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Forten, Robert Bridges

African American Soldier - No photograph currently available
Robert Bridges Forten grew up in Philadelphia and followed his father, James, into the sail-making business and abolitionist career. While financial problems eventually forced Robert to close his business, he remained involved in the antislavery movement throughout his entire life. Forten gave his first public address to the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery society in November 1834 and, two years year, he married Mary Virginia Woods. His first wife, however, died in July 1840. Five years later Forten married Mary Hanscome and they moved to a farm in western Pennsylvania. In 1854, the couple sold their property and decided to move to western Canada. As they traveled north, they stopped in Boston as controversy erupted over the arrest of fugitive slave Anthony Burns. Several years later Forten moved his family to London, where he joined the London Emancipation Committee. After President Abraham Lincoln authorized the enlistment of African Americans, Forten left his family in England and returned to Philadelphia. Forten was almost fifty one when he joined the USCT in March 1864 and he almost immediately received a promotion to sergeant major. Forten, however, died about a month later. He was the first African American to receive full military honors during his funeral in Philadelphia. Abolitionists James Miller McKim and Lucretia Mott spoke at the funeral. (By Don Sailer)
Life span: 
05/12/1813 to 04/25/1864
Dickinson Connection: 
Abolitionist James Miller McKim (Class of 1828) spoke at his funeral in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


How to Cite This Page: "Forten, Robert Bridges," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,