J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Confederacy”

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 7)

April is Confederate History Month. Because I began posting this series last month in honor of Women’s History Month, I would like to continue the series throughout the month of April to highlight women who helped the Confederate cause. I hope you enjoy.

Lottie and Ginnie Moon 

moon-I    Moon 2

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 were 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.  

Lampoon 1

Harpers Weekly, Lampoon of Southern Female Spies 

 

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Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 5)

Laura Ratcliffe

Laura_Ratcliffe_Portrait

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:  

www.lauraratcliffe.org. 

 

 

 

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 4)

Juliet Opie Hopkins

“Florence Nightingale of the South”

Juliet Opie Hopkins

Juliet Opie Hopkins was a pioneer in the advancement of women at a time when most were overlooked for supervisory positions. Her extraordinary abilities awarded her the position of leadership and power that didn’t exist anywhere else.

She was born on May 7, 1818 at her family’s Woodburn Plantation in Jefferson County, Virginia. Her father owned around 2,000 slaves, which established him in elite society. During her childhood, Juliet was home-schooled, and was sent to Miss Ritchie’s private school in Richmond when she reached adolescence. When she was sixteen, however, her mother died, so she left school to return home, where she helped manage Woodburn.

In 1837, Juliet married Commodore Alexander Gordon of the United States Navy. However, Gordon died in 1849, leaving her a young widow. She remarried in 1854, to a widower who was twenty-four years her senior. Arthur Hopkins was a lawyer and prominent businessman who had served as a United States senator and Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. They adopted a niece, and considered the girl to be their daughter.

When the War Between the States broke out, Juliet sold her estates in New York, Virginia, and Alabama. She donated the money to the Confederacy for the establishment of hospitals. The Confederate military system dictated that each state was responsible for the care of its own patients.

In June 1861, she moved to Richmond and began organizing money and supplies that were sent from Alabama. In August, she set up a hospital for Alabama’s soldiers, and by November, had established a larger second hospital as well. During the November session, the Alabama legislature assumed responsibility for supporting the hospitals and appointed Juliet as chief matron. In the spring of 1862, she established a third hospital, and received the help of 92 women’s auxiliary groups in Alabama who made clothing and collected supplies.

During the Battle of Seven Pines on June 1, 1862, she was shot twice in the leg while attempting to rescue wounded men from the battlefield. Her injuries required surgery and left her with a permanent limp.

Although her husband was technically named State Hospital Agent, she was the one in charge. Regardless of her tremendous responsibilities, Juliet found time to personally care for soldiers by writing letters, making furlough requests, providing books, and keeping a thorough list of the deceased. She even collected hair samples from the dead to send to their families, which was common practice at the time.

A nurse in the Third Alabama Hospital, Fannie Beers, wrote about her:

“I have never seen a woman better fitted for such work. Energetic, tireless, systematic, loving profoundly the cause and its defenders, she neglected no detail of business or other thing that should afford aid or comfort to the sick and wounded. She kept up a voluminous correspondence, made in person every purchase for her charges, received and accounted for hundreds of boxes sent from Alabama containing clothing and delicacies for the sick and visited the wards of the hospitals every day. If she found any duty neglected by nurse or surgeon or hospital steward, her personal reprimand was certain and very severe. She could not nurse the sick or wounded personally, for her whole time was necessarily devoted to executive duties, but her smile was the sweetest, I believe, that ever lit up a human face, and standing by the bedside of some poor Alabamian, away from home and wretched as well as sick, she must have seemed to him like an angel visitant.”

In March 1863, the Confederate Medical Department assumed control over all hospitals. Many patients were sent to larger facilities, which prompted the closure of 35 units, including two of Juliet’s hospitals. The third hospital was closed in October, so she moved back to Alabama. Finding supplies scarce, she had the carpets in her Mobile home cut up and used for blankets. She continued her work in Tuskagee and Montgomery hospitals. When the state was invaded in April 1865, she and her husband fled to Georgia.

After the war ended, they returned to Mobile, and her humanitarian efforts became more well-known, making her a living legend.

Judge Hopkins died later that year, so Juliet left Alabama to live on property she still owned in New York City. Because she and her husband had lost most of their wealth, she lived the rest of her life in relative poverty. She died on March 9, 1890 while visiting her daughter in Washington D.C. Scores of veterans attended her funeral, including Confederate Generals Joseph Wheeler and Joseph E. Johnston, as well as Union General John Schofield. Members of the Alabama congressional delegation served as pallbearers. She was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in the same gravesite as her son-in-law, Union General Romeyn Beck Ayers.

In 1987, a marker was finally placed on her grave.

It is estimated that Juliet donated between $200,000 and $500,000 for the Southern cause. She was so revered by her peers that her picture was printed on Alabama Confederate paper currency 25-cent and 50-cent bills. She is a member of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame.

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Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 3)

Emma Sansom

emma

On occasion, women became heroines of the Confederate cause purely by accident. Such is the case of Emma Sansom.

Born on June 2, 1847, Emma was a beautiful girl, tall and elegant, with large, deep blue eyes, auburn hair, and a fair complexion. In 1852, she moved with her family from Georgia to Gadsden, Alabama. Six years later, her father died, but the family managed to maintain their farm. Once the Civil War commenced, Emma’s brother, Rufus, enlisted with the 19th Alabama Infantry Regiment while she, her mother, and an older sister ran the farm.

Emma had just returned from shopping one sunny morning when suddenly, she heard the sound of approaching men and horses. Still standing in the yard, holding the reins, she watched as hundreds of Union soldiers arrived.

