Anna’s Early Life

Anna was born on August 29, 1815, to Thomas King Carroll and the former Juliana Stevenson in their “Kingston Hall” Plantation home in Somerset County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Thomas Carroll recognized his eldest daughter’s inherent intellect. Adhering to the King family Anglo-Scots-Irish heritage, he educated Anna in the “Scottish school” tradition prevalent at the time with emphases on Religion, Moral Philosophy, Law, and Political History.

 A political thinker by her teens, and as a constitutional theorist and devout Presbyterian, Anna strongly supported the principles of separation of power within our three branches of government and strict separation of church and state.  Clearly then, Anna received a very unusual education for a young woman of her time. Their original home, “Kingston Hall”, still stands on its isolated Eastern Shore location.

In 1830 Thomas King Carroll was elected governor of Maryland. Letters indicate that his tenure in office piqued Anna’s political curiosity even more.

Anna’s National Political Debut

At the start of the decade in 1850, Anna Ella Carroll was thirty-five years old, extremely well-educated, trained in the law by her father, and already familiar with the political world. As the eldest of eight children, growing into adulthood, Anna took a leadership role in her family. She helped her father become appointed the Naval Officer for the District of Baltimore.

This proved to usher Thomas King Carroll and his daughter onto the national political stage. During the ensuing ten years, Anna used his contacts to begin a professional writing career. Her ably written commissioned works, newspaper articles, and campaign documents, pamphlets, and books eventually earned her a nationwide reputation among editors and politicians. She earned substantial fees and royalties, writing under her full name, A. E. Carroll, or anonymously.

During these and succeeding years, Anna:

-Worked for and lobbied Politicians on behalf of her father’s career

-Supported Presbyterian Rev. Robert J. Breckinridge and his efforts to expand the Presbyterian Church in Baltimore City during the 1840s,

-Campaigned for a Transcontinental Railroad,

-Lobbied successfully for required Safety Standards for U.S. Naval and Commercial Ship Construction in the 1850s after the sinking with loss of life of the Naval ship “Albany”.

-Supported Whig Pres. Zachary Taylor in 1848 and Pres. Millard Fillmore in both 1852 and 1856. In aid of Fillmore and the American (Know Nothing) Party, Anna published two major campaign books, “The Great American Battle” and “The Star of the West”, as well as numerous pamphlets and articles,

-Supported pro-Union Maryland Gov. Thomas H. Hicks in his first gubernatorial bid in the late 1850s and during the 1861 secession crisis. Anna also supported many other politicians, including the great Henry Clay, Thomas Corwin, Edward Everett, Reverdy Johnson, and Alexander H. H. Stuart, and

-Campaigned in 1859-60 for former Congressman John Minor Botts as an “Opposition” Unionist candidate for President, but interestingly not the Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln, although she wrote for the Republican Party and was an ally of New York State boss Thurlow Weed, Senator William H. Seward’s alter ego. 

Thus while other young Victorian-era women were socially confined to the domestic concerns of marriage and family, Anna turned down offers of wedlock and became a self- and family-provider. She focused on issues important to her sense of duty, patriotism, piety, fairness, and representative government.

Anna’s Early Civil War Involvement

In 1860, following his November election as the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln faced the daunting task of preserving the Union. South Carolina had voted secession on December 20, 1860, and six other states soon followed.

By early February 1861, the Confederate government had formed in Montgomery Alabama, with Jefferson Davis elected as its president. At the time, the secession spirit was rife in both Virginia and Maryland. If both states went out of the Union, the Lincoln administration would be forced to abandon the seat of the U.S. government, an event that would greatly disrupt attempts to bring the rebellious states to heel and might bring on foreign recognition of the Confederacy.

Anna had immediately understood the perceptual, political, and military importance of keeping her home state of Maryland in the Union, and thus she:

-Began a major effort to convince her friend and confidante Maryland Gov. Thomas Hicks that the state Legislature should NOT be allowed to vote on the matter of secession,  

-Lobbied the Governor and key state legislators on issues pertaining to the lawful preservation of the Union,

-Penned numerous press articles supporting Governor Hicks’ pro-Union stance, and

-Provided intelligence on Southern intentions to Hicks and to her relative, Lincoln’s General-in-Chief Winfield Scott.

Prior to Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861, Hicks actively delayed action by the Maryland state legislature. He kept members from meeting to avoid a vote on the secession question, and although a Legislative Session was called at the end of April, no action was taken by the body.

