by Kathy Dhalle
Stedman Hartwell was born in Natick, Massachusetts on June l l, l836, the son
of Stedman and Rebecca Dana Perry Hartwell. His mother was descended from
Oliver H. Perry, American Naval Commander in the victory over the British on
Lake Erie in l8l3 and Richard Henry Dana, author of "Two Years Before the
Mast". He attended local district schools and then entered Harvard University,
graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in l858. He shortly thereafter found
himself a tutor at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
After the fall of Fort Sumter in April of l86l, President Lincoln authorized St. Louis to muster several volunteer regiments to help keep the peace and protect the national arsenal there. Hartwell joined the 3rd Missouri Reserve Regiment, and on May 8th, l86l he was mustered with his regiment as Corporal of Company K. To counter these Federal measures, Missouri Governor Claiborn Jackson authorized the formation of a military camp of state militia in St. Louis which would be known as Camp Jackson. The Governor had also made secret arrangements with Confederate President Jefferson Davis to have several pieces of artillery and a supply of ammunition shipped to the camp under disguise. Hartwell's first experience under fire came on May l0th, l86l when the Missouri Volunteer Regiments were ordered to demand the surrender of Camp Jackson. The disturbance and loss of life that occurred that day would become known as "The Camp Jackson Massacre." Peace would eventually be returned to St. Louis and in June of l86l, Hartwell parted company with the Missouri forces and headed east. During this hiatus, he began his studies at Harvard Law School. Unable to stay away from the call of battle, in April of l862, he enlisted at Boston as a private in a Battalion of Rifles. Before they could march to Washington, the threat against the nation's capitol was thwarted and their orders rescinded. In September of l862, received a permanent commission as 1st Lieutenant in the 44th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. During his term with this regiment, Hartwell saw action at Goldsboro and Kingston, North Carolina, taking part in several expeditions which would hamper Lee's lines of movement and communication.
With the issuance of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in January of l863, the entire face of the Civil War changed. On January 26, 1863, abolitionist Governor John Albion Andrew received permission from Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to begin raising special corps comprised of persons of African descent. He lost no time in making plans for the formation of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Among the group of hand-picked officers of the 54th was Alfred S. Hartwell who was commissioned as senior Captain. With the arrival of more recruits than deemed necessary, it was determined that a second regiment, the 55th Massachusetts would be organized with the overflow. Hartwell accepted a commission as Lieutenant-Colonel of the 55th Massachusetts. Norwood P. Hallowell of the 20th Massachusetts was appointed Colonel.
On May 28th, Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment left Boston for South Carolina and marched into history. On July 2lst orders were received for the 55th to embark for Newbern, North Carolina. Shortly after their arrival in North Carolina, news came of the severe repulse of General Gilmore's forces at Fort Wagner on Morris Island and of the losses experienced by the 54th Massachusetts. The 55th was immediately ordered to Folly Island, South Carolina where they set up their base camp. In the fall of 1863, Colonel Hallowell was forced to resign his commission due to an injury he had received at Antietam the year before. Hartwell was moved up to the Colonelcy, and Charles B. Fox followed as his Lieutenant-Colonel.
About this time, rumors regarding the pay of the regiment's enlisted men began circulating the camp. The 54th and 55th Massachusetts had been assured by both the War Department and Governor Andrew that they would receive the same pay, rations, and clothing as white troops. However, the men were offered the sum of only $l0.00 per month, less $3.00 for clothing allowance. Like the 54th Massachusetts, the men of the 55th refused to accept their pay. They also refused a later offer from the State to supplement the difference.
On March 9th, l864, Hartwell wrote to Colonel Francis L. Lee regarding his wish to have qualified men of "African descent" promoted to the grade of 2nd Lieutenant. He firmly believed that in order for the black regiments to survive, this needed to be accomplished.
The pay issue was still plaguing Hartwell in April of l864. At that time he wrote his old friend Edward W. Kinsley: "I can hardly write, talk, eat or sleep, I am so anxious and indignant that pay is not forthcoming... for my men. Can anything be done to hasten this thing? Leave nothing undone my dear sir, to get us the greenbacks very soon."
After an attempted mutiny in April of 1864, by some enlisted men in the 55th, Hartwell made several attempts to head north to see about the pay issue. Each time he was thwarted in his attempt by his Commanding General. Each day that passed without resolving the pay issue, meant another possibility for further mutiny attempts.
On the 24th of May, lst Sergeant John Freeman Shorter was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant by Governor Andrew, but the Department Commander, refused to accept his discharge as Private and muster as Lieutenant. In an attempt to settle this problem, Hartwell wrote to Governor Andrew on May 28th and pleaded Shorter's case. To further the pay issue, Hartwell penned a letter to Secretary of War Stanton asking that the unit be discharged from service since the government had not lived up to their part of the bargain. On June l7th, an Aide-de-Camp for General Foster wrote back to Hartwell: "General Foster...directs me to inform you...he considers the letter to the Secretary of War as ill-timed. The General Commanding is afraid that your letter shows an inclination to make trouble." This situation discouraged Hartwell and he hinted to his friend Kinsley that he might resign, but Kinsley talked him out of it. For the regiment, October 7th turned out to be a most important day, for it was the day that they were all finally paid off. The process took three days to complete and things returned to normal within the regiment.
