Remembering three courageous heroines during Women's History Month

Published in the Spotsylvania Presbyterian Church Post
by Michael Aubrecht, Copyright 2007

MARY ANN MONTGOMERY: Like many great men, behind Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was an even greater Christian woman whose name was Mary Ann Montgomery. Spiritually, Mary had a great influence on her husband, who was perhaps one of the most revered and feared participants in the War Between the States. After struggling to deal with the Confederacy's defeat, as well as its devastating effect on the South during the Reconstruction Era, Forrest dissolved his affiliations with several extremist groups including the Klu Klux Klan, and made a concerted effort to shake his persona as "That Devil Forrest." Mary Ann used her strength of faith to overcome her husband's anger and resentments. Forrest himself recounted her influence to a friend saying, "Major, I am not the same man you were with so long and knew so well. I hope I am a better man now than then. I have been and am trying to lead another kind of life. Mary has been praying for me night and day for all these years, and I feel now that through her prayers my life has been spared and I have passed safely through so many dangers." After his wife had convinced him to attend a sermon on a Sunday morning in 1875, Forrest sat and listened as the pastor read from Matthew 7:24-27, which presents Christ's lesson on the difference between a "passive or non-believer" who builds his house upon the sand - and a "devout believer" who builds his house upon the rock. When he had finished, Forrest went forward, shook the preacher's hand and said in reference to the man who built his house on the sand: "I am that man." The prayers of Mary Ann were answered. Nathan Bedford Forrest had come to Christ! He realized that all of his accomplishments, all of his victories and all of the religion in the world could not make him right with the Lord. Only Christ, the one foundation, could. From that day until his death in 1877, the "Wizard of the Saddle" lived each and every day for his Lord and Savior. If not for the unwavering loyalty and devotion of his wife, who knows what kind of man Forrest would have become.

MARY ANNA MORRISON: During the summer of 1857, the "future" Confederate General Thomas Jackson met a minister's beautiful young daughter named Mary Anna Morrison. She was a North Carolinian and like him, she lived for the glory of God. If anyone could have filled the void left by his first wife Elinor Junkin's passing, it was Mary. After a short courtship, the two were married and settled into a modest house in preparation to start a family. Less than one year after their wedding, Thomas and Mary were blessed with a baby girl they named Mary Graham. Despite a safe delivery, the infant developed an illness and passed away a few weeks later. At the time, it seemed incomprehensible that another childbirth catastrophe could occur in his lifetime. First, Thomas' mother passed away giving birth to his stepbrother. Then his first love and unborn son failed to survive delivery. Now his newborn daughter had been taken just a few weeks into her precious life. Despite his grief, Jackson steadied his spirit and believed that his time as a father would come. For most broken-hearted parents, the loss of a child is unbearable. For Thomas and Mary, it was a call to faith. They immediately turned to their Lord and the healing power of prayer. Both were Sunday school teachers and were committed to daily study of the Word. This routine would be repeated every day for the rest of their lives, whether they were together or apart. Following her husband's premature death and burial in Lexington, Virginia, Mary returned to her native North Carolina to raise their daughter Julia in peace. Faithful to the very end, she never remarried and wore the customary widow's weeds for the remainder of her life. After the untimely death of her daughter, who was still in her late-twenties, Mary took to the task of raising her two grandchildren and writing her memoirs as the wife of one of America's greatest generals. In 1898, she became the founder of the Stonewall Jackson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Charlotte, North Carolina and participated as an honorary president before reuniting with her beloved Thomas and their daughter in 1915.

EMELINE PIGOTT: In times of war, the act of espionage can become as valuable an asset to an army as its troops. History has recorded the legendary "cloak and dagger" episodes of many spies who put themselves in harm's way in order to support their "causes." During the Civil War, many women acted in this capacity, gathering information and insights from (and for) their male counterparts. One of the most revered of these undercover agents was a North Carolinian named Emeline Pigott. On the farm where she lived, ran a creek and just on the opposite side from the creek bank camped the soldiers of the Confederate 26th North Carolina Division, whose duty was to defend Carolina's coastline. It was here that Emeline volunteered her services to the Confederate States of America, helping the sick and wounded and at times even nursing the wounded back to health in her home. In addition, as the war progressed, she forwarded mail for the soldiers and stashed food, medical supplies and clothing in hollow trees designated for this purpose, to be picked up by them. As the conflict continued, Emeline began to gather intelligence information from Union soldiers that were sometimes entertained in her home. Legend has it that she would conceal as much as thirty pounds of supplies and documents while wearing an oversized hoop skirt. In 1862, the troops of the 26th North Carolina departed for the battlefields of Virginia, but Pigott stayed behind and continued to spy on the occupying Federal forces. Three years later, she and her brother-in-law, Rufus Bell were accused of espionage and arrested by the U.S. Army, who prosecuted them as spies. Both were taken to the Federal prison in New Bern, where they were put on trial, summarily convicted and finally sentenced to death. Mercifully, a short time later, her sentence was mysteriously suspended and she was released on parole. Following the end of the War Between the States, Emeline spent countless hours sharing the tales of her exciting exploits as a spy for the Confederacy. Passing away in 1916, she never revealed the circumstances surrounding her miraculous release, but gave credit to the Lord for blessing both her and her captors with mercy.

Excerpts taken from Michael's upcoming devotional entitled "The Southern Cross: 50 Inspirational, true-stories from the Civil War." This not-yet-released book features 40 vignettes, 10 essays, 5 period sermons, and over 60 photographs.



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