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Dr. William Wroten

Delmarva Heritage Series

* Shore Woman Advised Lincoln In War Strife

Salisbury Times - February 6, 1959

A few weeks ago a circular appeared on my desk claiming that the story of Maryland's most famous woman in American affairs had in 1948 been taken over by the communists. It was claimed that although Anna Ella Carroll had been utterly forgotten until 1940, when the book, "My Dear Lady," appeared, then a group of communists took the story, "rehashed it as a novel, changed its essential facts to make it a vehicle for Marxist doctrine." The report went

on to say that the very words of Miss Carroll were altered so as to make her an advocate of Karl Marx and that President Lincoln was also a believer and supporter of his. This is not the time nor place to debate the merits and political philosophies of the two books - "Woman With A Sword" and "Anna Ella Carroll and Abraham Lincoln." But all of this did arouse an interest to do some more reading about the distinguished and fascinating Anna Ella Carroll.

This past summer the Maryland Society of Pennsylvania unveiled a monument at her grave at Old Trinity Church, near Church Creek, Maryland. And, on Aug. 13, 1958, Theodore R. McKeldin, Governor of Maryland, proclaimed Aug. 29, 1958 as Anna Ella Carroll Day in Maryland. This may be only the beginning. With the great anniversary of the Civil War but a short time in the future, we can expect to hear more about the role Miss Carroll played in saving the Union.


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THE CARROLL family has played an important part in the heritage of Maryland on both sides of the Chesapeake Bay. Anna Ella Carroll was of the Eastern Shore branch, although she was closely related to the famous Carrolls of Carrollton.

Anna Ella, the daughter of Thomas King Carroll of Kingston Hall, Somerset County, Maryland, was born on Aug. 29, 1815. Her early education was not received through formal schooling but from her parents. Because of this she grew up in a world of business and politics, for her father's library was far above the average, befitting a man who was to become governor of the state. She received a better background in law and politics from her father than most men did in training for the bar.

The Carrolls of Kingston Hall, like so many other plantation owners of the period, were yearly becoming increasingly land and slave poor. The point was reached where they were unable to maintain all their slave and land holdings. The price of tobacco on the Eastern Shore was no longer a reliable source of income. Many of the surplus slaves could have been sold to the "Georgia Slave Buyers" for toil in the cotton fields of the deep south, but the Carrolls viewed such a move as a horrible fate. Miss Carroll personally was caught in a trap; she was a member of a slave-holding family but at the same time working with the American Colonization Society for the gradual freeing of the slaves. She once mortgaged her own salary to prevent the sale of some of her slaves to the cotton fields. She also helped to finance the family by the establishment of a girls' school at Kingston Hall.

FINALLY THE economic pressure was too great and many of the Carroll slaves were turned over to neighbors, who they knew would give them a good home. Kingston Hall was sold and Thomas King Carroll bought and moved to Warwick Fort Manor on the Choptank River, near Cambridge.

Anna Ella Carroll, the most distinguished woman Maryland has ever produced, in the meantime, had turned to a career as a writer. Because of her cultured background and training, along with a talent for writing, she soon became a success. Among her early work in this field was her endeavor to promote the interest of building railroads, especially a transcontinental line connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Jefferson Davis even asked her to study and write about the Memphis-Charleston Railroad, a project which helped her later during the Civil War to realize the significance of transportation to the Southern cause. While writing and keeping records for the Whig Party in the 1850's, through the influence of Henry Clay, certain papers fell into her hands concerning plans for Southern secession. Miss Carroll kept these papers and made good use of them for the Union cause against the Southerner, John C. Breckenridge, in the 1860's.

Anna Ella Carroll wrote many articles for the newspapers, among which were the New York Express and the National Intelligencer. She made many friends among the United States Navy when she wrote in their defense in 1855, when a reorganization of the Navy was in progress. In writing articles about political corruption at the polls, her work, "The American Battle," made her a political celebrity.

Miss Carroll showed very little faith in the ability of Lincoln both during the election of 1860 and even after he had won the office of President; but being a great patriot she was determined to give this Republican her support. All during the war she wrote in defense of the Union and President Lincoln. Her attack on the secession speech of Sen. Breckenridge was published and circulated by the War Department. It is also said that she was a major influence in helping Gov. Hicks of Maryland keep the state officially in the Union.

When President Lincoln personally called for her services she did not fail him. At his request she wrote "The Relation of Revolted Citizens to the National Government," upon which Lincoln based some of his later actions. Just before this she had written a very powerful pamphlet entitled, "The War Powers of the Government."

Probably the most interesting and significant of her assignment is dealt with a problem of strategy. The course of the war in the West, the Mississippi Basin, was vital to the Union plan of victory. Because she had relatives in St. Louis, but more important because she had the talents for such an undertaking, Miss Carroll was sent to study that region. As a result of her observations and studies, she suggested that the Union plan of attack be the Tennessee River instead of the proposed Mississippi Expedition.


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THE WAR Department saw the significance of this strategy and the Tennessee River became the point of attack. The capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, under this plan, by General U. S. Grant were major factors in breaking the Confederate fortifications, ending in the fall of Vicksburg. The success of this plan meant that the Confederate system of communication was destroyed between the East and West. It is said that Miss Carroll offered a plan for the capture of Vicksburg which was very similar to the one General Grant used to achieve victory.

Lincoln and other prominent men during the war knew of her great services but felt for political and military reasons she would have to forego public recognition. Seemingly, it was understood that later Lincoln would make public her work in saving the Union; but Lincoln's untimely death prevented such action. For years after the Civil War some American leaders worked hard to have her recognized as the "mother" of the Tennessee Plan, and to see her paid for her services. Many years later Congress did give official recognition and also voted her a monthly pension of $50.

In 1891 Miss S. E. Blacknall wrote the first volume of a biography of Miss Carroll, which was just two years before her death, Feb. 19, 1893. Miss Carroll died in Washington, D.C., where she had been living for some time, but she is buried in the Old Trinity Graveyard beside her father, mother, and other members of her family. On the slab which has recently been placed to honor her we find these words: "Maryland's Most Distinguished Lady. A Great humanitarian and close friend of Abraham Lincoln. She conceived the successful Tennessee Campaign and guided the President on his constitutional war powers." Lincoln's Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, said, "Her course was the most remarkable in the war. She got no pay and did the great work that made others famous." Maybe this is the reason that Anna Ella Carroll is often referred to as the "unofficial or unrecognized" member of President Lincoln's Cabinet. And, why people often ask if the photograph of Lincoln's Cabinet showing a vacant chair was to symbolize the place of Anna Ella Carroll.


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