The end of November found the regiment on an expedition down the Broad River to destroy the railroad at Grahamville, S.C. On the morning of the 30th, Hartwell led his brigade down a wooded road and came upon a large Confederate earthwork fort hidden among the trees. He led three separate charges in an attempt to take the fort, and was wounded three times, having his horse blown out from under him. He was removed to the rear, taken to Beaufort for treatment, and sent home to finish his recuperation. He rejoined the regiment near Savannah in January of 1865, having in the meantime, been Breveted a Brigadier General for bravery.
On February 2lst the regiment was transferred to Charleston, S.C., where just before sunset, they landed and formed in line to march through the city that CSA General Hardee and his troops had so recently vacated. At the head of the brigade led by Hartwell came the 55th Massachusetts...the first Union regiment to march through the streets of Charleston since before the war.
Fort Sumter had been abandoned by the Confederates on the night of February l7th and l8th. On April 9th, Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia. To celebrate this event, a formal ceremony at the fort was planned on Good Friday, April l4th. Just hours before the assassination of President Lincoln, such dignitaries as William Lloyd Garrison, the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher of Boston, and Major-General Robert Anderson, who had been in command of the fort when it was surrendered in l86l, gathered together to pay their respects. Also present that day was General Alfred S. Hartwell and several of the other commanding officers who had fought side by side with the 55th.
For the next few months, Hartwell and the regiment were stationed between Orangeburg and Columbia, S.C., running the district office of the Freedman's Bureau. They spent their time enforcing work contracts between blacks and whites in the community. The end of June, three of the enlisted men, James M. Trotter, William Dupree and John F. Shorter were mustered as 2nd Lieutenant in the 55th. Hartwell's goals for his regiment had come full circle.
The regiment was mustered out in Boston on August 29, 1865. For Hartwell however, his military career was not yet over. Prior to leaving for Boston with the regiment, he had received orders to report to Hilton Head for a special assignment. Once there he learned that he was to audit the recruiting practices of Brevet Brigadier General Milton S. Littlefield in the Department of the South. It was believed that Littlefield, along with some state recruiting agents and a handful of Army officers were defrauding the government and black enlisted men of bounty money. After an exhaustive investigation, formal charges were filed against Littlefield and several other individuals. On April 30th, his work finished, Hartwell was mustered out of the military service of the United States Army.
After his discharge, Hartwell returned home to Natick and resumed his law studies at Harvard. He received his Law Degree in l867 and began private practice in Boston. Also in the fall of l866, he was nominated as a candidate on the Republican ticket and elected to the post of Representative in the State Legislature, a position his father had also held in l845.
In 1868 he was offered and accepted the position of First Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii by King Kamehameha V. That summer he sailed for his new home and his new future. On January l0, l872, he married Charlotte Elizabeth Smith, the daughter of Connecticut missionary Doctor James W. Smith. Eight children...seven daughters and one son, were born of this union.
In l874, Hartwell was asked to serve as King Kalakaua's Attorney General. Reluctant at first, Hartwell finally assented but would serve for only one year in this capacity and resigned to enter private law practice. Besides law, he also busied himself by dabbling in other enterprises and serving on various commissions and boards. For a while, he edited the Hawaiian Gazette newspaper and served on the Board of Trustees for the Planters' Labor and Supply Company, organized for the express purpose of overseeing the sugar industry. In l890 he would propose the construction of cables between Hawaii and California, and Hawaii and Japan and he would serve as President of the Pacific Cable Company. It is also believed that he loaned money to a consortium to have Pearl Harbor dredged. He was adamant that the United States acquire a permanent lease with Hawaii for Pearl Harbor as he believed it to be of great military importance.
After the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in January of 1893, Hartwell served on the Annexation Commission. On July 7, l898, President McKinley signed a joint resolution of Congress annexing Hawaii to the United States. During l899- l900, Hartwell traveled to Washington, D.C., as a special agent and worked closely with Secretary of State John Hay, providing counsel in regards to Hawaii's future. On June l5, l904 he was appointed Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii. He served in this capacity until August l5, l907 when he was sworn in as Chief Justice. On February 2, l9ll, Judge Hartwell resigned and set sail in June for a tour of Europe. By this time his wife had predeceased him. He was taken ill in London and forced to cut his trip short. During his recuperation, Judge Hartwell contemplated settling in San Francisco to be close to one of his daughters. However, he returned to Honolulu and he resumed the law practice he loved so dearly. He again took ill on Monday, August 26, l9l2. He passed away quietly at his home on August 30, l9l2. He was laid to rest with his sword strapped to his side, next to his wife at Nuuanu Cemetery in Honolulu. The Governor of Hawaii and other high-ranking officials acted as his pall bearers. Besides being a Mason, the Judge belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), The Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), Phi Beta Kappa, The University of Honolulu, The Metropolitan Club of Washington, and the Union Club of Boston. Thus passed into history a noble and compassionate man.
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