Ronald L. Rue

IN MEMORY OF RONALD L. RUE
Award Winning Decoy Carver
First Curator of the DCHS Carvers Museum
On the Eastern Shores of the Chesapeake Bay, in the counties of Somerset, Talbot, and Dorchester there is an abundance of waterfowl and this has given rise to some of the great and well known decoy makers. Names such as the Ward Brothers, Ed Parsons, the Elliott brothers and Ronald Rue. Their collectibles are cherished  all over the world. Ron Rue was selected as the first curator of The New Dorchester County Historical Society’s “Carvers Museum.”

ronrue

This painting by artist George Wright which was featured on the cover of Wildfowl Arts and depicts Ron examining this youth’s decoy. It is reminiscent of the Ward brother’s 1954 examination of Ron’s early Merganser carving that he took to Crisfield for their appraisal. This visit and their kind encouragement resulted in monthly visits and their strong influence on his carvings The results  of such critiques speak for themselves, as Ron Rue became one of the  finest decoy makers, and is himself a Chesapeake Bay classic. That is why his decoys are on display at the
Harve de Grace Decoy Museum and why his birds are roosting in Buckingham Palace.
Ron’s decoys and decorative carvings have been mentioned in many publications, among these are:

  • The Atlantic Flyway … Winchester Press … Publ. 1980
  • Master of Decorative Bird Carving…Winchester Press..Anne Small, 1981
  • Chesapeake Bay Decoys & The Men Who Made Them..Tidewater Press..R. Richardson, 1973
  • Decoys of The Mid-Atlantic Region..Schiffer Publ. .. H. Fleckenstein, 1979

Among those loaning decoys and related memorabilia to the DCHS are Steve Foxwell, Eddie Dean, Smitty Rue, Bob Parks, Gary Marshall, Melvin Hickman, Richard Drescher and Paul Winn.

Patty Cannon

patty cannonPatty Cannon

Martha “Patty” Cannon (circa 1760 – May 11, 1829) was the leader of a gang in the early 19th century that kidnapped slaves and free blacks from Delmarva and transported and sold them to plantation owners located further south. Later accounts of her life refer to her as Lucretia P. Cannon, although there is no evidence to indicate she used the Lucretia name in her lifetime. She was indicted for four murders in 1829 and died in prison while awaiting trial, purportedly a suicide via poison.

Cannon was married to local farmer Jesse Cannon, who died around 1826.  She lived near the town of Reliance, Maryland. (then called Johnson’s Corners), on the border at the convergence of Caroline and Dorchester County in Maryland and Sussex County, Delaware.

Cannon and her husband had at least one daughter, who twice married men engaged in the criminal slave-stealing trade. Their daughter’s first husband was Henry Brereton, a blacksmith who kidnapped black people for sale. Brereton had gone to prison in 1811 for kidnapping, but escaped from the Georgetown, Delaware jail. Brereton was captured, convicted of murder, and hanged with one of his criminal associates, Joseph Griffith.

At some point after this, Cannon’s daughter married Joe Johnson, who became Cannon’s most notorious partner in crime. Their band included white criminals, black men used as decoys, and Cannon’s own husband before his death.  In addition, a relative of Cannon’s daughter’s first husband, a Robert Brereton, continued to be involved with the gang as late as at least 1826.

The US Congress had banned the importation of slaves in 1808. At that point, because of the restriction of supply, the cash value of slaves shot upwards, hitting over $1,000 in the South and creating a strong incentive for kidnappers. Many free blacks lived in Cannon’s neighborhood near the Maryland-Delaware border, and were convenient targets for her kidnapping forays. Kidnapping enslaved blacks was riskier, as their white owners would protest; likewise the murder of white slave traders was taken seriously. However, the kidnapping of free blacks left their land and other property behind, and failed to outrage the white community the way the theft of white-owned slaves did, or the murder of whites.

