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Re: [cwdg] FW: Review: Coryell on Larson, _Great Necessities: The Life, Times...

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  • basecat1@aol.com
    Evening all, Last month, esteemed member Bob Huddleston posted a review on Kay Larson s recent book on the life of Anna Ella Carroll. As those who read it
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 13, 2005
      Evening all,
      Last month, esteemed member Bob Huddleston posted a review on Kay Larson's recent book on the life of Anna Ella Carroll.  As those who read it know, the reviewer was not all to favorable towards the book.  Kay is a friend of mine from the NYC Roundtable and while she is not a member of these online groups, I think it is only fair that her response to Professor Coryell should be posted.
      To H-war Readers:
      In her March 1, 2005, review of my book on Pres. Abraham Lincoln’s female
      political adviser titled, Great Necessities: The Life, Times, and Writings
      of Anna Ella Carroll, 1815-1894, I thank Prof. Janet Coryell for giving me
      the opportunity to discuss my work and to have taken the time to write the
      review.  Professor Coryell has made considerable efforts writing on Carroll
      for which I commend her, and I am grateful for her lead to the Aaron
      Columbus Burr papers that contain information on Carroll’s and Burr’s plan
      to establish a freedmen’s colony in Belize..

      With that said, the review has left me somewhat floundering in a Serbonian
      bog of wonderment, forcing me to ask the question: did Coryell read the
      same book I wrote? The main reason is: she grossly misstates my argument
      about Carroll’s role in the planning of the Tennessee River military
      campaign of 1862 in which combined army-naval forces under the joint
      command of Grant and Admiral Foote captured Forts Henry and Donelson. Based
      on that misstatement, she argues my work is of little value, suffering from
      inadequate research. Further she said there is “no conclusive evidence”
      that Carroll submitted a military plan to the Lincoln administration and,
      therefore, her role is a myth and I am perpetrating the myth. She does
      compliment me on my explanation of the constitutional pamphlets that
      Carroll wrote for Lincoln. But she advises that I need to learn more
      women’s history and antebellum politics and cast a wider net in my

      Let me begin my response by stating basic facts about Great Necessities:
      the book contains 462 pages of my text, 44 pages of notes and 33 of a
      bibliography which more than suggests substantial research. I accessed 27
      manuscript collections, and made extensive use of the official records of
      the Union and Confederate armies and navies, other government documents,
      and Carroll’s congressional documents submitted over a span of 20 years.
      Collections cited include Anna Ella Carroll’s papers in Maryland, and
      Lincoln’s, Stanton’s, Winfield Scott’s, Millard Fillmore’s, William
      Seward’s and Thurlow Weed’s papers, as well as Carroll’s Congressional
      committee file. Of note also is that AEC’s writings include a newly
      discovered series of “Hancock” columns written on the candidacies of
      Seward, Bell, Bates and Botts for the 1860 presidential campaign which
      Coryell fails to mention. Carroll’s reprinted writings comprise 133 pages
      in total.

      Now for the myth issue. First, Coryell argues that the “myth” of Carroll
      surrounds her role in Tennessee River campaign (TRC). But what people are
      interested in is her whole story. Coryell admits that Carroll wrote
      complicated constitutional pamphlets (for Lincoln, at his request) and
      Coryell herself has written on Carroll’s colonization work on which she
      worked with Lincoln. Carroll also was prominent in 1850s elections: the
      letters of candidates, AEC’s writings, and about half a dozen critical
      background works that included discussions of religion and politics were
      quite enough material to allow me to adequately discuss the presidential
      elections of 1856 and 1860 that involved Fillmore’s and John Minor Botts’s
      candidacies for whom Carroll was a publicist. Coryell fails to mention
      Carroll’s role in aiding Gov. Thomas H. Hicks of Maryland in keeping
      Maryland loyal during the secession crisis. She was credited with being
      instrumental in getting Hicks elected governor in 1858. So given all of
      this activity, it’s clear that what is being perpetrated is not just
      Carroll’s role in the Tennessee River campaign, but the prominence of her
      whole body of work that most significantly includes being Abraham Lincoln’s
      only female political adviser. And perhaps the most “blame” can be placed
      on the President himself, given the following quote from a letter written
      by Rep. William Mitchell of Indiana (R-Ind.) on 13 May 1862 (in his own