“We were home on the morning of May 2, 1863, when a company of men wearing blue uniforms and riding mules and horses galloped past the house and went on towards the bridge. Pretty soon a great crowd of them came along and some of them stopped at the gate and asked for some water. One of them asked me where my father was and I told him he was dead.

‘Do you have any brothers?’ asked the Yankee soldier.

‘I have, sir,’ I said.

‘Where are they?’

‘In the Confederate army,’ I told him.

‘Do you think the South will whip us?’

‘They do!’

‘What do you think?’

‘I think we will win because God is on our side,’ I said.

‘I think God is on the side with the best artillery,’ said the soldier.”

Emma stubbornly held onto her horse’s reins until another soldier snatched them away from her.

Still, the women refused to panic. The soldiers searched their house for guns and saddles. Discovering Rufus, who was home recuperating from a wound he had received, they took him prisoner. The Yankees proceeded to nearby Black Creek, which was swollen from recent heavy rains, and torched the wooden bridge. The women were standing on the front porch, grieving Rufus, when Nathan Bedford Forrest appeared.

“Can you tell me where I can get across this damn creek?” he asked.

Fifteen-year-old Emma told him that the bridge had been burned, and that there wasn’t another one for two miles. She informed him of a ford two hundred yards away where she had seen cattle cross in low water, and where he and his men could likely cross, despite the raging current. Emma offered to escort him if one of his men would saddle a horse for him.

Forrest replied, “There is no time to saddle a horse; get up here behind me.”

Taking her hand, he pulled her up behind him on his steed, and assured her mother that he would return Emma safely. The duo rode down to the riverbank, but came under enemy fire, so they rode into the foliage and dismounted. Finding the spot she had referred to, they emerged from the cover of trees, and were once again fired upon.

Emma placed herself in front of Forrest. “General,” she said, “stand behind me. They will not dare to shoot me.”

Forrest, being the gallant cavalier that he was, refused. “I’m glad to have you for a pilot, but I’m not going to make breastworks of you.”

He left her under cover behind the roots of a fallen tree. Crawling on his hands and knees, he looked back behind him, and saw that she had followed. With some consternation, he confronted her about going against his wishes.

“Yes, General,” she said, “but I was fearful that you might be wounded; and it’s my purpose to be near you.”

Defiantly, she waved her bonnet in the air. The Union soldiers on the other side realized they had been shooting at a female, so they immediately dropped their weapons and gave three cheers. Emmstarted for home, but soon came upon General Forrest again. He told her that one of his men, who had been killed, was laid out in her house, and requested that her family bury him in a nearby graveyard. After asking that she send him a lock of her hair, he rode off to later become victorious in the campaigning. By bluffing the Yankees into believing his troops were larger in number, he succeeded in capturing Colonel Abel Streight’s Union forces. He also returned Emma’s brother to her.

Emma could have faced severe retribution for aiding General Forrest. She escaped from her close call unscathed, except for a few bullet holes that had passed through her skirt.

“They have only wounded my crinoline,” she casually remarked.

Forrest was so grateful for Emma’s heroic gesture that he gave her a note of thanks:

Hed Quaters in Sadle

May 2 1863

My highest regardes to miss Emma Sansom for hir Gallant conduct while my posse was skirmishing with the Federals across Black Creek near Gadsden Allabama.

N. B. Forrest

Brig Genl Comding N. Ala

After the war, the state of Alabama awarded Emma with a gold medal, and awarded her a section of public land “as a testimony of the high appreciation of her services by the people of Alabama.”

She married in 1864, moved with her husband to Texas, and had five sons and two daughters. Emma died on August 9, 1900, and is buried in Little Mound Cemetery, twelve miles west of Gilmer, Texas. Her legacy lives on in a poem written by John Trotwood Moore. In 1946, she was featured in a comic book called “Real Heroes.”A monument was erected by the UDC in her honor, and a school is named after her. Both are in Gadsden, Alabama.

Women of the Confederacy (Pt 2.)

 

Belle Edmondson

belle

More than one Southern lady stepped up to the plate to do her share in preserving the Confederacy. Such is the case of Belle Edmondson, a Memphis belle who risked her life to do her part.

Born to Mary Ann and Andrew Jackson Edmondson on November 27, 1840 in Pontotoc, Mississippi, Isabella Buchanan Edmondson was the youngest daughter of eight children. In 1849, her father was elected clerk of courts in Holly Springs, Mississippi. “Belle” and her sisters attended Franklin Female College nearby. In 1860, the family relocated to a farm in Shelby County, Tennessee, eight miles southeast of Memphis on Holly Ford Road, which is now Airways Boulevard.

Once the countryside became engulfed in the Civil War, it wasn’t long before the Edmondson’s got involved, because they were staunch supporters of the Confederacy. Two of Belle’s brothers enlisted for the Southern cause. They both fought at the Battle of Shiloh, and Belle tended to wounded soldiers as a nurse.

When Memphis fell in June 1862, Belle’s family farm became located between opposing lines. Pickets and scouts from both sides patrolled the area. The Rebel army was less than 30 miles south.

Finding herself in a position to assist the Confederates, Belle passed information she gathered in Memphis during the day, and risked her life to transport it to the Rebels at night. She also delivered needed supplies, such as medicines and amputation tools, in her petticoats, and letters and money in her bosom, knowing that Union soldiers were reluctant to search women.

