Civil War Wiki

Anna Ella Carroll (August 29, 1815, near Pokomoke City, Maryland, United States – February 19, 1894, Washington, D.C.) was an American politician, pamphleteer and lobbyist. She played a significant role as advisor to the Lincoln cabinet during the American Civil War.[1]

File:Anna Ella Carroll.jpg

Anna Ella Carroll, 1815 - 1894

Early life[]

Anna Carroll was born in 1815 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland into a prominent upper class, mixed Catholic-Protestant family.[1]

Her father was Thomas King Carroll, who served as Maryland governor in 1830 and was owner of a 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) tobacco plantation in Somerset County. She was the eldest of eight children and was educated and trained by her father to be his aide and likely tutored in the law by him. This allowed her access into the male world of politics.[1] Anna contributed to her family’s income by establishing a girls’ school at their home, Kingston Hall. However little is known about her life between the ages of twenty and thirty-five.[2]

1850s political career[]

Carroll entered the national political arena in the 1850s, following her father's appointment as Naval Officer for the District of Baltimore by Whig President Zachary Taylor. Shortly thereafter, Taylor died and Carroll's commission was signed by Millard Fillmore. In 1854, Carroll joined the American Party (the Know Nothing Party) following the demise of the Whigs. At the time much political realigning was going on nationwide. The same year the Republican party was formed and the Southern proslavery Democrats were to take over the control of their leadership in Congress due to the defeat of many Northern Democrats following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill in May. In Maryland, large numbers of immigrants, largely German and Irish Catholics, had flooded into Baltimore following the famines of the 1840s, taking work in the port and railroad yards. Due to this rapid urbanization, street crime became a problem and relief rolls rose. At the same time planters were a strong force in the state with many Catholic and Episcopalian ones residing on the Eastern Shore. Indeed the Catholic Church [Catholic Church] owned a large number of slaves in the state. In 1853, the Maryland Know Nothing party was formed, initially, from three nativist groups. Yet beginning in February, it took in large numbers of striking laborers from the ironworks factory in Baltimore who the Democratic party had refused to support. Thus in opposing the proslavery Democrats, the Know Nothings became the most powerful and progressive party in the state, being not proslavery, pro-Union, and prolabor.

Along with other reformers, Carroll campaigned against urban machine corruption, crime, and what was perceived as the political threat of the power of the Catholic Church. In Maryland the Catholic planter/urban vote could combine to establish a proslavery state government. In 1856, the party then split nationally into Northern and Southern factions due to the slavery issue. During the 1856 presidential election, Carroll supported and campaigned on behalf of Fillmore, the South American/Whig candidate writing many articles and pamphlets and touring the Northeast on his behalf. Considered a moderate, Fillmore carried the state of Maryland, the only one he won.

For the 1856 campaign, Carroll published two party books that greatly extended her political and press contacts: The Great American Battle, or, The Contest Between Christianity and Political Romanism and The Star of the West, and influential pamphlets such as "The Union of the States". The former book was a virulent criticism of the political influence of the Roman Catholic Church under the papacy of Pius IX (see anticlericalism). In 1857 Carroll was the chief publicist for Governor Thomas H. Hicks of Maryland and he credited his victory to her writings. In 1858, she took up the cause of former Congressman John Minor Botts, a Unionist from Virginia, in his presidential bid. She wrote a series of articles in the _New York Evening Express_ newspaper on the 1860 candidates under the pseudonym "Hancock." Others over time appeared in the influential National Intelligencer, among other venues.

Secession role[]

With the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860, Carroll freed her own slaves and turned her activities toward opposition to the secession of the Southern states and keeping Maryland loyal. Lincoln’s election set off the secession movement out of the Union which began with South Carolina’s exit on December 20, 1860. In February 1861, the Confederate government was formed in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time Carroll was advising Governor Thomas H. Hicks on compromise efforts in the Congress and sending intelligence on Confederate plans that may have resulted in a coup d’etat of Washington, D.C. had Maryland seceded, once Virginia went out.

During the summer of 1861, Carroll wrote a political pamphlet in response to a speech given on the floor of the senate by the Hon. John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky who argued that Lincoln had acted in violation of the Constitution by mustering state militias into service following the bombardment of Fort Sumter, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and imposing martial law and a naval blockade. In her _Reply_ pamphlet that was widely circulated by the Lincoln administration, Carroll made informed legal arguments, later used by Attorney General Edward Bates, stating that Lincoln had acted in accordance with the United States Constitution. As the chief enforcement officer of the nation, Lincoln could use all his powers to enforce federal law in the Southern states. Those powers included his role as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Thus, Carroll justified the call for volunteers and the use of the army and navy to put down the War of the Rebellion, as the Civil War is officially referred to by the United States government. The authorship of these pamphlets constitute Carroll's true historical importance in an era when few women were educated in legal matters or constitutional theory.[3] Under a verbal agreement made with the government, by 1862 Carroll had produced three more war powers pamphlets that presented able constitutional arguments supporting the federal government’s actions. Governor Hicks wrote that her documents did more to elect a Union man as his successor than “all the rest of the campaign documents together.”