      If you will excuse my poor writing I will tell you what Mr. Lincoln said of
      you last night. I was there with some seven or eight members and others
      when a note came with a box from you with products from Central America. He
      seemed delighted--and read your letter to us and showed the contents of
      your box. He said Miss Anna Ella Carroll is the head of the Carroll race
      and when the history of this war is written, she will stand a good bit
      taller than ever old Charles [Carroll] did.

      And here is Hicks in 1861: 

      I told our friends in Baltimore last week that the Union State Committee
      must go to work and send your documents over the entire state, if they
      expect to carry the election. No money can ever pay you for what you have
      done for the state and the country in this terrible crisis. But I trust and
      believe that the time will come when all will know the debt they owe you. 

      Moreover, the state of Maryland deserves a good bit of “blame” as Carroll
      is listed on their honor roll of women as a heroine of the state. And
      hasn’t Coryell, herself, written for years on Carroll; so she is
      perpetrating her story, too.

      Now as to the Tennessee River campaign, I am not the only person who
      disagrees with Coryell’s myth argument. Roy P. Basler, editor of Lincoln’s
      collected works, has written: “No other man or woman of the nineteenth
      century was more politically oriented or better trained in the law than
      Anna Ella Carroll. . . .[Professional historians]. . . have almost totally
      ignored her just claim [of submitting a plan for the Tennessee campaign],
      and left the writing of her biography to amateurs and novelists who perhaps
      go too far in seeking to redress her wrongful treatment.” (Safire:1098) To
      this day, professional historians barely note Halleck’s or Flag Officer
      Foote’s major commanding roles in the campaign, let alone Carroll’s.

      Moreover, Coryell’s own logic fails her. In the review she writes: “ No
      conclusive evidence exists that proves that Carroll had developed the
      strategy. Indeed, she herself credited a river boat pilot with the
      information at the close of the war.” Later: “Larson also seems to ignore
      the role in constructing the strategy that was played by Charles Scott, the
      river boat pilot who gave Carroll the information regarding the rivers, the
      way they flowed, and the logic of going up the Tennessee and Cumberland
      instead of down the Mississippi.” By crediting Scott as she does and
      discussing “the strategy”, Coryell, thus, argues there was a plan. Yet by
      crediting Scott, she only makes him the inheritor of Carroll’s credibility
      problems, as most writers of Civil War history largely credit Ulysses Grant
      with the Henry and Donelson victories. And she accords more credibility to
      a river boat pilot who told Anna Ella Carroll, a presidential adviser, that
      he was hesitant to write down technical information because he was not very
      literate? Her statement that I ignore Scott is untrue.

      Coryell infers that I ignore others involved in the campaign which is a
      gross inaccuracy as most of my 80 pages are taken up with quotes from those
      other players. For instance I raise the following points: Admiral Foote
      captured Fort Henry; Grant and his forces arrived later; Lincoln was
      receiving reports from Foote on the progress of the gunboat construction;
      Henry Halleck was in command of both Foote and Grant, sought the
      cooperation of Buell and wrote to McClellan that the true line of advance
      was the Tennessee River; Stanton had just been appointed secretary of war,
      yet people have failed to consider that he had a role in Western
      operations, even though the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys were both Lincoln
      and Stanton’s home sections. 

