The Banishment of Mrs. Eggsleston

THE CITY OF VICKSBURG, MISSISSIPPI (1861) [1]

Technology is changing and rapidly improving so fast that most people cannot keep up with it. These improvements certainly help the digitization process of archival institutions who work to preserve history as their sole purpose. For many years there has been a mass movement to try to digitize all we possibly can, and we have made great progress in these efforts. Realistically speaking, the goal of digitizing most important documents, books, and media will never be achieved because there are not enough digital centers and archives.

Older records in years past were put on microfilm reels or microfiche to preserve them long term before the digital age. Many of these records have hidden gems buried inside them, just waiting to be discovered. Such was the case of this one specific collection surrounding the Civil War diary of a Mrs. Elizabeth Gildart Eggleston of Woodville, Mississippi.

December 1852
Fashion plate from the leading 19th century fashion magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book

When I was researching Civil War diaries for my Digital History class project last year, I wanted to find unique material. As a southern historian of sorts, I have read excerpts of many diaries over the years and own a few myself. I came across a microfilm collection entitled Southern Women and Their Families in the 19th Century: Papers and Diaries by Anne Firor Scott who was the consulting editor. Scott had authored the wonderful, researched book The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830–1930 and others as well, but preserving the history of important diaries and merging them all into one collection was one of her most important achievements.

As I was looking at this collection of diaries online, I noticed that the Roach and Eggleston Family Papers, 1825-1905 Collection mentioned living in Woodville and Vicksburg, Mississippi; so, I decided to look at this collection first.  Randomly, I began going through reels and reading expects of her diary and viewing her scrapbook, etc.  Toward the end of the collection, I noticed some Federal military documents from Vicksburg that puzzled me regarding Mrs. Eggleston. Upon further reading, I realized she had actually been banished for a period of time from Vicksburg. 

Mrs. Elizabeth Eggsleston and her family lived on Learmont Plantation near Woodville, Mississippi. This collection centers around Mrs. Eggsleston’s daughter Mahala P. H. Roach’s forty-nine volume diary of the years 1853-1905. Mahala writes about household chores; her family, including disciplining her children and conflicts with her mother; and focuses on social activities in Vicksburg. She also describes epidemics of yellow fever, cholera, and other sicknesses in Vicksburg

Note: The documents that I will be discussing are in a gallery for viewing at the end of the blog.

In 1864, the command of the District of Vicksburg was given to Union General Napoleon Dana.  Mrs. General Dana’s wife one day received a letter accusing Mrs. Eggleston of being a traitor which she gave to her husband. This anonymous unsigned and undated letter sent to Mrs. General Dana states:

“Dear Mrs. Dana, I am very much surprised that Gen. Dana is under the impression that I have been guilty of such a direct violations of his orders … [if he would] permit me to assure him on my honor of my innocence… Miss Roach visited the prison and offered to take out letters for those women. [She met a soldier outside the prison] and obtained a large sum of money from him. It was given to Mrs. Eggleston and she counted it out to those women in in jail … Miss Roach, Mrs. Eggleston, and the lady that carried out the fund are considered traitors, traitorous.” [2]

General Dana ordered the banishment of five women, including Mrs. Eggleston, for being a “general busybody with rebel interest, rebel philanthropist, mail receiver, carrier of smuggled funds to prisoners in jail…”[3]

Banishment Order of Mrs. Eggleston

"Head Quarters, District of Vicksburg
Vicksburg, Miss, November 22, 1864

General Orders No. 82

The following females will be takes charge of by the Commander of the Calvary Forces, in moving out tomorrow, and will be dropped and set at liberty at or beyond the Big Black. They are prohibited from returning within Union lines during the war.

Mrs. G. Fowkes, rebel sympathizer, mail carrier, & c.
Mrs. Mary Green, rebel mail carrier and sympathizer.
Mrs. Ada De moss, rebel mail carrier, sympathizer, and suspect spy.
Mrs. Shuler, smuggler by association and practice.
Mrs. Eggleston, general busybody with rebel interest, rebel philanthropist, mail receiver, carrier of smuggled funds to prisoners in jail, & c. & c.

Provost Marshal is charged with the execution of this order. By the order of Major General N. J. T. