Saturday, November 12, 2022

Lizzie Alsop's Civil War


Elizabeth Maxwell Alsop Wynne (1846-1933)

Elizabeth Alsop's diary is in the Virginia Historical Society where we can assume this photograph resides. She's a young teenager here, wearing the off-the-shoulder fashion girls wore until they "came out."

Virginian Lizzie Alsop began keeping a diary at 15 years old in 1862 when she was a student at Richmond's Southern Female Institute, but war intervened with her education and she returned to her parents' home in Fredericksburg, Virginia in time for the Union occupation of the town (April through the end of 1862.)  The wealthy family left the city for about a month in December, 1862, perhaps going to her mother's family's plantation Fenton near Warrenton.

Fredericksburg during the War

When the war began Joseph and Sarah Ann French Alsop had 5 children ranging from a ten year old girl to boys in their twenties who served in the Confederate Army (and survived.) They maintained about 50 slaves at their country and city houses. Returning to the the Fredericksburg house at the end of the year Lizzie described it as, 

"very much injured, every room rendered not inhabitable except two. …When any one asks Father how much they injured him he says I can tell you much better what they left, than what they destroyed. However we fared better than some....[I] find destruction less than I had anticipated; true almost every room has a ball through it and the garden is much torn to pieces."

Collection of the Gettysburg National Park
David English Henderson painted a picture of what could
 very well be the Alsops and their three daughters
 in "The Return to Fredericksburg After the Battle."

The adolescent view of war's depredations often
focuses on material goods, like this guitar with no strings.

Another Fredericksburg Confederate complained: They...put their wounded on the feather beds, which are consequently all stained up...cut up the sewing machine, & threw the wooden part into the garden, but carried off the machinery."

Lizzie sewed nearly every day during the war but did not mention patchwork or quilts except for one diary entry: "August 22, 1862. I am making a chair bottom of patch-work, and like it exceedingly."

She worked on clothing for herself but doesn't specify many other projects. Her housework increased as her enslaved household help ran away.
“Three of our servants have already left, viz; Georgianna, Mary Ann, and John. The others can leave whenever they feel so disposed."  May 25, 1862
She faced defeat in April, 1865:
“How hard it is! How hard! Seeing them (our enemies) walking our streets, forcing our grey-headed fathers to take the oath [of allegiance to the Union]; and feeling that our cause is lost." 

The Journal of Elizabeth Maxwell Alsop Wynne, 1862–1926 is in the Virginia Historical Society's collection of Wynne Family Papers, 1809- 1967. ( Mss1 W9927) It has not been transcribed to read on line but Andrew Talkov's 2013 Master's Thesis features a transcription viewable here:

See Lizzie's Find-a-Grave site:

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