In a letter written to his wife just before his death in the Battle of Franklin, Adam Weaver of the 104th Ohio Infantry describes a conversation he had with a Confederate prisoner, who described southern women as “soft and sweet, low-toned and graceful in every move they make.”1 The war-time experiences of Franklin’s women paint a different picture. These women were able to think for themselves, were dedicated to their causes, were tough and resourceful, and were survivors.
Sallie Hines McNutt
Sallie Hines McNutt was a dedicated Confederate from an established Franklin family. It was her parents, in fact, who founded the Franklin Grove Female Academy. Sallie and her husband James lived on Lewisburg Pike, within sight of Fort Granger. In late winter 1863, the Federal occupation of Franklin began in earnest, and the McNutt yard became a camp. The night the Federal army arrived, Sallie McNutt said she, her husband, and their young children did not sleep at all because of the noise. In the morning, they found Federal soldiers encamped in their yard. They had broken into the smokehouse and taken most of the meat and killed all their poultry, leaving only their heads behind. James McNutt determined to do something about the theft, but, according to Sallie McNutt, he found General Granger drunk and indisposed. He then tried his case with General Jeff C. Davis, who refused to help him because it was not his job. He sent McNutt to the Provost Marshall, who likewise refused aid. On his way home, James McNutt ran into Perkins Priest, a Franklin Unionist. Priest interceded on his behalf with the Federal army and got an armed guard posted in front of the McNutt house.2
The McNutts were ultimately driven from their home on April 26, 1863. They spent the remainder of the war as war refugees, ending up in Max Meadows, Virginia, James McNutt’s hometown. Sallie’s knowledge of what became of her house must have come mostly from friends’ reports.
“It was so good for barracks for the troops for the morning we were banished, we had barely left the house before every blind was taken from the windows to the Fort [Granger] for tents. Soldiers moved in, but a short time elapsed before negroes from Ala. and Georgia were crowding in and they moved. The soldiers went back to the Fort leaving our house to the renegade negroes.”3
Sallie McNutt’s disdain for Unionists is clear throughout her writings. After the Federal Army arrived in Franklin, she wrote “four of the most disreputable men in town suddenly became violent advocates of the Union…”. She also pointed out Mrs. Cliffe as a “Union partisan.”4
The McNutt family returned to Franklin July 23, 1866. Their loss of property in the war crippled the family economically and contributed to James McNutt’s poor health and despondence. He killed himself in a Nashville hotel in 1874, and Sallie became the sole provider for her family.5
Virginia and Isabella Cliffe
Sallie Hines McNutt may not have been a fan of Virginia Cliffe, but many other people–Confederates and Federals–named her as a friend. Virginia Cliffe was unwavering in her allegiance to the Union. Emerson Opdyke, Brevet Major General of the 125th Ohio, frequently mentioned Mrs. Cliffe and her family in letters to his wife.7 Confederate chaplain Dr. Charles Quintard was old friends with the Cliffes, despite their differences in political stance. His diary entry several days after the Battle of Franklin exemplifies Virginia Cliffe’s kindness and loyalty to friends, even if those friends had differences:
“Mrs. Cliffe met me most cordially, and although she expressed her sentiments very strongly, there was a hearty cordiality in her manner that made my visit very agreeable. Charley Quintard is a vine, sprightly boy. Mrs. Cliffe says that on one occasion Gen’l Rosecrans told her she had better change the boy’s name, that “Quintard is a Rebel” and his own name would be much better. Before leaving she gave me a package for my wife, containing a very elegant black dress and handsome balmoral. I accepted these for the sake of Auld Lang Syne, but when she added for myself a $50 greenback note, I was put to my wits, not wishing to accept such a favor, and fearful to decline, lest she might attribute it to unkind motives. On the whole, I thought it best to “pocket the insult.””7
Some people, like Sallie Hines McNutt, disliked Virginia Cliffe for her politics. A Wisconsin newspaper published a story about Virginia Cliffe and her daughter Isabella in which the two women, revolvers in hand, protect their house from being burnt by Confederate sympathizers.8 After the war, the Cliffes ingratiated themselves with Tennessee’s radical Republican government through Isabella’s marriage to Union Brevet Brigadier General James Patton Brownlow, son of Governor Brownlow.