At one point, she met with Generals Forrest and Chalmers. In an entry to her diary dated February 27, 1864, Belle wrote:

Annie Nelson and myself went to Memphis this morning – very warm, dusty and disagreeable. Accomplished all I went for – did not go near any of the officials, was fortunate to meet a kind friend, Lucie Harris, who gave me her pass – ‘tis a risk, yet we can accomplish nothing without great risk at times. I returned the favor by bringing a letter to forward to her husband, Army of Mobile. I sat up until 8 o’clock last night, arranging mail to forward to the different commands. It was a difficult job, yet a great pleasure to know I had it in my power to rejoice the hearts of our brave Southern Soldiers … God grant them a safe and speedy trip.

On March 16, she wrote:

At one o’clock, Mrs. Facklen, Mrs. Kirk and I began to fix my articles for smuggling, we made a balmoral of the grey cloth for uniform, pinned the hats to the inside of my hoops – tied the boots with a strong list, letting them fall directly in front, the cloth having monopolized the back and the hats the side. All my letters, brass buttons, money, etc. in my bosom – left at 2 o’clock to meet Anna at Mr. Barbie’s – started to walk, impossible that – hailed a hack – rather suspicious of it, afraid of small-pox, jumped in, with orders for a hurried drive to corner Main & Vance … arrived at pickets, no trouble at all, although I suffered horribly in anticipation of trouble. Arrived at home at dusk …

Her diary entry of April 16, 1864, reads:

Another day of excitement – about 30 Yanks passed early this morning, only six came in for their breakfast, they did not feed their horses – they behaved very well, and seemed to be gentlemen, in fact we so seldom see gentlemen among the Yankees that we can appreciate them when they are met with.

Belle’s frequent trips back and forth across the opposing lines soon attracted the attention of Union officials. General Stephen A. Hurlburt issued a warrant for her arrest. When Belle learned of this, she wrote an entry in her diary dated April 21, 1864:

…(Hurlburt) would be compelled to arrest me if it came to him officially, but as my father was a Royal Arch Mason, and I a Mason, he would take no steps, if I would be quiet.

And on April 25:

…I am so unhappy about the trouble I have got in – oh! what is to become of me, what is my fate to be – a poor miserable exile.

Belle fled south to avoid arrest. She traveled through Tupelo, Pontotoc, and Columbus before arriving at Waverly Plantation in Clay County, Mississippi on July 14, where she remained until the war ended.

When the war finally did end, Belle returned to Memphis, but details of her life after this are sketchy. In the early 1870’s, she befriended President Jefferson Davis and his family. She was engaged twice, but both of her fiancés backed out of their commitment. After announcing her third engagement to a mysterious “Colonel H,” Belle died two weeks later in 1873 from one of three epidemics that swept through the city. She was only 33 years old. Family legend dictates that “Colonel H” was a Yankee officer.

Belle’s memory lives on through her diary. She is buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis with her parents.

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 1)

In honor of Women’s History Month, I would like to feature several Confederate women who supported the cause. Since I’m starting this series a little late, I will continue the posts throughout next month as well.

Belle Boyd

(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Belle Boyd

Cleopatra of the Secession

Belle Boyd was only seventeen years old when she began her illustrious career as a Confederate spy. She quickly learned the art of espionage after her hometown of Martinsburg, Virginia became overrun with Yankees.

Born on May 4, 1844, Isabella Maria Boyd was the eldest child of a wealthy family. Her father ran a general store and managed a tobacco plantation. Belle grew up with several brothers and sisters, dominating them all with her tomboyish ways. She attended Mount Washington Female College in Baltimore at age twelve, and after completing her education four years later, enjoyed the life of a fun-loving debutante. Described as having shining blue eyes, thick light brown hair, and a fine figure, she was considered attractive but not beautiful, and made up for it by being overly feminine, flirtatious, and outgoing. A brilliant talker, she dressed colorfully and wore feathers in her hats.

At the onset of the Civil War, Belle’s father enlisted with the Virginia Cavalry, Stonewall Jackson Brigade. It wasn’t long before Belle was confronted with the enemy. On July 2, 1861, Union troops skirmished at nearby Falling Waters, and occupied Martinsburg on July 4. After looting the town, a band of drunken Union soldiers stormed into Belle’s home, tore down the Confederate flag that the Boyd Family proudly flew over their home, and attempted to hoist up the Stars and Stripes. Belle’s mother protested, and was attacked by one of the Yankees. In retaliation, Belle shot him, justifying her actions by stating, “…we ladies are obliged to go armed in order to protect ourselves as best we might from insult and outrage.” Subsequently arrested, she was soon acquitted without reprisal for her action. “

The commanding officer,” she wrote, “inquired into all the circumstances with strict impartiality, and finally said I had ‘done perfectly right.’” Belle’s home was constantly guarded by sentries afterward to keep an eye on her activities.

She soon became a courier for Generals Beauregard and Jackson, carrying information, confiscating weapons, and delivering medical supplies. By early 1862, she had developed a reputation for herself, dubbed in the press as “La Belle Rebelle,” the “Siren of the Shenandoah,”the “Rebel Joan of Arc,” and the “Amazon of Secessia.” Using her feminine qualities to allure unsuspecting Yankees, she befriended the invading soldiers to obtain information for the Confederacy. One evening in midMay, she eavesdropped through a peephole on a Council of War while visiting relatives in Front Royal, whose hotel

was being used as a Union headquarters. With the information she obtained, she rode fifteen miles to deliver the news to General Stonewall Jackson.