Victim accounts printed in the abolitionist journal the African Observer,  state that captives were chained and hidden in the basement, the attic, and secret rooms in the Cannon house. Captives were taken in covered wagons to Cannon’s Ferry (now Woodland Ferry). At the ferry, they would sometimes meet a schooner traveling down the Nanticoke River to the Chesapeake Bay and on to southern slave markets.

The gang’s activities continued for many years. Local law enforcement officials were reluctant to halt the illegal operations, given the lack of concern that most people in authority felt for blacks in those days, and may have been afraid of the gang’s reputation for violence. When Patty Cannon learned the police were coming, she would slip across state lines away from local police forces.

According to depositions from victims who fought their way back to the north, Joe Johnson kept the captives in leg irons.  He also “severely whipped” captives who insisted they were free. His wife, Patty’s daughter, was overheard saying that it “did [her] good to see him beat the boys.” “Boy” was a degrading reference to a black man of any age.

A 25-year-old free black woman named Lydia Smith testified that she was kept in Cannon’s home before being moved to Johnson’s tavern. There, she was held for five months until she was shipped south with a large lot people being sold into slavery.

The gang was initially indicted in May 1822. Joe Johnson was sentenced to the pillory and 39 lashes; records show the sentence was carried out. Cannon and several other gang members, though charged with Johnson, apparently did not go to trial nor receive sentences.

In 1829, however, bodies were discovered on the farm property Cannon owned in Delaware by a tenant farmer doing plowing there. In April, 1829, she was indicted on four counts of murder by a grand jury of 24 white males:

  • an infant female on April 26, 1822
  • a male child on April 26, 1822
  • an adult male on October 1, 1820
  • a “Negro boy” on June 1, 1824

The indictments were signed by the Attorney General of Delaware, James Rogers.  Witness Cyrus James stated he saw her take an injured “black child not yet dead out in her apron, but that it never returned.”  James had been purchased by Cannon when he was only seven years old, and had grown up in her household and participated in her crimes.

Cannon died in her cell on May 11, 1829, at an age estimated to be between sixty and seventy years old. Sources differ on whether she was convicted and sentenced to hang before her death in the cell, and on whether she committed suicide or died of natural causes.

Her body was initially buried in the jail’s graveyard. When that land became a parking lot in the 20th century, her skeleton, along with those of two other women, was exhumed and reburied in a potter’s field near the new prison. However, her skull was separated from the rest of her remains and put on display in various venues, and loaned to the Dover Public Library in 1961.

According to folklore, Cannon was a large, unruly woman with enormous strength and a ruthless streak.  Cannon has had mythic prominence since her death, beginning with the publication of a “female fiend” pamphlet in 1841 and followed by numerous works which combine fact and fiction, sometimes carefully distinguished and sometimes loosely mixed. It is difficult to extract the facts except in those cases where authors were meticulous about noting their sources or flagging their departures from fact into thriller.

Lieutenant John Trippe, USN

Trippe
Lieutenant John Trippe, USN

Lieutenant John Trippe, U.S.N. in whose honor the U.S.S. TRIPPE is named was born in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1785. He entered the U.S. Navy as a midshipman in 1799.

At that time the Barbary pirates were a real danger to merchant ships, not only on the Mediterranean, but on the Atlantic Ocean as well. Some nations paid tribute, thus buying off the pirates so that their ships would not be attacked. So incensed was our government at this form of blackmail that in 1801, a squadron was sent to the Mediterranean for observation. The bravery of the American officers and their men made this expedition a complete success and for the first time our country was recognized as a world power.

The capture of the S.S. Philadelphia by the pirates, when she went aground on a reef, and the 315 members of the crew that were taken prisoners and held for ransom led to the famous Battle of Tripoli.

The thrilling recapture and burning of the Philadelphia by Captain Stephen Decatur is familiar history. Of John Trippe’s part in the Battle of Tripoli, John Spears writes:

“Of equal bravery were the men on the third American Gunboat. She was commanded by Sailing Master John Trippe and Midshipman John D. Henley. Hanging up beside the enemy, those two officers and nine men got on board of her, and then the two boats separated, leaving the eleven men to face the whole barbarian crew, with no chance of retreat and little hope of timely assistance.

