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Nabb Research Center General Resources - People & Cultures


* Clara Gunby Huffington Journal

Clara Gunby was born in Forktown (Fruitland), MD, on September 9, 1839. Her parents were John and Charlotte Somers Gunby. Clara Gunby attended school in Salisbury and college in Baltimore.

During the Civil War, while in Salisbury, Miss Gunby was arrested by Union Troops because she refused to walk under a union flag. For this offense she was sent to Baltimore where she was tried and convicted of treason.

Clara Gunby Huffington Painting
Self-Portrait

She was sent to prison at Fortress Monroe, VA where she met a Confederate female spy. Clara Gunby was to be sent to Richmond as part of a prisoner exchange program between the Union and Confederacy. Knowing this, the female spy asked Clara Gunby to carry a very important message to President Jefferson Davis in Richmond. Miss Gunby carried the message to Davis, who in turn, rewarded her by giving her a job as a clerk with the Confederacy in Richmond.

She was united with her brothers in Richmond. They fought for the South during the Civil War. Miss Gunby witnessed the falling of Richmond and describes the sights in her journal. The original journal is in the archival possession of the Nabb Research Center, and transcribed copies are available for sale.

Following the war, she returned to Somerset County (now Wicomico County) and was married to William Huffington of Trappe (now Allen). Clara Gunby Huffington died on October 2, 1890, and is interred in the L. W. Gunby plot in Parsons Cemetery in Salisbury, MD.


* Journal Excerpt

Note: dashes appear where pages, sections or words are missing, torn or illegible

Salisbury October 20 th 1853

Well, is it possable I'm going to begin a diary, Journal, or whatever you choose to call it. I know I'm young to begin one, but the other day I was reading Miss Taips & hers begun when she was 16. Beside Mrs Hooper says it will improve me in composition, plague take compositions! If I felt I was compelled to write in this book to improve in that branch of study, I verily believe I'd cram it in the stove, and let smoked buckwheat cakes tell that Journal was no more, but Miss Esther would fuss over the smoked breakfast till the poor cakes would have to tell in justice to their cook that Miss Clara filled the stove full of paper & made it smok, so sooner than be exposed to the cross old maid, I'l go on. Well, I'a been coming to school twenty days I like it very much. I have made so meny pleasant acquantanses. They all say I'm bad, I dont like that, O we have so much fun! We have Spiritual Rappings in school, O it is too funny for any thing. At the end of the room is a desk; it is double, & siy set at it. Lottie Fish sets oposite to me, Guss Whitelock by her & Mag White by her, She is so funny, so green, &so awkward, that we do every thing to tease & frighten her, she can hardly see those beside her, her nose is so big. We make the table rap & jump about, tell her she in going to die soon & frighten the poor thing to death. All the girls have called on us. We went to see Guss last Friday night, we all carried our baby' and played, I was lady Macbeth. Rushed out as she did after her husband killed Mackduff. I had a very handsome handkerchief tumed with some kind of handsome lace, on my head to represent her night cap. Guss caught hold of it & tore it, She thought I looked so tragic that she she would reduce the scene.

Eliza Fish and Lou think they are too big to play with us, dear knows I think they had better do it than think so much about beauz, But indeed Lou has got a beau! I would be ashamed of it only fourteen, that is one year older than I & I dont know what I may be thinking of one year from now.




