Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

A Biography Of America's Folk-Song Composer By Harold Vincent Milligan

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THE FAMILY
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Morrison Foster, left a collection of letters which had passed between parents and children and brothers and sisters. These letters give an insight not only into the existence of those days, but also reveal the charm of a beautiful and affectionate family life. From these let­ters, some of them dating as far back as 1812, much of the information contained in the following pages has been obtained and to them frequent reference will be made.
That William Foster prospered and laid up for him­self treasures of this world's goods, there is ample evi­dence. That he was a man of great public spirit is re­vealed not only in his own letters, but also in his deeds. During the War of 1812 he was appointed Quartermaster and Commissary of the United States Army. When the Army of the Northwest appealed to the government for supplies to enable them to continue the war, the answer was "a mournful echo from the vaults of an exhausted treasury"; but William Foster, with his own money and upon his own personal credit, procured the neces­sary supplies. When the British army, which had cap­tured Washington and burned the Capitol, turned their fleet southward for the capture of New Orleans, urgent orders came to Pittsburgh to send forward clothing, blankets, guns and ammunition for the relief of Jackson's army. Again William Foster drew upon his own for­tune and credit to procure the needed supplies. He loaded the steamboat "Enterprise," the fourth steam­boat to turn a wheel on the western river, and the first to make the trip to New Orleans and return, and dis­patched her from Pittsburgh on the 15th of December, 1814. She was commanded by one of the pioneer river captains, Henry M. Shreve. Leaving Pittsburgh just at twilight on a winter afternoon, as the boat rounded to and pointed down stream for the long voyage, Capt. Shreve called out to Foster, standing on the wharf, "I'll get her there before the British or sink this boat."







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