Saturday, January 28, 2023

Pauline White: Sentenced to Hard Labor

   Nineteen-year-old Pauline White’s first brush with Union authority came in 1863 when she was charged with hurrahing for the Confederacy and was compelled to take an oath of allegiance. It wasn’t until the next year, though, when she broke her oath, that she got into real trouble. She claimed she’d been misled by the “treasonable advice of friends,” but that wasn’t enough to keep Pauline from being one of only a handful of women sent to the Missouri State Penitentiary during the Civil War for their disloyal activities.
   Sarah Pauline White was born in Tennessee in July 1844, the third of nine children of Dr. Terrell C. and Sarah Elizabeth White. The family moved to southeast Missouri in the mid-1850s and settled in rural Greenville, the Wayne County seat, where Dr. White set up his medical practice.
   By the fall of 1863, the Union had solid control of Missouri, but Greenville, like most of the rural areas of the state, still had more than its share of Southern sympathizers. Among them were the White sisters, whose older brother had joined the Confederate Army the previous year. One day in early October 1863, a detail of Union soldiers was marching through Greenville, and a number of onlookers, including Pauline and two of her sisters, had gathered to watch the procession. As the Federal soldiers paraded through the town, Pauline, older sister Eveline, and younger sister Arabella began taunting them and hurrahing for the Confederacy.
   On October 15, Dr. White’s daughters were arrested and sent to Union district headquarters at Pilot Knob. Dr. White made the trip with his daughters, and all four were charged with disloyalty. However, the girls were required only to sign oaths of allegiance and then released, while Dr. White also had to pledge to abstain from alcohol during the rebellion and to give bond.
   Charles Dekalb White, Pauline’s older brother and a sergeant in Confederate colonel Timothy Reeves’s Fifteenth Cavalry, was captured in Ripley County during the so-called Christmas Day Massacre of December 25, 1863, when Reeves’s camp was overrun by Federal soldiers. White was taken to St. Louis, and he died there in the Gratiot Street Prison hospital on January 16, 1864. After word of his death reached the White family in February, Pauline wrote a letter to Drury Poston, a soldier in Reeves’s command, telling of Dekalb’s death.
   The letter made it as far as Cherokee Bay, Arkansas, before it was discovered at a house there and confiscated by a Federal scouting party sent out from Patterson, Missouri. Had Pauline quit writing after informing Poston of her brother’s death, the letter might have been left undisturbed, but she expressed some disloyal sentiments near the end of the missive, such as “Long live the Rebels.”
   Pauline was arrested in late May 1864 and forwarded to St. Louis in early June, charged with violating her oath of allegiance and corresponding with the enemy. She was lodged in the St. Charles Street Prison, which had a reputation for its unsanitary conditions and mistreatment of prisoners. After Pauline clashed with the prison keeper’s wife, she was put on half rations without toilet facilities.
   At her trial by military commission on June 28, 1864, Pauline pleaded guilty to both charges against her except that she had not intended for her letter to Poston “to give aid and comfort to the rebel enemies of the United States,” as specified in the second charge. She was sentenced “to be confined at hard labor…in the Missouri State Penitentiary.” Exactly what constituted hard labor for a female prisoner and why Pauline’s sentence was seemingly harsher than those of other women convicted of similar offenses are unanswered questions.
   Pauline was transferred to the state prison in Jefferson City on August 24, 1864, and kept their ten months, finally gaining her release in June 1865, two months after the war had ended.
   After her release, Pauline made her way back to Greenville, married her older sister’s widower, and became one of the most prominent women in the community. She died in 1936 at the age of ninety-two.
   This post is a very condensed version of a chapter in my book Lady Rebels of Civil War Missouri.

Friday, January 20, 2023

The Ozarks: South, West, Both, or Neither?

I've suggested several times on this blog as well as in a couple of my books that, during the mid-1800s, Missouri or, more specifically, southwest Missouri was where the Deep South and the Old West met. We had elements of both regions but we weren't fully part of either, but rather a blending of both. I've been reading Brooks Blevins's three-volume A History of the Ozarks, and Dr. Blevins, a professor of Ozarks Studies at MSU, makes a similar point, although he adds the Midwest to the amalgamation, an addition I don't disagree with. Also, he is talking about the Ozarks as a whole and not just the Missouri part of the region. That more encompassing parameter is on point as well. 