Salisbury November 29 th 1853

I have just read the first leaf of Journal & it is so simple & nosensical that I'm right mad. I'll try and have this a little more sensable. I will start at the Lecture Room, where my face turns every Wednesday evening as regularly as the needle of the compass turns to the North, I hate to go! Mr. Goun preaches three sermons, prays the dear pease knows how meny prayers, I believe I would go to sleep if I was not constantly watching his ugly face. I count the blue roses in Miss Kate Godds bonnet, try to look at myself in Miss Mary Humphryes forehead, it is so shiney and luminous. I was frightened nearly to death last Tuesday Mrs Hooper said it rained so hard we must not go to school. Fannie Slemons Add Humphryes Ellen Fooks Lou & I all went in our chamber we braught Mrs Hoopers cradle down the garret got all her baby clothes, dressed pillows for baby's and played all the evening, we tried to get the cradle back after we were done with it, we could not do it, broke the plastering scratched the cradle & the dear peace knows what else, After awhile we went down town when we came back Mary said her Miss Elenor was so angry. I was afraid to go in the house I never could brook angar & staid in the garden till nearly dark. Mary came out again told me Mrs Hooper had got --per and was reading about Napoleon. The ----esh I felt to see the conclusion of his life gave me courage to venture in. I was crazy to know how he contented himself on the lonely island of the Pasific. How his proud fierce spirit must have rebelled. No doubt the dashing and billowey surf of that angry ocean kept time with the deep drawn sighs and angry heaving of his heart, Noble hero! Mighty conqueror! I admire, I adore your character, brill_ eant indeed was your carreer. He who once wore the crown of France, and swayed its sceptor sleeps his last sleep. "Dust to dust; His body lies amid the rocks, and the long pendants of the willow droop lovingly over his grave. I stole up to Mrs Hoopers chair, she kissed my forehead & told me she was not offended O she is so good and so sweet. She is a little above medium hight, regular feature, black eyes, hair slightly silvered, She has fine manners, dignafied and agreeable. Mr Hooper is a Lawyer by profession.

April 30 th 1863

With some it has been a disputed question, which affords the most happiness the anticipation. the realization or the recollection of pleasure. I shall not attempt to decide this, but to pay a tribute to that power which recalls the past. Sweet memories! it is by thy power that we are enabled to retain in mind the impressions of certain facts and events. It is memory that lifts the curtain between the present and the past and reveals to view pleasant scenes of long lost hours. It carries me back to the days of childhood - those happy days; how I love to speak of them! I can almost imagine myself a child again, happily sporting away my time in its the innocent glee of childhood. I can see my beloved father, as he would forget that he was a man, and once more join in the innocent gambols of childhood with me. And that precious mother who first taught my infant lips to whisper my father's name _ who first repeated to me the Lord's prayer. Can I ever forget that mother? No, Never! And the old homestead which I have not seen for months appears as fresh in my mind as if it were but yesterday. That beloved spot of earth; oh! how I cherish it. There where my infant feet were first taught to tread the mazy paths of life, And where for the first time I lisped my perents name'

I sometimes wonder if the closing scenes of life have a correspondance to the surrounding upon which our infant eyes first gazed.

I was born in Forktown Somerset County Maryland The first child of fond and doating parents. I was loved by them with all the intensity that Abriham lavished upon Iisic, Spo_ iled humoured & caressed till in my youthful imagination I believed the world my own, and then "acters upon the great stage of life, were created for my pleasure & amusement. How, or why, I became so selfish I can never imagine, unless it was by excessive indulgance At thirteen years of age I was sent to Salisbury to school. Boarded with Mrs Hooper, an intimate friend of Ma's. Went to Mrs Symington's school, the same school where Ma received her education. She was a dear good woman. Lou and I made quite a sensation at school. Ella Whittington told me afterwards that Lou looked so gentle and beautifal with her snowy face & violet eyes and shower of golden curls, she was so gentle and dove like that all hearts were carried by storm, she glided so quietly talked so beautifally, sang so sweetly, that she was captivated & felt it no disgrase to yield the palm to one so preensinantly lovely in apperance & charactor, How different were her impressions of me, at first sight, She said I walked with the stately dignaty of an empress to the extrem ety of the School room where I took the seat given me, & for the first tim took a survey of the room, she thought my face striking. yet not pretty, my eyes magnifscent. Manners regal. Lou the subject & I the Ruler. It has been so meny years ago that I now feel quite aged to look through the dim vista of years and count twenty four summers of sun_ shine and adversity joy's & sorrows,
      "O life! How pleasant is thy morning
        Young fancy's says the hills adorning,
      Cold pausing caution's lesson scourning,
        We wonder there, we wonder here,
        We eye the rose upon the brier,
          Unmindful that the thorn is near.

Spottswood Hotel Rece----- July 14 th 1864

O Father thou ruler & giver of all good and perfect works. I thank Thee with prayerful and heartfelt ernestness for my safe deliverance; that I can once again claim my freedom, I arrived here yesterday. at half past four We landed at Aikens Landing. were received by Cap Hatch, assistant of Commissioner Dreld. He is a pleasant & gentlemany man, How refreshing it was to see the dear uniform he wore, I felt protected, comforted, calmed by its presence. twas like sunshine after dark blue threatening storms. I will not anticipate, but will record the different events as they transpire. The first and most touching circumstance was the Aikens family. Mrs Aikens died several months ago. leaving five small children, the eldest being fourteen years of age. her name is Maria, she is a smart womanly child seemingly to realize the responsabilaty of her position, Their resadence is one of the handsomest on the James river, The Yankees have used a portion of their house for head quarters since they have com_ manded that portion of the river by the gun boats Last week her father was made a victim of their of an arbitrary arrest. was torn from his helpless children, & carried to Fortress Monroe. Maria is there hemed in on the river side by scores of gun boats,- & myriads of Yankees, on the other side, about a quarter of a mile from the house are our pickets. We bowed, spoke & waved our handkerachiefs to them who seemed to appreciate our friendly disposition, I gave one of them lunch, he was glad of the change. he told me he lived on bread & a scanty allowance of meat for months I felt safe & protected as he rode at the head of the trane of ambulance with his white flag playing on the breeze. It was quite a novel & picturesque scene to examine the different expressions of our faces. Capt Coker had become tired & was placed upon a stretcher. He looked fatigued, yet at times his face was lighted up when he thought of home, his wife & child from whome he had been separated nine ----- -------- --------- ---------- ----------- Mission siage. His ----- ----- -------- ----------- Confederates fell back, & he being unable to move, fell ----- hands, also Sargent Nettles & Mrs. Croker. They are all South Carolinians, of the old school I feel a strong attachment for them they have been so kind, I met them first on the "Truce boat, They use every argument to persuade me to go home with them & remain till after the war. As far as the eye could reach we could disern smoking ruins, away down the river was seen dark colums of smoke assending from the smoultering ruins of a burning mansion, whose occupants were driven fourth alone & pennyless. A faint pinkish column arose from a near forest where trees of a centuries growth were being dissolved to ashes under the fiery deamans hand I fan cied I could hear the word vengance! vengance! as the torrents of smoke burst in volcanic clouds from the lurid atmosphere. I thought how striking, the analogy, of the cry for vengance for the distruction of this noble forest to the contracted brow of some faithful comrade as he places the mangled & lifeless body of a fallen hero in its last long resting place _ the grave. I have digressed. To return to the subject Mrs. Croker wore a look of anxious care, a all mothers would have done, she arranged & rearranged the pillows, carressed the wounded limb, smiled faintly as the Capt sprang almost on hisf feet as we passed the outer defences of the City, when the Capt declared he was strong able & willing to go to his post of duty. & battle with the enemy although one leg was three inches longer than the other, In a second the look of care deepened as thoughts of her younger som arose to her mind. She had left him in the enemies hands, In one of the Bastites. Fort Delaware. Sargent Nettles seemed contented to be allowed to breathe the pure free air of Dixie. He was pale from his recent confinement, his long dark moustache & imperial gave him a look of distinction and interest. Capt Beelar seemed hugely contented. I think the kindest feeling of his heart to the Yankees is hate. He owns the sword John Brown used in the infamous Harpers Ferry insurrection He L commanded the forces there till Gen Lee's arrival. Mr Ayre, one of the truest friends I have met, owing to the enormous waight on the mules got in the other ambulance He is a man of rather homely apperance yet possesses sterling qualaties & a benevolent heart. Mrs Web & children, Mrs Leigh & child came in another conveyance. We got here at four o'clock. stoped at the Spottswood Hotel. I was introduced to Senator Brooce of Kentu__ ckey who kindly offerd to do all in his power for me. Next morning Gen Gardner was presented to me, beside an innumerable number of Cols Majs and Capts. Capt Coker advised me to deliver the messuage to the president without a moments delay. I wrote a few lines on a card, sealed it & proceeded to the mansion Tis is the import of the note -
Mr President Davis
While imprisoned at Fortress Monroe, a messuage was given to me with a promice of immediate delivery to you in person. Hoping you will grant me an interview this evening
                I am very respectfully
                Clara Gunby