But Trippe and Henley were just the men to lead such a forlorn hope. Pikes and swords in hand, the eleven charged the enemy, Trippe and Henley singling out the Tripoliton Captain, knowing that victory was assured if they could cut him down. But he was a magnificent specimen of humanity, and it is said that he had sworn on the Koran to win victory or die.

Fighting with the energy born of fanaticism, he wounded Trippe no less than eleven times, and at last Trippe went down with one knee on the deck, but while in this position he caught the Tripolitan with breast unguarded and thrust him through with a pike. And that ended one of the most remarkable fights recorded in the annals of our Navy. For Trippe and his ten men killed fourteen of the Tripolitans and made the remainder, twenty-two in number, prisoners. The number of the enemy wounded was only eleven. The Americans struck to kill in that fight. Besides Trippe, a boatswain’s mate and two marines were wounded, but none was killed among the Americans.”

For John Trippe’s distinguished service at Tripoli he received the Official thanks of Congress and was awarded the Congressional Medal as well as a sword. He died of yellow fever while on duty in Cuba in 1810.

Since those days the name of Trippe has been closely associated with the Navy, and also since those days the Navy has carried on the tradition of protecting American citizens and American foreign trade in the four corners of the world.

The first ship to be named after John Trippe was a sloop with one gun, which took part in the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812. The last to bear the name was a destroyer, which served in the World War and was credited with sinking a number of German submarines.

With the completion of the U.S.S. TRIPPE the name is carried on by a destroyer which is the last work in construction, efficiency and speed, making striking contrast to the first U.S.S. TRIPPE, sloop with one gun, of the year 1812.

John Trippe, born in Dorchester County in 1785 was the son of Capt. William Trippe and his wife Mary Noel. Capt. William Trippe was born in Dorchester County in 1746 and died in Talbot County in 1795/6. He was the son of John Trippe and his wife Elizabeth Noel. This John Trippe was born in Dorchester County in 1711 and died there in 1778. He was the son of William Trippe and his wife Francis Tate. This William Trippe was born in Dorchester County ca1689/90 and died in Dorchester County in 1770. He was the son of Henry Trippe the immigrant and his wife Elizabeth. Henry Trippe the immigrant was born in England in 1632 and died in Dorchester County 1698. He was the son of the Rev. Thomas Trippe who was born in 1584 in Canterbury, County Kent, England.

 


Harriet Tubman

harrietHarriet Tubman 
Harriet Tubman is perhaps the most well-known of all the Underground Railroad’s “conductors.” During a ten-year span she made 19 trips into the South and escorted approximately 70 slaves to freedom. And, as she once proudly pointed out to Frederick Douglass, in all of her journeys she “never lost a single passenger.”

Tubman was born a slave in Maryland’s Dorchester County around 1820. At age five or six, she began to work as a house servant. Seven years later she was sent to work in the fields. While she was still in her early teens, she suffered a head injury that would follow her for the rest of her life. She never fully recovered from the blow, which subjected her to spells in which she would fall into a deep sleep.

Around 1844 she married a free black named John Tubman and took his last name. (She was born Araminta Ross; she later changed her first name to Harriet, after her mother.) In 1849, in fear that she, along with the other slaves on the plantation, was to be sold, Tubman resolved to run away. She set out one night on foot. With some assistance from a friendly white woman, Tubman was on her way. She followed the North Star by night, making her way to Philadelphia, where she found work and saved her money. The following year she returned to Maryland and escorted her sister and her sister’s two children to freedom. She made the dangerous trip back to the South soon after to rescue her brother and two other men. On her third return, she went after her husband, only to find he had taken another wife. Undeterred, she found other slaves seeking freedom and escorted them to the North.

