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Mrs. Constance Cary Harrison

Constance Cary Harrison (April 25, 1843 - November 21, 1920), was a prolific American writer. She was also known as Constance Cary, Constance C. Harrison, and Mrs. Burton Harrison, as well as her nom de plume, "Refugitta." She was married to Burton Harrison, a lawyer and American democratic politician. With two cousins she was known as the "Cary Invincibles"; the three sewed the first examples of the Confederate Battle Flag.


Constance Cary was born at Port Gibson, Mississippi,[1] into an aristocratic family, to Archibald Cary and Monimia Fairfax. Archibald Cary was the son of Wilson Jefferson Cary and Virginia Randolph.[2] Monimia Fairfax was the daughter of Thomas Fairfax, 9th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. Archibald Cary was a subscriber to the Monticello Graveyard (1837).[3] They lived at Cumberland, Maryland, where he was editor of its leading newspaper, The Cumberland Civilian. When he died in 1854, her mother, Monimia, moved the family, in with her grandmother at Vaucluse Plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia, until the outbreak of the Civil War.[4]

Civil War years[]

After the seizure of Vaucluse and its demolition (to construct Fort Worth, as a part of the defenses of Washington, D.C.) she lived in Richmond, Virginia during the American Civil War and moved in the same set as Varina Davis, Mary Boykin Chesnut, and Virginia Clay-Clopton. She became published in Southern magazines under the pen name "Refugitta."[5]

Constance Cary lived with her Baltimore cousins, Hetty and Jennie; her mother served as the girls' chaperone. The three young ladies became known as the "Cary Invincibles."[6] In September, 1861, they sewed the first examples of the Confederate Battle Flag following a design created by William Porcher Miles and modified by General Joseph E. Johnston. According to her own account, one flag was given to General Joseph E. Johnson, one to Confederate general P. G. T. Beauregard, and hers to Confederate general Earl Van Dorn.[7] Later during the war, she assisted her mother as a nurse at Camp Winder.[8]

She later met Burton Harrison (1838–1904), a private secretary for Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and helped win his release from Fort Delaware after the War's end.

After the war[]

In 1865, she wintered in Paris, with her mother. In 1866 Harrison had settled in New York City. She and Harrison were married on November 26, 1867, St. Anne's Church, in Westchester County, New York; the wedding breakfast was at Old Morrisana, the country home of her uncle, Gouverneur Morris.[9] He held various public offices, and she wrote and was active in the city’s social scene.[1] They were the parents of Fairfax Harrison (March 13, 1869 - February 2, 1938), who was a President of the Southern Railway Company, and Francis Burton Harrison (December 13, 1873- November 22, 1957), who served as a Governor-General of the Philippines.

Among her other contributions to American Literature, Constance Cary Harrison persuaded her friend Emma Lazarus to donate a poem to the fundraising effort to pay for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.[10]

In 1871, the Harrisons first visited Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island, Maine, staying at the cottage of Captain Royal George Higgins.[11] Sometime in the 1880s, they commissioned Arthur Rotch of the architectural firm Rotch & Tilden to build a seaside cottage called Sea Urchins, with a garden designed by Beatrix Farrand.[12] The property now is owned by the College of the Atlantic, transformed into Deering Common, student center.[13] Sea Urchins was the center of hospitality during the "Gilded Age" in Bar Harbor and she entertained many noted visitors there, including friend and neighbor James G. Blaine, who lived at Stanwood. The Harrison's winter home was a mansion on East 29th Street, New York.[9]

Constance Cary Harrison died in Washington, D.C., in 1920, at the age of 77.


The works of Constance Cary Harrison include:

Magazine articles and stories[]

Other proseHarrison, Constance Cary (1895). "American Rural Festivals". The Century; a popular quarterly (The Century Company) 50 (3): 323–333. Retrieved 2008-11-28. []


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Mrs. Constance Cary Harrison," in Raymond, Ida; Mary Tardy (1870). Southland Writers: Biographical and Critical Sketches of the Living Female Writers of the South. With Extracts from Their Writings, Vol. 2. Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger. pp. 775. 
  2. Pecquet du Bellet, Louise; Edward Jaquelin, Martha Cary Jaquelin (1907). Some Prominent Virginia Families, Vol. 2. Bell. p. 81. 
  3. McMurdo Whitemore, Madeline. "The Monticello Graveyard 1837–1883". The Monticello Association. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  4. Pecquet du Bellet, Louise; Edward Jaquelin, Martha Cary Jaquelin (1907). Some Prominent Virginia Families, Vol. 2. Bell. p. 180. 
  5. Template:Cite paper
  6. "Catherine Elizabeth Townsend". Antebellum Richmond: Angels of the Confederacy. College of William and Mary. 1995. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  7. Constance Cary Harrison, "Virginia Scenes in '61," in Johnson, Robert Underwood; Clarence Clough Buel (1887-1888). Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. 1. New York: Century. pp. 160–166.  165.
  8. Harrison, Constance Cary (1911). Recollections Gay and Grave. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 182. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Miss Burton Harrison". Famous Women Authors. 1901. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  10. Harrison, Recollections Grave and Gay, 314.
  11. Harrison, Recollections Grave and Gay, 349.
  12. [1]
  13. [2]

References and external links[]