J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

What? No WBTS?!

Next Monday, April 1, the newly created Memphis City Council “Parks Study Committee” will conduct a meeting. The event will take place at 4:30 p.m., and the public is invited to voice their opinions and concerns about renaming three Civil War themed parks in town.

For those of you who might like to attend, the meeting will be held at the Memphis City Hall at 125 N. Main Street on the first floor in the Council Auditorium. The committee is only allowing each person with a voice on the subject to speak for two minutes, and they will buzz anyone who mentions the War Between the States, slavery, or states’ rights.

According to Lee Millar, who is a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, one committee member who opposes retaining the names of the parks (i.e. Confederate Park, Jefferson Davis Park, and Forrest Park, named after famous Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest) previously “stated that there aren’t but very few citizens left in Memphis who have Confederate veteran ancestors and want the park names restored.”

How preposterous a notion. Personally speaking, nearly everyone around here that I have spoken to has an ancestor, and I speak to a lot of people at book signings, presentations, etc.

Mr. Millar also went on to report that this opponent committee member considered people with Confederate heritage to be “in the minority, and (Memphis) will do what the African-American majority wants to do with the parks.”

I only wish I knew who this racist bigot is so I could write to him personally!

Here Comes the Klan

There is concern over the upcoming Ku Klux Klan rally, which is scheduled to take place this Saturday in Memphis. Many locals have expressed concern that it could lead to violence. Klan members are fulfilling the promise they made last month to hold a rally in protest against the name changes of Civil War themed Forrest Park, Confederate Park, and Jefferson Davis Park.

In contrast, a new group called “Memphis United” wants to openly address the issues of race and racism in the city, so it is hosting its own conference, the “People’s Conference on Race and Equality.” This grass roots effort sprang up on Facebook in response to the upcoming KKK rally.

“It’s easy to get mad and yell at somebody from across the street,” said Memphis United Organizer Brad Watkins. “But the next day, what’s really changed? We want to be looking at what’s moving forward in our city.”

The conference is scheduled to take place at the Memphis Fairgrounds Creative Arts Building, and will be held at the same time as the Klan rally. Their goal is to bring on a “real dialogue” about racism in the city. The conference will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. along with the “Heart of Memphis Peace Festival.”

The aim is to get people “in a community conversation about what it means to be racist, systematically, and all the environmental racism that’s going on in Memphis, and the sectioning off, and unconscious attitudes,” says University of Memphis student Kevin Newton. “We move forward and realize what we need to do is have people face the racism within themselves.”

Confederate-Themed Parks in Memphis Get Backing

In a significant positive development for the fight to retain the names of three city parks in Memphis, Sons of Confederate Veterans spokesman Lee Millar met last week with the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In their discussions, Rev. Dwight Montgomery reiterated his stand with the SCV that the three Confederate parks should be left alone and that the Memphis City Council should have much more important tasks to tackle.  Even more importantly, the SCLC will speak out on the issue. Earlier in the controversy, Rev. Montgomery had stated that the SCLC, though sympathetic, would remain neutral.
In the meeting, Rev. Montgomery stated that the SCLC pastors (130) had met and now expressed their 100% backing of his philosophy on the issue. While all of the pastors didn’t necessarily like the park names or heroes (Confederate Park, Forrest Park, and Jefferson Davis Park), most all didn’t see them as a problem and stood to urge the city to move on: history is history.
As Rev. Montgomery explicitly stated, “Not a single one of those parks caused a shooting in the ‘hood. We need to focus on fighting crime and gangs and not on these parks. The parks should be left as they are, and we shall say so.”
The SCLC plans a pastoral luncheon next week, and a delegation will be appointed to appeal to the city council to direct their attention to the crime problems and to leave the three historic parks alone. The Sons of Confederate Veterans has been invited to be a co-sponsor of this luncheon. It will be held at the Annesdale Baptist Church in south Memphis, which is the home church of Rev. Montgomery. Approximately 150 leaders of the Black community are expected to attend. While the focus of the SCLC is to improve the quality of black neighborhoods and that of the SCV is to protect Southern history, the two groups are united in the efforts to preserve the parks and direct the city council to address the pressing issues of today, and the future, not our 100-year old parks.
(Courtesy of Lee Millar)

Lottie and Ginnie Moon – Confederate Smugglers and Spies

During the American Civil War, two sisters went above and beyond the call of duty to prove their allegiance to the Confederate cause, and their daring adventures become legendary. Although they worked individually, together they became two of the South’s most notorious spies.

     The girls were both born in Virginia, but when they were young, their father, a physician, moved the family to Oxford, Ohio. (Their home is on the National Register of Historic Places.) Both girls were popular and had many suitors. Charlotte, the oldest, who was known as “Lottie,” became engaged to none other than Ambrose Burnside. Legend has it that she was a runaway bride who jilted him at the altar. She eventually married Jim Clark, who became a Common Pleas judge.

     At the onset of the Civil War, Lottie was 31, and her younger sister, Virginia, or “Ginnie,” was 16. When their father died, their mother, Cynthia, enrolled Ginnie in school at the Oxford Female College. However, the school was pro-abolitionist, and Ginnie did not share the same sentiment. She asked the school president to allow her to move to Tennessee to be with her mother, but the president refused. In retaliation, Ginnie shot out every star on the U.S. flag that flew over the college grounds. She was immediately expelled, so she traveled to Memphis to stay with Cynthia. The two wrapped bandages and nursed wounded soldiers, and after Memphis fell in June 1862, Ginnie passed through enemy lines, sneaking supplies and information while pretending to meet a beau.

     Judge Price became involved with the Knights of the Golden Circle, an underground Confederate network, and received secret messages from the organization. When he got a dispatch requesting that a message be delivered to Kentucky, Lottie volunteered for the job, thus embarking on her career of espionage. Disguising herself as an old Irish woman, she took a boat from Ohio to Lexington, met Colonel Thomas Scott, and gave him the papers to deliver to General Kirby Smith. She then returned to Oxford by train, but not before using her acting talents to tearfully convince a Union general to ensure her passage north. Once she got a taste of the excitement of intelligence life, she delivered more messages. This attracted the attention of Confederate sympathizers in Canada, who invited her to Toronto. They set her up with forged papers, giving her claim as a British subject, and sent her back to the states. She traveled to Washington, supposedly met Secretary of War Stanton, and bluffed her way into Virginia by telling Union officials she needed to travel there for health reasons.

    Meanwhile, Ginnie continued her work in Memphis, and in 1863, while she was in Jackson, Mississippi, she learned that valuable information needed to be dispatched to the Knights of the Golden Circle in Ohio. She volunteered and took her mother along, convincing her that they would be safe because they had relatives there. Union officials were now wise to women posing as Confederate spies, and Ginnie was no exception. (See propaganda cartoon below.) She and her mother arrived in Ohio un-detained, and received the necessary paperwork and supplies. They boarded a boat to return south, but one of the commanders became suspicious, so he ordered that the two be searched. Ginnie’s reaction was documented in her memoirs:

“There was a slit in my skirt and in my petticoat I had a Colt revolver. I put my hand in and took it out, backed to the door and leveled it at him across the washstand. ‘If you make a move to touch me, I’ll kill you, so help me God!’”


     The captain backed down long enough for Ginnie to withdraw the secret message she had hidden in her bosom, immerse it in water, and swallow it. She and her mother where then taken to the provost marshal’s office, where Union officials searched the two ladies’ trunks. Inside one they discovered a heavy quilt, so they ripped it open and found that it was filled with medicine. A Federal officer supposedly pushed Ginnie’s hoop skirts aside so that he could close the door, and saw that her skirts were also quilted. A housekeeper was ordered to search her. “Forty bottles of morphine, seven pounds of opium, and a quantity of camphor” were discovered in her skirts, on her person, and inside a giant bustle attached to the back of her dress. The two women were promptly taken to a hotel and placed on house arrest. Ginnie protested, and insisted that she see her sister’s previous beau, General Ambrose Burnside. The general had recently been assigned as new commander of the Union Department of the Ohio in Cincinnati, and was busy prosecuting Confederate sympathizers. An order he issued stated that anyone who displayed Confederate leanings would be tried for treason, and anyone caught helping the Rebels would be hung. Ginnie’s request was granted the following day, and when Burnside saw her, he reportedly held out both hands.