Tubman returned to the South again and again. She devised clever techniques that helped make her “forays” successful, including using the master’s horse and buggy for the first leg of the journey; leaving on a Saturday night, since runaway notices couldn’t be placed in newspapers until Monday morning; turning about and heading south if she encountered possible slave hunters; and carrying a drug to use on a baby if its crying might put the fugitives in danger. Tubman even carried a gun which she used to threaten the fugitives if they became too tired or decided to turn back, telling them, “You’ll be free or die.”

By 1856, Tubman’s capture would have brought a $40,000 reward from the South. On one occasion, she overheard some men reading her wanted poster, which stated that she was illiterate. She promptly pulled out a book and feigned reading it. The ploy was enough to fool the men.

Tubman had made the perilous trip to slave country about 13 times by 1860, including one especially challenging journey in which she rescued her 70-year-old parents. Of the famed heroine, who became known as “Moses,” Frederick Douglass said, “Excepting John Brown — of sacred memory — I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than [Harriet Tubman].”
And John Brown, who conferred with “General Tubman” about his plans to raid Harpers Ferry, once said that she was “one of the bravest persons on this continent.”

During the Civil War Harriet Tubman worked for the Union as a cook, a nurse, and even a spy. After the war she settled in Auburn, New York, where she would spend the rest of her long life.Tubman spent her remaining years in Auburn, tending to her family and other people in need. She worked various jobs to support her elderly parents, and took in boarders to help pay the bills.  One of the people Tubman took in was a Civil War veteran named Nelson Davis. He began working in Auburn as a bricklayer and they soon fell in love. Though he was 22 years younger than she was, on March 18, 1869, they were married at the Central Presbyterian Church. They spent the next 20 years together, and in 1874 they adopted a baby girl named Gertie. 

In her later years, Tubman worked to promote the cause of women’s suffrage.  When asked by a white woman if Tubman believed that women should have the right to vote, she replied “I suffered enough to believe it.”  Tubman began attending meetings of suffragist organizations and was soon working alongside women such as Susan B. Anthorny and Emily Howland.

At the turn of the 20th century, Tubman became heavily involved with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Auburn. In 1903, she donated a parcel of real estate she owned to the church, under the instruction that it be made into a home for “aged and indigent colored people.   The home did not open for another five years, and Tubman was dismayed when the church ordered residents to pay a $100 entrance fee. She said: “[T]hey make a rule that nobody should come in without they have a hundred dollars. Now I wanted to make a rule that nobody should come in unless they didn’t have no money at all.”  She was frustrated by the new rule but was the guest of honor nonetheless when the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged celebrated its opening on June 23, 1908.

As Tubman aged, the seizures, headaches, and suffering from her childhood head trauma continued to plague her. At some point in the late 1890s, she underwent brain surgery.  Unable to sleep because of pains and “buzzing” in her head, she asked a doctor if he could operate. He agreed and, in her words, “sawed open my skull, and raised it up, and now it feels more comfortable.” She had received no anesthesia for the procedure and reportedly chose instead to bite down on a bullet,  as she had seen Civil War soldiers do when their limbs were amputated.

By 1911, her body was so frail that she had to be admitted into the rest home named in her honor. A New York newspaper described her as “ill and penniless,” prompting supporters to offer a new round of donations. Surrounded by friends and family members, Harriet Tubman died of pneumonia  in 1913.  Just before she died, she told those in the room: “I go to prepare a place for you.”

 

Annie Oakley


Annie Oakley

“Annie Oakley” (Phoebe Ann Moses or Mosey) attained international fame, as a rifle and pistol shot. Along in the 185O’s her parents left the mountains of Pennsylvania and settled in the northeastern part of Darke county. Here in a wild tract of land known as the “fallen timbers” Annie was born in 1860.  Her mother was a Quaker and exhibited some talent for art, which was expressed in pencil sketches and a few paintings, but limited by circumstances of poverty and hard work. Her father was a natural athlete, fond of shooting wild game, but not an expert shot. From one she probably inherited skill and a generous disposition; from the other agility and a love of outdoor sports.