Sallie Reams was thirteen at the start of the Civil War. An only child, Sallie lived with her mother Martha lived in Clouston Hall, on the corner of Church Street and 2nd Avenue South. Sallie and Martha Reams were far from alone, however; seventeen enslaved people lived also on the property.9 Sallie’s father Oscar had died in 1861, and this lack of paternal oversight might help explain why Sallie is mentioned so often by Federal soldiers in the historical record. Federal occupation helped break down social mores, providing a climate for curious young people on both sides to interact.10
It seems Sallie spent much of the war socializing with soldiers. Already in January 1863, John Cottrell of the 14th Michigan Mounted Infantry mentions Sallie in his wartime diary (consequently, the first thing Cottrell seemed to do when occupying a new time was look up the pretty girls).11 Sallie Reams had a lasting relationship with Charles Hammer of the 124th Ohio Infantry. The two first met in the spring of 1863, at Sallie’s aunt and uncle’s house, Rose Hill. Hammer was with occupying Federal forces in Franklin, ill and homesick. He ended up at Rose Hill, home of Charles Merrill, a former slave trader who had three sons in the Confederate Army. Mrs. Merrill answered the door, and, seeing that he was ill,
tucked him into bed with “some vile herb tea.” Hammer confessed to crying like a baby from homesickness and Mrs. Merrill’s kind treatment. The following day Sallie came from the town to visit, immediately charming Hammer. Charles Hammer frequently came to Clouston Hall to see Sallie and her mother during his stay in Franklin. He appeared unexpectedly at their door in 1864 while on a regimental errand to Nashville.12
The next time Sallie saw Charles Hammer was November 30, 1864. This was the start of what must have been an emotional roller-coaster for her. That morning, Hammer rode up to Clouston Hall, exhausted after two nights in the saddle. Sallie and her mother gave him breakfast and put him to bed. He slept until awoken by the sound of Hood’s guns. When the fighting began, Sallie, her mother, and their enslaved people took refuge in their cellar, as their house was hit by cannon and shells numerous times. While the Federal army withdrew from Franklin, Charles Hammer reappeared to check on them, then disappeared, tasked with burning the bridge behind the Federal army. In the morning, Sallie’s sweetheart, Confederate soldier, John Bostick visited. He was with Hood’s army, which now held Franklin.
Sallie and her mother spent December 1864 nursing wounded Confederate soldiers. Less than a month later, the people of Franklin experienced upheaval once more as Hood’s army fled the town, pursued by the Federal Army. Sallie Reams once again found Charles Hammer, who had swam the Harpeth River, at her door once more. Though Martha was friendly, Sallie at first refused to see Hammer. She eventually relented, writing him for the remainder of the war.13
On February 6, 1866, Sallie married her sweetheart John Bostick.14 Her relationship with Charles Hammer outlived the Civil War. Twice after the war, Hammer brought his wife to Franklin and visited Sallie. On the second visit, in 1897, Charles Hammer arrived to find Sallie had died.15
Like Sallie Reams, Emeline Moore was a teenager when the Civil War began, but the two girls’ war-time experiences were vastly different. Emeline was enslaved, and, at sixteen, a mother. She was likely own by Robert Buchanan, a Franklin Unionist, and she described Mr. Buchanan having her carry soup to the Masonic Hall for Federal soldiers. On these excursions, Emeline’s eyes and ears were open. She noted a Federal Lieutenant Fox who rode around with “Johnnie Brown” until he was maimed in a raid by Forrest. Emeline was probably using the euphemism “Johnnie Brown” to refer to a Unionist girl.16
After the war, Emeline married Cessum Moore, a man more than twice her age.17 She died in Nashville in 1938, well over ninety years old, but was buried in Franklin.18
Octavia and Fannie Courtney
Octavia and Fannie Courtney captured the hearts of pro-Union America. Their fame and exploits spread across the nation via newspapers.
Octavia and Fannie were the daughters of Eliza Haynes Courtney and Robert Courtney and lived on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Church Street. Their house, much modified, still stands. Robert Courtney died in 1859, leaving the estate–which included the Courtney house, furnishings, farm animals, and five enslaved people–in Eliza’s hands. At the beginning of the war, their brother William enlisted in the 32nd Tennessee Infantry (Confederate) and brother-in-law . Despite their brother and brother-in-law’s Confederate affiliation, Octavia, Courtney, and Eliza remained staunch, vocal Unionists.