Following the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Lincoln called for the activation of 75,000 state militia. This act of perceived “coercion” on the part of the Federal Government brought about the Virginia secession on April 17. Two days later on April 19, a pro-Confederate Baltimore mob attacked Soldiers of the 6th Massachusetts militia regiment en route to Washington. Maryland insurrectionists had also cut rail and telegraph lines to the North leaving Washington completely isolated by land. Thus, on April 26, Lincoln ordered the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus and on May 1, 1861, imposed Martial Law in the state. Having invoked presidential war powers under the 1795 Act of Insurrection, Lincoln thus empowered military officers to arrest armed belligerents acting to prevent access to the capital by Federal forces.

Lincoln’s use of presidential war powers was critical to maintaining the seat of the national government in the District of Columbia, but his acts were controversial among many Maryland citizens. Hence Lincoln’s Attorney General, Edward Bates issued the official Justice Department opinion on the issue. Bates, who knew Anna well, then asked her to write a pamphlet explaining the President’s constitutional power to make arrests and suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus. This brief, but powerful document was written by Anna during the summer of 1861 and was approved by the Attorney General, the President, and his cabinet. It was widely distributed within Maryland.

The War Powers Document

Anna saw the need to research a major position paper on the federal government’s War Powers. She also decided to travel to St. Louis, Missouri to visit her father’s relatives.

Anna informed Asst. Secty. of War Thomas A. Scott of her research plans and pending trip. “He urged [her] to go, asking [her] to write him fully of every point and fact investigated”.  C. Kay Larson’s recent research on this trip reveals, however, that Anna’s true purpose was to aid Judge Lemuel D. Evans, Department of State secret agent for Texas and Mexico, who wished to reenter Texas undercover. Larson believes Carroll’s plan was to spy on Edward William Johnston, the brother of Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston, since Edward was the head librarian at the Mercantile Library where she did her primary research while in St. Louis. According to Evans’s confidential notes, Evans and Carroll left Washington by train on October 11, 1861. Thus began probably the most historically well-documented portion of Anna Ella Carroll’s life that largely concerns her submission of her strategic Tennessee River Plan to the Lincoln administration.

          While living in a hotel in St. Louis, Anna utilized the well stocked Mercantile Library to research the historical, legal, and constitutional basis of “The War Powers of the General Government,” most specifically those of the President, acting as commander-in-chief. She wrote the entire draft of this pamphlet while in St. Louis. Upon her return to Washington, DC she submitted a copy for approval to Asst. Secretary Scott. He signed off on a print run of 6,000 copies. This document published by Henry Polkinhorn, is twenty-four pages, using a very small font size. Her full name “Anna Ella Carroll, of Maryland” was printed on the Title Page as the author. Anna covered the following topics in this extensive work:

-Who Made the War.

-The Status of the Citizens of the Seceded States Defined.

-Congress has no Power to Confiscate Slaves or other Private Property.

-The Opinions of John Quincy Adams and Charles Sumner Refuted.

-The Right to Capture All Property used for Insurrectionary Purposes.

-The Right to Suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus and Arrest the Enemy.

-The Duty of Allegiance and Protection.

The Tennessee River Plan to Invade the Confederacy

While in St. Louis, Anna also investigated the military situation in the upper Mississippi River Valley, as was earlier “suggested” to her by Asst. Secretary Scott. She gathered detailed information on-site via discussions with Union military officers. Anna discussed the military use of the Mississippi River and the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers with an experienced professional Riverboat Captain Charles M. Scott. Scott was familiar with these waters, as he had worked and traveled on them during most of his life. Given the technical details amassed in her written plan, this author assumes Carroll also examined local maps and raw data on towns, railroads, and other Southern military assets. From this information, Anna’s Tennessee River Plan to invade the Confederacy constituted a broader, more viable, and better strategic vision than the existing military plan to descend the Mississippi River. For example Anna noted that on the Mississippi River, disabled Union vessels would float south with the current into hostile territory and thus be taken by the enemy. In contrast, the Tennessee River flowed north into the Ohio River. Thus, disabled vessels would drift back into U.S. control. 

Anna’s new “Tennessee Plan” advocated use of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers to invade central Tennessee via a single line of invasion, rather than a broad front strategy advocated by Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, and to capture key strategic points/facilities, including the vital Memphis-Charleston Railroad line. She further discussed the possibilities of Union forces subsequently using these captured bases for expeditions west, south, and east to begin the geographic attrition of the Confederacy.

This strategic vision became her major contribution to the overall Union war plan, implemented by the Lincoln administration. Union generals Henry W. Halleck and Ulysses S. Grant had narrower views, advocating mainly the use of the Tennessee River as a line of invasion. The Tennessee River engagements resulted in the capture of Confederate Forts Henry and Donelson on the Kentucky-Tennessee border in February 1862.

