Daniel Foster was born in Hanover, NH, on December 10, 1816, into a family that would become eight sons and one daughter. He attended KUA for three years (1834-1836) as a student in the classical department. It is almost certain, although there is no proof, that some of his brothers also studied here as four other Fosters from Hanover, NH, are listed in the school catalogues of the 1830s.
Daniel and six of his brothers matriculated to Dartmouth College with six of them, including Daniel, eventually becoming Congregational ministers. Daniel left Dartmouth in 1841 before his graduation and moved to Kentucky where he taught school for two years. It was here, he wrote in his diary, that he “… became an abolitionist from a settled conviction of the inherent sinfulness of Slavery, a conviction forced upon me by what I saw of the evil-workings of the system.”
Daniel returned to New England where he taught in public schools and at the same time, finished his degree at Dartmouth in 1845. He was ordained a minister in 1849 and served as pastor in various churches in Massachusetts. His constant and ardent, anti-slavery sermons aroused conflict with some parishioners; they felt he preached of nothing else and this led to early dismissals from his churches.
By 1850, Daniel had become actively involved in politics and when, in order to appease both the North and South, The Compromise of 1850 made California a free state but created the Fugitive Slave Act, he and other abolitionists considered this to be “abhorrent” as it allowed slave owners to pursue escaped slaves across state borders. Daniel wrote in his diary, “Oh my country, how hast thou fallen in this abject hour from thine elevation of honor into the deepest shame and crime.” He became personally involved when, in April 1851, 17-year-old Anthony Simms, an escaped slave living and working openly in Boston, became an early victim of the Fugitive Slave Act. Daniel was in the courtroom when the ruling was made that Sims must return to slavery. He joined the demonstrators in an all-night vigil and was asked to lead them in prayer as Simms was led to the ship for deportation back to Savannah. This prayer was published in many newspapers with Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson writing of it in their journals.
Daniel’s next employment was as a lecturer with the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society that was begun by William Lloyd Garrison and others. He also worked for Garrison’s newspaper, The Liberator. Conflict and disagreement over his independent anti-slavery stands, led to Daniel’s self-removal from these organizations. In 1857 he became the Chaplain of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and there, by chance, he heard a speech by the abolitionist John Brown about the Kansas troubles. In a letter to a friend, Foster stated that he was “…convinced that our cause must receive a baptism of blood before it can be victorious. I expect to serve in Capt. John Brown’s company in the next Kansas war, which I hope is inevitable & near at hand.”
By the start of the Civil War, Daniel had brought his wife and four children back to Massachusetts and on August 13, 1862, he enlisted as chaplain in the 33rd Massachusetts Volunteers Regiment. He resigned a year later and accepted a Captaincy in the 37th Regiment of U. S. Colored Troops. They were at Chapin’s Bluff as the Union Army approached Richmond, VA. On September 30, 1864, Daniel and his company were sent forward to “test the enemy lines.” Some of his men had gone too far and didn’t hear the retreat. Daniel leapt on his horse and went off in search of them when he was shot in his left side. He managed to stay on his horse and returned to his regiment where, just before he died, he asked his men, who had laid him on the ground, to turn him around “… as he had vowed that he would die facing the enemy.” Daniel’s men and fellow officers raised enough money to send his body home to his family where he was buried in West Newbury, MA. Part of the inscription on his tombstone speaks of his devotion to his men and his cause.
Greatly beloved and respected by the Officers of the
Reg. and by his own men.
Friend of the poor and needy.
Next time: Carrie A. Brown, class of 1841