Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Civil War Oddities #75

Fanny Ricketts, wife of U.S. Army Captain James B. Ricketts, was in or near the capital at the time of the first battle of Bull Run. When her husband didn’t return with his unit, she persuaded Lt. General Winfield Scott to give her a pass that permitted her to go through Union lines to the site of the conflict. However, when she reached a Confederate outpost, Scott’s pass became worthless and it seemed that she would have to turn back.

Remembering her husband’s friendship with J. E. B. Stuart, she managed to contact at Fairfax Court House the professional soldier now wearing the uniform of a confederate colonel. Stuart gave her a pass that enabled her to go to the Manassas battlefield, held by victorious Confederates. Four days after the battle she found her husband in an improvised field hospital at the Lewis house, from which she accompanied him to Richmond, the Confederate capital.

These adventures would have been more than enough for many wives, but Fanny’s saga was just beginning. When Federal officers were being selected as hostages for Confederates charged with piracy, Richmond’s Libby Prison held an insufficient number of colonels and majors co complete the lottery. Ricketts was selected as one of the junior officers who were threatened with execution in the event that their Confederate counterparts should hang.

Fanny remained in Richmond, made friends with prison guards in order to gain visiting privileges, and was with her husband almost daily until he was exchanged for Julius A. de Lagnel in January 1862.