Spottswood Hotel July 13 th 1864

We were shown to a reception room, after sending the note to the president. In a few minutes he came down He took a chair very near me. I told him that I met Mrs Amy Francis Cormick in prison at Fortress Monroe; that I could not vouch for the truth_ fulness of the messuage as the lady was a stranger to me. "He said he knew her & would trust to every word she uttered. I then stated to him that Mrs Cormick had discovered previous to her arrest, that one John Reed of Charleston South Carolina was a Federal spy. He claimed to be a British subject, has british papers, & assumes the warmest sympathy for our cause But in reality - he is a Yankee of the Massachusetts school & ---- nephew of "old Butler, that he had ------ ----- ---- a short time ago a shell distroy part of it his house & he moved 3 miles in the country. that he had done immense damage to the cause, & doubtless would ultimately be the means of the distruction of that devoted city. There was information of an underground attack of Richmond by Gen Mead, that Grant had 13,000,000 of cartridges in reserve for the Capitol of of the Confedracy. Thad the midnight attack made by our troops, was comunicated to the Yankees by a spy from this city.- That Butler had six letters in his posession which was highly impor_ tant, should be demanded by our government When I told him of her suffering, of her small furnace like room, & bread & water allowance, I saw a tear gather in his eye as he feelingly exclaimed, would to heaven I could relieve her He asked many questions & seemed, & indeed, expressed himself highly gratafied. I told him I was an exile, had arrived on the last "flag of truce from Maryland. He took hold of my hand in the most fatherly & benevolent manner & gave me a hearty welcome to the Confederate States, & kindly offerd himself in any way he could befriend me. Asked if I had friends in the army with whome I wou ld like to communicate, I told him I had two brothers, from whome I had been separated 3 years He enthusiastically exclaimed. If they are in Verginia you shall see them before three days, I told him I had written to my brother & sent it by Mr Ayer to Genl Pickette's headquarters near Petersburg That my eldest brother was absent with his battery in Maryland He called Col Orr & told him to write to Generals Pickett & Corsse requesting my brother to be allowed free pass to Richmond without an hours delay, But is not practicable for him to leave, to designate a meeting place on the Hancock Turnpike where I could visit him Col Orrs wrote the letters & dispatched especial courier. When I told him, his name was Francis Marion, a most beautifal smile illumined his face as he said a revolutionary name, & no doubt your brother is brave & true enough to be an ornament ---- ----- --- an ornament to the memory ----- ----- ------ ------- ------ whose name he bares. He came several steps down the porch with me. he looked so venerable, so good & kind that I should have loved & admired him if he had been a beggar. He looks as if he was in delicate health. he is very thin. with long white hair. He looks prematurely old, there are deep traces of care disernable, yet the pure chaste & unbl__ emished smile that so often lightens his counten_ ance, convinces us that the look of pain & care is for others woes, for a suffering nation, & not remorse of concience, or guilty upbradings of the past. He was dressed as plane as the lowest mechanic, a suit of course black & white plaid cotton, Mr Brooce told me he generally wore a suit of gray homespun. He also told me when my brothers were in distant parts of the country & I found it difficult to & from them, to send them to him & they should find a passage to them. I met Capt McQueen son of a South Carolina Senator. Mr & Mrs Romney & Mrs McMaster called in the evening, offerd any assistance in their power & invited one to dine with them on Monday. They are all from Carolina. Capt Coker is premoted to Major, They made me promice a visit.




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