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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: September 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013


School children know of the story of the civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. Jennie Wade House Museum is a shrine to Jennie and to life during the American Civil War. However, the Jenny Wade story pales against the thousands of Southern civilians killed during the war, yet she is the one immortalized. Here is one such story of the death of an innocent Sout...hern girl at the careless hand of one of Sheridan’s men during their looting and pillaging of Winchester, as told by a Confederate Veteran:

Next door to the home of the kind people who nursed me lived a family named Forsyth; the husband, wife, and two daughters, one of the latter being fully grown and the other a schoolgirl of about twelve years. From the day I went to their neighbor's home till the day I left one or both of these sisters called daily to see how I was getting on and quite often the elder sister, Miss Mary Jane Forsyth, would bring me some delicacies from her own table. She was a very lovable girl and I thought much of her even after I left Winchester. But I never heard anything more of the family till after the war, when in the winter of 1865, at a hotel in Georgia, I met two gentlemen from Winchester.

They were true Southerners and during our talk I told them some of my war experiences in and about Winchester and inquired of the Forsyth family there. Both seemed surprised that I had never heard of the awful tragedy which happened only a few days after I left Winchester. It seems that soon after the Federals under Sheridan entered Winchester, a private soldier killed Miss Mary Forsyth by shooting her through the heart right in her own home. The tragedy created a great sensation in Winchester and while the Federal authorities pretended to investigate the matter, no conclusion satisfactory to the outraged family and people of the city was ever reached.

I wrote immediately to the Forsyth family in Winchester for fuller particulars. My letter was promptly answered by the younger sister and this substantially is her brief story: Soon after the Federals entered the city several of their soldiers went to the Forsyth place entered the grounds and began to chase and take the poultry. The mother and elder girl Mary were watching them through a window of the dining room when one of the soldiers fired his rifle and the ball crashed through the window struck Miss Forsyth squarely in the heart and she dropped dead at her mother's feet.

When the outrage became known in the city, the indignation was tremendous and an investigation was demanded. This was granted by the Federal military authorities though in a perfunctory way. The soldier claimed that the shooting was purely accidental that while he was chasing a chicken it flew up in the air and he shot at it just as it was in line with the dining room window through which Miss Forsyth was watching them steal her father's poultry.

But the family and friends and the good people of Winchester, firmly believed that it was a deliberate murder for which the perpetrator never received any punishment. Even if the soldier's plea was true it certainly proved that he was criminally careless and cared nothing at all for the life of the innocent girl. Yet his cruel and cowardly act was in keeping with the announced policy of his commander the conscienceless and vindictive Sheridan, which was to rob, plunder and destroy without the slightest reference to the rights and necessities of noncombatants and helpless women and children.

Today we talk about and condemn the preventable cruelties of the present European war, but if all the preventable cruelties and outrages of our own War Between the States could be written up, there would be sufficient to fill many large volumes.

Source: Confederate Veteran, Volume 24, July, 1916, No 7.
Link to e-book:

Monday, September 16, 2013


By Bob Hurst

The element of the Confederate Navy that was most glamorized by tales and lore were those vessels known as "commerce raiders". The role of these ships was to pursue and attack northern commercial vessels and either destroy them and their cargo or salvage that which could be useful to the Confederate Cause. Many of these conquests were reported upon and glamorized by Southern newspapers and the captains of some of these ships became as well known as many of the generals of the Confederate Army. Among these were Raphael Semmes, John Newland Maffitt and James Waddell.

There was another element of the Confederate Navy, however, which seems to me to be more essential to the war effort than the more publicized commerce raiders - these were the "blockade runners".

At the beginning of the War, Winfield Scott, General-in-Chief of the U.S. Army, developed a plan for a blockade of Southern ports with the intent of adversely affecting the supply lines of the South which would, in turn, disrupt the Southern economy. This blockade extended 3500 miles along the coastline with special emphasis on major sites such as New Orleans, Mobile, Savannah, Charleston and the Virginia ports. This strategy became known as the "Anaconda Plan".

To get through the blockade the Confederate ships had to cruise undetected through the Union ships which were on patrol. This was often accomplished by making runs at night under the cover of darkness. Inbound Confederate ships generally carried needed supplies and mail and the outbound ships carried cotton, tobacco and other goods for trade and revenue plus mail and other communications to Confederate-friendly suppliers in Europe and the Caribbean.

