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James Henry Bradford, U.S.V.
Chaplain James Henry Bradford, U.S.V.
Chaplain James Henry Bradford, son of Rev. Moses Bradstreet Bradford,
was born in Grafton, Vermont, August 24, 1836. On his father's side he was
descended from pure Pilgrim stock, being the eighth in direct line from
Governor William Bradford, of Plymouth Colony, and through him reaching
back three generations more to Rev. John Bradford, chaplain to the queen,
afterwards burned at the stake for his religion, at Smithfield, in 1555,
with Rogers, Latimer, and others.
Chaplain Bradford's grandfather, Rev. Moses Bradford, was thirty-seven
years minister of the town of Francestown, New Hampshire. He was the
fifteenth child in a family of twenty, coming from Canterbury,
Connecticut. His father also preached nearly thirty years in Grafton. Both
of them were men of exalted character and sound common sense. His
grandfather on his mother's side, Thomas Dickman, was the first printer
and publisher and postmaster in Franklin County, at Greenfield,
Massachusetts; founder of the Springfield Gazette, and afterwards of the
Hampden Federalist, of Springfield.
James Henry attended the district school and worked on his father's farm
in Grafton until about seventeen years of age, when he went to Charleston,
South Carolina, into the dry-goods establishment of his brother-in-law,
William G. Bancroft, and remained three years under the strict discipline
of that princely merchant. One incident of life there was having the
yellow fever in 1854.
To acquire a better education he entered Williston Seminary, at East
Hampton, Massachusetts, and thence Yale College, and was in the first year
of his theological course when the war broke out. He was much interested
in the Thirteenth Regiment, quartered in New Haven, but being invited to
visit the Twelfth, at Hartford, he was elected chaplain, securing every
vote cast. The Twelfth was the only three years' regiment from Connecticut
that had but one chaplain.
Chaplain Bradford endeared himself very much to the men of his regiment by
closely looking after their welfare. Possessing an excellent constitution,
he shared the exposure with the men. When they lived in tents, he did. If
they had none, he slept on the ground under the open sky. As a matter of
fact, he hardly slept in a bed during the almost three years of his
service. He had charge of all mail and express matter, and furnished
reading for the men; raised money for a band and purchased the
instruments; visited the sick daily, buried the dead, and marked and
recorded their resting-place; sent the money home for the boys, at one
time at great personal risk, carrying several thousand dollars on his
person through the enemy's country to the express office.
||His service was in the Department
of the Gulf and with the Nineteenth Army Corps, under General
Sheridan, in the Valley. He was in the contests in Louisiana, at
Port Hudson forty-two days; at Winchester and Fisher's Hill in the
Valley; was never sick, captured, or wounded, but had several narrow
escapes. His regiment was the first to ascend the Mississippi River
and land at New Orleans; the first to re-enlist for the war, at
which time the chaplain was requested to accept the colonelcy, but
declined, preferring his old position. He was a thorough believer in
liberty, and was the first man in the Department of the Gulf to
apply for authority to raise a colored regiment, which was refused
on the ground that the colored people were needed to gather the
After the war Chaplain Bradford took charge of a Congregational
church at Hudson, Wisconsin, at which time he married Miss Ellen J.
Knight, of East Hampton, Mass., a niece of Lieutenant-Governor H. G.
After two years in the pastorate he accepted the position of assistant
superintendent and chaplain of the Massachusetts State Reform School;
afterwards started the Connecticut Industrial School for Girls, and for
four years made it the best school of the kind in the country. He was then
called to superintend the Massachusetts State Primary School, where he
showed excellent judgment in managing its six hundred and fifty inmates
and forty officers. After a few months' connection with Howard Mission,
New York, he was called to Washington to assist in the religious
statistics of the Tenth Census; thence to the Indian Bureau, where he has
remained. He was one of the early members of Garfield Post, G. A. R., and
has always been its chaplain; served one year as chaplain of the
Department of the Potomac; is also chaplain of the Loyal Legion. Chaplain
Bradford preaches almost every Sabbath in some vacant pulpit. He has four
children living, two sons and two daughters. Mrs. Bradford has become
widely known from originating and conducting the famous "Ben-Hur
Source: Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who
served in the Civil War, published by L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1893, 419
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