In 1850, after the passage of the
Fugitive Slave Act, Reverend Higginson joined the
Vigilance Committee to Aid Escaping Slaves. He also was a
strong supporter of John Brown
and Kansas Free State Movement,
(1852). Reverend Higginson
was the pastor of the Free Church
in Worcester, Massachusetts
from 1852 to 1861. He also
played a leading role in freeing the fugitive slave,
Thomas Higginson was appointed a
in the United States Army during the
War and in
he was given command of the 1st South
Carolina Volunteers, the
Black Regiment in the U. S. Army.
1st South Carolina Volunteers
was organized in May 1862
under General David Hunter
and the troops consisted mostly of freed slaves from the
Head Island area of South Carolina.
Higginson assumed command of the 1st Carolina on
10, 1862. The regiment fought their first battle under
Higginson in January 1863 at
Landing on the
River along the Florida-Georgia state line. The 1st Carolina
won the battle with the loss of 1 killed
7 wounded. In
March of that year the 1st and
2nd Carolina Regiments occupied
Florida where they repulsed several Confederate attempts to retake the
1st Carolina was
redesignated as the 33rd United States
Colored Troops on February 8,
1864 and combined with two other regiments one of which
was the 54th Massachusetts,
On July 2, 1864 they took
part in the assault on Battery Gregg
at James Island, South Carolina, (Just south
of Charleston) and in December they fought in the
of Honey Hill along with the 55th Massachusetts. During
their final year in service, the 1st Carolina served on Garrison Duty in
Savannah and Charleston. They were mustered out on
9, 1866 at
in Charleston, SC.
Colonel Higginson was
wounded in South Carolina in 1863
and mustered out in 1864. After leaving the service, Thomas and his wife
Mary, (who was in ill health)
relocated to Newport, Rhode Island. It was during this
period (1864 to 1879) that he
sent the letter shown above.
Thomas was a prolific writer and wrote over
30 books; he was a frequent contributor to the
Monthly. Thomas fell in love with Newport and he became
deeply involved in the community. He was chairman of the
Committee and led the movement to
Separate Schools for Black and White children in 1865.
During his Newport period, he wrote his first novel,
An Oldport Romance."
He was a director of the Redwood Library
and a member of the Town and Country Club.
After the death of his first wife, Mary; he moved back to
and married his second wife, Mary P.
Thatcher. Thomas discovered and encouraged the poet
Dickinson. He maintained an extensive correspondence with
both Emily Dickinson and
died on May 9, 1911
in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Redwood Library Records
Civil War @ Charleston
Library of Congress