Because of the size of the task for the Union ships and the effectiveness of Confederate ship captains, during the early phases of the War the Confederacy was able to maintain an almost constant supply of arms, other goods and mail from Europe while at the same time exporting commodities in return. Many Confederate blockade runners were quite adept at avoiding the blockade and the best of these ship captains, arguably, was John Wilkinson.

John Wilkinson was born into a seafaring family on November 6, 1821. His father was Commodore Jesse Wilkinson of the U.S. Navy and the family lived in Norfolk, Virginia. John was anxious to become a sailor and entered the navy as a midshipman in 1837. He served during the Mexican War and continued his career as a lieutenant.

In 1859 he was given command of a survey ship and did a comprehensive study of the waters around Florida and the Bahamas. Little did he know then how valuable that experience would be when he later became a blockade runner for the Confederacy. When Virginia seceded on April 17, 1861, John Wilkinson stood with his State and resigned from the U.S. Navy. He was quickly commissioned a lieutenant in the Confederate Navy.

His initial duties were along the James River and the Potomac River. In March of 1862, however, he was ordered to New Orleans and given command of an armed steamer which was followed by a tour as executive officer of the LOUISIANA, a 16-gun ironclad.

In August 1862 he was summoned by Confederate Secretary of War George Randolph to Richmond and given the assignment to travel to Britain and purchase a steamer that could be fitted for use as a blockade runner. He purchased a steamer, the GIRAFFE, in Scotland and after completing the conversion of the ship from a passenger vessel to one suitable for use as a blockade runner, he left for Nassau in the Bahamas. After more extensive modifications were completed there, he set out for the harbor at Wilmington, North Carolina in December.

This would be the first of 21 expeditions into and out of Wilmington by Wilkinson and his ship, now called ROBERT E. LEE. During this time he carried out approximately 7000 bales of cotton (worth about 2 million dollars) which was exchanged abroad for cargoes needed by the Confederacy for the war effort.

On the evening of October 10, 1863, Wilkinson left Wilmington for the last time in the ROBERT E. LEE. On board he had a group of 26 Confederate officers who were part of a secret mission to capture a Union gunboat that patrolled the Great Lakes which could be used in a plan that would free 3000 Confederate officers who were being held captive at the federal prison located on Johnson's Island in Ohio.

Wilkinson took the ROBERT E. LEE to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he sold the cotton on board and relinquished command of the ship before he met with some Confederate operatives who were in on the plan to free the officers from Johnson's Island. Before the plan could be implemented, however, word was received that Federal and Canadian authorities had somehow been given information about the plan so the entire mission had to be called off. John Wilkinson then headed to Bermuda where he obtained a blockade runner, WHISPER, and headed back to Wilmington.

By mid-1864, Wilmington had become of strategic importance to both the Confederates and the Federals. The port had become one of the last entry points for provisions and supplies for the Confederacy and the feds had subsequently beefed up the blockade of the port which hitherto had not been as intense as the blockades of many other ports.

In response to this, Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory assigned John Wilkinson to special duty at the port to develop a mechanism that would aid Confederate ships in navigating the narrow channels more effectively. Wilkinson implemented a plan utilizing lights and signal stations at strategic locations and also required that experienced river pilots accompany each ship entering the port.

While this was happening in Wilmington, the Confederate commerce raider TALLAHASSEE, under the command of John Taylor Wood, had just made a highly successful cruise off the upper Atlantic coast during which 25 Union vessels had been taken out of commission. The Confederate Navy command was so pleased with this success that it armed a blockade runner at Wilmington, commissioned it the CHICKAMAUGA, and placed it under the command of John Wilkinson.

John Wilkinson was now commanding a commerce raider rather than a blockade runner and he was anxious to see what he could do to northern shipping in this new role so, in late October, he attempted to slip out of Wilmington and head north. He was spotted, though, by a Union blockader which sounded the alarm. He was quickly pursued by several blockaders so he called on his intelligence and quick mind to solve this dilemma. He imitated the blockaders practice of sending up signal rockets to communicate only he sent up false signals which so confused the Federals that he was able to escape. This man was smart.