On May 23, she ran out onto the battlefield to give General Jackson last minute information. She later wrote that “the Federal pickets … immediately fired upon me…my escape was most providential…rifle-balls flew thick and fast about me … so near my feet as to throw dust in my eyes…numerous bullets whistled by my ears, several actually pierced different parts of my clothing.”

Jackson captured the town and later acknowledged her bravery in a personal note. She was subsequently awarded the Confederate Southern Cross of Honor, and given honorary captain and aide-de-camp positions.

Belle was arrested on July 29, 1862 and incarcerated at Old Capitol Prison in Washington D.C., but was released a month later as part of a prisoner exchange. She was arrested again in July 1863. Not a model inmate, she waved Confederate flags from her window, loudly sang “Dixie,” and sent information to a contact person outside who shot a rubber ball into her cell. She then sewed messages inside and threw it back.

She was released in December, but was arrested again in 1864, and this time was released for health reasons (typhoid fever). On May 8, she was sent to England as a diplomatic courier, but was captured while aboard a blockade runner, The Greyhound. She escaped to Canada with the assistance of Union naval officer Lieutenant Sam Hardinge, who she charmed into convincing him to marry her and switch sides. The two traveled to England, where Belle went to work for the Confederate Secret Service. Hardinge was court-martialed and disgraced for his actions. The two were married on August 24.

Belle stayed in England for the next two years, wrote her memoirs, entitled “Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison,” and achieved success onstage. When her husband died in 1866, she returned to America, where she continued her stage career and lecture tour, billing her show as “The Perils of a Spy,” and touting herself as “Cleopatra of the Secession.”

In 1869, she married John Swainston Hammond, an Englishman who had fought for the Union army, but sixteen years and four children later, divorced him. She married Nathaniel High, Jr. two months later in January 1885. He was an actor seventeen years her junior.

Belle continued the touring circuit. On Sunday, June 10, 1900, while at a speaking engagement with the GAR in Kilbourn (now Wisconsin Dells), Belle died of a heart attack. She was 56 years old and in poverty. Union veterans paid for her funeral. She is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.

“I worked night and day for twelve years to prevent the war, but I could not. The North was mad and blind, would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came.”

-Jefferson Davis

In Honor of a Great American General

robert e. lee

As I mentioned last week, one of my favorite people from the Civil War is General Robert E. Lee. Here is an article about his experience at Fredericksburg, as well as an interesting trivia list about his life. Today marks his birthday. He was born on January 19, 1807.

THE NORTHERN LIGHTS – FREDERICKSBURG

DECEMBER 14, 1862

“General Robert E. Lee had a reason for hope at the end of 1862. The Battle of Fredericksburg had given the Confederacy a greatly needed victory. On December 13th, General Ambrose Burnside had thrown repeated attacks against Lee’s impenetrable line on Mayre’s Heights. In ponderous, deliberate waves, the Union troops had charged across a plain and into Southern shot and shell. Casualties were so heavy that the dead lay in heaps in front of the stone wall at the base of the heights. Burnside’s troops had limited success against Stonewall Jackson’s Corps, but were quickly repulsed. Clear days and freezing nights followed, and the field echoed with the pitiful cries of the wounded stranded between the lines. By nightfall on December 14, General Burnside had decided to withdraw his army from the plain and back to Fredericksburg. It was an evening few on either side would soon forget. As Lee’s soldiers worked on improving their defenses, Union troops slowly carried the wounded and dying from the field. At nightfall, the toil of both armies was suddenly illuminated by a celestial phenomenon – the Northern Lights – which cast the Virginia countryside in an unearthly glow. Few men from the deep South had ever seen the Northern Lights, and most stared in wonderment. Was this fantastic display a sign of Confederate triumph?

General Lee and his staff rode along Telegraph Road past Howison’s Mill, where his reserves had gathered before going to Marye’s Heights. The frigid water of Hazel Run cooled the riders while Lee, deep in thought, focused on tomorrow. The night’s chill and splendid display did not distract Lee form his preparation for another day of battle.”

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(Plan for Victory, painting by John Paul Strain)

“In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength. Get correct views of life, and learn to see the world in its true light. It will enable you to live pleasantly, to do good, when summoned away, to leave without regret.” – General Robert E. Lee

AURORA BOREALIS

On the night of December 14, the Aurora Borealis made an appearance unusual for that latitude, presumably caused by a large solar flare. One witness described that “the wonderful spectacle of the Aurora Borealis was seen in the Gulf States. The whole sky was a ruddy glow as if from an enormous conflagration, but marked by the darting rays peculiar to the Northern lights.” The event was noted in the diaries and letters of many soldiers at Fredericksburg, such as John W. Thompson, Jr., who wrote “Louisiana sent those famous cosmopolitan Zouaves called the Louisiana Tigers, and there were Florida troops who, undismayed in fire, stampeded the night after Fredericksburg, when the Aurora Borealis snapped and crackled over that field of the frozen dead hard by the Rappahannock …”

