It was a cool, blustery, but beautiful, clear November 4, 1863, when the Union Steamer Arago lifted anchor and headed south out of New York Harbor. The deck was crowded with Yankee soldiers and some civilians, departing for the South Carolina Sea Islands, where the Union, two years earlier, had established the Department of the South. Listed among the passengers were William Francis Allen and his wife Mary, both teachers, hired to educate the abandoned sea island slaves. After graduating from Harvard in 1851, Allen served as a tutor in New York for three years, then journeyed to Europe where he studied language and the classics at Gottingen, Berlin, Rome, Naples, and Greece. In 1856 William returned to Boston where he accepted the position of associate principal at the English and Classical School at West Newton, Massachusetts. While working in this capacity, Allen met, courted, and married Mary Lambert and remained on at West Newton during the war's early years. Hoping to do something for the war effort, William and his wife hired on as instructors and were part of a new teachers group heading for the islands to do their part.