Posts Tagged ‘Morgan’s Raid’

Quantrill Reminiscences

May 29, 2009

Illustration for "Barbara Friechie"

Illustration for "Barbara Friechie"

Image from: John Greenleaf Whittier, Essex County’s Famous Son

The poem, “Barbara Freitchie” here and at the image link.


His Family in Maryland, and Incidents of His Ante-bellum Life —

How the “Good Quaker Poet” Cheated a Quantrell Woman Out of Glory and Fame.

Barbara Freitche an Imposter, and the Story of Her Flag and Her Old Grayhead a Pure Invention —

Quantrell’s Escape to Texas After the War and His Refuge in Hunt County — Uncertainty as to His Death.
{Special Correspondence of The News.}

WASHINGTON, September 29. — Much has been written about the alleged mistake of Whittier in making a heroine out of Barbara Freitche for waving the Union colors in the face of Stonewall Jackson and his followers as they marched through Frederick, Md. There are some interesting facts, however, connected with this conspicuous blunder which have never before been published. These have been furnished to your correspondent by Mr. Joseph Walker, the son-in-law of Mrs. Quantrell, who was the real heroine on that occasion. Mr. Walker is connected with the well-known paper-house of Morrison & Co., on D street, in this city, and is entirely familiar with the dramatic scene in which Dame Barbara “howed with her four score years and ten,” is supposed to have flaunted the silken scarf of patriotism from the window-sill and exclaimed:

“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country’s flag!” (she said).

It was Byron who defined military glory as a going to the wars, getting killed, and having your name misspelled in the Gazette. So Mrs. Quantrell and her little daughter, after having the stars and stripes cut from their hand, suffered the melancholy injustice of seeing the valorous feat ascribed to a helpless old woman who lived a block and a half away, out of sight of the procession, and who was so deaf and blind that she could not have told the boom of a cannon from the blow of a horn, or the starry emblem of the Union from a striped bandanna.

“I’ll tell you the exact particulars,” said Mr. Walker, “and they have never before been correctly given. I have never given my account of that affair. None of the versions heretofore published are accurate. In the first place, there was none of the poetic incidents mentioned by Whittier. There was no window-sill, and no old woman about it.

Mrs. Mary A. Quantrell was at that time a woman of ?2, [32 ot 52] black-haired, and though she did become my mother-in-law afterward, I must say that she was very pretty. Her husband was then at work as a compositer on the National Intelligencer, in this city, and Mrs. Quantrell was living in Frederick with her children.

1860 Census - Quantrill family in DC

1860 Census - Quantrill family in DC

*Interesting note: On the census, A.R. Quantrill (Archibald) is listed as being one of the following: deaf, dumb, blind, insane, pauper or convict. It doesn’t specify, just has a check in the box.

On the day that Jackson and his army passed through Frederick she and her little daughter, Virgie Quantrell, who is now the wife of Mr. Perry Brown, at present an employe of the Government Printing office, were standing at the gate. They had several small Union flags, which they brought there to wave as the Confederates marched by. Mrs. Quantrell was enthusiastically loyal, and she, womanlike, simply took advantage of the occasion to show her devotion to the Union. They stood within a few feet of the line of march. Virgie was waving a very small flag, such as children play with on patriotic days. Many of the rebel soldiers had called out, “Throw down that flag!” but the little girl kept waving it. Suddenly a lieutenant drew his sword and cut the staff in two, the flag falling to the ground, The little girl then took another small flag and waved it, and this in turn was cut from her hand. Then Mrs. Quantrell displayed a larger flag and waved it in a conspicuous manner. This she continued to do until Stonewall Jackson and his men had all marched past her house. She was not molested in the least. In fact many of the officers and men treated her with marked courtesy. Some of the officers raised their hats and said: “To you, madam; not to your flag.”

Mr. Walker expressed his indignation that his mother-in-law should have been robbed of the credit of this patriotic performance. He gave a diagram of hte streets in that portion of Frederick, abowing that Barbara Freitche did not live on Jackson’s line of march, that her house was a block and a half away around the corner, and so situated that she could not have gotten a sight of the Confederates without leaving her premises; that the good old dame never claimed the honor of having waved a flag on that day; and that all Frederick knew that it was Mrs. Mary A. Quantrell, and not Barbara Freitche, who should have been immortalized in verse by the Quaker poet laureate.

