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Capt. John P. Worthing Civil War Letters

Identifier: M339

Scope and Contents

This collection is a summary of an officer in the Civil War. This collection would benefit the serious student of soldier's life and of race relations in the Civil War.


  • Creation: June 28, 1863-June 24, 1864

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

John Putnam Worthing (1822-1911) was born in Rutland, Vermont. His parents were Rev. Jonathan Worthing (1786-1873) and Sarah Carter Robey (1786-1870). John Worthing moved with his parents to Binghamton in 1845. He was married to Lydia Hill Tupper (1830-?) and eight children were born of the union, but three children died, two from drowning and one from diphtheria.

John Worthing enlisted into Company B of the 161st New York Infantry on October 25, 1862, in Elmira, New York during the Civil War. The 161st was stationed in Louisiana between May and July 1863, and saw action in three battles while First Lieutenant Worthing was with them: The Battle of Plains Store, (May 21, 1863); The Siege of Port Hudson, (May 24, 1863 to July 7, 1863); and The Battle of Cox Plantation, (July 13, 1863).

Worthing was discharged from the 161st on January 30, 1864. Four days later, he was commissioned to the rank of Captain in the 17th Regiment Infantry, Corp d`Afrique. The regiment was mustered in Port Hudson, Louisiana on September 24, 1863, along with other all black regiments made up of former slaves and freedmen that enlisted before and after the fall of Port Hudson. The 17th was attached to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Corps d` Afrique, Department of the Gulf. Captain Worthing was one of the all white officers in command of the all black regiment

The 17th was assigned garrison duty at Port Hudson, Louisiana until April 4, 1864. After that time, the black regiments were given regular army names and numbers and the regiment was changed to the 88th Colored Infantry by order No. 16 of General L. Thomas, Adjutant General.

Because of its low numbers, the 88th was disbanded on July 28, 1864, and the soldiers were dispersed to other regiments. The white officers were ordered to muster out of service, and on August 12, 1864, Captain Worthing was discharged from the 88th Colored Infantry.

After the war, Captain Worthing returned home and became a member of the Binghamton City Guard. He retired from the group in 1882 as a colonel. Col. Worthing died November 5, 1911, in Binghamton, New York at the age of 89.


.25 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Transcripts of three letters written by white officer of the 88th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops (formerly Corps d'Afrique).


Folder 1 consists of the typescripts of three letters written by Captain John P. Worthing on June 28, 1863, May 18, 1864, and June 24, 1864.

The first letter is written from Plains Store, Louisiana when Worthing was a First Lieutenant in the 161st New York Infantry. The next two were written after the siege of Port Hudson had succeeded and Worthing had been commissioned as captain of the 88th Colored Infantry. All three letters are addressed to his mother.

In the first letter, Worthing complains of boredom, which seems to be the theme of all his letters. He comments on plantation life now that the masters are gone and the slaves are free. He also discusses the interaction of the army with the former slaves and the whites. The only thing that Worthing can find to read is Southern publications, and he mentions that he could have been a "good overseer on a plantation of a former day." General Nathan Banks is mentioned once on the subject of Port Hudson and its possible capture. Also, he asks about his children and wife and about their well being.

The second and third letters were written in Port Hudson, after he became a captain in the 88th Colored Infantry. According to the letters, the daily routine of the troop was construction of roads and leveling of ground, but much of his day was consumed by sleep and reading. Captain Worthing discusses his diet and his rheumatism. He also mentions that the fate of the regiment seems to hang in the balance due to General Banks' mistake of not acquiring more men. He ends each letter with personal family business and advice for rearing his children.

The collection also includes two photocopied pages from the "Official Army Register of the Volunteer Force of the United States Army for the Years 1861-1865".

Folder 2 contains eight photographs of Worthing's family and himself (identified).

Folder 3 contains photographs of the original resolution of retirement, and a typescript copy of the resolution presented to Colonel Worthing when he retired from the Binghamton City Guard. The resolution now hangs in the home of Mrs. Pat Potter in State College, Pennsylvania. The folder also contains a copy of Col. Worthing's obituary November 5, 1911. (Newspaper unknown, most likely a Binghamton City newspaper.)


Donated by Mrs. Pat Potter.

Capt. John P. Worthing Civil War Letters
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001