A Guide to the Henry Goddard Thomas Letters and Memoirs Thomas, Henry Goddard Letters and Memoirs. Ms1991-073

A Guide to the Henry Goddard Thomas Letters and Memoirs 1868-1889

A Collection in
Special Collections
Collection Number Ms1991-073


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Funding: Web version of the finding aid funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Processed by: Laura Katz Smith Special Collections Staff

Repository
Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Collection number
Ms1991-073
Title
Henry Goddard Thomas Letters and Memoirs 1868-1889
Physical Characteristics
1 inch
Language
English
Abstract
Born in Maine; entered the Civil War as a private yet rose to the rank of brigadier general by the war's end. After 1862 he was involved with the recruitment and organization of Negro troops in the Union army. Commissioned several troops, in particular the 79th and 19th U.S. Colored Infantries. He remained in the army after the war and retired in 1891. Collection consists of twenty-two letters to Thomas from friends and relatives. Many of the letters refer to the Freedmen's Bureau and the newly freed slaves' attempts to establish schools and churches.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

The collection is without restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Henry Goddard Thomas Letters and Memoirs, 1868-1889, Ms1991-073, Special Collections, University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.

Acquisition Information

Purchased in 1991 from the History Broker, Howard McManus.

Processing Information

Processed by Laura Katz Smith in 1993.


Biographical/Historical Information

Henry Goddard Thomaswas born in Portland Maine, on April 4, 1837. At the age of twenty-one he graduated from Amherst and then studied law and was admitted to the Maine bar. He was enlisted in the 5th Maine as a private in April, 1861, and was commissioned captain in June. This command fought at the battle of First Manassas, after which, on August 5, 1861, Thomas accepted a commission as a captain in the newly authorized 11th U.S. Infantry. He was on recruiting duty until the summer of 1862 and did not join his regiment until autumn. Thereafter his principle contribution to the war effort was the recruitment and organization of Negro troops, with whom he was associated with until the end of the war. He was commissioned colonel first of the 79th U.S. Colored Infantry and then of the 19th Colored Infantry, taking command of the latter on January 16, 1864. Thomas is said to have been the first officer of the Regular Army to accept a colonelcy of colored troops. (681) He was assigned to Ferrero's IX Corps's division of Negro troops at the beginning of U.S. Grant's Overland campaign and was present during all of the battles incident thereto, including the battle of The Crater. On November 30, 1864, Thomas was made a brigadier general of volunteers and transferred to Benjamin F. Butler's Army of the James, where he commanded a brigade of four colored regiments in the XXV Corps. At the end of the war he was brevetted through all ranks to that of brigadier general, U.S. Army and major general of volunteers, but he was mustered out of volunteer service on January, 1886, as a captain of the 11th infantry, a grade which he occupied for the next decade. He became major of the 4th Infantry in 1876 and two years later transferred to the paymaster's department with the same rank. On July 2, 1891 he went on the retired list, and on January 23, 1897, he died in Oklahoma City. His remains were returned to Portland for burial.

Scope and Content Information

From the letters to Henry Goddard Thomas one can gather that the General was a respected individual for his involvement with the black community. As an activist Thomas received various letters from individuals seeking to help educate the recently released slaves. Thomas was particularly active in the construction of churches for the black community as well as instruction for black ministers. Louis Hensen writes to thank the General for money for the construction of a Methodist church and informs him of the construction progress. A letter from Byron Greenough updates the progress of one such organization, the Institute for the Instruction of Colored Ministers in Virginia and Southern States. A letter from Rev. Commodore D. Hurt commends the work that government has done for the education of the "poor and downtrodden race." The letter also updates the General on the status of a black school in Russell County VA. Some letters also express the frustration of Thomas' peers over the treatment of blacks. The letter from P.S. Reeves dated June 17, 1868 relates a story involving "Regulators" and a black school teacher in Danville. An interesting letter from G.R. Rosselton, dated December 24, 1869, includes a brief synopsis of slavery in America.

Henry Goddard Thomas was also a man of considerable social standing as he had ties with the Virginia Governor Shelby, and his father and brother also appear to be quite active in the North in the same activities as Thomas. In politics the General was a member of the Grant and Colfax Club.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged chronologically.

Index Terms

    Persons:

  • Thomas, Henry Goddard
  • Subjects:

  • Civil War
  • Local/Regional History and Appalachian South
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865

Contents List

Williams at Ft. Wood, NY, to Henry Goddard Thomas February 10, 1868
1
P.S. Reeves in Danville, KY, to Henry Goddard Thomas June 17, 1868
2
P.S. Reeves in Danville, KY, to Henry Goddard Thomas June 18, 1868
3
Edward Hillipp in Lebanon, KY, to Henry Goddard Thomas June 19, 1868
4
P.S. Reeves in Danville, KY, to Henry Goddard Thomas June 28, 1868
5
Benjamin H. Osborn in Danville, KY, Henry Goddard Thomas September, 1868
6
P.S. Reeves in Paducah, KY, to Henry Goddard Thomas September 7, 1868
7
Thomas' Brother Bill in Portland, ME to Henry Goddard Thomas September 17, 1868
8
S.A. Nesbith in Wytheville, to Henry Goddard Thomas September 25, 1868
9
Brian Greenough in Portland, ME, to Henry Goddard Thomas December 25, 1868
10
R.L. Lacy in Lynchburg, VA, at the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman, and Abandoned Lands, to Henry Goddard Thomas January 27, 1869
11
Reverend Commodore D. Hurt, Russell County, VA, to Henry Goddard Thomas April 7, 1869
12
R.B. Moorman, Salem, VA, to Henry Goddard Thomas in Dakota Territory August 4, 1869
13
L.C. Henson in Wytheville, VA, to Henry Goddard Thomas in Dakota Territory August 4, 1869
14
G.R. Rossitor in Marietta, OH, to Henry Goddard Thomas December 24, 1869
15
Eliza Roach in Scotland, to Henry Goddard Thomas October 4, 1871
16
Professor Rossitor in Marietta, OH, to Henry Goddard Thomas February 15, 1873
17
From Rudolph Tucker in Wytheville, VA, to Henry Goddard Thomas December 4, 1878
18
MLD of Columbus, MD, to Henry Goddard Thomas March 14, 1879
19
Receipt from Kinsburg and Draper, St. Paul, MN, to Henry Goddard Thomas September 18, 1879
20
E.F. Huntington in Boston, MA, to Henry Goddard Thoma September 6, 1880
21
F.C. Young in Denver, CO, to Henry Goddard Thomas January 26, 1880
22
Receipt for Thomas' subscription to the Army and Naval Journal January 1884
23
Henry William Clifford in Portland, ME, to Henry Goddard Thomas January 30, 1889
24
Invitation from E.F. Trouy in Manchester, NH, to Henry Goddard Thomas February 1, 1889
25
John Deering of Saco, ME, to Henry Goddard Thomas March 26, 1889
26
Henry Goddard Thomas Memoirs

Twelve handwritten pages of Thomas' early war experiences in the 11th U.S. Infantry. Most incidents concern Captain Cooley and Lieutenants Head and Huntington.

Significant Persons Associated With the Collection

  • Henry Goddard Thomas
  • Thomas, Henry Goddard