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  • Robert E. Lee was 5′ 11″ tall and wore a size 4-1/2 boot, equivalent to a modern 6-1/2 boot.
  • Two relatives of Lee were naval officers on opposing sides in the Civil War: Richard Lucian Page (Confederate States Navy and later a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army) and Samuel Phillips Lee (U.S. Navy Captain).
  • Confederate Brig. Gen. Edwin Gray Lee, a son-in-law of William N. Pendleton, was Robert E. Lee’s second cousin. Another relation was Confederate Brig. Gen. William Henry Fitzhugh Payne, an indirect relation of Mrs. Lee who was descended from George Washington’s father Augustine Washington and his first wife, Jane Butler.
  • After the war Lee had financial difficulties. A Virginia insurance company offered Lee $10,000 to use his name, but he declined the offer, relying wholly on his university salary.Freeman 1934, Vol. IV, p. 244.
  • Traveller, Lee’s favorite horse, accompanied Lee to Washington College after the war. He lost many hairs from his tail to admirers who wanted a souvenir of the famous horse and his general. In 1870, when Lee died, Traveller was led behind the General’s hearse. Not long after Lee’s death, Traveller stepped on a rusty nail and developed tetanus. There was no cure, and he was put down. He was buried next to the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University. In 1907, his remains were disinterred and displayed at the Chapel, before being reburied beside the Lee Chapel in 1971.
  • Lee always said that his true calling should have been in education. Not only did he help bring about reconciliation through his work at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) but he also promoted new subjects, such as Engineering and even the first Reserve Officers Training Corps (or ROTC). Up until then they were only held at the military service academies. Many students enrolled from both the North as well as the South. The German minister to Washington even enrolled his two sons there.
  • The Lee family line continues today with the Lees in Virginia and the Longs in Tennessee. The Lee family inter-married with the Longs often enough that he named his other beloved horse “Lucy Long” after a young lady he almost married.
  • Although they never became friends, Lee never forgot Grant’s magnanimity and generosity at Appomattox, and would not tolerate an unkind word to be said about Grant in his presence. When a Washington College faculty member dared to do just that when Grant ran for president, Lee’s face flushed. “Sir,” he said, “If you should ever propose to say something disparaging about General Grant again, either you or I will resign from this facility.”
  • The General Lee, the souped-up 1969 Dodge Charger used in the television program in 1979 The Dukes of Hazzard and the 2005 Dukes of Hazzard movie adaptation was named after Robert E. Lee.
  • In the movie Gods and Generals, Lee was played by actor Robert Duvall, who is related to Lee. After the Civil War, as Lee’s legacy grew, many people of Southern origin dug to find possible connection to Robert E. Lee, and such a connection was analogous to the frequent northern claim of being descended from Mayflower Pilgrims.
  • Lee is a character in the Harry Turtledove alternate history novel The Guns of the South.
  • Despite his presidential pardon by Gerald Ford and his continuing to being held in high regard by many Americans, Lee’s portrayal on a mural on Richmond’s Flood Wall on the James River was considered offensive by some, and was removed in the 1990s.
  • A famous Mississippi River steamboat was named for Lee after the Civil War.

(Articles courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Samuel A. Hughey camp 1452 Sons of Confederate Veterans, vol. 43, issue no. 1, January 2019)

 

 

 

More Stories of Christmases Past

It’s difficult to imagine what life was like way back in 1864. What with a “civil” war going on and the country torn in two. Taking down monuments and changing street names erases our history. Let these stories be a reminder of how our nation suffered during the War Between the States. Let us never forget.

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CHRISTMAS IN THE CONFEDERACY

Excerpts below were written by Varina Davis, the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, describing Christmas of 1864 in the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia.

“For as Christmas season was ushered in under the darkest clouds, everyone felt the cataclysm which impended but the rosy, expectant faces of our little children were a constant reminder that self-sacrifice must be the personal offering of each member of the family.”

Due to the blockades around Confederate states, families could not find certain types of food and merchandise for their holiday celebrations, and available items were outrageously priced. The Southerners had to substitute many of the ingredients in the favorite Christmas recipes, and they had to make most of their gifts and tree decorations.

In Richmond, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family lived, it was discovered that the orphans at the Episcopalian home had been previously promised a Christmas tree, toys, and candy. The excerpt below shows how the people of Richmond creatively worked together to bring Christmas to the orphans in spite of the war’s shortages.

“The kind-hearted confectioner was interviewed by our committee of managers, and he promised a certain amount of his simpler kinds of candy, which he sold easily a dollar and a half a pound, but he drew the line at cornucopias to hold it, or sugared fruits to hang on the tree, and all the other vestiges of Christmas creations which had lain on his hands for years. The ladies dispersed in anxious squads of toy- hunters, and each one turned over the store of her children’s treasures for a contribution to the orphan’s tree, my little ones rushed over the great house looking up their treasure eyeless dolls, three-legged horses, tops with the upper peg broken off, rubber tops, monkeys with all the squeak gone silent and all the ruck of children’s toys that gather in a nursery closet. Some small feathered chickens and parrots which nodded their heads in obedience to a weight beneath them were furnished with new tail feathers, lambs minus much of their wool were supplied with a cotton wool substitute, rag dolls were plumped out and recovered with clean cloth, and the young ladies painted their fat faces in bright colors and furnished them with beads for eyes.”

When the orphans received their gifts, “the different gradations from joy to ecstasy which illuminated their faces was ‘worth two years of peaceful life’ to see.”

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A SOLDIER’S CHRISTMAS

Christmas (December 25, 1864) came while we were fighting famine within and Grant without our lines. To meet either was a serious problem. The Southern people from their earliest history had observed Christmas as the great holiday season of the year. It was the time of times, the longed-for period of universal and innocent, but almost boundlessjollification among young and old…

The holiday, however, on Hatcher’s Run, near Petersburg, was joyless enough for the most misanthropic. The one worn-out railroad running to the far South could not bring to us half enough necessary supplies; and even if it could have transported Christmas boxes of good things, the people at home were too depleted to send them. They had already impoverished themselves to help their struggling Government, and large areas of our territory had been made desolate by the ravages of marching armies.