It is said that when but a small child she would secretly follow her brother on his hunting expeditions, and when discovered and reprimanded, would plead to remain with him and help shoot. One day, when a little over eight years of age, while her brother was away from the house, she caught sight of a fox squirrel frisking along the fence, and taking his muzzle loading rifle, she rested it on the rail of the porch, fired and cut the animal’s throat. When the brother returned he was surprised, and in order to wreak vengeance on his offending sister he secretly put a double load in his shotgun, and giving her the weapon, threw up his hat as a target. To his surprise this, too, was quickly pierced, and the sister, undaunted, won the day. From this time on she progressed in marksmanship, and at twelve years of age was given a light muzzle loading shotgun and a breech-loading rifle as a tribute to her skill.

Annie’s early education was limited, and before her ninth birthday she commenced to work for a living. The father died, leaving a family of small children, and a small, heavily mortgaged farm. By hunting and trapping quail, pheasants and other game and doing manual labor she saved enough to pay off the mortgage before her fourteenth year. Being variously employed at housework for a couple more years she finally went to live with a sister at Cincinnati, Ohio, where she married Mr. Frank E. Butler in 1876.  Frank was a gentleman and an expert shot, whom she met at a shooting contest.  Later, the two visited professionally, nearly all civilized countries.

During the first year of her public life she played with vaudeville companies, probably doing feats of fancy marksmanship. The two years following she exhibited with Sells Brothers circus, shooting from horseback. Then followed a long engagement with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, beginning in the early spring of 1885.  While with the Wild West show, Annie shot at the London and Paris expositions, the World’s Fair at Chicago, and exhibited before nearly all the crowned heads and aristocracy of Europe. She remained with this world famed show for seventeen years, seven of which were spent abroad.

Besides being feted by Queen Victoria, she received jewels and presents from nearly all the crowned heads of Europe, and her collection of trophies in the way of jewels, firearms and mementoes is quite extensive. Her salary as early as 1900 when with the Wild West was $150 per week with expenses paid, and it is said she gave generously of this to charity, being mindful of her own early struggles. Strange as it may seem, she was not fond of public exhibition and social life, but prefers out of door sport, and yearns for the time when she can enjoy the seclusion of private life.

She was fond of swimming, walking, running and bicycle riding, which may had contributed to her remarkable vitality and sustained good health. Her guns weighed about seven pounds, and she sometimes shot 150 shots in a day, thus lifting over 1,000 pounds.

In personal appearance she was slight, below average height, with black flowing hair, keen, blue-gray eyes, clear-cut expressive features, and a rather piquant face. One might expect that such a life as hers would produce coarseness and lack of refinement, but Miss Annie possessed a rare modesty and a charming personality.

In 1893 she built a handsome residence in Nutley, New Jersey, not far from New York City, where she spent several enjoyable vacation seasons.  Otherwise, she lived on the road.

On October 30, 1901, the Wild West show suffered a disastrous wreck in which Annie Oakley was severely wounded, having to undergo five operations in order to save her life. This ended her engagement with the big show and in the fall and winter of 1902 she starred in a play written especially for herself, and, if possible, made a greater artistic success than she had in the shooting field. 

Annie joined the “Young Buffalo Wild West” in April of 1910, continuing with them for three years during the summer and spending winters in Florida with her husband, shooting game. 

Having sold their home in New Jersey, Annie and Frank built a home in Cambridge, Maryland in 1913 with hopes of becoming domesticated.  They were drawn to the area because of the plentiful game and waterfowl, with plans for hunting.  By 1917 they sold the Cambridge house and moved to Pinehurst, North Carolina, where they enjoyed an active social life.

Annie Oakley died on November 3, 1926,  in Greenville, Ohio.  The news of her death saddened the nation and brought forth a wave of tributes.  Her husband, Frank Butler, died just over three weeks later. 