      Lincoln, Stanton, Halleck, Buell, Grant, Foote, three Scotts (also
      Winfield), and Wade are just part of the cast of players in the TRC. And
      yet when the only woman asks admittance to the cast, she is excluded and
      called a self-promoter. This is what people cannot buy and why the Carroll
      “myth” continues. This is particularly so since Carroll had access to most,
      if not all Cabinet members, and the President himself; and given that
      Carroll wrote closely reasoned constitutional pamphlets, it is extremely
      difficult to conceive that she was mentally incapable of developing a
      military plan. Further Carroll requested the interview with Pilot Scott,
      specifically questioned him about the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, and
      the information she received initially from him was largely technical,
      concerning navigability of the gunboats and transports. But she wrote the
      plan. And I criticize Carroll for arguing she was the first to think of a
      plan for the Tennessee. The importance of her plan was how it related to
      the campaign’s execution, as Halleck was already planning the move himself.
      Moreover, the Tennessee River plan was not the only military memo Carroll
      sent during the war; as I remember some were written in her own hand.

      At least twice I clearly state that Carroll was just one character in the
      cast of players in the decision-making surrounding the Tennessee River
      campaign. It was a collective effort on the part of the Lincoln
      administration. So the news of the chapter is not Carroll’s story, but that
      my research provides information on the roles of Lincoln, Stanton, and
      Thomas Scott. It shows that Washington was heavily involved in the planning
      and the campaign cannot just be credited to Grant. So rather than
      perpetrating Carroll’s “myth” I actually partly debunk it. Yet I show how
      Lincoln truly rose to the role of commander-in-chief.

      Finally, again Coryell states, “no conclusive evidence” exists of Carroll’s
      plan. It is true; there is no extant original. However, Carroll had a
      witness to her interview with Pilot Scott: Judge Lemuel Evans of Texas, a
      secret agent dispatched by Seward to the West, who had known Carroll for
      many years. So Wade, Thomas Scott, and Evans all gave testimony that
      Carroll developed a military plan based on Pilot Scott’s data which she
      submitted to Thomas Scott and AG Edward Bates. Is this not evidence? Don’t
      persons’ sworn testimonies and affidavits count? As for Pilot Scott, he
      testified that he met two secret agents (Evans and Carroll) in a hotel and
      blurted his plan out to them within minutes, but on query from a Committee
      member explained he didn’t take his plan to Grant for whom he worked,
      because at that point in the war, he didn’t know who was loyal. Credible?
      It appeared the Committee didn’t believe him. Moreover, Wade’s handwritten
      letters to Carroll support her. In 1876, Carroll’s papers were “abstracted”
      from congressional files and thus lost. Wade wrote: “Tell them [members of
      the committee] how your papers were abstracted from the files twice. . .
      .Tell Judge Evans to ask the general [Banning] to appoint a subcommittee to
      investigate it. . . “ Perhaps this is where one of the originals went. In
      1877, Wade stated: “. . .when I reflect what mighty work you have done for
      the country and how you have been treated it keeps me awake nights and
      fills my soul with bitterness.”

      My “inadequate’ research uncovered one good piece of evidence as to the
      existence of the original plan.  The following is the verbatim text of the
      Whittlesey letter in his own handwriting, copied from Carroll’s papers:

                                      Treasury Department
                                      Comptroller’s Office

                                      August 1, 1862

      Miss Anna Ella Carroll,
          No. 373 Pennsylvania Avenue

                      My dear Friend

                                      This will be acompanied by the original of your article, filed
      “[illeg.] Plan for a Campaign up the Tennessee River, Laid before Thos. A.
      Scott, Asst. Secty. of War, Nov. 30th 1861.
                      By Anna Ella Carroll

      which you handed to me this morning, which I have caused to be copied as
      requested [illeg.] copy is sent to you also. My friend and old
      acquaintance, Caleb Atwater, Esq., now of Cleveland, Ohio read the article
      with great pleasure and satisfaction.

