted that “[he] err[ed] frequently,” … Read the rest

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1863 (Fighting for Liberty) Amos Humiston

Amos Humiston


Narrative
Amos Humiston was a farmer and tanner from upstate New York who yearned to see the world and even served for a year on a whaling ship when he was a young man. He married Philinda Smith (1831-1913) and the couple raised three children –Franklin Humiston (1855-1912), Alice Humiston (1857-1933), and Frederick Humiston (1859-1918)—before Amos entered the Union army as a sergeant in the 154th New York infantry regiment. He was killed on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, found clutching an image of his young children, but with no other identification. Eventually, the Philadelphia Inquirer published the story in an article entitled, “Whose Father Was He?” which was reprinted across the North and which eventually led to the discovery … Read the rest

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1863 (Fighting for Liberty) Taylor Brothers

Taylor Brothers (National Park Service)

On July 2, 1863 at 5:40AM Isaac Taylor recorded in his diary that his regiment, the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, had arrived at Gettysburg. “Order from Gen. [John] Gibbon read to us in which he says this is to be the great battle of the war & that any soldier leaving ranks without leave will be instantly put to death,” as Taylor noted. By the end of the day 215 of the 262 soldiers in the regiment had been killed or wounded. While Isaac had died, his brother, Patrick Henry Taylor, apparently made it out of the battle without injury. Patrick added the final entry to the diary, which explained that Isaac had been “killed by a shell … Read the rest

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1864 (Arguing for Justice) Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (House Divided)

Sources
Douglass wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in 1845 and published Life and Times of Frederick Douglass in 1881. Other primary sources include Philip S. Foner’s Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass (1950-1975), John W. Blassingame’s The Frederick Douglass Papers: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews (1979-1992), and the Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress.

Important secondary sources include Dickson J. Preston’s Young Frederick Douglass: The Maryland Years (1980), David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee (1989), Frederick S. Voss, Majestic in His Wrath: A Pictorial Life of Frederick Douglass (1995), John Stauffer’s The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (2002), and James Oakes’ The Radical Read the rest

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1864 (Fighting for Liberty) John Taylor Cuddy

Narrative
John Taylor Cuddy was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on October 17, 1844. His schooling was limited since he worked in the family business. In the late spring of 1861, like tens of thousands of his fellow Pennsylvanians, he was caught up in the excitement of the Civil War and President Lincoln’s call for volunteers. Carlisle and its surrounding area quickly brought together four companies of volunteers during April 1861. One of these, the Carlisle Fencibles under Captain Robert Henderson, took into its ranks the young Cuddy, who added a year to his age to avoid possible complications with his enlistment. This unit subsequently became Company A, 36th Regiment, 7th Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, and John Taylor Cuddy was mustered into this regiment as a … Read the rest

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1864 (Fighting for Liberty) William Edgeworth Bird

“Pennsylvania has burning homesteads and desolate wives.  The beautiful town of Chambersburg is a black, charred mass.  There is retribution at last….All will yet be well… Every advance is peril to Sherman; our head men will yet devise a plan to crush him.”

-Captain William Edgeworth Bird, 15th Georgia Infantry, Summer 1864

Sources
An important primary source is John Rozier’s The Granite Farm Letters: The Civil War Correspondence of Edgeworth and Sallie Bird (1988). In addition, a letter from a chaplain who served in the 15th Georgia Infantry, Atticus G. Haygood, is in John Wesley Brinsfield’s The Spirit Divided: Memoirs of Civil War Chaplains: The Confederacy (2006). Important secondary sources include Dave Dameron’s Benning’s Brigade: A History and Roster of the Fifteenth Georgia (1997) and … Read the rest

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1865 (Fighting for Liberty) James Monroe Trotter

James Monroe Trotter

Sources
Several letters that James Trotter wrote while serving in the 55th Massachusetts are in Noah Andre Trudeau’s Voices of the 55th: Letters from the 55th Massachusetts Volunteers, 1861-1865 (1996). In addition, editor Richard M. Reid cites Trotter several times in Practicing Medicine in a Black Regiment: The Civil War Diary of Burt G. Wilder, 55th Massachusetts (2010) – for example, see page 33 and page 37. After the Civil War, Trotter published Music and Some Highly Musical People in 1886. As for primary sources on James’ son, Boston University has a collection of William Monroe Trotter’s papers that contain material about William’s involvement with organizations like the National Equal Rights League, the NAACP, and the Pullmans Association. In addition, the W. E. Read the rest

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1899 (Arguing for Justice) Presly Holliday

Presly Holliday, 1902

Life & Family
Sgt. Presley (also Pressley or Presly) Holliday, USA
(1873-1954)
Steelton High School (Class of 1890), Married Estelle M. Hill
Buried in Midland Cemetery

Sources
Key primary sources include the following letters:

Presley Holliday’s letter to the editor of the New York Age, April 22, 1899 (response to Theodore Roosevelt)

Presly Holliday to George Myers June 8, 1901

Reply To Mr. Lainer,” Washington (DC) Post, May 1, 1935, p. 8: 4-5.

The Utterback Case,” Washington (DC) Post, May 7, 1935, p. 8: 6.

Are Ethiopians Negroes?,” Washington (DC) Post, September 11, 1935, p. 6: 4-5.

Thinks Fighting Men Should Be Upheld In Fight Against Unfairness,” Pittsburg (PA) CourierRead the rest

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1904 (Arguing for Justice) William C. Oates

William Calvin Oates (House Divided)

Sources
Important primary sources include Oates’ perspective on the Civil War in “Gettysburg: The Battle on the Right,” Southern Historical Society Papers 6 (1878) and The War Between the Union and the Confederacy (1905). Oates also published articles on a variety of other topics, such as “The Homestead Strike, A Congressional View,” North American Review 155 (1892) and “Industrial Development of the South,” North American Review 161 (1895). In addition, the Gettysburg National Military Park has the letters in which Union Col. Joshua Chamberlain and Oates discussed whether a monument for the Fifteenth Alabama should be built on Little Round Top. As for Oates’ “private papers,” his profile on American National Biography notes that a descendant owns them. Key secondary sources include … Read the rest

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1912 (Arguing for Justice) Edward Day Cohota

Edward Day Cohota (US Army)

Narrative
Edward Day Cohota was a young Chinese immigrant who lied about his age to be able to enlist in the Union army in 1864.  He served with honor in the 23d Massachusetts (Army of the Potomac) during some of the war’s bloodiest campaigns in Virginia.  He was present at the Battle of Cold Harbor in June 1864 and helped save the life of a fellow soldier named Low who never forgot Cohota’s bravery.  Yet some Americans did forget the contributions of Chinese.  In 1882, Congress passed the first Chinese Exclusion Act.  The anti-Chinese legislation did not affect Cohota, however, until 1912 when he was denied an application for a homestead on the grounds that he was not a legitimate … Read the rest

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