William Wilberforce Douglas, born on November 26, 1841, was the son of Baptist Minister William Douglas, Sr., and Sarah Sawyer Douglas of Providence, Rhode Island. William W. Douglas had five siblings, Sarah Ellen, Francis Wayland, Anne, Charles Henry, and Samuel Tobey, many of whom were the recipients of his letters.
William W. Douglas graduated from Brown University in 1861, shortly before the start of the war. He enlisted in the Fifth Regiment of the Rhode Island Volunteer Heavy Artillery during the American Civil War and served for three years in Union General Ambrose Burnsides' Expeditionary Corps in North Carolina. During his time in the Expeditionary Corps, Douglas rose in ranks from Second Lieutenant in Company B, to First Lieutenant in Company D, and eventually to Captain in Company C before he was mustered out of service on December 20, 1864.
After his military service ended, he returned to Providence, Rhode Island, and received a law degree from the Albany School of Law in 1866 and served in the Rhode Island General Assembly for two terms starting in 1871. He also served in the Providence city council (1873-1876), was elected state senator in 1890, became an associate Justice of the State Supreme Court in 1891, and was Chief Justice from 1905-1908.
On June 30, 1884, he married Anna Jean Bennett of Newton, Massachusetts. William W. and Anna Jean Douglas had no children. During their lifetime, Douglas and his wife traveled extensively, and held many leadership roles in their church such as Treasurer for many years at the First Baptist Church in Providence, RI; and held many civic and veterans’ leadership roles including service in the Hope Club, Squantum Association, and Rhode Island Art Club.
William W. Douglas died on July 11, 1929, at 87 years old, and was buried at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, Rhode Island. His wife, Anna Jean, died on August 19, 1939, and was buried alongside him in their family plot.
U.S., Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011
Boumenot, Diane. “The Civil War Letters of William Wilberforce Douglas.” Last modified March 17, 2013.
Burlingame, John K.
History of the Fifth Regiment of Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, during Three Years and a Half of Service in North Carolina, January 1862-June 1865. Providence: Snow & Farnham Printers and Publishers, 1892.
Find a Grave. “William Wilberforce Douglas.” Last modified April 28, 2008.
National Cyclopedia of American Biography (Vol. 14, p. 214).