                                  Most respectfully Yours,
                                        Elisha Whittlesey

      So here is testimony of someone who saw the original. Not only did Evans,
      Thos. Scott, and Wade support Carroll, but every military committee except
      one reported in her favor. I, like Coryell, criticize Carroll for making
      the TRC plan the centerpiece of her claim to the government as it just
      provoked opposition. She should have based her claim mostly on the money
      owed her by the government for writing, producing, and distributing her
      pamphlets throughout Maryland and Washington, as well as her overall gratis
      services to the government. As Thomas Scott stated, he made an oral
      agreement with Carroll for the writings under his “general authority” as
      assistant secretary of war which would have been a binding contract.
      It is the testimonies of such credible persons such as Wade and Scott, plus
      the suspect male-only-club that others have tried to sell, that keeps the
      Carroll “myth” alive. It’s just not believable that Wade and Scott would
      lie about Carroll to Congress. Moreover, to believe that Carroll carried on
      a charade for such a long period would make her one of the biggest con
      artists of all times. Her dupes would have included not only Evans, Wade,
      and Scott, but every member of every military committee who voted in her
      favor and many members of Congress, many of whom were former generals;
      Susan B. Anthony and the suffragists who supported her; many GAR and WRC
      posts and friends of President Garfield, if not the president himself.

      Finally, as to my general competency in writing this history, may I suggest
      that my background in executive government positions and politics, that
      also has included significant roles in four presidential campaigns, added a
      multi-disciplinary professional view that academic historians lack?. For
      instance in researching the TRC, my government experience told me that when
      a big decisions is made, everyone is in on it, so I took a lateral cut
      across the Lincoln administration cabinet and executive office; army, navy,
      and congressional records; as well as diaries and private papers to try to
      determine the whole sequence of the decision-making both in Washington and
      the West. This is what the 80 pages of that chapter describe. As to women’s
      history, Coryell is not the only one I’ve read who has criticized authors
      for not giving enough feminist background to women leaders, thus
      discrediting their works to a degree. I contributed only some background,
      because Carroll operated in a man’s world and mine is really a book about
      politics and war, not gender theory. For the past fifteen years, I also
      have been a close student of military history. If Coryell had cast a wider
      net herself she would have found that I helped bring to light the women
      soldiers of the Civil War and have published the only military history of
      women in World War II (‘Til I Come Marching Home, Minerva Press, 1995)
      along with other World War II works. And does Coryell really think that my
      TRC chapter was not reviewed by military historians who are more than
      up-to-date on the historiography of the war?

      Readers will be able to make their own judgments about Carroll and me as I
      have provided lengthy verbatim quotes in the book, along with other
      evidence.  For those who would like to immediately read the Tennessee River
      Chapter, go to the website of the NY Military Affairs Symposium,
      www.nymas.org to find the full text document. Thank you for your attention

      C. Kay Larson
      author, Great Necessities
      10 April 2005
      Regards from the Garden State,
      Steve Basic
    • Bob Huddleston
      Thanks. The really cool thing about internet reviews is that the reviewer is not limited by length -- nor is the author making a rebuttal! And hopefully, H-War
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 13, 2005
        Thanks. The really cool thing about internet reviews is that the reviewer is not limited by length -- nor is the author making a rebuttal!
        And hopefully, H-War being what it is, Ms. Larson's response will trigger a nice debate!

        Take care,


        Judy and Bob Huddleston
        10643 Sperry Street
        Northglenn, CO  80234-3612
        303.451.6376  Huddleston.r@...


        From: basecat1@... [mailto:basecat1@...]
        Sent: Wednesday, April 13, 2005 11:50 PM
        To: cwdg@yahoogroups.com; civilwarwest@yahoogroups.com; gettysburg@...
        Cc: cklarson@...
        Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: [cwdg] FW: Review: Coryell on Larson, _Great Necessities: The Life, Times...

        Evening all,
        Last month, esteemed member Bob Huddleston posted a review on Kay Larson's recent book on the life of Anna Ella Carroll.  As those who read it know, the reviewer was not all to favorable towards the book.  Kay is a friend of mine from the NYC Roundtable and while she is not a member of these online groups, I think it is only fair that her response to Professor Coryell should be posted.
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