Browsing Posts in Reconstruction (1865-1880)

Frederick Douglass gave a speech in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on March 2, 1872 about his work relating to Santo Domingo. In 1871 President Ulysses S. Grant had appointed Douglass to the Commission of Inquiry for the annexation of Santo Domingo the United States of America. Douglass delivered his speech at Rheem’s Hall, which was located behind the Old Court House in Carlisle. Today that location is a parking lot. Reports about the speech did not appear in any national newspapers, but his visit created a local controversy. George Z. Bentz, who was the manager of the Bentz House and a Republican, refused to let Douglass eat his dinner in hotel dining room with the white guests. (The Bentz House stood on what is today the former Wellington Hotel on East High Street). The American Volunteer used the incident to characterize Republicans as hypocritical. “We have in this circumstance positive evidence that the Radicals are just as loath to recognize negro-equality as the Democrats,” as the American Volunteer observed. While the Herald “[found] no fault with” the manager’s decision, the editors argued that policies which denied African Americans entry into a hotel “[were] simply silly and wicked.” In addition, Historic Carlisle recently added a Wayside Maker for Douglass’ visit.

David L. Smith also discusses Douglass’ visit  in his essay “Fredrick Douglass in Carlisle” (2005). Smith provides transcripts of the newspaper articles cited in this blog post.

Location: Bentz House stood on what is today the former Wellington Hotel on East High Street ; Rheem’s Hall, which is a parking lot today, was located behind the Old Court House

This essay has been posted online with permission from the Cumberland County Historical Society.

The Soldiers Monument in Carlisle, Pennsylvania was created in a post war effort to honor the Cumberland County soldiers who died as a result of the Civil War. The efforts to build the monument were initiated by the Soldiers Monument Association in early January 1867, which included General Lemuel Todd as Chair, General Robert Miller Henderson as President, and Colonel Erkuries Beatty as Corresponding Secretary. The minutes of the Soldiers Monument Association are available for reference at the Cumberland County Historical Society in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Fundraising continued into early 1871 until the Monument Association obtained the five thousand dollars needed to erect the monument. The extra money financed the dedication ceremonies as well as the fence that enclosed the monument. A Carlisle mechanic, Richard Owens, was responsible for contracting and designing the monument, which contained a “Roll of Honor” that provided the names of the three hundred and forty-four Cumberland County officers and soldiers that died in combat or during their term of service in the army during the Civil War. The official unveiling of the thirty foot tall Soldiers Monument took place on the Public Square near the Carlisle Courthouse on August 19, 1871 with Lemuel Todd as Chief Marshall of the ceremonies and Major General Heintzelman as the presenter of the unveiled monument. Available on Google Books, Carlisle, Old and New gives a brief description of the monument as well as some of the other historical features in Carlisle.