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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Petticoat for the Confederacy

Ellen Victoria Hull (Courtesy of Ellen Apperson Brown)

     My last post (A Footnote to the Death of Stonewall Jackson) was based on an entry from the diary kept by John Samuel Apperson during the Civil War, as found in "Repairing the March of Mars," edited by John Herbert Roper. In the epilogue to this book, Professor Roper wrote of a dramatic incident involving Apperson's future wife, Ellen Victoria Hull (1840-1887). Victoria was born in privileged circumstances to one of the leading families in Smyth County, Virginia, which makes this episode even more entertaining to contemplate. Still, it was an incredibly brave act undertaken by a quick-thinking and resourceful young woman:

"In May of 1861, Victoria Hull had run to the town's railroad line to stop a trainload of Confederate troops from Mississippi before they crashed into a wrecked car around a blind bend of the tracks. To gain the attention of the engineer, she ripped off her petticoat and waved it. In retelling the incident, she is said to stand on the rails, and the train stops only in the nick of time, and the petticoat is red. What is known for sure is that the officer of the Mississippi regiment sent her an official letter of commendation and thanks."

     The letter referred to above was written by Robert H. Waddell at the direction Captain Duncan Patterson, both of Company K of the 20th Mississippi. I have found a transcription of that letter in Volume Two of "History of Smyth County, Virginia," by Joan Tracy Armstrong, published by the Smyth County Historical and Museum Society, Inc., 1986:

"Miss Victoria Hull:
Cooper Guards present their regards to you and would commend you highly for your heroic spirit and undaunting bravery in communicating to us so timely of the cars overthrown. Madam, you are as a Captain Mary; long and peaceful be your days. May happiness and pleasure ever crown your pathway and may your eyes never again behold such a sad calamity as they have this morning. There are five hundred of us that unite in giving you applause. You have saved the lives of many soldiers that will do good service in battle for your own pleasant home and fireside. Accept the gratitude and best wishes of the Cooper Guards, with the entire right wing of Col. Dan R. Rudsell's Mississippi Regiment."

Captain Duncan Patterson was killed in December 1862. The following year, Lt. Waddell, a native of the Lynchburg area, resigned from the 20th Mississippi and joined the 23rd Virginia Cavalry. He was surrendered by General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox in April 1865.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this story with your readers. If we could only travel back in time, imagine what other acts of heroism we might find as our ancestors lived through the often tumultuous events of their days. I sometimes refer to myself as Ellen IV, since my name traces back to Ellen Victoria Hull, and it is nice to know something about her spirit and courage. She was known by friends and family, however, as "Vickie."