Friday, March 17, 2006

Current Projects: John Quincy Dickinson

I am trying to decide what to do with my extensive research about John Quincy Dickinson ("JQD"). JQD is particularly interesting to me because he knew Hamilton, Fleishman, John Finlayson and William Purman.
JQD, born in Benson, Vermont in the late 1830s, attended Middlebury College and became the Vermont state political reporter for the Ruland Herald. At the outset of the War, he joined the 7th Vermont Infantry which was dispatched to Louisiana. JQD spent the war with his unit in the Gulf Coast and wrote a series of detailed, evocative letters to friends and family with some intended for publication in the Herald. The Herald letters have been reprinted in Don Wickman's Letters to Vermont, From Her Civil War Soldier Correspondents to the Home Press, Vol. 1 & 2. Other letters that I have recovered from various sources have not been published.
After the war, JQD remained on the Gulf Coast and tried his hand at the lumber business with fellow Vermont veterans, establishing and managing a sawmill. This venture apparently failed and JQD somehow got known to the Republican government in Tallahassee where he made himself useful, as a clerk and then briefly as Assistant Secretary of State (July 1868) under Sec'y J.C. Gibbs. His reputation in Tallahassee led to his appointment in September 1868 to the Freedman's Bureau post at Marianna, FL, replacing William J. Purman who had resigned from the Bureau on becoming a State Senator. After the effective dissolution of the Bureau, JQD was appointed Clerk of the Circuit Cout for Jackson County in June 1869, succeeding the assasinated John L. Finlayson. JQD remained in Marianna through the worst moments of the "Jackson County War" until his own assasination by white conservative Klan-types on April 3, 1871. JQD remained connected to state government: he participated in the committee led by Purman in 1869 that negotiated the transfer of West FL to Alabama and in Jan. 1871, he was confirmed as a colonel in the FL state militia.
My best research discovery to-date has been finding the private owner of the manuscript "Dickinson Diary" reprinted in "Testimony Taken by the Joint Select Committee to Inquire Into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States,” House Report No. 22, pt. 13, 42d Cong., 2d sess. (Washington, 1872)." This diary is the only contemporaneous eyewitness account of the violence that exploded in Jackson County, Florida in late September 1869. Amazingly (for me, at least), the diary was purchased together with the original Fleishman affidavits and a remarkable letter from Charles Hamilton.
I'm not sure that a "larger point" can be made other than the example of a courageous and admirable individual who maintained his principals under great danger. If I don't find an appropriate journal, I may put my research in this blog.
(Additional material added Feb. 2007)

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