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Edward W. Kinsley correspondence, 1862-1889

Summary

Correspondence, chiefly incoming, concerns Edward W. Kinsley's activities on behalf of societies aiding emancipated slaves, in lobbying for Congressional action to grant equal pay to African American troops in the Union Army, and personally assisting former slaves. Civil War letters, sent from white and African American soldiers, aid workers, and notable political and military men, document the service of the 55th Massachusetts Regiment during its service in South Carolina and Georgia, with mention of the 54th Massachusetts, and the 35th Regiments of U.S. Colored Troops; life in New Bern, N.C. during its occupation; and engagements with Confederate troops. Reconstruction letters from a variety of sources comment on efforts to educate and provide for the freed slaves; citizen reaction to having an African American officer, James Monroe Trotter, in charge of enforcing peace and emancipation in Orangeburg, South Carolina; and politics in the 1870s, especially in Massachusetts.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.11605
Title
Edward W. Kinsley correspondence
Date
1862-1889
Creator
Kinsley, Edward W. (Edward Wilkinson), 1829-1891
Extent
0.5 Linear Feet, 1 box
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Materials in English

Collection Overview

This collection of correspondence belonging to Edward Wilkinson Kinsley chiefly concerns his efforts in soliciting funds for societies aiding freed slaves, in lobbying for Congressional action to grant equal pay to African American troops in the Union Army, and personally assisting former slaves. The correspondence includes many pieces written by others to Kinsley documenting these issues.

Civil War letters written to Kinsley by soldiers, many of them African Americans, aid society workers, and others describe the service of the 55th Massachusetts Regiment during its service in South Carolina and Georgia, with mention of the 54th Massachusetts, and the 35th Regiments of U.S. Colored Troops; life in New Bern, North Carolina during its occupation, written by soldier Thomas Kinsley (45th Mass. Volunteers); and skirmishes with Confederate troops.

The letters of James Monroe Trotter, African American officer and later U.S Post Office administrator, refer to the African American troops' attitudes toward salary and inequality. Trotter's letter of Nov. 21, l864, describes the celebration held by the 55th Massachusetts Regiment of Colored Troops when their salaries arrived at their camp on Folly Island, S.C. Letters from other black troops also express to Kinsley the desire for salaries as a recognition of equality as well as due payment for services rendered.

The letters from Trotter and other black soldiers also document the history of the 55th Regiment during its service in South Carolina and Georgia. Among the other regiments of the U.S.Army mentioned are the 54th Massachusetts and the 35th and 38th Regiments of U.S. Colored Troops. These last two units are referred to at times by their original names, the 1st and 2nd Regiments of North Carolina Volunteers (Colored).

Reconstruction letters comment on efforts to educate and provide for the freed slaves; citizen reaction to having an African American (James M. Trotter), in charge of enforcing peace and emancipation in Orangeburg, South Carolina; and Massachusetts politics in the 1870s.

Kinsley took a particular interest in Mrs. Mary Ann Starkey and her children, of New Bern, NC. Mrs. Starkey's letters to her benefactor Kinsley include comments on the activities of Kinsley's brother, who was an officer in the U.S. Army, and on the charitable work in New Bern. They also illustrate some of the problems confronting an African American family during the war years.

Among the notable correspondents in this collection are John Albion Andrew, governor of Massachusetts (1861-1866) and supporter of African American participation in the Union Army; William Claflin, industrialist, philanthropist, and governor of Massachusetts (1869-1872); Edward Everett, renowned orator and earlier governor of Massachusetts; Julia Ward Howe, author, poet, and abolitionist; Mary Tyler Peabody, education reformer and author; Carl Schurz, German reformer, statesman, Senator, and general in the Union Army; James Monroe Trotter, African American lieutenant in the Union Army (55th Massachusetts), teacher, and federal employee; Edward Augustus Wild, doctor and Brigadier General in the Union Army (35th Massachusetts), and officials of the N.Y. and New England Railroad Company.

Other items include correspondence from the Provost Marshal's Office, New Bern, N.C.; correspondence and five receipts from the New England Soldier's Relief Association; one letter from the office of the SATURDAY EVENING GAZETTE, Boston, with a reference to James Robert Gilmore's visit to Jefferson Davis; one letter from Samuel May, Jr., abolitionist and Unitarian minister; and one letter concerning Kinsley's friend Mrs. Wild.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Edward W. Kinsley correpondence, 1862-1889, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Letters and other papers
Box 1
 

Historical Note

Edward Wilkinson Kinsley (1829-1891) was a partner in the Boston, Massachusetts importing firm of Horswell, Kinsley and French. Born in Nashua, New Hampshire, he moved to Boston in 1848; he died there in 1891.

Kinsley never sought public office and declined permanent government appointments until 1873 when Governor William B. Washburn of Massachusetts selected him as a state director of the New York and New England Railroad Company. Kinsley served in his state's militia, but he received a medical exemption from service in the Army on Nov. 11, l862.

Kinsley was well connected in Boston, expecially with those who shared his humanitarian interests. The papers in this collection indicate that he was concerned about the plight of the free African Americans in the South during both the Civil war and Reconstruction. His activities extended to soliciting funds for societies aiding freed slaves, lobbying for Congressional action to grant equal pay to African American volunteer soldiers serving in the Union Army, and personal assistance to former slaves.

Kinsley worked closely with his friend John Albion Andrew, wartime governor of Mass., to secure Congressional approval of a bill designed not only to begin paying African American troops, but also to make the payments retroactive to cover the volunteer's full period of service. At the request of Governor Andrew, Kinsley traveled to Union-occupied North Carolina in 1863 to help recruit African American regiments.

After the Civil War, Kinsley evidently supported Ulysses S. Grant at first, but later shifted his allegiances during the closing years of Reconstruction.

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Provenance

The Edward W. Kinsley correspondence was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 1968.

Processing Information

Processed by Rubenstein staff.

Encoded by Paula Jeannet, March 2018.