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Posted on May 21, 2020 at 10:05 AM by Chester County Archives
January 1863 was undoubtedly a transformative month for Cassidy. Not only did he meet Cummings, the love of his life, but President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This Proclamation transformed the Civil War from a fight to preserve the Union into an unequivocal all-out war against slavery. Black men like Cassidy were surely inspired by this new Proclamation. If successful, the Union Army could potentially free a race from human bondage.
After the Proclamation was signed, famed orator and committed abolitionist Frederick Douglass toured the country recruiting black men for the Union Army. Speaking at Camp William Penn on July 6, 1863, Douglass remarked, "Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship." Camp William Penn was located just north of the City of Philadelphia, and it was the first and largest training camp for African American soldiers. Douglass was invited to speak to the 3rd United State Colored Troops (USCT), the first regiment trained at Camp William Penn. “The fortunes of the whole race for generations to come are bound up in [your] success or failure…You are a spectacle for men and angels.” (3) Eight days later on July 14th, Douglass visited West Chester and delivered a similar speech on the steps of Horticultural Hall (now part of the Chester County Historical Society). It is impossible to know whether Cassidy was in attendance, but he was likely inspired by a patriotic spirit.
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