      “My child,” he said, “what have you done this for?”

     “Done what?” Ginnie asked.

     “Tried to go south without coming to me for a pass,” he replied. “They wouldn’t have dared stop you.”

     Learning of her family’s quandary, Lottie set out to rescue them. Disguising herself as an English invalid, she confronted Burnside, who immediately recognized her and placed her under house arrest as well. The three women remained captive for three months. Ginnie was required to report to General Hurlburt at ten o’clock every morning, but apparently this wasn’t enough to deter her spying activities, because she was commanded to leave Union territory and stay out. Eventually, all charges were dropped.

     After the war, Lottie went back to Ohio to become one of America’s first female journalists, and traveled all over the world to cover stories. Ginnie returned to Memphis, but her restless nature got the best of her, so she traveled around the country, and eventually ended up in Hollywood. She landed bit parts in two movies: “The Spanish Dancer” and “Robin Hood” in the 1920’s. From there, she went to Greenwich Village in New York City, where she lived until her death at age 81.

Laura Ratcliffe – Confederate Spy

If it wasn’t for Laura Ratcliffe, Colonel John Mosby, the infamous “Grey Ghost,” might have been captured by the Yankees. Not only did she aid Mosby in his mission to serve the Confederacy as a Partisan Ranger, but she also provided valuable information to Confederate cavalry commander Brigadier General J. E. B. Stuart.


Laura Ratcliffe was born on May 28, 1836 in Fairfax City, Virginia. Her parents were Francis Fitzhugh and Ann McCarty (Lee) Ratcliffe. Laura was a distant cousin to General Robert E. Lee on her mother’s side. When her father died, she moved with her mother and two sisters to Frying Pan (now Herndon) in Fairfax County, just south of Washington D.C. Once the Civil War broke out, the area bore witness to numerous raids and encampments from both sides.


Laura and one of her sisters volunteered to serve as nurses. During the winter of 1861, while they were assisting wounded soldiers, Laura met General J. E. B. (James Ewell Brown) Stuart, and the two became friends.  He wrote several personal letters and four poems to her, imploring her to continue with her espionage. In return, she provided him and fellow cavalryman Colonel John Singleton Mosby with valuable information concerning Union troop activity in the county.


A year later, Stuart led his cavalry on several raids in the area, and he visited Laura at her home many times. While at the Ratcliffe home, Mosby asked if he could remain there and continue operations instead of going into winter quarters. Stuart consented, and departed the area. Mosby and nine other soldiers from the 1st Virginia Cavalry continued to use the Ratcliffe home as their headquarters. Oftentimes, Mosby met Laura at a large rock near the top of Squirrel Hill to exchange information. Following one particularly lucrative raid, he requested that Laura keep the Federal greenbacks he had confiscated for safekeeping, so she stashed them beneath the rock.


In February 1863, Mosby captured several Federal soldiers, and returned their plunder to local citizens. Laura discovered that the Yankees had set a trap for Mosby, so she warned him of the intended ambush. Because of her valuable information, Mosby avoided arrest and captured a sutler’s wagon.


Captain Willard Glazer with the 2nd New York Cavalry complained that Laura “is a very active and cunning rebel, who is known to our men, and is at least suspected of assisting Mosby not a little in his movements … by the means of Miss Ratcliffe and her rebellious sisterhood, Mosby is generally informed.”


In March, Mosby managed to capture Union Brigadier General Edwin Stoughton by surprising him in his sleep. Arriving in the general’s room, Mosby asked him, “Do you know Mosby?”


“Yes,” replied the general. “Have you captured the devil?”


“No,” Mosby responded. “The devil has caught you.”


