soldier with rifle american civil war THE



Barbara Fritchie and The Lost Order



In October 1863, The Atlantic Monthly published a poem written by John Whittier, titled Barbra Fritchie. Two months earlier, in August 1863, Whittier had received a letter from the most popular fiction writer of the day, one Emma Southworth, which contained her narrative of Fritchie's supposed encounter with Stonewall Jackson as he was leaving Frederick on September 10, 1862, and Whittier manufactured from it the poetic scene the poem depicts.

"Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall riding ahead,
Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced; the old flag met his sight.

'Halt!'—the dust brown ranks stood fast.
'Fire!'—out blazed the rifle blast.

It rent the banner with seam and gash.
Quick, as it fell, Barbara snatched the silken

She leaned far out the window-sill,
and shook it forth with a royal will.

'Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
but spare your country's flag,' she said."

Between the poem's publication in 1863 and 1875, there was not much public comment about the objective truth of the facts Mrs. Southworth produced for Whittier, or about his use of poetic license to produce a vision of a ninety-two year old woman, who would be dead by December 1862, hanging out of her attic window on Patrick St., waving The Stars and Stripes and yelling at Stonewall as he rode past her house heading west toward the Catoctin Mountain. But, during this time, the poem was published and republished in many of the country's newspapers, and people began appearing at the lot at the point on Patrick Street where a bridge carries the road across Carroll Creek, wanting to see the spot where the old lady had faced down the fire of Stonewall. Since, then, though the house she lived in was torn down in 1868, the tourists have been coming to Frederick ever since to walk through a different house located at a different spot on the street, to look at the artifacts the proprietor of the place has cobbled together to entertain the visitors.


Stonewall's Connection to Dr. Ross Disclosed

The record discovered so far shows that the fact there was a connection between Stonewall and Dr. Ross during Stonewall's time in Frederick, in September 1862, was not a matter, of public knowledge, generally in the country, until April 24, 1875. On that date, a letter written by a law school professor who lived in Georgetown, Samuel Tyler, was published in the Baltimore Sun. In February 1875, Tyler had ostensibly replied to an inquiry made to him by a person writing about the Fritchie story, and The Sun published the letter, along with the statement of Fritchie's neighbor, Jacob Englebrecht, as part of a piece dissecting Southworth's narrative and Whittier's poem, the newspaper using Tyler's and Englebrecht's statements to make the case Stonewall and Barbara never came within sight of each other as Stonewall rode out of town on September 10, 1862.

If I were to face Professor Tyler in the trial court, in a trial on the issue of Stonewall's contact with Barbara, I would not be able to effectively challenge the credibility of the story the witness would tell the jury: for the reason that Tyler was, in fact, a resident of Frederick and a practising attorney there during the war years with an impeccable reputation. In about 1870, Tyler relocated his practice to Baltimore and in that year the Maryland Legislature provided him with a sum of money to write a biography of Chief Justice Roger Taney. The book was published in 1872 and remains available today in hard back. Soon after the book was published, Tyler became a law professor of Columbia Law School in Washington D.C. and he took up residence in Georgetown, not far from the cottage in which Emma Southworth resided.

Here is the text of Tyler's letter published in The Baltimore Sun on April 24, 1875.

Baltimore Sun Tyler letter

Sun letter
sun letter
sun letter

From the context in which the letter's publication occurred, it is objectively reasonable to conclude that Tyler published his statement of what he saw, what he did, and what he read, as an instrument of evidence to prove that, in fact, Stonewall and Barbara did not encounter each other on September 10—not as an instrument of evidence to prove that, in fact, Stonewall was in contact with Dr. Ross, the person, those of you know who have read The Lost Order materials on this site, I consider most likely responsible for dropping the lost order in the field for the Union soldier, Barton Mitchell, to find.

Up to April 1875, nothing can be found in the record which shows that any Confederate officer had publicly acknowledged the fact Tyler's letter discloses—that Stonewall was present at Dr. Ross's residence the morning of September 10th, obtensibly leaving Dr. Ross and his wife, a note.