            Upon returning to Washington, D.C., Anna finalized her Tennessee River Plan, dated November 30, 1861, adding numerous maps and data tables. She submitted the complete plan to Asst. Sec. of War Thomas A. Scott. Scott presented Carroll’s Tennessee Plan to President Lincoln. In turn he discussed it with Sen. Benjamin F. Wade, chairman of the Joint House/Senate Committee on the Conduct of the War who quickly realized its strategic significance to the Western Department. The Tennessee Plan was adopted by the Lincoln administration and Asst. Secretary Scott was sent West to mobilize reinforcements for General Halleck to implement it.

The Emancipation Proclamation

Pres. Abraham Lincoln declared in his March 4, 1861, Inaugural Speech that his paramount presidential responsibility was to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Union. At the same time, Lincoln was also struggling with the immense issue of slavery.

            Since the 1840s, antislavery groups had lobbied to take the U.S. government out of the slavery business by ending the sale of slaves in the District of Columbia and evading the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law by passage of Northern “personal liberty laws.” Northern abolitionists had always demanded that all U.S. slaves be freed. Once the war began, a number of Republican Congressmen demanded that Congress pass laws to confiscate and/or “free” slaves in the rebellious Confederate States.

“War Powers of the General Government” discussed the legal foundation for the President, acting as commander-in-chief, to seize private property being used to support an organized armed insurrection. These acts could be ordered by the President under the doctrine of military necessity to suppress the rebellion. That is, when an owner’s “slave property” was used to assist the Confederate effort militarily, Anna argued that slaves could indeed be temporarily “freed”.

In May 1862, Carroll reiterated these arguments in her fourth major pamphlet, “The Relation of the National Government to the Revolted Citizens Defined,” written to counter arguments made by U.S. Sen. Charles Sumner in the Senate Chamber that by making war on the North, the Confederate States and all their citizens should lose their sovereignty and property rights, respectively.

That spring and summer of 1862, Lincoln was being subjected to intense political and personal pressure on emancipation. After Gen.-in-Chief George B. McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign failed in July, Horace Greeley, the influential editor of the New York Herald Tribune newspaper, suggested on August 19, 1862, that Lincoln make abolition a war objective. Lincoln responded by writing, in part, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it.” He finished: “and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men, everywhere, could be free”. This statement by the President was made after Lincoln signed April legislation that freed all slaves, with financial compensation to their “owners”, in the District of Columbia which was uniquely controlled by the Federal Government. 

Although Anna was one of the few to publicly make the legal case for the President concerning military confiscation and freeing of slaves, personally she opposed the Emancipation Proclamation. She believed there were many Southern Unionists like herself whose support needed to be maintained. In July 1862 she wrote voicing her opposition to the Second Confiscation Act and an emancipation proclamation:

          According to Carroll an emancipation proclamation would change the rationale of the war from maintenance of the Constitution to “subjugation of the Southern States and the destruction of their social system.”

In the end, Lincoln determined that emancipating slaves in “rebellious” states was a necessary military and humanitarian act. He wrote his first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation in the summer of 1862. Following intense Cabinet discussions, he announced the terms of the Preliminary Proclamation’s soon after the battle of Antietam, in September 1862, which had been deemed a Union success. The President signed the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which made slaves in Confederate states and parts thereof, “forever free.” What is still little understood today is that the Emancipation Proclamation was a military order, issued by the President that could only be implemented by the U.S. military. As such it could only be enforced in areas governed by martial law, that is, in states in rebellion, not loyal ones.

Ultimately the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed by Congress in December 1865, forbade slavery or involuntary servitude in the United States and its territories. Lincoln, of course, had been assassinated on April 14, 1865 and consequently was not alive to witness this historic humanitarian event.

Anna’s Moral/Humanitarian Efforts

Anna had long been involved in Moral Reform Efforts, partly due to her Presbyterian faith. Anna’s Scots-Irish heritage and her father’s influence led her to initially support the Whig Party and during the mid-1850s the American (Know-Nothing) Party. Like others, Anna saw the American party as a “moral reform” movement. Activists vowed to clean up urban machine corruption and prostitution, enforce a reverence for Sundays, spread temperance, protect native working men’s jobs, and support free speech and conscience and the antislavery movement. Anna had freed her own slaves prior to the Civil War.

By 1856, the Know Nothings had become the progressive party in Maryland in opposition to the proslavery Democrats. Striking ironwork laborers had flooded into the party. Thus the Know Nothings were pro-labor, anti-slavery, and pro-Union. They fought against attempts to ally the Irish and German Catholic vote with Catholic and Episcopal slaveholders in the legislature to form a proslavery state government. In 1857, Carroll was the main publicist for Thomas H. Hicks, the American Party gubernatorial candidate, who credited his electoral victory to her writings.