Mosby captured the general, two of his captains, and 58 horses without firing a single shot. When President Abraham Lincoln heard of the event, he reportedly said that generals are replaceable, but he deeply regretted the loss of so many good horses.


Although it was obvious to the Federals that Laura’s house was being used for Confederate headquarters, she was never arrested or tried for any crime. After the war ended, she lived with her mother in an old farmhouse named “Merrybrook.” In 1890, Laura, who was now 54 years old and destitute, married a neighbor, Union veteran Milton Hanna. She became wealthy because of it, but her husband died in an accident seven years later.


Laura was a very private person, and never sought or received recognition for her courageous contributions to the Confederacy. Instead, she directed her attentions to the poor and unfortunate. In 1914, she fell and presumably broke her hip, but because she refused to receive medical treatment from a male doctor, the diagnosis was never verified. However, the accident left her an invalid for the rest of her life. Before her death at age 87 on August 8, 1923, she requested that “a neat grey granite stone” be placed at her gravesite with the names of Ratcliffe, Coleman, and Hanna carved into them. In 2007, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Laura Ratcliffe Branch, erected such a marker.


Merrybrook is now under direct threat. The current owners are striving to have the home preserved, but development is encroaching. The rock where Laura and Colonel Mosby exchanged information still exists, and a monument on the country highway nearby has been erected with an inscription that reads:


This large boulder, located just south of here, served as an important landmark during the Civil War, when Col. John S. Mosby’s Partisan Rangers (43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry) assembled there to raid Union outposts, communications, and supply lines. Laura Ratcliffe, a young woman who lived nearby and spied for Mosby, concealed money and messages for him under the rock. Mosby credited her with saving him from certain capture by Federal cavalry on one occasion. She also was a friend of Maj. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart.


Among the items discovered in her effects after her death was a gold-embossed brown leather album, which contained several poems, as well as the signatures of General J. E. B. Stuart, Colonel Mosby, and Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee, son of Robert E. Lee. A gold watch chain belonging to Stuart was also found with her possessions.


For more information, and to learn how you can help with preservation, please visit:



Postponed Parks

Because of the enormous amount of recent public outcry and publicity, the Memphis City Council decided at yesterday’s meeting to table the renaming of three Civil War themed parks. These three parks (Confederate Park, Jefferson Davis Park, and Forrest Park, named after famous Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest) will be able to retain their names for at least 30 days. In a 10-3 vote, the motion was made to postpone a final decision on this issue.

The response to the Memphis City Council’s rash decision has been phenomenal. National, as well as international, attention has been directed at Memphis because of the City Council’s irrational attempt to rename these parks, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to Lee Millar, spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, “One city councilman admitted that he’d gotten over 600 emails to save the parks.”

The council stated that the delay in their decision was made so that the newly created “Parks Study Committee” might have an opportunity to analyze all three parks and make recommendations as to what future steps they should take. In other words, they want to decide if the ludicrous idea of renaming these parks can actually fly. As I stated before, let’s hope not. It would be a tragic loss. Personally, I find it amazing that this has even happened. In my opinion, it is tremendously disrespectful and sad.

Too Little Too Late?

Last week, the Tennessee House in Nashville passed a bill making it harder to rename any historic park or monument dedicated to war and war figures. Cities in Tennessee will be required to obtain permission from the state before attempting to rename these places. This comes in lieu of the Memphis City Council’s attempt to rename three Civil War themed parks in the city. The bill will not impact the renaming of these parks, since it was passed after the Memphis City Council made its initial decision.

Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park, located on the banks of the Mississippi River, as well as Forrest Park on Union Street, have recently been attacked by the Memphis City Council. Since council members made the announcement, the topic has fallen under heavy debate.

Tomorrow, the Memphis City Council plans to convene once again to discuss this issue. Controversies surrounding the name changes (which are supposedly protected under historic site register designation), as well as Memphis City Council’s lack of prioritizing, have been publicized. Media outlets have criticized the council for allowing the renaming of these parks to take precedence over more important citywide issues, such as poverty, education, crime, etc.  It should be interesting to see what tomorrow has to offer.

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