Distilling Tyler's statement to its factual essence, the witness is telling us that he lived across the street from Dr. Ross, that he was aware Stonewall had been to the Ross residence, that, at some point in time, Mrs. Ross showed him a note she said came to her from Stonewall on September 10, and that he copied the text which his letter quotes. Tyler also provides an explanation of the event which colors the circumstance in a way that makes sense. He tells us that Stonewall was at the residence on September 10th, not to see Dr. Ross but to see Dr. Ross's wife, who Tyler asserts was the "old friend" from Stonewall's days in Lexington, this interpretation obviously deflecting attention from the question what did Stonewall have to discuss with Dr. Ross?

Stonewall had first come in contact with Dr. Ross, when Dr. Ross appeared at Lexington in about 1850, and served as pastor of the Lexington Presbyterian Church that Stonewall attended. Dr. Ross's wife, Mary, was a daughter of James McDowell who had served as Virginia's Governor from 1843 to 1846 and a U.S. Congressman from 1846 to 1851. Between the two, it would seem reasonable to expect the more personal relationship was between the two men, rather than between Stonewall and Mary Ross. Nothwithstanding this, there turns out to have been another connection that points more certainly to a role being played by Dr. Ross in General Lee's plans—for the evidence shows that Lee's de-facto chief of staff, Charles S. Venable, was married to a sister of Mary Ross, and that when Mary, who died in 1890, was in her advanced years, Dr. Ross having died in 1871, it was Charles Venable who took care of her and who became the Executor of her will. So, if General Lee were in need of a local citizen, whose presence in the field the Union soldiers were filing into on September 13th would not generate suspicion, Stonewall's and Venable's connection to Dr. Ross would be God-sent.


"Regret not being permitted to see Dr. and Mrs. Ross, but could not expect to have that pleasure at so unseasonable an hour."

Tyler correctly characterizes this terse note as having an "abrupt" beginning, given the fact Stonewall is addressing it to two old friends, one of which is a woman and the daughter of an important Virginian. Without the courtesy of a saluation, the sentence is written in the third person as a plain statement of fact; it contains nothing of warmth, friendship, or affection. The sun rose over the horizon at Frederick on September 10, 1862 at 5:30 a.m., which means that, though he had been at Frederick since September 6, Stonewall waited until the last possible minute, just as he was leaving the town, to take the time to say hello to his old friends, Dr. and Mrs. Ross from Lexington. Strange social behavior, indeed, for Virginian gentlemen. And, when read by Tyler, or any other member of the Frederick Presbyterian Church, the purpose of the attempted visit seems not to be nefarious, or for that matter purposeful.

So, why did Stonewall provide the note to Dr. and Mrs. Ross, under these circumstances? To give them something to show Dr. Ross's parishioners when they questioned him. Which the diary of Jacob Englebrecht tells us they did; the questioning resulting in Dr. Ross resigning his position as pastor of the Church and departing the town he had lived in for five yerars within a matter of weeks thereafter.


Given Samuel Tyler's status as a percipient witness, a witness with strong credibility given the circumstances, there is no question but that, in the trial of the factual issue, the Court will admit the text of Stonewall's note as Tyler's letter to The Sun recites it. But the physical document that is floating about among auction houses today, would be refused admission because there is nothing to show where it came from; and there is nothing intrinsic to the document which establishes it is, in fact, a document written in the hand of Stonewall Jackson.

The document in question is a piece of letter-size paper with ink lines, as a child's school note pad looks like. According to retired NPS ranger, and civil war writer, Robert Krick, the document is, in fact, authentic, because he thinks the handwriting found on the back side of the document is Jackson's. As pointed out in The Lost Order materials found elsewhere on the site, the comparsion of handwriting samples is not a science. "Experts," therefore, have no better eyesight than does the ordinary juror, each expert or juror having an equal ability to guess correctly whether two handwriting samples, in fact, were produced by the same hand. So, ultimately the answer to the question—Was the text of Tyler's quoted note, which is found on the back side of of the subject document, written by Jackson?—must be left to the decision of a supramajority of the audience, not to Mr. Krick.


The auction houses explain away the fact the supposed Jackson note is written on the backside of a type-set printed "proclamation" General Lee caused to be made on or about September 8, 1862, by pointing out that, in the saluation the word "MARYLAND" is spelled incorrectly as "MARLAND." And that, consequently, the print run from this template was discarded, the type reset and a correct spelling provided, and the corrected print run was distributed to the public, with Stonewall retaining one or more pieces of the discarded run as scrap paper, and it was thus this explains why it is that Stonewall's supposed handwritten note to the Rosses is found on the back side of the misspelled version of the proclamation.