This proved a heavy burden to bear. The Courtney women were barred from homes, social circles, and even the Presbyterian Church in Franklin. The Courtney women, among other of Franklin’s Unionist women, were arrested and paraded through the streets.19 Numerous newspapers credited Octavia with being the first to welcome the Federal occupying forces into Franklin. By February 1862, Octavia Courtney was making national headlines as the Tennessee Union Girl. Soon after Federal troops arrived, Octavia fled to Nashville. On March 27, 1863 she married Lieutenant John Cochnower of the 74th Ohio Infantry in Nashville. The two most likely met when Cochnower’s regiment occupied Franklin in March 1862. Their base was the Masonic Hall.20
Fannie, Octavia’s younger sister, remained in Franklin for the entire war, and eventually the title of Tennessee Union Girl was transferred to her. Much of her renown came from her actions during and after the Battle of Franklin. During the November 30, 1864 battle, Fannie Courtney ascended from the Courtney house cellar and found wounded Federal soldiers limping through the yard. One soldier had a severed artery in his arm, and Fannie attempted to stanch the bleeding. When he complained of the cold, she took off her wool skirt and covered him with it. After the battle, Fannie named forty-four hospitals in Franklin, only three of which were for Federal soldiers. “Red flags were waving from unoccupied dwellings, the seminaries, the churches, and every business house in town.” Barred from the Presbyterian Church months before, Fannie and Eliza Courtney suddenly found themselves caring for 120 wounded Federal soldiers in the same church. They fed the soldiers two times a day, their enslaved people cooking the food at the Courtney house with Courtney provisions, brought bedding from their own house, and made bandages from their own underclothes.21
On September 23, 1864, Fannie Courtney married Lieutenant Colonel George Grummond, a reckless Lieutenant Colonel in the 14th Michigan Mounted Infantry with a checkered past. Unbeknownst to Fannie, her husband was not divorced from his first wife until September 23. In 1866, Grummond was killed at the Fetterman Massacre at Fort Phil Kearney. Fannie was pregnant with their first child. In 1871, she married the widowed General Carrington.22
Martha Royce’s fate echoed that of her neighbor Sallie Hines McNutt’s. The wife of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s rector Moses Royce, Martha was a Confederate spy, and General Granger decided to make an example of her. At the beginning of the war, the Royces lived on Lewsiburg Pike with their daughters Betsey, 7, and Sally, 5. Though Moses Royce grew up in Vermont, he was pro-slavery and joined the Confederate army early in the war. Left on their own, Martha Royce resorted to espionage. Using her small daughters as messengers, she would sew notes to Sallie Hines McNutt and other Franklin ladies inside the hems of their dresses.23 Martha Royce was not as sneaky as she thought, and General Granger soon decided to make an example of her. In the spring of 1863, he expelled Martha, Betsey, and Sally Royce from Franklin and tore down their house, using the materials to construct soldier’s barracks inside Fort Granger. Martha and the girls became war refugees, moving from one relative’s house to the next for the remainder of the war.24 Ironically, Moses Royce was captured by the Federal army, escaped, and spent the rest of the war as a Confederate spy, the activity which had cost his wife their home and belongings.25 After the war, Moses Royce applied for compensation for Royce house’s destruction. They did not receive any.
1 – Rick Warwick, comp., Letter from Adam Weaver to Charlotte Weaver, Nov. 30, 1864, in The Civil War Years Revealed Through Letters, Diaries, & More (Nashville: Panacea Press, 2006), 94.
2 – Rick Warwick, comp. Excerpts from the Memoir of Sallie Hines McNutt, courtesy of Virginia McDaniel Bowman, in Williamson County & The Civil War As Seen Through the Female Experience (Nashville: Panacea Press, 2008), 23.
3 – Ibid., 28.
4 – Ibid., 23, 25.
5 – Ibid., 23.
6 – Glenn V. Longachre and John E. Haas, eds., To Battle for God and the Right: The Civil War Letterbooks of Emerson Opdyke (University of Illinois Press, reprint ed., 2007).
7 – Rick Warwick, comp. Diary of Dr. Charles Todd Quintard, in Williamson County Historical Journal, no. 29, 1998, 74.
8 – 5th Wisconsin Infantry Scrapbook, 26 Feb. 1863, from civilwardigital.org.
9 – 1860 Federal Census Slave Schedule, Eastern Subdivision Williamson County, TN, from Ancestry.com.
10 – Oscar Reams, Findagrave.com, Accessed 25 Nov. 2019.
11 – The Wartime Diary of John G. Cottrell, Historic Franklin Masonic Hall Foundation, 3.
12 – Rick Warwick, comp. “A Union Soldier’s Friendships in Franklin,” from “Reminiscences” by Charles D. Hammer, 1914. From Williamson County Historical Society Journal, No. 45 (2013-14), 83-87.
13 – Ibid.
14 – Tennessee Marriage Records, 1780-2002, from Ancestry.com, accessed 25 Nov. 2019.
15 – Warwick, “A Union Soldier’s Friendships in Franklin,” 83-87.
16 – 1860 Federal Census Slave Schedule, Ancestry.com, accessed 25 Nov. 2019.
Hiram Lodge No. 7 Court of Claims, Interview with Emeline Moore, National Archives.
17 – 1870 Federal Census, Ancestry.com, accessed 25 Nov. 2019.
18 – Emiline Moore Chrisman Death Certificate, Tennessee Death Records, 1908-1958, Ancestry.com, accessed 25 Nov. 2019.
19 – Longacre & Haas, 55.
20 – Ibid., 65.
Court of Claims.
21 – Warwick, “Female Experience,” 148-49.
22 – Army Officer Wives on the Great Plains, http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/army_officers_wives/biographies, Accessed 25 Nov. 2019.
23 – Judith Riker Damon, A Genteel Spy (Rockville: Two Peas Publishing (2010), 16.
24 – Moses Royce, letter to Provost Marshall, the Center for the Study of the American Civil War.
25 – Joe Johnston, Images of America: Franklin (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2014), 55.