Joseph Adolphus Engelhard was born in Monticello, Mississippi in 1832 and eventually attended both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard Law School. He married Margaret Eliza Cotten, daughter of a wealthy planter, in 1855 and started his own law practice in Tarboro. Their early relationship is well-documented in her journal, which now resides in the North Carolina State Archives. During the Civil War, he served under the 33rd Regiment and rose to the rank of major by the end of the war. Engelhard was a strong supporter of the Democratic Party and was elected secretary of the senate. He also became editor for the Wilmington Journal which protested various acts and reforms of Reconstruction; Engelhard himself would call for the state constitution to be revised in order to lessen the political appointments of African American men in the Eastern part of the state. Engelhard died in 1879 in Raleigh.
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