The very next day, heading north along the Atlantic coast, he took his first prize as a commerce raider. Over the next week he took six more prizes . Most of these he burned but some he bonded and let them go. He did this with one vessel because the captain's sister and a small child were aboard and both were ill. Among other things, John Wilkinson was a kindhearted man.

His next plan was to enter Long Island Sound and wreak pure havoc on the shipping there. An approaching storm and the fact that he was running low on fuel, however, convinced him that the wiser course of action was to head south instead. He decided to head to Bermuda and stock up on fuel. Upon reaching Bermuda he encountered two major problems: neutrality laws only allowed a brief stay and he could only take on enough coal to reach the nearest Confederate port. He resolved these issues by claiming that his engines needed repairs and so was allowed to stay a week and then he bribed a British official and was allowed to purchase as much coal as he desired.Among other things, John Wilkinson had a quick mind and knew how to get things done.

Although his brief experience as a commerce raider had been very successful, John Wilkinson still believed that blockade runners should be given top priority over commerce raiders. In fact, he went to Richmond to make the argument to the Confederate government that the use of commerce raiders was causing the Federals to strengthen the blockade resulting in more blockade runners being captured.

In late December of 1864, Wilkinson took a new blockade runner to Bermuda to obtain provisions for General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia which was almost to the point of starvation. Upon returning to Wilmington some three weeks later, John Wilkinson approached the friendly and familiar outline of Fort Fisher in the darkness of night and was surprised when he got no answer to his signal lights. Confused, he returned to sea. The next night he returned in clear weather and barely avoided being captured by two Union gunboats. He was unaware that the fort had been captured a week earlier.

Realizing that Wilmington was no longer available as a port, he took his ship to Charleston but was unable to make it through the blockade. He then decided to return to Nassau to unload his cargo. While in Nassau he received orders to take his ship, CHAMELEON, to Liverpool, England. On April 9, 1865, he turned over his ship and all his Confederate funds to the Confederate agent in Liverpool. On April 9, 1865, in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, the War Between the States was coming to an end.

With the War over, John Wilkinson became part of a small exodus of Confederates to the Confederate-friendly town of Halifax, Nova Scotia. He soon formed a business partnership with John Taylor Wood who had been in command of one of the most successful Confederate commerce raiders of the War - the TALLAHASSEE .Their business - Wilkinson, Wood and Company - became a successful merchant commission house. Their office building was easy to locate since they always flew a Confederate Flag on site.

Unlike his business partner who chose to spend the rest of his life in Halifax, John Wilkinson yearned to return to his native state and eventually relocated to Amelia County, Virginia. He later published a book, NARRATIVE OF A BLOCKADE RUNNER, about his experiences.

John Wilkinson died two days before the end of 1891. He had lived a successful, productive and exciting life and had been a True Confederate until the very end. What better epitaph could be written for a man of adventure!


Bob Hurst is a true Son of the South who has special interests in the Confederacy and the antebellum architecture of the South. He is Commander of Col. David Lang Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Tallahassee and also 2nd Lt. Commander of the Florida Division, SCV.

Friday, September 13, 2013


A reenactment of the Rose Hill Raid during the Civil War will take place on Saturday, September 28, 2013, exactly 150 years to the day after the historic event. The program will take place in front of Rose Hill Elementary School, 6301 Rose Hill Drive, Alexandria, Virginia. It is being sponsored by the Rose Hill Civic Association and the Franconia Museum. The program begins at 11 a.m.

In the original raid, Confederate raider Major John Singleton Mosby went to the Rose Hill manor house located on what is now May Boulevard and captured Colonel Daniel Dulany, an aide to the Union appointed governor of the Restored State of Virginia. One of Mosby’s men on the raid was Dulany’s son, French.

The actual raid and the taking of Dulany will occur at noon. The party will ride on horseback up May Boulevard to the school where a program explaining the raid will take place. Local historian Don Hakenson will tell the story of the raid and introduce re-enactors in period costume who will explain their characters involved in the raid. A re-enactor portraying Anne Frobel, who lived at nearby Wilton Hill, will recite passages from Froebel’s diary that mentioned her neighbor, Dulany, and the report of the raid.

