10 An American Archive: Mary Bradford Fessenden Truesdell


One can’t help but notice that “Bradford” is Mary’s middle name. It’s not Elizabeth, or Sarah, or her grandmother’s name Abigail. “Bradford” might not attract attention in the southern or western part of the country, but in Massachusetts it was a very important clue. It meant that “Bradford” was a family name, and in Massachusetts it meant being connected to one of the original families from the Mayflower. Tracing family lineage back to the Mayflower is very popular so there are several very good sources on the net with accurate data. In a very short time I found the direct connection from Governor William Bradford down to Mary Bradford Fessenden Truesdell. Governor William Bradford (1588-1657) Major William Bradford (1624-1703) Samuel Bradford (1667-1714) Gershom (1691-1757) Daniel Bradford (1721-1810) Priscilla Bradford Child (1729-1815) Abigail Miller Child Fessenden (1770-1845) John Milton Fessenden (1802-1883) Mary Bradford Fessenden Truesdell Mary was born Feb. 28, 1838 in Boston, Massachusetts, while her father was an engineer for the Boston area railroads. Her mother, Mary Pierce Bumstead, was the daughter of John Bumstead, a Boston coal merchant. I have already looked at the extensive Bumstead family in Boston and it is very clear that they were a leading family from the time of the Revolution, so the conclusion is that Mary was considered “well bred” and in the center of Boston society. After he graduated and while he was in garrison, he tutored Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and others that gained fame during the Civil War. Col. Fessenden was very loyal to West Point and years later composed a written defense of West Point. There is another curious document in the archive that might have be commissioned for the purposes of defending West Point from written criticisms.

The Courts-Martial document
Dated no earlier than 1880, ruled, blue-lined ledger paper.
3 pages are 22 inches by 16.5 inches, written both sides, folded once into four page signature. One page 11 by 16.5 inches, written one side.
Total document presenting fourteen pages with three pages as blank. The document lists all offices that were brought up on charges, their rank, the date, and the final disposition. An accounting on the last page states 510 men from Oct, 1861 to , 1880. It also says that of the number only 53 were West Point graduates. The intent is to show that 90% of the officers charged to be unfit for service are not from graduates from West Point. In the list of officers, the West Point graduates are underlined in red.

The list includes some very famous officers from the Civil War era.
Major General Fitz Porter, 1863, commander of the V Corp at Cold Harbor
Major J. McKinstrey, 1862, quartermaster at St. Louis
Major L.A. Williams, 1862, 6th Cavalry
Major S.K. Dawson, 1862, 19th U.S. Infantry
Major C. J. Whiting, 1863. 3rd Cavalry
Major D. H. Hastings, 1864, accused of embezzling $26,000
Lt. Col. G. A. Custer, 1867, 7th Cavalry Lt.
Col. August Krautz, 1867, marched into Richmond at the command of black soldiers.
Major Ebenezer Gay, 1869, at Shiloh, Chief of Cavalry of Kentucky, alcoholic
Major Charles Norris, 1870
Lt. Col. Charles Blunt, 1870, corps of engineers
Lt. Col. Charles Tompkins, 1873, medal of honor in 1861, killing the first Confederate of the War. VII Corps at Gettysburg, at Spotsylvania
Major Benj. Runkle, 1873, one of the founders of Sigma Chi, wounded at Shiloh,
Major Virgil Eggleston, 1874
Major Thomas S. Dunn, 1875, at Gettysburg, 14th U.S. Infantry
Major Joseph Stewart, 1875
Major Guido Ilges, 1875, 7th U.S. Infantry, at war with the Sioux in 1880
Major Henry Freedley, 1876, 3rd U.S. Infantry, wounded at Gettysburg
Major S. A. Wainwright, 1876, 16th Iowa, alcoholic
Major Henry C. Bankhead, 1876, 48th Penn. Infantry
Major Marcus Reno, 1877, Custer’s command, made a pass at officer’s wife, fought with another. Lt. Col. Charles Blunt, 1878
Col. August Krautz, 1878
Major S. A. Wainwright, 1878
Col. D.S. Stanley, 1879, medal of honor, commanded Yellowstone Expedition of 1873
Major Marcus Reno, 1880, peeping tom at commander’s daughter’s window.
Major William M. Notson, 1880, surgeon, at Gettysburg, 6th Cavalry, Fort Concho, TX,

When Mary was just 12 her family moved to Dresden where her father served as the U.S. Consul for one year. The family continued their stay in Europe, not returning until Mary was 16. The archive has 154 letters written by Mary to Charles: 10 from 1867, 44 from 1868, 24 from 1869, 4 from 1870, 1 each from 1872, 1873 and 1878, 9 from 1880, 19 from 1881, 3 from 1882, 3 from 1883, and 14 from 1884. Mary had two children, Harriet, born in 1871 and John, born in 1873. At some point in the late 1880 Mary developed an infection in her left hand or wrist. It worsens by 1883 and the letters suggest that an amputation takes place and she is hospitalized in the Homeopathic Hospital of Boston, that was established by Constantin Hering of Germany. Mary never quite recovers and dies in August of 1884.

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7 Responses to 10 An American Archive: Mary Bradford Fessenden Truesdell

  1. This is terrific — I knew Mary Hering Alvarez well, as she was related to the husband of my great aunt Edith Park, who married John Fessenden Truesdell. I baby sat for Mary, by then divorced and living in Berkeley. She also had a daughter, Ann, older than her brother David. I have no idea at all what became of Ann. Back in the 1960s and 70s she taught ice skating in Berkeley or near there.

  2. Maura Alvarez Swartz-Bentheimer says:

    I am the grandaughter of Mary Hering Alvarez , the daughter of her son David Hering Alvarez. My father died in Vietnam while working as a missonary Physician at a children’s hospital in 1972. Anne still resides in the Berkley area. I was only 2 when my father passed away but both myself and my older brother Aaron had a close relationship with my grandmother until her death.

  3. Geoff Smith says:

    Nice bio for Mary. Thanks!

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