During the Civil War, Carroll’s humanitarian concerns extended to war victims. She provided personal and financial support to Union prisoners of war, the war wounded, and war widows. She actively lobbied a number of her key Washington DC contacts to help gain employment in the ever growing ranks of government workers for women whose relatives had been killed.

The Post War Years and Reconstruction

Following Lincoln’s Assassination in April 1865, the new and inexperienced Vice-President Andrew Johnson, Tennessee’s war governor, assumed the office of the Presidency. His prickly and self-possessed personality and lack of leadership skills would soon become evident. Anna and many others quickly realized that Johnson’s main goal was to gain reelection. Thus he sought the support of former high-ranking Confederate officials and officers who returned to both the Congress and to elected state positions. Johnson had previously granted pardons for members of this excluded class.

Additionally Johnson’s views were extraordinarily racist. He believed that former slaves should not have the vote, nor get an education, nor enjoy civil rights. His measures prompted Anna to take pen in hand to denounce the President. She wrote that Johnson had:

-“Reinstated the rebel state governments for the purpose of securing his own (future) election to the Presidency”, and he has

-Allowed “old rebel leaders who made the war to be now in power in every State, (and who are) more insolent and more imperious than before”, and he has

-“Given to their (rebel) cherished dogma of primary or paramount State allegiance an appalling efficacy”, and therefore he has

-Created a policy of “organized secession”, thus resulting in the

-“Augmentation of their political power and the triumph of their political philosophy (that) would more than compensate for all their losses by war.” 

Irate Republican Congressmen and many others sought to remove Johnson from office and thus an impeachment was launched. Anna favored immediately removing Johnson from office, but it did not happen.  Although Johnson was impeached by the House, Senate conviction failed by one vote. Yet Anna continued to condemn his and other Southerners’ Reconstruction measures that increased racial segregation and fomented violence against freedmen and white Republicans across the region.

Seeking Fair Compensation

As a professional writer, Anna Ella Carroll expected to be paid fairly for her work. In the fall of 1861, she had entered into a verbal contract with Asst. Secretary of War Thomas A. Scott to write for the administration, at the request of the president. Ultimately she produced four major pamphlets and many articles, and worked on special projects for the President. During the Civil War, Carroll received very little pay and official recognition, as it was necessary that Lincoln keep her work secret. In the postwar years, she suffered even greater gender discrimination and from political and military indifference, as her supporters died off.

As early as June 1862, Carroll sought payment for three of her pamphlets. For these she itemized monies due that totaled $5,000, for writing, printing, and distribution of 16,000 copies.  Carroll acknowledged a one-time cash payment of $1,250 from Secretary Scott.  Carroll also accepted $750 from the War Department for service as a secret agent, but this did not remunerate her for her writing costs.

After the war, at the urging of Sen. Benjamin F. Wade, former chairman of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, Carroll began to submit claims directly to the Congress for monies due for her general wartime services. Thus the historical record of her extraordinary contributions is exceedingly well documented, to wit:

  • March 1870: submitted a Memorial to U.S. Senator Jacob Howard’s Committee on Military Affairs. Received only delaying responses saying “now is not a good time”,
  • February 1871: the Howard Committee approved her Memorial claim, but the Congress failed to pass an expense bill; Howard quietly told Carroll that former military officers did not want her to receive recognition. Also documentary evidence was “inadvertently lost” from the files.
  • January 1872: Howard’s bill was resubmitted with numerous letters of support from key individuals. Again no action, including a noncommittal reply from former General and then President Ulysses S. Grant,
  • June 1872: resubmitted claim again, no action,
  • 1873: resubmitted with added statements from historians and prominent citizens, no action,
  • July 1876: Anna and State Department secret agent Judge Lemuel Evans gave sworn in-person testimony, regarding the Tennessee River Plan to a congressional committee, no action,
  • 1877, 1878, 1879, 1880: additional submittals, no action, 
  • 1881: Rep. E. S. Bragg’s military committee submitted a bill that would have awarded Carroll a $50.00 per month pension, but Congress failed to pass it.
  • Spring 1882: Carroll’s claim in military committee, no action partly due to Carroll’s increasing vocal support among suffragists,
  • Late 1889-97: Several more bills submitted to Congress which met with even greater resistance, evidently because the women’s suffrage movement which had launched a nation-wide campaign in support of Carroll, was in full swing.

During these many years Anna’s physical health had deteriorated. She became dependent upon family and both the women’s suffrage and veterans’ organizations for financial support.

Anna Ella Carroll, 78 years old, died of organ failure in Washington DC on February 19, 1894, and is buried in a Carroll Family plot on the grounds of the Old Trinity Church in Church Creek.