I found this article fascinating and wanted to share it. When I read it, I learned a lot about our American history and what happened in the South after the Civil War ended. I find it especially interesting because my next novel delves into the issues of Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan, and Western expansion. I only hope I can find a publisher who doesn’t shy away from it, even though, now apparently, the Confederacy has become controversial and taboo. Hopefully, I can find a publisher who can take the heat! If you know of one, please refer me to them.
by Dr. Samuel W. Mitcham
Dr. Samuel W. Mitcham was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot during the Viet Nam War who graduated from the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, and is qualified through the rank of major general. He is the author of more than 40 books, several of which were History or Military History Book Club Selections.
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.
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.
Harpers Weekly, Lampoon of Southern Female Spies
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.
Most people wouldn’t think of Perryville, Kentucky as being one of the most haunted places in the country. But on October 8, 1862, a terrible tragedy took place there that forever left an imprint on the land. Union and Confederate troops clashed for several hours, leaving approximately 7,600 young soldiers either, wounded, dead, or missing. The nearby Chaplin River ran red with blood from the fallen. The battle decided the fate of the state, and although the battle was a tactical victory for the Confederates, the Union army received enough reinforcements to force Confederate General Braxton Bragg back into Tennessee. His army would never again enter Kentucky. Because of this, the Federals had the opportunity to properly bury their dead. The Confederates, however, were unceremoniously thrown into mass graves and haphazardly left in unmarked plots on the battlefield.
It isn’t surprising, then, that countless visitors to the battlefield have witnesses ghostly figures wandering the grassy fields, sometimes in broad daylight. Many reported seeing full-bodied apparitions marching across the fields, and have heard the deep percussion of heavy artillery and cannon fire echoing across the rolling hills. Disembodied voices have been captured on audio, responding to questions with intelligent responses that were indicative of 1862.
Not only is the battlefield haunted, but so is the nearby Dye House, which served as a makeshift hospital after the battle. The structure witnessed hundreds of emergency surgeries, amputations, and painful, gruesome deaths. So much blood was spilled on the floors that, to this day, has been impossible to remove. People have heard footsteps descend the stairs, and doors open and close by themselves. Recordings have been made where ghostly voices claim to be Civil War doctors.
Joni House, the park’s preservation and program coordinator, has also witnessed strange occurrences. “I’m in my office and I hear people talking to me and nobody else is in the building. Or I come in here and see things that have happened in the museum. There’s no real explanation for why a mannequin’s head has been pulled off and is now in the middle of the floor.”
(The Perryville Battlefield was one of the Civil War Trust’s 10 most endangered battlefields in 2008.)
The desecration of Southern history and heritage is still, sadly, alive and well. Apparently, too many people have chosen to forget where they came from, and have instead decided to sway to the influence of political correctness. I find it so sad that these things keep happening.
Everyday, people in Sylvania are driving to the cemetery to see what’s left of it.
The statue had already been moved from the City Park to the cemetery. “That statue was to memorialize the soldier,” explained retired veteran, Colonel David Titus. “More 340,000 soldiers lost their lives in the south, in the civil war conflict,” said Titus.
The destruction of the memorial has also gained attention from the Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans.
They’re offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.
The Sylvania Police Department asks for the public’s help to find the suspect. If you have any information, call (912) 564-2046.