The brave fellows at the front, however, knew that their friends at home would gladly send them the last pound of sugar in the pantry, and the last turkey or chicken from the barnyard. So, they facetiously wished each other “Merry Christmas!” as they dined on their wretched fare. There was no complaining, no repining, for they knew their exhausted country was doing all it could for them.

Source: REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR, By Gen. John B. Gordon, 1904

(Articles courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Samuel A. Hughey Sons of Confederate Veterans camp 1452, Hernando, MS, vol. 42 issue #12, December 2018 ed.)

Another Christmas Story

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. It is a joyous, sacred occasion, and has always been a special holiday for me, filled with happiness, celebration, and time to spend with family and friends. But the holiday season can be difficult for so many.

There have been many instances in our nation’s history when the holidays presented sadness and difficulty, along with the unknown perils of what the future might hold. This excerpt, from my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, shows just one example of how a rural family from Alabama dealt with such a blow.

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But what a cruel thing is war. To separate and destroy families and friends and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world. To fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world¼My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.

Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife, December 25, 1862

 

Chapter One

“Here it is! Come quick!”

David sauntered across the dead grass toward his little sister. Amused by the way she was jumping up and down like a nervous flea, he couldn’t help but grin. Obviously, she was too excited to care that her petticoats were showing from under the brown coat and green calico dress she wore, or that her long auburn hair had broken free from its bondage as her bonnet slid from her head and dangled down her back.

“Which one, Josie?” he asked, stifling a snicker.

She planted her feet and pointed to a small yellow pine near a cluster of sweet gum and ash trees. “Right here!” she exclaimed.

Glancing down at the sapling, he gave her a crooked smile. “Well, that’s a mighty fine tree, but ain’t it kinda scrawny?” He estimated the pine to be three feet tall at most.

Josie frowned at her older brother, who had one eyebrow cocked from under his slouch hat. His hands were tucked into his brown trousers, and his linen shirt hung loosely on his tall, lanky frame. “No,” she said, “ it’s jist right. We’ll string some corn on it, hang some nuts and berries on it, and it’ll look right smart in the corner of the front room.”

With a shrug, he said, “All right. If you reckon this is the one.”

She nodded, her bright blue eyes reflecting her elation.

David relished the moment, for he knew Christmas was her favorite holiday. He had only heightened her anticipation on the way out to the woodlot by reminding her what would happen that evening, how Santa would be stopping by later when she was sound asleep. Of course, he had no explanation as to how eight tiny reindeer could pull a sleigh all the way to Alabama. Josie promptly informed him that she wasn’t a child any longer. She was all of thirteen, and didn’t believe in those farfetched stories anymore, but he knew better. She would be lying in her bed tonight, listening and waiting.

“Well, go on now, cut it down!” Josie insisted.

He put his thumb and forefinger to his lips and gave a high, shrill whistle. Noticing how the gray sky was growing darker, he looked over at the edge of the clearing where they stood and saw the underbrush rustle. Suddenly, two hound dogs bounded out of the trees, followed by a gangly young stallion.

“Come on, Renegade. Over here,” he called out to the colt, who responded by cantering to him.

Josie giggled at the sight. “Your dumb horse thinks he’s a dog!”

“He ain’t dumb. I’ll wager he’s a lick smarter than you are, li’l sister,” David teased.

The horse blew and stomped his front hoof.

“Why, that’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. And not only is he dumb, he looks right silly, too. He can’t decide if he should be spotted or palomino!”

David observed his horse for a moment. Renegade’s face was piebald. His dark chestnut coat was highlighted with white spots and patches concentrating on his underbelly, and his mane and tail were light flaxen. He had white socks up to his knees. His unusual eyes were brownish green. David remembered how he had heard that a horse with strange-colored eyes like Renegade’s was considered sacred and chosen by the Cherokee Indians. Several people had noticed the strange coincidence, and his other sister, Rena, also frequently commented that he and his horse had the same colored eyes.

“I reckon he knows what he is,” David remarked. “Besides, he’s unusual, and that makes him unique.”

“Oh, he’s unique all right,” Josie said, giggling again. She pulled her hair back from her face and replaced her bonnet.

David untied a saw from a leather strap attached to Renegade’s saddle. He knelt down, quickly sawed through the little tree’s trunk, picked it up, and tied it across the saddle’s seat. His two black and tan dogs sniffed around the tree’s sawed off stump. Suddenly, they both lifted their noses into the air with their ears pricked. They bolted across the open clearing, baying at an unseen curiosity as they disappeared into the woods.

“Caleb! Si!” David hollered after the two hounds. “Well, there they go,” he observed wryly. “All right, Renegade, take it on home.” He patted his horse on the shoulder.

Renegade nickered softly, shook his head, and trotted off in the same direction as the two hounds.

Josie gasped. “Look, David! It’s startin’ to snow!” She tilted her head back and stuck out her tongue, trying to catch snowflakes on it.

He chuckled.

“Come on, you do it, too,” she coaxed him.

He obliged his little sister by imitating her.

Josie laughed, spinning around with her arms extended while snow fell silently down around them.

“Oh!” David clasped his hand to his face. “One fell in my eye!”

Josie giggled.

He couldn’t help but smile, although he was careful not to let her see, and snorted to cover up his delight. “Well, I’m right glad you think it’s so funny.” He looked at her, trying to keep a straight face. “Come on, Josie girl. We’d best be gittin’ on back.”