Other highlights include an appearance by the famed Carter Gospel Singers and re-enactors portraying a Confederate Signal Corps using flags to communicate with distant units and commanders. The flag-bearers will give advance notice of the Mosby raiding party’s arrival at the school. The singers are from nearby Woodlawn United Methodist Church and are celebrating 44years of providing gospel music fits any time period.

Throughout the event, visitors can browse through artifacts and information provided by the Franconia Museum as part its annual History Day program. The Museum’s series of seven books entitled “Franconia Remembers” will be on sale along with other items such as caps, book bags, etc. Special tee shirts commemorating the Rose Hill Raid also will be available. Refreshment will be available for purchase to benefit the Rose Hill PTA.

Various local Civil War authors have been invited to sell, sign and explain their works. Included will be Hakenson, who has written several excellent books on Mosby and the Franconia area and Eric Buckland, whose books on Mosby’s men provide insight into the unit. Hakenson also will discuss items that were the property of two of Mosby’s men from the Franconia area.

Carl Sell, the president of both the Franconia Museum and the Rose Hill Civic Association, will sign his books about his great grandfather’s and great uncle’s service as privates in the Confederate army who were wounded during Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. Sell’s granddaughter, Danielle Clarke, will be there to tell about her relatives on both sides during the war.

Featured performers will by Jimmy Fleming, a living historian whose portrayals of Mosby have highlighted many events about the Civil War, and Susan and David Hilliard from the Stuart-Mosby Historical Society. David will play Colonel Dulany while Susan will be cast as Anne Frobel. Susan is the current president of the Stuart-Mosby Historical Society, which operates its own museum at 13938 Braddock Road, Centreville, Virginia in the heart of the Fairfax County area that involved troops from both sides.

After the program, all the re-enactors involved will be available to answer questions and pose for pictures with Civil War buffs and other interested parties who attend the event. Mosby’s horses will be quartered in an area across the street for those who wish to see them up close.

Contact Debbi Wilson at debbiwilson@ or 703-309-2182.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Confederate State Funerals


Attached is an original Confederate flag funeral pall, possibly used at the funeral of General Albert Sidney Johnston in 1862. In poor condition, the flag rests in the collection of the Texas State Archives in Austin. We are thinking of reproducing it and making it available for families conducting Confederate funerals. Why? Because traditionally, even in repressive governments, society at large is generally unwilling to interfere in a funeral, however distasteful they may find the symbolism. In a movement such as ours, funerals are one of the most effective and uninhibited ways of honoring and ennobling our cause - and how we honor our departed Chieftains says a great deal about the power and sustainability of our cause and aims for the future. It can also be a powerful political statement that our fellow citizens need to see and hear. Think of the Hunley crew burials, the burial of Mrs. Alberta Martin - how awe inspiring and inspirational these events were - even to outsiders. Those who witnessed them will never forget them. These events also bring the faithful together - putting past differences aside - as nothing else can - Blest be the ties that bind.
Now, think of all the good & deserving confederates who have passed, that did not get such a farewell. Why not? Because they did not insist upon it in their Will while they were alive - they did not instruct their next of kin that's how they wanted their funeral conducted. A great opportunity to strengthen the faithful and show the Christian Confederate message to outsiders is thus missed.

Case in point - a very good Confederate & SLRC founder died several years ago - which was attended by the SLRC staff and many in the North Carolina Division, SCV. Imagine our shock when the Battle Hymn of the (un)Republic was played during the service - ordered by his well meaning but ignorant law office staff, acting for the widow. I'm sure our friend was rolling in his casket - but the damage was done (We did sing Dixie at the graveside).

So think about how you want your last rites performed (esp those of you who have offices in the various Confederate heritage organizations) - get with a Confederate buddy and plan it - NOW and then put it ironclad into your estate planning - that the Confederate pall or flag will drape the coffin, that Confederate flags will be displayed, that Dixie will be sung, that reenactors will fire a salute at graveside, that the eulogy will note your strong Confederate beliefs, etc. While you are at it - leave a legacy or charitable contribution to your favorite Confederate charity - and encourage others to do so. Whether for Confederate funeral planning or estate help in adding a Confederate charity to your estate planning - contact us - we are happy to help in this and every other aspect of helping speed the success of the Confederate Community. Now please send us a donation before anything happens to you:-)

Confederately Yours

Kirk D. Lyons Chief Trial Counsel

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