“Angel on a Freight Train: A Story of Faith and Queer Desire in Nineteenth-Century America” by Peter C. Baldwin— Reconciliation

Baldwin, Peter C. “Angel on a Freight Train: A Story of Faith and Queer Desire in Nineteenth-Century America”, SUNY Press, 2020.


Amos Lassen


“Angel on a Freight Train” examines the experiences of Samuel Edward Warren (1831–1909), a teacher and college professor in Troy, New York, who struggled to reconcile his same-sex erotic desires with his commitment to a Christian life. Warren discerned no fundamental conflict between his faith and his attraction to younger males. He grew up in the post war Northeast, in a culture that permitted and even celebrated emotional bonds between men and he strove to build emotionally intense relationships in many overlapping forms—friendship, pedagogy, evangelism, and romance which would allow him to enjoy intimacy with little effort at concealment. However, as he matured into adulthood and had quite a prestigious career, Warren began to feel that he should have grown out of romantic friendships, which he now felt had become emotionally and physically excessive.

The book is based on Warren’s deeply introspective and previously unexplored diaries and it traces his youthful freedom and sensuality, his attempt to join with younger men in a spirit of loving mentorship, and, finally, his tortured introspection of a man whose age seemed to shut him out of a lost world. Warren “came to believe rather sorrowfully in a radical division between his angelic, ideal self and what he called “the freight train of animal life below.”

There was social disdain for the acting out of same-sex attractions so nineteenth-century men were reluctant to record their feelings or describe in their diaries the serious flirtations or relationships in which they were engaged. Through the discovery of that a memoir that offered some behavioral details of queer erotics important aspects of Warren’s relationships with other boys/men are revealed.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: Words, Flesh, and Spirit

1. Friendship

2. Teaching

3. Evangelism

4. Fatherhood

Epilogue: The Cross, the Grave, the Skies

Abbreviations in Notes