Blacks@Dartmouth 1775 to 1960

William Baldwin Ellis

Physician and Civil War acting assistant surgeon

alumnus image

Dartmouth Medical School M.D.

Class of 1858

Born  1834  NY

Died 1866 Washington DC

Quotes from Biographical Sources

Dr. William Baldwin Ellis was one of thirteen African Americans to serve as physicians in the Civil War. He died young and few details are known of his life. Born in New York City, Ellis apprenticed in Brooklyn with Dr. Peter Ray before attending lectures at Dartmouth Medical College. He graduated in 1858 and established a practice in Philadelphia.

In the early years of the Civil War, Ellis wrote to Edward C. Mauran, Adjutant General of Rhode Island, to request an Union Army medical staff appointment. Emphasizing his education, skill, and natural desire and suitability to work with colored brethren, Ellis gained an appointment as an acting assistant surgeon.

After war service, Dr. Ellis worked at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington D. C., the first U.S. public hospital for African Americans. He was on hand to assist Sojourner Truth when she was accosted by a white train conductor. She promptly sued the conductor, commenting, 'It is hard for the old slaveholding spirit to die, but die it must.' Dr. Ellis treated her injuries at Freedman’s and testified in court to support her complaint. Tubman’s papers refer to her friendship with Dr. Ellis.

In 1866 Dr. Ellis died from typhoid fever in Washington D. C. while treating recently enslaved individuals and families. His wife and three young children survived him.

Lee, F. A. (2015). Historical Black Men of Dartmouth. [Lecture]. Boston.

Other source(s)

  1. Redington, Edward Dana. (1907). In W. H. Hodgkins (Ed.), Military Record of the Sons of Dartmouth in the Union Army and Navy 1861-1865 (p. 65). Boston.
  2. William B. Ellis letter, 1862. Virtual Exhibits. Retrieved from
  3. Newmark, Jill L. (Fall 2009). Face to Face with History. Prologue Magazine, 41(3). Retrieved from
  4. Glennan, P. Glennan, [P?]. Letter to Sojourner Truth. Post Family Papers Project. Retrieved from