If the auction houses were called into court to explain the basis for their representation the document is, in fact, authentic, the first observation they would need to explain away, is that printers are not stupid. Printers set type everyday in their business. They know mistakes in placing the order of the tiles in the set up, will occur. Therefore, when the stack is complete, they ink it and run a single sheet, and then they read it. They do not waste paper by printing a ream without first making sure the type set is correct. Therefore, assuming the printer on the scene at Frederick, on September 8, 1862, did, in fact, set the type wrong, he would not have printed more than a few sheets without proof reading his product. We must believe, then, that, for the auction house theory to work, it means Stonewall was present on the scene and carried away that single sheet of paper, to use as scrap, and did use it to write the note found on its back side.

A second issue the auction houses would have to explain away, is the fact that the three examples of the correctly spelled proclamation which are known to exist in the world, are not printed on lined paper, but on plain paper stock of letter size.

Maryland Room proclamation

A third issue is the fact that the probable explanation for why it is there are only three examples of the proclamation in existence, is that there was no point in printing more than a few copies, as General Lee certainly was not having soldiers pass around the town of Frederick handing out sheets like you would a flyer. The printed proclamation was nothing more than a press release which was intended to reach the newspapers and be printed in them and thus the message of the proclamation distributed throughout the entire state of Maryland. Indeed, by September 12th, even The New York Times had printed it.

New York Times printed proclamation
Note the difference in the heading between The Times version and the others.

Turning to the penciled handwriting seen on the backside of the auction house proclamation, the fact-finder in the trial court would be informed that the handwriting of a person will appear different, depending upon the type of instrument used; e.g., pencil, ink pen, quill etc. And, its appearance will be different depending upon the platform the writer used to write; e.g., a table top, or the palm of his hand while sitting in a saddle.

jackson note

Compare Jackson Signatures

Jackson siganture 1852

Jackson siggnaure 1861

Jackson signature 1863

Jackson signture

Jackson signture on recept
Jackson signature on receipt

Signature to a colonel 1863

Regardless of the jury's verdict on the question of handwriting identification, the issue becomes moot in the face of the fact that Samuel Tyler tells us, in his letter of 1875, that he saw the original message, which he says was delivered to the Rosses "on a card," that he copied the text and has faithfully reproduced it in his letter. This is enough to establish the fact that Stonewall did appear outside the Ross home on the morning of September 10, 1862 and left a written message that reached the Ross's hands.


Tyler states the facts of how Jackson's message was delivered this way:

"[Jackson] and his staff passed down Second Street, and he dismounted from his horse at the door of Rev. John B. Ross's house, and wrote on a card the following note and slide it under the door and rode off to Mill Alley and down it to Patrick St."

After Tyler's statement was published in The Sun, as the years passed, questions were repetitively put to Kyd Douglas, who had become popularly known to the general public through his writings and, from time to time, public appearances. The first written expression of Douglas's involvement as a percipient witness to Jackson's appearance at the Ross residence was given in 1876, in a piece published in The Philadelphia Times.

"The facts are few. General Jackson's headquarters were three miles short of Frederick, and, except when he passed through it to leave it, he went into the city but once—on Sunday night to church. On the morning he left, I rode with him through the town..."

Nowhere in this first public expression of Douglas, does he say anything about stopping at the Ross residence as he rode with Jackson "through the town." Whether Douglas was aware at this time that Tyler had published his letter in 1875, who can say. Tyler's letter was published at least a second time, on May 8, 1875, in the Boston Daily Advertiser, but a copy of the edition has yet to be found.

Next sometime in the early 1880s, Douglas published a piece in the Century Magazine, titled Stonewall Jackson in Maryland, in which appears this version of the story:

"The next evening, Sunday, [Jackson] went into Frederick for the first time to attend church, and there being no service at the Presbyterian Church he went to the German Reformed...

Early on the 10th, Jackson was off. In Frederick he asked for a map of Chambersburg and its vicinity, and made many irrelevant inquiries about roads and localities in the direction of Pennsylvania. To his staff, who knew what little value these inquiries had, his questions only illustrated his well known motto, Mystery, mystery.... The troops being on the march, the general and his staff rode rapidly out of town and took the head of the column. Jackson never saw Fritchie."