Wartime role[]

In the fall of 1861, Carroll traveled to St. Louis to work with secret agent, Judge Lemuel Dale Evans, who had been appointed by Secretary of State William H. Seward, to assess the feasibility of an invasion of Texas. Carroll worked on her second war powers paper at the Mercantile Library where she sleuthed out information from the head librarian who was Confederate General Joe Johnston’s brother. She took military matters into her own hands when she initiated an interview with a riverboat pilot Capt. Charles M. Scott about the feasibility of the planned Union Mississippi River expedition. Scott informed her that he and other pilots thought the advance ill conceived because there were many defensible points on the Mississippi River that could be reinforced and it could take years just to open it up to navigation. Carroll then questioned Scott about the feasibility of the use of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers for a Union invasion. Scott provided Carroll technical navigation details. Based on this information Carroll wrote a memorandum that she sent to Assistant Secretary of War Thomas A. Scott and Attorney General Edward Bates in late November 1861, advocating that the combined army-navy forces change their invasion route from the Mississippi to the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. Scott took the plan to Lincoln who deemed the plan viable, although no actual documentary evidence of this meeting exists. Evidence indicates that on the advice of Senator Benjamin F. Wade, chairman of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, Lincoln appointed Edwin Stanton secretary of war in January 1862 to implement the Tennessee River plan. Lincoln scholar Doris Kearns Goodwin, on the other hand, argues in her Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, that Lincoln chose Stanton to replace the crooked Simon Cameron on the advice of Secretary of State William Henry Seward and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase, surprising the entire Cabinet with his selection, having consulted no one but Seward and Chase, the latter of whom claimed full credit for the choice of Stanton.[4]

Meanwhile in St. Louis, Major General Henry W. Halleck was planning the same movement without Lincoln’s knowledge. Upon learning that Confederates were possibly sending reinforcements west from Virginia, Halleck ordered Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant and Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote to immediately move on Fort Henry and Fort Donelson on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers in a telegram dated January 30. Scott was dispatched to the Midwest to mobilize reinforcements for Halleck on the night of January 29. On February 6, Fort Henry fell to Foote’s gunboats and on February 13, Fort Donelson fell to Grant’s and Foote’s combined forces. These comprised the first two “real victories” of the Civil War for the Union as Gen. William Sherman wrote later. Thus Carroll’s submission was critical to providing needed reinforcements for Grant and to gaining Stanton the appointment as secretary of war. At the time Carroll’s role in the effort was kept secret, and immediately following the war, she herself gave credit for the plan to Capt. Charles Scott in a letter printed in a leading Washington newspaper,[5] but years later Assistant Secretary of War Scott and Senator Wade testified to it before Congress.

File:Emancipation proclamation.jpg

The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Francis Bicknell Carpenter , 1864. Showing the empty chair, believed by some to be an allusion to Carroll.

During the remainder of the war, Carroll worked with Lincoln on issues pertaining to colonization and emancipation. She and Aaron Columbus Burr lobbied him to establish a colony of freedmen in British Honduras, today Belize. Although Carroll had freed her own slaves, she lobbied Lincoln against issuing the Emancipation Proclamation fearing that support of Southern Unionists would be lost and resistance to the Union would be stiffened. But, she wrote that Lincoln did have the constitutional right to free the slaves as a temporary war measure under his power as commander-in-chief, since the proclamation would help cripple the organized forces of the rebellion. Yet the measure was not a transfer of title and would have to be suspended once the war emergency ended. To free the slaves required a constitutional amendment.

Postwar life and death[]

In the postwar years, Carroll traveled with Lemuel Evans to report on his role in the Texas constitutional convention to draw up a new state constitution. She was active in the Republican Party in Maryland and continued her political writing career. After 1870, however, her life was largely consumed trying to gain payment for $5,000 she insisted that the government still owed her for her wartime publications. She went through twenty years of congressional hearings. Every military committee but one voted in her favor, but no bills passed the Congress. She filed a claim in the United States Court of Claims in 1885, but was denied, Justice J. Nott writing that the documents she used to back up her claim were "impressive" but "valueless as blank paper" because "they establish no judicial fact."[6] Despite the rulings against her claim—or, more likely, because of those negative rulings—Carroll received support from women’s and suffrage organizations and a biography by Sarah Ellen Blackwell was commissioned by the suffragists in 1891.

