Arthur Crisfield

Arthur Crisfield was born on August 3, 1839, in Princess Anne, Maryland, to John W. Crisfield and Julia Ethelinde Page. His father was a Whig politician who owned at least 40 slaves. The elder Crisfield represented Maryland in Congress from 1847 to 1849 and again from 1861 to 1863. Julia died on June 28, 1841, when Arthur was only one year old. He was christened in Great Choptank Parish in Cambridge, Maryland, and the 1850 census recorded him living with Dorchester County mariner Shadrach Mitchell.

Crisfield enrolled at the University of Virginia in 1857 to study Latin, Greek, modern languages, and mathematics. He remained there for the next two years, withdrawing from the university on June 20, 1859. He then returned to his father’s house in Princess Anne, where he began studying law.

Crisfield and his father were proslavery Unionists during the Civil War. John Crisfield secured a seat in Congress as a Unionist, and he fiercely opposed secession movements within Maryland. At the same time, however, John fiercely defended slavery. He opposed the Second Confiscation Act and viewed the Emancipation Proclamation as an act of “despotism.” John ran for reelection in November 1863, and Arthur tried to cast his ballot in support. When Arthur went to the polls in Princess Anne, however, he found twenty armed soldiers surrounding the polling station. Captain Charles C. Moore, the officer overseeing the district, stopped Arthur and interrogated him about his political beliefs.  

Arthur Crisfield testified that he was “loyal” and that he had “never given aid, assistance or encouragement to the South.” He viewed the war as a “rebellion against the Government” and believed that President Abraham Lincoln had the “right to prosecute the war by all the means recognized by international law and civilized warfare.” He was unwilling, however, to “put down the rebellion by every means,” insisting the federal government was bound by the “Constitution and the laws of the country.” When an election judge protested the interrogation, Moore arrested the judges and shut down the polling place. Local officials demanded justice, observing that Moore had interfered in the election process and prevented Crisfield—a “true and loyal citizen”—from voting. Lincoln ordered a commission to investigate Moore’s actions, but it quickly exonerated him.

Crisfield married Charlotte Augusta Lennox Pearce on November 17, 1863, in Kent, Maryland. They had five children together: James Alfred Pearce, born on November 28, 1864; Julia Ethelinda Page, born on April 1, 1865; John Woodland, born on July 26, 1867; Arthur Woodland, born around 1878, and an unnamed baby, born around 1880. By 1870, Crisfield was working as a farmer in Princess Anne. He owned $16,000 in real estate and $3,000 in personal property, and he employed at least two white domestic servants.

Sometime in the 1870s, the family moved to Oregon, where Crisfield worked as a lawyer. He took part in the Bannock War of 1878, a conflict between the United States military and the Bannock, Shoshone, and Paiute Indians of the Pacific Northwest. He was wounded in a battle at Willow Springs in early July 1878. The family left Oregon in 1879, and by 1880, they were living in Hornellsville, New York.

Soon, however, they settled in Washington, D.C., where Crisfield became an assistant librarian in the Library of Congress. In 1885, he was promoted to chief of division of the copyright office, and he became the assistant register of copyrights in 1916. He held that position until he retired four years later. He died in Washington, D.C., on January 24, 1925.


Arthur Crisfield Prevented from Voting

Name:Crisfield, Arthur
Alternative names:
  • UVA (Union)
  • Civilian
Branch of service:
Residence at UVA:Somerset, MD
UVA Begin Year:1857
UVA End Year:1859
Residence at enlistment:
Rank In:
Rank Out:
Highest rank achieved:
Birth date:1839-08-03
Birth date certainty:Certain
Birth place:Princess Anne, MD
Death date:1925-01-24
Death place:Washington, DC
Causes of death:
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Crisfield, Arthurparent ofCrisfield, James Alfred Pearce
Crisfield, Arthurparent ofCrisfield, Julia Ethelinda Page
Crisfield, Arthurparent ofCrisfield, John Woodland
Crisfield, Arthurparent ofCrisfield, Arthur Woodland
Crisfield, Arthurparent ofCrisfield, Unnamed baby
Crisfield, Charlotte Augusta Lennoxwife ofCrisfield, Arthur

1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 United States Federal Censuses, available from; Maryland, U.S., Births and Christenings Index, 1662-1991, available from; Christopher Phillips, The Civil War in the Border South (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2013); William A. Blair, With Malice Toward Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014); Message of Governor Bradford to the General Assembly of Maryland, With Documents, &c. (Annapolis, MD: Bull & Tuttle, 1864); Catalogue of the University of Virginia, Session of 1857-’58 (Richmond: Chas. H. Wynne, 1858); Catalogue of the University of Virginia, Session of 1858-’59 (Richmond: Chas. H. Wynne, 1859); University of Virginia Alumni News, Vol. 13, No. 10 (May 1925); Session 35 of the University of Virginia Chairman’s Journal, October 1, 1858 – June 22, 1859, Jefferson’s University: The Early Life; Bedford Gazette, 4 December 1863; San Francisco Examiner, 8 July 1878; Morning Astorian, 5 January 1879.