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Pure Heart: The Faith of a Father and Son in the War for a More Perfect Union

  • Museum of Old Newbury 98 High Street Newburyport, MA, 01950 United States (map)

March 15 Update: Venue change--"Pure Heart" will take place at the Governor's Academy in the Old Library located inside the Frost Building.  Click here for a campus map; the Frost Building is #12.  Parking is available along Middle Road and in the rink parking lot adjacent to the Student Center.  Reception will begin at 6:30pm and program at 7:00.

This program was rescheduled from Thursday, February 16 to Thursday, March 16.

Join local author Bill Quigley for a book talk and signing for his new book Pure Heart, gleaned from a forgotten trove of letters that Union soldier William White Dorr wrote to his father, a minister at Philadelphia’s Christ Church.  The book tells the true story of a brave soldier and of the spirit of forgiveness and atonement with which his father saved a landmark American church.

In the summer of 1862, 24-year-old William White Dorr enlisted as a lieutenant in the 121st Pennsylvania Volunteers, a new Union regiment organizing in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, his father shepherded  Philadelphia’s venerable Christ Church (Episcopal), known then and now as “The Nation’s Church” because of its historical ties to the nation’s founding.  The minister strove to prevent civil war and fierce partisanship from sundering his church.

Though kept safely through several battles, Captain Dorr was killed in the Battle of Spotsylvania in 1864.  By war’s end, many Philadelphians came to praise the faithful heroism of Captain Dorr and the spirit of charity and forgiveness exemplified by the Reverend Dorr, their shepherd through that political, constitutional, economic, and religious crisis.

William F. Quigley Jr. teaches history at The Governor’s Academy (Byfield, MA), the nation’s oldest nonsectarian independent boarding school, founded in 1763. During his 25 years at the Academy, he has served as head of the history department, dean of academics, and dean of faculty / assistant head of school. Bill currently coaches two varsity teams and is founding director of the Academy’s Writing Center. 

Pure Heart is Bill's first book, derived from the thesis he wrote for his master’s degree in history from Harvard University Extension School (2009). His thesis won a Dean’s Prize for Most Outstanding A.L.M. Thesis in the Social Sciences. Bill earned his B.A. in American Studies, with honors, from Middlebury College.

Reception 6:30pm    Program 7:00pm
Space is limited; please contact 978-462-2681 or to reserve your seat
This program is sponsored in part by the Institution for Savings and is offered to the community free of charge.


For more information about Pure Heart, visit