This time Douglas has added some bulk to his narrative, but the basic facts have not been changed: Jackson rode with his staff through town and was gone. Nothing about stopping at the Ross residence; nothing about going into town inside an ambulance.

Ten years passes, and the Fritchie story falls away from public consciousness until, in about 1900, a stage play is produced titled Barbara Fritchie which tours the country as a popular attraction. At the same time, Douglas, a resident of Hagerstown, is chosen to represent the State of Maryland in the presentation of the Maryland Monument to the Antietam Battlefield. President McKinley attended this ceremony and made a speech which was received well in the country, a speech which would not be received well if President Trump made it today. As a consequence of the exposure, Douglas appeared at the Cooper Union in New York City, in April 1900, and gave a "lecture" on Stonewall Jackson in the course of which he provided his audience with a new version of his knowledge of Jackson's appearance at the Ross residence.

Douglas Cooper Union

Given the object of Douglas's reference being directed more toward dispelling the myth of Stonewall's encounter with Fritchie than toward dispelling Stonewall's contact with Dr. Ross, we can reasonably conclude that Douglas introduced the ambulance into his story, for the purpose of keeping Jackson out of Fritchie's sight as opposed to the idea of keeping him out of the townspeople's sight. Notice that Douglas, at this late date, is adopting Tyler's reference to a "card," which dispells the notion Jackson wrote his message on the backside of a sheet of lined paper.

Finally, we come to the narrative that appears in a book published by the UNC Press, in 1940, titled I Rode With Stonewall. According to the preface, which is depicted as written by Douglas in 1899, one year before he gave the lecture at Cooper Union, "The book is not a biography nor a history...The greater portion of it was written immediately after the close of the war from diaries I had kept and notes I had made whe my recollection was fresh and youthful. It was then laid aside and about thirty-three years have passed over it. At time the manuscript was examined in preparing addresses and articles for magazines, ... I was there, however, in nearly all I relate."

Apparently, the manuscript was held for a time by John Kyd Beckenbaugh, a resident of Sharpsburg, and it is he that gave it to UNC to publish. He says a Joseph McCord of New York helped a great deal in the work of preparation of the book for publication.

Here is Douglas's final version of the story:

"[Jackson having fallen from a horse] was placed in an ambulance in which he rode during the day, having turned over his command to his brother-in-law, General D.H. Hill. On the morning of the 6th, his old division went through Frederick and encamped on the Emmittsburg road, the rest encamping at about Monocacy Junction... Jackson did not go to church Sunday morning, but at night he asked Morrison and myself to go to church with him. He rode in an ambulance, we on horseback.

there being no service in the Presbyterian Church, I took him to hear my old friend Dr. Zacharias of the Reformed Church. ...

At daylight on Wednesday, the 10th, Jackson was in motion. About sunrise he and his staff rode into Frederick, but early as it was, there were many people in the streets. .. The general was anxious, before leaving Frederick, to see the Rev. Dr. Ross, the Presbyterian clergyman and a personal friend, and I took him to his house. The Doctor was not up yet and the General would ot allow me to disturb him by ringing the door bell, but he wrote a brief note and left it with a man servant on the pavement to deliver to him. We then went by the most direct route through Mill Street to the head of the column. As for Fritchie, we did not pass her house."

So, now the ambulance is gone, the horse is back and Jackson is writing a brief note from the saddle of his horse, giving it to a "man servant on the street" to give to Dr. Ross, and then he's gone from the town.

It is plain that the probable explanation for why there was no service on Sunday at the Prebyterian Church, is that the Elders knew it likely that Jackson would attend and didn't want him in their church, especially when the service would be conducted by an avowed secessionist such as Dr. Ross. It is reasonably plain, too, that the device of the ambulance fitting in the story has nothing to do with a fall from a horse, but is the means by which Jackson might enter the town at night unobserved by the nosy townspeople and meet secretly with Dr. Ross, presenting him with the lost order to lose. Then, to give Ross something to show the townspeople, which suggested nothing nefarious happening between the two men, Jackson makes a show of stopping at the Ross residence and leaving a message in public view which everybody in sight of it probably ran to read, including Tyler.

Taney Memoirs

Emma Southworth
Emma Southworth

Fritchie grfave


google earth

Joe Ryan