Military Biography Civil War Hero Anna Ella Carroll Part 1

About the lesser-known Civil War hero Anna Ella Carroll, history and biography of the woman whose military tactics helped win the war.



In November, 1861, the U.S. stood on the brink of dissolution. A petite Southern woman with red hair, blue eyes, and irrepressible spirit devised a brilliant military plan which saved it. The woman's name was Anna Ella Carroll.

Anne, as she was called, was born on Aug. 29, 1815, to Juliana and Thomas Carroll. She grew up on a 2,000-acre tobacco plantation in Somerset County, Md., where she spent her childhood canoeing down the twisting Maryland streams. Unknowingly, she was preparing herself for the formulation of a strategy--called the Tennessee River plan-which would turn the tide in the Civil War.

Anne was taught at home, and her first reading lessons were from Laws of Maryland. As soon as she knew her ABCs, she perfected her reading by doggedly going through her father's entire collection of law books. Years later, in a time of unprecedented national emergency, her astute legal reasoning would enable the president to utilize implied constitutional powers.

When her father was elected governor of Maryland, 15-year-old Anne entered the political circles in which she was to render incalculable service as adviser to politicians and presidents. By age 25, she was caught up in Whig party politics and campaigned alongside two young men who were to figure importantly in her life--Abraham Lincoln and Presbyterian minister Robert Breckinridge. Anne's friendship with Breckinridge bordered on romance, but toward his nephew, Kentucky Sen. John C. Breckinridge, she felt nothing but hostility. In the early days of the Civil War, Senator Breckinridge accused Lincoln of starting the war and usurping congressional power by increasing the army and navy and illegally suspending the writ of habeas corpus. With indignation and devastating logic, Anne wrote her "Reply to Breckinridge," a carefully reasoned document outlining the war powers of the president and exposing the senator as a conspirator against the Union. John C. Breckinridge was subsequently expelled from the Senate as a traitor.

Lincoln had been close friends with Anne for years, and it was to her that he turned during the difficult summer of 1861. Anne became known as Lincoln's unofficial cabinet member, helping to fill in for his lack of military expertise. By November, 1861, the situation had become desperate for the Union. The Confederacy was strongly entrenched in a line sloping westward from the Potomac River along the western border of Maryland to the eastern border of Kansas, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

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