The Quantrell family are now in possession of three letters from Whittier acknowledging his mistake and the injustice that had been done the real heroine, or rather the two heroines, as it would seem that the little Virgie was as much entitled to a niche in the temple of fame as her patriotic mother. These letters Mr. Walker offered to show your correspondent if he would accompany him to his home. In one of them Mr. Whittier says he derived his information as to Barbara Freitche from Mrs. E.D.N. Southworth, the manufacturer of sensational literature, who wrote him a letter detailing the incident and suggesting that it afforded material for a masterful poem; whereupon he sat down and evolved the thrilling story of the nonagenarian dame who had planted the stars and the stripes in the face of rebel invaders. Mr. Whittier admits that Mrs. Southworth made a mistake but says the poem has become so “widespread” that a correction of the name would be impossible. The Quantrells evidently failed to appreciate the force of Mr. Whittier’s logic, as they are unable to see how it is too late to correct such an egregious blunder.

Mrs. Quantrell was for several years a teacher in Frederick, and was a lady of unusual accomplishments. She was a frequent contributor to the press, the York (Pa.) Evening Herald, having printed many of her poems and other literary efforts. She was a Miss Lands [should  be Sands], whose brother, George W. Lands [Sands], was a member of the Maryland legislature, and a United States collector of internal revenue by appointment of President Lincoln, and was succeeded in that office by the now Senator Gorman. The trouble of Collector Lands were notorious a few years ago. The government claimed that he was in arrears to the extent of $14,000, his property was seized and sold to satisfy the deficit, and his bondsmen were called upon to pay an unsatisfied balance. Lands always asserted that he was the victim of injustice, and Collector Gorman, who succeeded him, bore testimony that the books of the office showed that the shoe was on the other foot, and that the government really owed him. Four or five years ago a bill was introduced reciting the wrong that had been done Lands and providing for his relief, but Senator Ben Hill and others violently opposed the measure and it was slaughtered in the Senate. For which the Lands [Sands] and the Quantrells do not hold the name of Ben Hill in grateful memory.

Mrs. Quantrell died about three years ago. It is said that she always felt keenly the injustice that had been done her by Whittier. She was proud and ambitious, just the sort of woman who yearned for the glory of posthumous fame. Her niece and namesake, Mary A. Quantrell, is now a clerk in the treasury department. Her daughter and co-heroine, now Mrs. Perry Brown, also living here, has inherited her mother’s talent and has a decided literary turn.

Image from the book Quantrill and the Border Wars

Image from the book Quantrill and the Border Wars

It is a little singular that a family which furnished such an exponent of the loyal sentiment of the country should also have supplied a champion of the confederate cause whose very name carried with it terror and consternation. John Quantrell, the famous guerilla, was a nephew of Archibald Quantrell, the husband of Mary A., whom Whittier should have immortalized, but did not. The Quantrells belonged in Hagerstown, Md., and were generally noted for their intelligence and bravery. Archibald’s brother James moved to Ohio at an early day, and settled in the Monongahela valley, where he became a college professor. His son John was born there, and at the beginning of the war was teaching school at Canaldover, on the Monongahela.

Members of his family here describe the young man as a person of slight figure, almost feminine in appearance, with the soft speech and gentleness of a woman, manifestly built by nature to fit the Byronic description of “as mild a mannered man as ever scuttled shop or cut a throat.” The dawn of sectional troubles furnished this palid young man an early opportunity to show that he was made of sterner stuff than his neighbors suspected. In the village of Canaldover he was almost the only person who sympathized with the South. Furthermore, he was open in his sympathy, and boldly said if it came to a fight he would give up his little school and go on the warpath. This aroused the loyal people around Canaldover to such an extent that they notified Quantrell that he must quit talking or “take the consequences.”

But the young man defied them, and kept on talking and teaching school. So a mob gathered one night and went out to the suburban cottage where Quantrell lived. They had a bucket of tar and a bag of feathers. The pallid young man did not scare at all. The mob found the doors and windows barred, but through a crack the piping voice of Quantrell called out that he was in his castle and the first man who put his hand on the latch would fall dead. The mob laughed, held up the tar and feathers, and invited the environed school teacher to come out and on “a new coat that would stick to him like a poor relative.”