Anna Ella Carroll died of Bright's disease, a kidney ailment, on February 19, 1894. She is buried at Old Trinity Church, near Church Creek, Maryland, beside her father, mother, and other members of her family. The epitaph on her grave reads, "A woman rarely gifted; an able and accomplished writer." [1] In 1959, the state historical society unveiled a monument to Carroll with the words, "Maryland’s Most Distinguished Lady. A Great humanitarian and close friend of Abraham Lincoln. She conceived the successful Tennessee Campaign and guided the President on his constitutional war powers."[2] Curiously, the gravestone has the wrong year—1893—as her date of death, but a Washington, D.C. death certificate lists the correct death year of 1894, and surviving letters in her writing exist from the same year.

Later evaluation[]

Well into the twentieth century, Carroll was hailed as a feminist heroine whose contributions were denied because of her sex. Some scholarship, however, has attempted to discredit her tale, arguing that she was more a "relentless self-promoter" than the "woman who saved the Union," as novelists, playwrights, and suffragists called her. Carroll had condemned the Emancipation Proclamation and recommended colonization of blacks. Yet research published in 2004 unveiled new sources, primarily Maryland political histories and Lincoln administration records, that analyze the Maryland Know Nothing party in a new progressive light and generally supports (but slightly diminishes) Carroll's role in the Tennessee River campaign,[7] especially since a plan nearly identical to Carroll's was printed in the New York Times two weeks prior to the date Carroll said she sent her plan to the War Department in Washington. Original sources found in Carroll's papers, housed in the Maryland State Archives, remain problematic as source material since many of them, purportedly from leading politicians of the time, are in her handwriting, a distinctive scrawl. The controversy over the legitimacy of Carroll's claims to fame serve as a reminder of the symbolic weight carried by women who live their lives differently from the norm.

See also[]

  • Carroll family


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Anna Ella Carroll Biography". Maryland Woman's Hall of Fame. Maryland State Archives. 2001. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Dr. William H. Wroten, Jr. History Professor, Salisbury State Teachers College (February 6, 1959). "Shore Woman Advised Lincoln In War Strife". Salisbury Times. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  3. Janet L. Coryell, Neither Heroine Nor Fool: Anna Ella Carroll of Maryland (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press), 55-64.
  4. Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2005, 410-414.
  5. Anna Ella Carroll, "Captain Charles M. Scott: Plan of the Tennessee Campaign," National Intelligencer, April 12, 1865.
  6. Anna Ella Carroll v. United States,' 20 Court of Claims 426 (Court of Claims 1885), 429-431.
  7. "The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Anne Ella Carroll". Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Brooklyn Museum. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 


  • Janet L. Coryell, Neither Heroine Nor Fool: Anna Ella Carroll of MarylandKent State University Press, isbn= 0873384059


  • Baltimore, Maryland. Maryland Historical Society, Library, Manuscripts Department, A. E. Carroll papers, 1822–1890, MS 1224; Carroll, Cradock, Jensen family papers, 1738–1968, MS 1976.
  • Carroll, Anna Ella. “Hancock” [pseud.] series, written for the 1860 presidential election, New York Evening Express, 23 June 1859, 8 July 1859, 15 July 1859, 5 September 1859.
  • _______________, Reply [to the speech of the Hon. John C. Breckinridge, delivered in the U.S. Senate, 16 July 1861]. Washington, D. C.: Henry Polkinhorn, 1861.
  • _______________. The Constitutional Power of the President to Make Arrests and Suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus Examined, in Blackwell, Vol. 2, The Life and Writings of Anna Ella Carroll.
  • _______________, The Great American Battle, or, the Contest between Christianity and Political Romanism. New York and Auburn, N. Y.: Miller, Orton & Milligan, 1856.
  • ________________. The Relation of the National Government to the Revolted Citizens Defined. Washington, D.C.: Henry Polkinhorn, 1862.
  • _______________. The Star of the West, or, National Men and National Measures. 3rd rev. ed. New York: Miller, Orton & Milligan, 1857.
  • _______________. The War Powers of the General Government. Washington, D. C.: Henry Polkinhorn, 1861.
  • Coryell, Janet L. "Anna Ella Carroll and the Historians," Civil War History 35 (June 1989): 120-137.
  • _________________. "Duty with Delicacy: Anna Ella Carroll of Maryland," Women in American Foreign Policy: Lobbyists, Critics and Insiders," ed. Edward Crapol. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987.
  • _________________. Neither Heroine Nor Fool: Anna Ella Carroll of Maryland. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1990.
  • Greenbie, Sydney, and Marjorie Barstow Greenbie, Anna Ella Carroll and Abraham Lincoln, Tampa: University of Tampa Press, 1952.
  • Washington, D. C., National Archives, Legislative Records Section, Anna Ella Carroll file (plus Carroll’s claims and memorials submitted to Congressional committees, printed privately by her).
  • Lincoln’s and Stanton’s papers, Congressional records, biographies of Thomas H. Hicks and Thomas A. Scott, and the official records of the U. S. Army and Navy during the Civil War, and more.

fr:Anna Ella Carroll