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Joseph Hopkins Twichell
Born (1838-11-30)November 30, 1838
Southington, Connecticut, United States
Died December 20, 1918(1918-12-20) (aged 80)
Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Nationality American
Occupation Pastor
Title Reverend

Reverend Joseph Hopkins Twichell (November 30, 1838 - December 20, 1918), writer and pastor, was Mark Twain's closest friend for over forty years, and appears in A Tramp Abroad as "Harris." They met at a church social after the Civil War when Twichell was pastor of Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, his only pastorate for almost 50 years. Reverend Twichell performed Twain's wedding and christened his children, and counseled him on literary as well as personal matters for the rest of Twain's life. A profound scholar and devout Christian, he was described as "a man with an exuberant sense of humor, and a profound understanding of the frailties of mankind."[1]


Early life

Twichell was born in Southington, Connecticut, to Edward Twichell and Selina Delight Carter.

He studied at Yale from 1855-1859. He was an athletic young man with deep-sunk eyes and a powerful jaw. He had rowed port waist on the Yale crew the first time the Blue boatmen beat Harvard.

From 1859-61, Twichell attended Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Civil War

In 1861, Twichell was living on Waverly Place in New York City, attending Union Theological Seminary, but not yet ordained, when war broke out. Strongly pro-abolition, he enlisted in the Union Army (in the wrong state and with inadequate credentials) a few weeks after the Confederacy fired upon Fort Sumter in April.[2]

Twichell became chaplain of the 71st New York State Volunteers, one of five regiments of the Excelsior Brigade commanded by General Daniel E. Sickles. The regiment was largely made up of working-class Irish Catholics from lower Manhattan;an unusual flock for a Congregationalist from Connecticut. He wrote his father: “If you ask why I fixed upon this regiment, composed as it is of rough, wicked men, I answer, that was the very reason. I should not expect a revival, but I should expect to make some good impressions by treating with kindness a class of men who are little used to it.”[2]

In July 1861 the Excelsior Brigade was ordered to Washington, D.C., a capital in shock after the unexpected Union disaster at Bull Run. That fall, the brigade marched east through Maryland, with Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s division of the army’s Third Corps, to help defend the mouth of the Potomac River from Confederate harassment.

As the years passed, the friendship between Twichell and author Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, deepened. In 1870, Twitchell, along with Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, married Clemens to his wife, Olivia Langdon. Twichell's inspiration also fired Clemens's imagination to write about his piloting career on the Mississippi River. Clemens and Twichell undertook a walking trip of over 100 miles to Boston in 1874. It was aborted on the second day when they decided to take the train.[3] They followed the news reports of the adultery scandal involving Henry Ward Beecher, who was the brother of author Harriet Beecher Stowe and their mutual friend, Rev. Thomas K. Beecher. Of the scandal, Clemens wrote Twichell, "Mr. Tilton never has been entitled to any sympathy since the day he heard the news & did not go straight & kill Beecher & then humbly seek forgiveness for displaying so much vivacity."(p. 202) He and Twichell attended the Henry Ward Beecher trial together.[4]


  • John Winthrop (1891)
  • Some Old Puritan Love Letters (1893)

Personal life

Twichell married Julia Harmony Cushman in November 1865. Together, they had eleven children.

Their son Burton Parker Twichell married Katherine Eugenia Pratt, daughter of Charles Millard Pratt.

Their daughter Harmony Twichell (1876-1969) married the composer Charles Ives in 1908.


  1. Paine, Albert Bigelow. "Mark Twain: A Biography". University of Adelaide Library Electronic Texts Collection. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Courtney, Steve. "Joe Twichell and The Slave Hunters". Asylum Hill Congregational Church. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  3. In Boston they stayed at Young's Hotel. Cf. "That Walk to Boston, Mark Twain And Mr. Twitchell As Pedestrians," Hartford Daily Courant; Date: 11-16-1874
  4. Frank, Michael B.; Harriet Elinor Smith (2002). Mark Twain's Letters, Volume 6: 1874-75. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23772-2. 


  • Courtney, Steve Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain's Closest Friend (University of Georgia Press, 2008) ISBN 0-8203-3056-6
  • Messent, Peter and Courtney, Steve (eds.) The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell: A Chaplain's Story (University of Georgia Press, 2006) ISBN 978-0-8203-2693-1
  • Mark Twain and Rev. Joseph Twichell at Asylum Hill Congregational Church website
  • A brief biography
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920) "Twichell, Joseph Hopkins" Encyclopedia Americana 

External links

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