Volume 1 of the trilogy, which I've completed, is called The Old Ozarks, and it focuses on the region from pre-historic times up to the eve of the Civil War. Right now I'm reading Volume 2, which is subtitled The Conflicted Ozarks. It's about the Civil War era in the Ozarks, including the time immediately leading up to the war and the aftermath of the conflict as well as the war itself. For the last day or two, I've been reading about slavery in the Ozarks, and that's mainly where the discussion about the Ozarks not being fully part of the South comes in.    

As Blevins points out, a relatively small percentage of white residents in the interior of the Ozarks held slaves. For example, Douglas County had not a single slave in 1860, according to the census of that year.  Residents of the northernmost and easternmost counties of the region along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, where large plantation-like farms existed, tended to have more slaves. (Two or three counties just south of the Missouri River with large German populations were notable exceptions.) Residents of some of the larger towns in the region, such as Springfield, were also more likely to have slaves. Even those families in the rural, interior Ozarks that did have slaves rarely had more than two or three, and many had only one. Most families, of course, had none. 

To be sure, most rural residents of the Ozarks identified with the South, supported the institution of slavery, and considered blacks an inferior race, because most settlers to the area had come from the upper tier of Southern states, like Tennessee. Yet, the fact that relatively few Ozarks families held slaves made the question of slavery a less burning, less personal issue for most of the region's population than it was for residents of the Deep South. Although they might have paid lip service to slavery, fighting and maybe dying to uphold an institution they had little to no personal stake in was a step too far for many. 

So, Missouri and the Ozarks did not fully identify with the South on the eve of the Civil War. The fact that delegates to a state constitutional convention on the eve of the war voted overwhelmingly to remain in the Union reflects this fact.  

Missouri and the Ozarks were at least as much a part of the frontier as they were a part of the South. In fact, people back east considered any place west of the Mississippi River part of the Wild West. Even in the years after the Civil War, newspapers of New York and other northeastern papers routinely referred to Missouri as the Southwest. Not the South. Not the West. But the Southwest, and that's a pretty accurate description of what it was, although, as I previously mentioned, I would agree with Blevins that the region, at least certain parts of it, also had connections with and was influenced by the Midwest. During the Civil War era, Missouri was called a border state, and that's what we were, in almost every way.   

Anyway, for those of you interested in a thorough, comprehensive study of the Ozarks, I highly recommend Dr. Blevins's three-volume series on the region.  

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Blennerhassett Sisters: Uncompromising Rebel Sympathizers

   When Therese Blennerhassett was banished to the South in the fall of 1863, her sister Annie B. Martin was granted permission to accompany her under the same terms that governed Therese’s banishment order. In reporting the banishments, the St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican called Miss Blennerhassett “an inveterate and uncompromising rebel sympathizer,” but, before the Civil War was over, Mrs. Martin would eventually end up in the more serious trouble.
   Born in New York, Annie and Therese were collateral descendants of Harman Blennerhassett, implicated in Aaron Burr’s treasonous scheme against the United States in the early 1800s. The sisters came to St. Louis in 1842 with their parents, Richard and Therese Blennerhassett. A noted criminal lawyer, Blennerhassett died sometime before 1860. By then, twenty-four-year-old Annie, the oldest daughter, had been married and widowed and was back home, while nineteen-year-old Therese was single and also living with her mother.
   Annie and Therese’s brother Edward joined the Confederate army, and they exchanged letters with him and other Rebel soldiers even after such correspondence was banned. In late March 1863, Therese went south at her own request, and very shortly afterwards, at least three of her and Annie’s letters fell into the hands of Union authorities.       Annie was questioned about them at the provost marshal general’s office on April 1. She said she had one brother in the Confederate Army, and she was delighted to add that she would “rather have him a teamster in the Rebel army than a major general in the Union Army.” Annie admitted writing to her brother many times but declined to answer questions about how the letters were mailed or received. Shown three letters, she declined to identify them, despite the fact that Therese’s signature was on two of them and she herself had likely written the other one. Despite the evidence against Annie, apparently little or no action was taken against her at this time.
   In September 1863, Therese was arrested when she returned to St. Louis without a pass. She was again sent South, not of her own choosing this time, and Annie chose to accompany her, under the same obligations that governed her sister’s banishment.
   But that didn’t stop Annie from coming back to St. Louis less than a year later. In mid-September 1864, she started from Mississippi, where she and Therese had been staying, and she arrived in St. Louis on September 27. Her return might have gone unnoticed except that she had brought along a letter from a Confederate soldier that she promptly mailed to the soldier’s wife. She also wrote a letter to some of her Confederate-sympathizing friends passing along news from the South and inviting them to write to her with any news they wanted her to take back to Dixie, as she planned to return to the South and re-unite with Therese. She never got a chance, because her letters were intercepted and she was re-arrested.
   Charged with violating her order of banishment, she was tried by military commission in October, convicted, and sentenced to imprisonment for the duration of the war. In February 1865, the sentence was remitted, and she was banished to the South.
   After the war, both Annie and Therese returned to St. Louis and moved back in with their mother. Therese became a schoolteacher, and both she and Annie were active in St. Louis social circles. Annie died in 1887 and was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery. In the early 1890s, Therese was active in organizing and promoting the St. Louis Exposition. She died in 1913 and, like Annie, was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery.
   This post is a greatly condensed from a chapter in my book Lady Rebels of Civil War Missouri.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Mary Susan F. Cleveland: A Veritable “She-Adder”