 


Anna Ella Carroll

Anna Ella Carroll 

Anna Ella Carroll (August 29, 1815, in Somerset County Maryland – February 19, 1894, Washington, DC) was an American politician, pamphleteer and lobbyist. She played a significant role as adviser to the Lincoln cabinet during the American Civil War.


Anna Ella Carroll, 1815 – 1894

Early life

Anna Carroll was born in 1815 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland into a prominent upper class, mixed Catholic-Protestant family.  Her father was Thomas King Carroll, who served as Maryland governor in 1830 and was owner of a 2,000-acre tobacco plantation in Somerset County. She was the eldest of eight children and was educated and trained by her father to be his aide and likely tutored in the law by him. This allowed her access into the male world of politics. Anna contributed to her family’s income by establishing a girls’ school at their home, Kingston Hall. However, little is known about her life between the ages of twenty and thirty-five.

1850s political career

Carroll entered the national political arena in the 1850s, following her father’s appointment as Naval Officer for the District of Baltimore by Whig President Zachary Taylor.  In 1854, Carroll joined the American Party (the Know Nothing Party) following the demise of the Whigs. At the time much political realignment was going on nationwide.  In Maryland, large numbers of immigrants, largely German and Irish Catholics, had flooded into Baltimore following the famines of the 1840s, taking work in the port and railroad yards. Due to this rapid urbanization, street crime became a problem and relief rolls rose. At the same time planters were a strong force in the state with many Catholic and Episcopalian ones residing on the Eastern Shore. In 1853, the Maryland Know Nothing party was formed, initially, from three nativist groups. Yet beginning in February, it took in large numbers of striking laborers from the ironworks factory in Baltimore whom the Democratic party had refused to support. Thus in opposing the pro-slavery Democrats, the Know Nothings became a powerful, but divisive, party in the state, being not pro-slavery, but pro-Union, pro-labor, anti-Catholic, and anti-immigrant.

Along with other reformers, Carroll campaigned against urban machine corruption, crime, and what was perceived as the political threat of the power of the Catholic Church. In Maryland the Catholic planter/urban vote could combine to establish a pro-slavery state government. In 1856, the party then split nationally into Northern and Southern factions due to the slavery issue. During the 1856 presidential election, Carroll supported and campaigned on behalf of Fillmore, the South American/Whig candidate, writing many articles and pamphlets and touring the Northeast on his behalf. Considered a moderate, Fillmore carried the state of Maryland, the only one he won.
For the 1856 campaign, Carroll published two party books that greatly extended her political and press contacts: The Great American Battle, or, The Contest Between Christianity and Political Romanism and The Star of the West, and influential pamphlets such as “The Union of the States”. In 1857 Carroll was the chief publicist for Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks of Maryland and he credited his victory to her writings.  She wrote a series of articles in the New York Evening Express newspaper on the 1860 candidates under the pseudonym “Hancock.” 

Secession role

With the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860, Carroll freed her own slaves and turned her activities toward opposition to the secession of the Southern states and keeping Maryland loyal. Lincoln’s election set off the secession movement out of the Union which began with South Carolina’s exit on December 20, 1860. In February 1861, the Confederate government was formed in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time Carroll was advising Governor Thomas H. Hicks on compromise efforts in the Congress and sending intelligence on Confederate plans that may have resulted in a coup d’etat of Washington, D.C. had Maryland seceded, once Virginia went out.

During the summer of 1861, Carroll wrote a political pamphlet in response to a speech given on the floor of the senate by the Hon. John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky who argued that Lincoln had acted in violation of the Constitution by mustering state militias into service following the bombardment of Fort Sumter, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and imposing martial law and a naval blockade. In her reply pamphlet that was widely circulated by the Lincoln administration, Carroll made informed legal arguments, later used by Attorney General Edward Bates, stating that Lincoln had acted in accordance with the United States Constitution. Under a verbal agreement made with the government, by 1862 Carroll had produced three more war powers pamphlets that presented constitutional arguments supporting the federal government’s actions. Governor Hicks wrote that her documents did more to elect a Union man as his successor than “all the rest of the campaign documents together.”

