Thursday, October 22, 2015

Clashing with the Governor 1860s Style

Henry Holcombe Tucker was lawyer, Baptist minister, and educator -- president of Mercer University and chancellor of the University of Georgia. He was born in 1819, and died in 1889. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbian College, and was president of a large salt manufacturing company during the Civil War. He was considered by those who knew him to be an entertaining companion, profound theologian, and a well-informed man on all subjects. We have no known shared ancestors.

Henry Holcombe Tucker, image courtesy of the Baptist
Encyclopedia, 1891

A few months after the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, Henry became an agent, or fundraiser, for the Georgia Hospital and Relief Association. The goal of the association was to provide Georgia soldiers with the medical care and related supplies they might need. The association may or may not have been known to Georgia governor, Joseph E. Brown, who issued a proclamation related to the health needs of Georgia soldiers. Henry Tucker took issue with this proclamation, let the governor know, and proceeded to ask for two favors.

A political clash 1860s style!

First page of a letter from Henry Tucker to Governor Brown; image courtesy of
from the Georgia, Civil War Correspondence, 1847-1865, collection

August 6, 1861

His Excellency Joseph E. Brown

Governor and Dear Sir,

I have just seen your Excellency's proclamation stating that you have placed at the disposal of an association in Richmond, funds sufficient for the establishment of a hospital there for the benefit of our sick and wounded.

Your excellency may not be aware that the "Georgia Hospital and Relief Association," whose chief bureau is at Augusta, who inaugurated this hospital movement and with whom the gentlemen in Richmond are cooperating; is now sending agents to every county in the state to solicit funds and other supplies in aid of this enterprise. I am one of the agents and in five days have collected subscriptions to the amount of $9,000. We have some six or eight other agents who may have been equally or more successful. We are expecting to raise by voluntary contribution a sum not less than $100,000, which we are sure will be none too much. Indeed, more could be judiciously expended. We have 25,000 men in the field. Certainly an average expense of $4 each for medicine and nurses and such comforts generally as we think our defending ought to have, would not be a very high sum. We are also collecting immense [illegible] of clothing, medicines, delicacies in the way of diet for the sick, hospital furniture, beds, pillows, blankets, etc., which are for wounded from our depot in Augusta to our depot in Virginia to be distributed as occasion may require.

But your Excellency must perceive then the statement in your recent proclamation that you have furnished funds sufficient for this enterprise will entirely estop our further success in the collection of funds. We are sure that such was not your Excellency's intention and we should be glad to have a statement from your Excellency to that effect. Otherwise, we must call in our agents and these voluntary offerings prompted by the benevolence and patriotism of the people themselves must come to and end. Not only so, but we think our soldiers will suffer for want of such aid as we could send for we are quite sure that there can be no sum subject to the executive disposal which would be at all adequate to the demands of the occasion.

Your Excellency's proclamation also states that boxes, etc., if sent to the Quarter Master General at Atlanta will be forwarded free of expense. We have a great many boxes and are daily receiving more. May we not ask that goods forwarded to us and by us to Virginia shall also go at public's expense?

If your Excellency is disposed to say to us "go on -- collect what you can -- and your freight shall be at public expense" will you be kind enough to telegraph to the undersigned at Augusta to that effect at as early an hour as possible. And if consistent with your Excellency's views, we should be glad to see a publication in the newspapers setting forth Your Excellency's sanctions to our proceedings.

With highest respect and esteem,

H. H. Tucker
General Agent for the State

Dear Brother Brown,

You will remember me, Professor Tucker of Mercer University.

Henry's letter must have been effective. Soon after Governor Brown asked the legislature to appropriate $200,000 for the care and comfort of wounded Georgia soldiers and directed the Georgia Hospital & Relief Associate to have charge of the money.


  1. Note the name at the top of the letter as Tucker, H H

    Henry Holcombe Tucker was the professor at Mercer.

    1. Thank you for the correction. I have edited this post to reflect the correct person.