A flash through the crack was the response to this, and the leader fell dead on the step. Then there was a rush of the crowd for the door, but a second flash and the dying shriek of another leader caused the mob to fall back. The men who carried the tar and the feathers had fallen at the first two shots. Before the crowd had began to recover from the confusion into which it had been thrown by these tragedies there was a third flash at the crack, and another man jumped high into the air and fell dead with a groan. Then a panic seized the mob, and in a moment every intruder had disappeared in the darkness, leaving their three dead comrades in the front yard.

An hour later Quantrell was ten miles away, mounted on his magnificent black horse, who bore him at a sweeping gallop toward the Ohio river. A few months later, at the head of a band of 100 desperadoes, he fell upon an encamped federal regiment and annihilated it, and his name speedily became the synonym for cruel and remorseless warfare. Like the James and Younger boys, Quantrell’s effectiveness as a guerrilla arose from the extraordinary accuracy of his aim. He used a Sharp’s rifle, which will kill a man a mile away if the ball hits in the right place.

It is said that on the day of the battle of Oak Hill, in Missouri, Quantrell stationed himself on the branches of a tree which afforded him a full view of the federal line, 1400 yards away. In two hours he had picked off thirty-eight men, so perfect were his aim and nerve. For a long time Quantrell’s ambition was to lead a raid through Ohio, and he was particularly anxious to pay a visit to his old friends at Canaldover, but the confederate officials declined to approve a movement which afterward proved so disastrous under the leadership of John Morgan.

More or less mystery surrounds the wanderings and fate of Quantrell after the war. The end of the war found him near Springfield, Mo., wounded in both legs and the right shoulder. There was a price on his head, and his friends did not dare to let the authorities know who he was. He was hastily placed in a two-horse wagon and driven as rapidly as his condition would permit through Arkansas into Texas. He found a resting-place at the home of Mr. Imboden, in Hunt county; near the town of Greenville.

Quantrell was in an almost dying condition when he reached Imboden’s house. Imboden was a Mason and so was Quantrell, and it is said that on this consideration the hunted guerilla was made comfortable and was furnished with the best surgical attention afforded in that country. During Quantrell’s stay at Imboden’s house he received remittance of money from St. Louis, raised by his followers who had settled in that city.

In six weeks he had so improved that he was able to mount a horse and ride away from Imboden’s house. Since that time nothing has been definitely known of the terrible bushwhacker. It was said that he died in New Orleans, but his relatives here say that this is not certainly known. They believe he is dead, but do not positively know it. They are quite sure he is dead, chiefly because the character of his wounds was such that he could not have survived all these years.

A curious illustration of the mutations of life is furnished in the fact that a man, once a daring young desperado in Western Missouri, who followed Quantrell through the entire way, and who, like all of Quantrell’s men, was noted for his savage fighting qualities, is now a patient, humdrum governance clerk in this city scantily supporting a family of eight children on the pay drawn from a fourth class place. He is a sealed book on his guerilla experience, though it is said his body is scarred with divers bullet holes.

Moreover, he is a good loyal Republican, a little dried up old man, cadaverous and timid looking, and few people who know him suspect that he was once an active and redoubtable agent in the business of death.

The Quantrell family, of Maryland, lays claim to several squares of public ground in Cincinnati, taking in a long strip of the river wharf. The claim is placed at $5,000,000 in value, and is now in the hands of Ben Butler for prosecution. Butler says the claim is a good one, and has made the Quantrells feel very hopeful about its final outcome.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Oct 4, 1884

I think the John Quantrell in this article may have been William Clarke Quantrill. The article also states his father was James Quantrill, but the information I can find states his father was Thomas Quantrill, which is supported by the 1850 census record of Dover, OH, as it lists William C. Quantrill as a 13 year-old son of Thomas and Caroline.

You can find Quantrill and the Border Wars online: (Google books link)

Page 22 Mary A. Quantrill is mentioned, and towards the bottom of page 23 it states that Barbara Freitche was actually a supporter of the confederacy, according to her family.

Regarding the Mr. Imboden mentioned: It appears he may have been John D (or James) Imboden, a lawyer. He had a son,  Leonard (provided I have found the correct family), who is listed on the 1900 census, occupation: banker, but a prisoner in the county jail in Kansas City, MO.

According to the book linked above, Quantrill died in KY (if I understood it correctly, as I only skimmed it) after being wounded and captured. Death chapter starts on page 480, the chapter before that deals with the last battle, where he was wounded.