Wartime role

In the fall of 1861, Carroll traveled to St. Louis to work with secret agent, Judge Lemuel Dale Evans, to assess the feasibility of an invasion of Texas. Carroll worked on her second war powers paper at the Mercantile Library where she sleuthed out information from the head librarian who was Confederate General Joe Johnston’s brother. She took military matters into her own hands when she initiated an interview with a riverboat pilot Capt. Charles M. Scott about the feasibility of the planned Union Mississippi River expedition. Scott informed her that he and other pilots thought the advance ill conceived because there were many defensible points on the Mississippi River that could be reinforced.  Also, it could take years just to open it up to navigation. Carroll then questioned Scott about the feasibility of the use of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers for a Union invasion. Scott provided Carroll technical navigation details. Based on this information Carroll wrote a memorandum that she sent to Assistant Secretary of War Thomas A. Scott and Attorney General Edward Bates in late November 1861, advocating that the combined army-navy forces change their invasion route from the Mississippi to the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers.
Meanwhile in St. Louis, Major General Henry W. Halleck was planning the same movement without Lincoln’s knowledge. Upon learning that Confederates were possibly sending reinforcements west from Virginia, Halleck ordered Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant and Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote to immediately move on Fort Henry and Fort Donelson on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers in a telegram dated January 30. Scott was dispatched to the Midwest to mobilize reinforcements for Halleck on the night of January 29. On February 6, Fort Henry fell to Foote’s gunboats and on February 13, Fort Donelson fell to Grant’s and Foote’s combined forces. These comprised the first two “real victories” of the Civil War for the Union as Gen. William Sherman wrote later. At the time Carroll’s role in the effort was kept secret, and immediately following the war, she herself gave credit for the plan to Capt. Charles Scott in a letter printed in a leading Washington newspaper. Years later Assistant Secretary of War Scott and Senator Wade testified to it before Congress.

The famous painting “The Signing of the Emancipation Proclamation” by Francis Bicknell Carpenter, 1864 depicts an empty chair, believed by some to be an allusion to Carroll.

Postwar life and death

In the postwar years, Carroll traveled with Lemuel Evans to report on his role in the Texas constitutional convention to draw up a new state constitution. She was active in the Republican Party in Maryland and continued her political writing career. After 1870, however, her life was largely consumed trying to gain payment for $5,000 she insisted that the government still owed her for her wartime publications.
Anna Ella Carroll died of Bright’s disease, a kidney ailment, on February 19, 1894. She is buried at Old Trinity Church, near Church Creek, Maryland, beside her father, mother, and other members of her family. The epitaph on her grave reads, “A woman rarely gifted; an able and accomplished writer.” In 1959, the Maryland Historical Society unveiled a monument to Carroll with the words, “Maryland’s Most Distinguished Lady. A Great humanitarian and close friend of Abraham Lincoln. She conceived the successful Tennessee Campaign and guided the President on his constitutional war powers.”  Curiously, the gravestone has the wrong year—1893—as her date of death, but a Washington, D.C. death certificate lists the correct death year of 1894, and surviving letters in her writing exist from the same year.

Later evaluation

Well into the 20th century, Carroll was hailed as a feminist heroine whose contributions were denied because of her sex. Some scholarship, however, has attempted to discredit her tale, arguing that she was more a “relentless self-promoter” than the “woman who saved the Union,” as novelists, playwrights, and suffragists called her. Carroll had condemned the Emancipation Proclamation and recommended colonization of blacks. Yet research published in 2004 unveiled new sources, primarily Maryland political histories and Lincoln administration records, that analyze the Maryland Know Nothing party in a new progressive light and generally supports (but slightly diminishes) Carroll’s role in the Tennessee River campaign, especially since a plan nearly identical to Carroll’s was printed in the New York Times two weeks prior to the date Carroll said she sent her plan to the War Department in Washington.