He allowed her to go ahead of him as they started on the bridle path that cut through the woods.

“Let’s sing Christmas carols!” she said. “That new one we heard last year. Jingle Bells!”

“You start,” he prompted.

“Dashin’ through the snow…”

He joined in. Their voices grew stronger in unison.

“In a one-horse open sleigh…”

They came to an empty field, and trudged through, stepping over mud puddles while they continued singing.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…”

Their house stood quaintly at the far end of the field. Smoke circled from its two chimneys, dissolving into the gray sky. The sweet smell of burning hickory reached out, inviting them closer. From a distance, the structure appeared to be two separate cabins sitting side by side, but upon closer observation, one could see that they were connected by a covered breezeway. Each section contained two rooms and a fireplace. A wide flat porch on the front of the split log building served as an entryway. The tin roof, which seemed to expel heat in the summertime, also managed to repel snow during winter months.

The cold, damp air encroached upon brother and sister. As they sang, their breath escaped, floated out across the fields, and vanished in phantom gusts.

“Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!”

On the last note, Josie’s voice jumped an octave. They laughed at their grand finale and walked around to the front of the house, where Renegade was waiting patiently for the tree to be removed from his saddle. A buckskin horse stood beside him.

“Whose horse is that?” Josie asked.

“It looks like Bud Samuels’ horse.”

David and Josie looked at each other, wide-eyed. “Pa!” they both exclaimed.

Josie sprang onto the porch, burst through the front door, and went inside while David untied the small yellow pine. He set it aside, pulled the saddle from Renegade’s back, and removed his bridle.

“Go on into the barn, Renie,” he said. “Or you’ll be one big ole snowball in a minute.”

The colt blew and trotted around the side of the house.

David carried his tack into the breezeway. He placed it on a horizontal board, which was supported by a plank on each end. Collecting the tree, he heard the sound of Bud’s voice coming from inside.

“I had some trouble gettin’ here,” Bud was saying as he entered. “But I convinced the Home Guard to follow me home so’s I could show them my furlough paper.”

David produced the tiny tree. “I know it’s small,” he said with a grin, “but Josie insisted, and…” The sight that befell him inexplicably filled him with dread. His smile faded. He looked around at the faces before him and let the tree fall onto the wooden floor. Warmth from the fireplace did nothing to relieve the chill that grasped him. “What is it?” he asked.

“Come in, darlin’, and close the door,” his mother said from her high-backed chair, which sat near the empty corner they had readied for the Christmas tree. Her brown skirt encircled her like a puddle. Her dark brown hair, streaked recently with gray, was parted in the middle and contained in a white cotton hair net. She clenched her hands in her lap, and her lips were pursed. The flickering firelight accentuated the grooves on her face, which, for some reason, David had never noticed before. After closing the door behind him, he looked at Rena, who was sitting beside the hearth. She vacantly stared back, her violet eyes welling up with tears.

“Rena?” he asked her.

She looked away and hugged Josie, who had taken the chair beside her.

David walked across the room to their neighbor, Bud.

“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Samuels,” he said, shaking the man’s hand. “How’s Pa? Is he comin’ home for Christmas, like he wrote?”

“Have a seat, David.” Bud’s eyes filled with concern. He scratched his straggly, graying beard.

Obeying the command, David slowly sank into a chair, keeping his eyes fixed on Bud’s face.

“I’m afraid I have bad news.” Bud cleared his throat, then slowly, deliberately said, “Your father’s been killed at Fredericksburg.” He looked down at the floor. “A little over a week ago. I know he was lookin’ forward to seein’ y’all. I’m…immensely sorry.”

He pulled a folded piece of yellowed paper from his coat pocket. The gray coat was torn and tattered in places, not at all like the beautiful piece of clothing that had been provided to him nearly two years earlier. His trousers and the kepi he held in his hand were weathered, too.

“Miss Carolyn, Hiram wanted me to give you this here letter…in the event of his death.” He solemnly handed her the note.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Carolyn held it to her mouth. Tears streamed down her weathered face. “Thank you, Bud,” she finally said. “You’ve been a good friend to my Hiram. I know he appreciated you dearly.”

Bud nodded. “Please let the missus or me know if there’s anything we can do,” he offered, and walked toward the door.

“I surely will.” Carolyn wearily stood, followed him to the door, and walked him out.

Bud placed his kepi on his head, untied his horse, mounted, and galloped off down the lane. The rhythm of hoof beats faded.

Turning from the doorway, Carolyn somberly gazed at her children. Her two daughters came across the room to hug her. The three of them burst into tears. Carolyn gazed at her son, who was sitting motionless across the room, his handsome young face drained of color, his hazel eyes growing a darker brown.

“David,” she said, her voice filled with the sorrow that had now overtaken the room.

He looked over at her, his face blank with grief-stricken shock.  Finding no comfort in her anguished expression, he glanced up at the ornately-carved mantle clock, the one his father had given to her as a wedding gift. It read ten minutes past five. Beside it sat a framed tintype of his father, adorned in Confederate glory, ready to march off to victory, but now he was never to return. David’s eyes wandered, and he noticed things he’d taken for granted before: the raised oval portrait of his paternal grandmother on the wall, the paintings of flowers his mother liked so well that hung on the opposite wall, the fieldstone fireplace that his father had built, and the pine furniture that had been there ever since he could remember. Somehow, all of it seemed irrelevant.

