Richard and Clarissa Armstrong were with the Fifth Company of American Protestant missionaries to the Islands (which included the Alexanders, Emersons, Forbes, Hitchcocks, Lymans, Lyons, Stockton and others). They arrived on May 17, 1832.
The Armstrongs had ten children. Son William N Armstrong (King Kalākaua’s Attorney General) accompanied Kalākaua on his tour of the world, one of three white men who accompanied the King as advisers and counsellors (Armstrong, Charles H Judd and a personal attendant/valet.)
Armstrong and Judd were Kalākaua’s schoolmates at the Chiefs’ Children’s School in 1849. (Marumoto) “Thirty years afterward, and after three of our schoolmates had become kings and had died (Kamehameha IV & V and Lunalio) and two of them had become queens (Emma and Liliʻuokalani,) it so happened that Kalākaua ascended the throne, and with his two old schoolmates began his royal tour.” (Armstrong)
Another Armstrong son was Samuel Chapman Armstrong. “More than 100 people from Hawai‘i fought on both sides of the Civil War. Arguably the most famous was the Union general Samuel C Armstrong.” (NY Times)
Armstrong, the son of missionaries, was born January 30, 1839 in Maui, the sixth of ten children. In 1860 his father suddenly died, and Armstrong, at age 21, left Hawai‘i for the United States and attended Williams College in Massachusetts, graduating in 1862.
After graduation, Armstrong volunteered to serve in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and recruited a company near Troy, New York.
Armstrong was among the 12,000-men captured in September 1862 with the surrender of the garrison at Harpers Ferry. After being paroled, he returned to the front lines in Virginia in December; he fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, defending Cemetery Ridge against Pickett’s Charge.
Armstrong subsequently rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, being assigned to the 9th Regiment, United States Colored Troops (USCT) in late 1863, then the 8th US Colored Troops when its previous commander was disabled from wounds. Armstrong’s experiences with these regiments aroused his interest in the welfare of black Americans.
When Armstrong was assigned to command the USCT, training was conducted at Camp Stanton near Benedict, Maryland. While stationed at Stanton, he established a school to educate the black soldiers, most of whom had no education as slaves.
At the end of the war, Armstrong joined the Freedmen’s Bureau. With the help of the American Missionary Association, he established the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute – now known as Hampton University – in Hampton, Virginia in 1868.
The Institute was meant to be a place where black students could receive post-secondary education to become teachers, as well as training in useful job skills while paying for their education through manual labor.
Among the school’s famous alumni is Dr Booker T Washington, who became an educator and later founded Tuskegee Institute. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was read to local freedmen under the historic “Emancipation Tree,” which is still located on the campus today.
“As an acknowledgment of the origin of Hampton from work done in Hawaii at the entrance of the great assembly hall there is built into the wall a piece of lava rock. This is a token that the foundation of Hampton lay in Hawaii.” (Ford, Pan Pacific Union)
“To anyone going to Hampton that piece of pahoehoe at the entrance to the great hall tells silently to those who can read the inestimable value of the Hawaiian Mission in its world-wide influence.” (Centennial Book)
“‘Education for Life,’ which was the constant theme of Armstrong’s teaching, essential though it be to secure to thousands of young men and women their self-support, is not an end in itself, but a means.” (Peabody) He incorporated the Head, Heart and Hand approach used by the missionaries.
“(Armstrong’s) parting message has become, not alone a precious legacy to Hampton, but a source of strength to great numbers of lives which are trying to go the same way of happy sacrifice.” Portions of his ‘Memoranda’, found after his death, follows …
“A work that requires no sacrifice does not count for much in fulfilling God’s plans. But what is commonly called sacrifice is the best, happiest use of one’s self and one’s resources …”
“…the best investment of time, strength, and means. He who makes no such sacrifice is most to be pitied. He is a heathen because he knows nothing of God.”
“In the school the great thing is not to quarrel; to pull all together; to refrain from hasty, unwise words and actions; to unselfishly and wisely seek the best good of all …”
“… and to get rid of workers whose temperaments are unfortunate – whose heads are not level; no matter how much knowledge or culture they may have. Cantankerousness is worse than heterodoxy.”
“I am most thankful for my parents, my Hawaiian home, for war experiences, and college days at Williams, and for life and work at Hampton.”
“Hampton has blessed me in so many ways; along with it have come the choicest people of the country for my friends and helpers, and then such a grand chance to do something directly for those set free by the war, and indirectly for those who were conquered; and Indian work has been another great privilege.”
“Few men have had the chance that I have had. I never gave up or sacrificed anything in my life – have been, seemingly, guided in everything.”
“Prayer is the greatest power in the world. It keeps us near to God—my own prayer has been most weak, wavering, inconstant; yet has been the best thing I have ever done. I think this is a universal truth—what comfort is there in any but the broadest truths?”
“”Hampton must not go down. See to it, you who are true to the black and red children of the land, and to just ideas of education. The loyalty of my old soldiers and of my students has been an unspeakable comfort.”
“It pays to follow one’s best light—to put God and country first; ourselves afterwards.” (Armstrong; Peabody)
The Islands were at the grave of Armstrong … “At its head was set a huge fragment of volcanic rock, laboriously brought from his island-home in the Pacific, and at its foot a quartz boulder hewn from the Berkshire Hills, where he had been trained.”
“The monument is a witness of the character it commemorates, volcanic in temperament, granitic in persistency; a life of self-destructive energy, like a mountain on fire, but with the steadiness and strength of one who had lifted up his eyes to the hills and found help.”
Samuel Chapman Armstrong died May 11, 1893. “Such was the end of an era in the history of Education for Life.” (Peabody)
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