Lizinka Ewell – Southern Unionist?

26 03 2009

In this post I discussed an entry in the Oxford Guide to American Military History in which the contributor indicated that Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell was removed from command of the Army of Northern Virginia’s 2nd Corps in 1864 in part because of his wife Lizinka Brown Ewell’s “increasing Unionist sentiments”.  Not recalling ever coming across this in my readings before, I fired off a note to Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP Chief Historian John Hennessy, and asked if he could forward a link to my post to his colleague Donald Pfanz, who wrote The Book on Ewell.  Mr. Pfanz was good enough to respond and give his permission to post his note here.

Dear Mr. Smeltzer,

John Hennessy passed along your inquiry about Lizinka Ewell and her supposed Unionist sentiments.  Lizinka was definitely not a Unionist.  In fact, she outfitted an entire Confederate company at the outset of the Civil War.  She was, however, a practical woman, and early in 1865 when she saw that the South was “up the spout” and that it was only a matter of time before the Confederacy collapsed, she and her daughter fled to the North in an apparent effort to save what she could of her property.  Instead, she ended up under house arrest in St. Louis, where she stayed with a cousin, Thomas T. Gantt, who had been on McClellan’s staff earlier in the war.  (There must have been some interesting conversations in the household during that period!)

Lee transferred Ewell out of the army because he lacked faith in him and preferred to have Jubal Early lead the Second Corps.   (Lee also realized that with Longstreet’s wounding Ewell would take command of the army if anything happened to him.)   I am not completely satisfied in my own mind why Lee harbored doubts as to Ewell’s ability to command the corps.  It may have had something to do with Ewell’s adolescent behavior in the winter of 1863-4, his loss of temper at the Bloody Angle, or Lizinka’s overbearing conduct at headquarters.   It didn’t have anything to do with disloyalty on Lizinka’s part, however.

Don Pfanz

That’s good enough for me.  Thanks, Mr. Pfanz, for taking the time to respond. 



6 responses

26 03 2009
Brett Schulte - TOCWOC

Interesting news Harry and definitely as close to the final word on the subject as you can get. One of the amazing side benefits of starting a Civil War blog, and one I had no idea would happen, is that I’ve corresponded with so many authors of Civil War books and learned a great deal in the process.


26 03 2009
Chris Evans

Thanks for posting that Harry,
I think that it had to do with the way Ewell performed and acted during the early phases of the Overland campaign than anything else. You really go to the best sources to get the answers to your questions with people like Hennessey and Pfanz. Also the question got me looking through Campbell Brown again. I think it is a really interesting book, kind of reminds me of Porter Alexander.
Thanks again,


27 03 2009
Will Hickox

So I trust I won’t be alone in chucking my copy of the Oxford Guide to American Military History? (Kidding.) Fascinating topic and post.


27 03 2009

Oh, thank goodness… glad to see that misunderstanding in Southern Unionism was averted…


30 03 2009

The surface answer often cited for Ewell’s removal from command was the lingering effects of the 2nd Manassas wound. Personally I wonder if Lee, like a gambler at the table, wished to put a new pair of dice in play to change his luck a bit. Interesting that while Early brought some success, ultimately it was Ewell who was fighting to the end (at Sailor’s Creek) while Early was working his way to Tampico dressed like a farmer.


30 03 2009
Harry Smeltzer

One thing I’ve always found curious about the notion that Lee was going with a “more aggressive” commander in Early: in the two instances for which Ewell is criticized for “timiditiy” or “indicisiveness”, Cemetery/Culp’s Hill on July 1 at Gettysburg and Day 2 in the Wilderness, he was supported, even influenced in his decisions by none other than division commander Early. I have real trouble getting past that.


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