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Civil War Times: August 1996 Letters

9/23/1996 • Civil War Times Archives

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Civil War Times
Civil War Times

A Legacy In Memphis
Thank you and Bruce Allardice for the informative article “The Plot to Seize St. Louis” (May). I was particularly excited to see the deserved but all too infrequent recognition of Colton Greene, a man who was not only a valiant Confederate officer, but a dedicated business and civic leader.Unable to return to St. Louis after the Civil War, Greene came to Memphisto reestablish his business ventures. He worked to rescue the dying city,not only from the ravages of war and economic depression, but also the filth and disease that were killing her citizens at an alarming pace.Greene became a leader in banking and insurance, a patron of the arts, a world traveler, and one of the most sophisticated men in Memphis society.

Steve Palmer
Germantown, Tennessee

The Illustrious Ellets
I was delighted to see the article by Christopher Abel about the Mississippi Marine Brigade (“Marines Under Fire,” May). There were a total of six members of the Ellet family who served as officers in the Ram Fleetor Marine Brigade, so it is understandable that there was, and remains,some confusion with regard to which Ellet did what. I am working on a biography and collection of personal letters of Charles Rivers Ellet, so I feel it is my duty to point out an error in the caption below the photograph on page 56. It was not Charles Rivers Ellet who founded the Ram Fleet, but his father, Charles Ellet, Jr.

Charles Ellet, Jr., was a well known civil engineer. Charles Rivers Ellet joined his father on the Ram Fleet on his 19th birthday, June 1, 1862. As his father lay mortally wounded after the Battle of Memphis on June 6,Charles Rivers accompanied his uncle, Alfred W. Ellet, down the Mississippiin a further attempt to disrupt Confederate supply lines and military operations. When Alfred was made brigadier general in command of the Mississippi Marine Brigade in the autumn of 1862, Charles Rivers received a colonel’s commission and took command of the Ram Fleet while his uncle was organizing the Marine Brigade. Colonel Ellet served gallantly as commander of the fleet aboard the Queen of the West, until she ran aground and was captured on the Red River in February 1863. Colonel Ellet, along with most of his crew, escaped by floating downriver on cotton bales. He died suddenly and tragically at age 20, apparently from an overdose of morphine,which he had been taking to relieve the pain of a facial neuralgia.

Valerie Savage
Bloomington, Indiana

A Plan For Lee Day
Editor’s note: Civil War Times reader Anne Adams sent the following letter to Brian Pulito in response to Pulito’s letter to the editor in our Mayissue, which called for making Robert E. Lee’s birthday a national holiday.

A Yankee by birth, but a Southern belle in my heart, I find this cause a noble one. A goal of this nature takes much planning, financial support,political savvy, and lots of volunteers.Planning-Using January 19, 2008, as your goal, there is a little less than a 12-year timeline. I would use the next 20 months to design and organize your campaign. You need an actual business plan. Of primary importance is establishing a network of dedicated, responsible individuals to coordinate such an endeavor.

I would envision a grand “Period Ball” at Arlington on January 19, 1998, as the kickoff, with smaller but similar kickoffs in each state, as well. I can see the need for celebrity spokespersons.Volunteers-I suggest that you network with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Daughters of the Confederacy, the Order of the Confederate Rose, the Confederate Memorial Association, the Friends of Beauvoir, and every Confederate museum, Civil War monument organization, Round Table, and school named for Lee.Political Savy-What you are proposing here is an item that needs to go through Congress and then be signed into law by the president. Having the right politicians backing this endeavor from the start could be vital.Financial Support-Fundraisers are the usual answers, coupled with requests for donations via merchandising pleas, such as T-shirts, bumperstickers, etc.I know I have just scratched the surface of an enormous project. Let’s get this project off the ground.

Anne Adams
River Ridge, Louisiana

Let Them Rest In Peace
Brian Pulito laments the fact that no federal holiday has been designated to honor Robert E. Lee. Lee swore an oath of allegiance to the United States to protect it from its enemies, yet he broke that vow when he turned his back on his flag and on his duties as an officer in the U.S. Army. To honor Lee with a federal holiday is to dishonor the memory of thousands of Union soldiers who died in that senseless, costly, and tragic war. To petition for such a federal mandate can only result in a revival of former divided loyalties, hatreds, and intolerance. Johnny Reb and Billy Yank died130 years ago. Let them rest in peace.

Helen Giangregorio
Anaheim Hills, California

Late-Breaking News
Fresh history, thanks to author Bob Zeller (“Smoketown Hospital”). A U.S.Army surgeon’s letter to his wife stating he was at Ford’s Theater the night of Lincoln’s assassination: “a sharp quick report of a pistol was heard and instantly a man jumped from the box, in which was the President,to the stage-and rushing across the stage, made his escape” [emphasis added]. A clear view by a physician and no mention of any limp from an injury is strong evidence to me that John Wilkes Booth did not fracture his leg in the leap onto the stage, as recorded in Booth’s diary. Indeed, his accomplice and escape companion, Davy Herold, stated that Booth broke his leg in a horse fall, escaping through Maryland.

E.H. Rucker, Jr., M.D.
Newport News, Virginia

The Mysterious “Miss Hall”
The article on Smoketown Hospital (May) and Doctor Childs’ letters together with the heretofore unpublished photographs were most interesting. Of particular interest was the reference to a “Miss Hall” in two of the photos. Maria M.C. Hall, turned down by Dorothea Dix for the Nursing Corps because of her youth and attractiveness, started a nursing career on her own that would extend through the war. She served in the Patent Office Hospital in Washington; aboard a Sanitary Commission vessel, the Daniel Webster; performed her duties on the Peninsula; and then on to Antietam assigned to the Smoketown General Hospital, where she stayed for nine months. Her next assignment was to the Naval Academy Hospital at Annapolis,where she tended the sick and wounded to war’s end.

William Harris
Mt. Laurel, New Jersey

Errata May: “Smoketown Hospital”-Point Lookout is in Maryland, not Virginia.”Blind Justice”-December 4, 1863, is the date Lieutenant General James Longstreet gave up his siege of Knoxville, Tennessee, not the date the Federals captured the city.

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