   What was it with the lady schoolteachers of Missouri and their Southern sympathies? Three of my recent posts have been about Confederate sympathizing women who were schoolteachers, and Mary S. F. Cleveland was yet another young schoolteacher banished from the state because of her disloyalty. Like the other three, Mary was more stubborn in her opposition to the Union than the simple country girls of rural Missouri who were arrested primarily for feeding and harboring guerrillas.
   Born in November 1832 in Virginia, Mary came to Missouri with her parents and siblings about 1840 and settled in Randolph County. When the Civil War broke out, two of her younger brothers, Charles and Benjamin, joined the Southern forces. Older brother John stayed in Randolph County but was required to take an oath of allegiance in March 1862. Later the same year, Ben died of disease in Mississippi while serving in the Confederate Army.
   In early January 1863, Mary moved to Auburn in Lincoln County to teach school. Alone and away from family, she soon started exchanging letters with loved ones and friends. Unfortunately for her, she wasn’t always discreet in what she said or with whom she corresponded.
   Sometime about the middle of May 1863, one of Mary’s letters was confiscated by Union soldiers at the home of her mother, Jane, in Randolph County, and it sparked an investigation that turned up several more questionable letters in Mary’s and Jane’s possession. Mary, still living in Lincoln County, was promptly arrested and taken to Troy. On May 19, General Bartholow had her and at least two of the suspicious letters transported to the provost marshal general’s office in St. Louis. Over the next couple of days, additional evidence against Mary was forwarded from north Missouri, and she was interrogated on May 22.
   During the interview, Mary was confronted with the evidence against her. In one letter, for instance, the writer had disparaged some Union men, saying that the initials N. S. in one of their names stood for nasty and stinking. Although the handwriting matched perfectly the handwriting of another letter that was taken from Jane’s home which Mary had signed, she denied writing the letter in question or any of the other letters she was accused of writing. One of the suspect letters was signed “Mary,” but she even denied writing it. Mary did, however, admit that one of the confiscated letters was a letter she had received from her brother Charles, who was then in the Confederate Army in Mississippi. She also admitted that she had, on occasion, written letters to Confederate soldiers, but she said she’d never done so clandestinely but only under a flag of truce.
   Mary refused to swear an oath, but near the end of her examination, she reaffirmed that everythign she’d told her examiner was true and signed a statement to that effect. Her examiner didn’t believe her, though, and thought that “a more willful and malicious deception of her handwriting could not be had.” He thought she was guilty of all the charges against her and called her “a veritable she-adder.” (This was a reference to a statement General James G. Blunt, stationed at Leavenworth, Kansas, had made a few days earlier. Recognizing the central role that women played in the Rebel uprising in Missouri, Blunt declared that “the bite of the she adder is as poisonous and productive of mischief as the bite of any other venomous reptile.”) Mary’s examiner recommended her banishment “to the place where her affections yearn for.”
   Exiled to the South, Mary left St. Louis on June 1, 1863, aboard the steamboat City of Alton along with Marion Vail. Later the same year, a prominent Lincoln County citizen wrote letter to high-ranking Union officials trying to get Mary’s punishment mitigated, but whether his intervention had any effect in getting Mary’s banishment order lifted is not altogether clear. At some point, though, Mary did come back to Missouri, and she lived there the rest of her life. She moved to St. Louis, and, in keeping with a prediction expressed in a letter she had written to her mother in January 1863, she spent the rest of her days teaching school. She died of cancer on July 15, 1898, and was buried in St. Louis’s Bellefontaine Cemetery
   Like my other recent posts, this one is condensed from my latest book Lady Rebels of Civil War Missouri, and speaking of Lady Rebels, here's a link to a recent review of the book, although you might have to copy and paste it. 

Devil's Promenade

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