Moving numbly, he rose and walked across the room to pick up the little tree he had dropped earlier. A tiny pool of water remained where it had fallen. He carried the tree outside, leaving a trail of moisture that splattered onto the floorboards. The cold winter air, uncluttered with snow, barely whispered, its breath deathly quiet and still. Dusk was rapidly approaching.

David hurled the tree as hard as he could. It landed with a rustled thud out in the yard. Without pausing, he walked into the breezeway past his mother and sisters and grabbed a kerosene lantern. He carried it outside, lit it, and threw it at the pine. The glass shattered upon impact. Kerosene trickled out onto the tiny branches and within seconds, flames engulfed the little tree. He stoically watched tongues of fire consume the sapling. Slowly, he turned to face his mother and sisters, who were standing on the porch, watching him while they wept.

“I reckon we won’t be celebratin’ Christmas after all,” he said, his voice raspy with distress.

Impending darkness engulfed his heart. Feeling the need for solitude, he walked around the house toward the barn, vaguely hearing his mother call out to him. The sky opened, releasing icy rain. He stomped past the pigpen and the chicken coop. Upon reaching the old wooden barn, he went inside and blinked several times before his eyes adjusted to his dim surroundings. He caught glimpses of shadows dancing off the walls and up around the rafters. A pungent combination of dry, clean hay and musty wood enveloped him. The rain rattled down upon the barn’s tin roof and sounded like a thousand tiny drums. Three cows studied him with soft brown eyes. One mooed a welcome as he walked past them.

Sidestepping bales of hay stacked near the stall door, David paused to shake off cold drops of moisture that clung to his shirt and ran his hand over the top of his head, wiping the rain from his dark brown hair. A large Percheron, standing in the stall next to Renegade, gazed at David with his ears pricked.

“Hey, Joe Boy,” David said softly to the tall white gelding.

The draft horse sniffled at David’s pockets but seemed to lose interest and shuffled to the other end of his stall when David didn’t offer a treat like he usually did. Renegade looked up from his fodder and nickered softly. David walked over and gently stroked his muzzle. “I’m sorry I put you through all that trouble of bringin’ home a tree.” Anguish and anger welled up inside him. Searing-hot tears streamed down his cheeks. His hatred seethed. His grief was overwhelming, and he could hold it back no longer. Sobs escaped him. He grasped onto his horse’s mane, burying his face in Renegade’s neck. The colt stood quietly, seemingly to console him.

The Plot to Burn New York City

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In the closing months of 1864, with the Federal noose ever tightening, the Confederate government began to contemplate enacting a so-called, “War of Attrition” in an effort to bring about negotiations to end the conflict. One such strategy would involve the burning of New York City. November 1864 would see a hand- picked group of former Southern soldiers leave their Canadian base and arrive in the city to carry out the deed. Commanded by Col. Robert Martin, the eight men were determined to bring to the North some of the horrors being suffered by the citizens of the Confederacy.

Armed with 144 bottles of “Greek Fire,” each man was detailed a specific location to set ablaze, mainly around the Broadway district. However, when the appointed time came, only a few of the group stepped up; the others were frightened by the arrival of large numbers of Federal troops to garrison the city when rumors of an attack leaked out. These bluecoats would leave the city by November 15, believing that danger had passed.

Election Day, November 25, 1864 came and the Southern plan went into effect; each remaining man was given 10 bottles of the incendiary and went from hotel to hotel setting fires before quickly making their escape to an appointed place. James Headley set fire to his room in the Astor House before continuing onto the City Hotel, Everett House and United States Hotel. As he left the last, he heard fire alarms ringing across the district and saw the consternation on the streets.

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Also, on fire was Barnum’s Museum, a place that was not part of the original plan. One of the raiders, Capt. Robert C Kennedy, having carried out his mission, paid a visit to a local hostelry, where his patriotism was restored, and still armed with the fiery liquid, Kennedy went into the museum and set it ablaze. Amazingly, no casualties ensued despite there being over 2,500 people attending a theatrical performance. Throughout the night, firemen rushed to quench the fires, dawn revealing that the Southern plot had done very little damage to the city while the search for Martin, Headley, Kennedy and their accomplices began. They would make their escape to Toronto before returning to the South, all successfully, except one; Capt. Robert Kennedy.

Between 1861 and 1864 there were at least three plots discussed in Canada; individuals involved in these were Clement Clay, Col. Jacob Thompson and John W Booth. One was the “Kidnapping Plot” whereby President Lincoln was to be taken captive and brought to face President Davis. This plan was shelved as it was considered too dangerous to carry out. A second plan was to assassinate President Lincoln, Vice-President Johnson and Secretary Seward led by John W. Booth. The third plan was the destruction of as many Northern cities and towns as possible.

(Irish In Blue & Gray: Remembering the Irish in America 1861-1865, editors: Liam and LaDona McAlister)

Additional information provided by this editor:

“Robert C. Kennedy was tried as a spy for his part in the setting of numerous fires in New York City in November, 1864. Places burned by him and others (who were never tried) included a number of hotels and Barnum’s Museum. He was executed on Governor’s Island. He was buried in an unmarked grave on the island in New York Harbor. All of the bodies buried on the island were disinterred in the late 1870’s and re-buried in Cypress Hills. It is probable that he is buried in an unmarked grave in the National Cemetery ” – John F Walter

(Article courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey camp 1452, Sons of Confederate Veterans, vol. 42, issue no. 11, Nov. 2018 ed.)

 

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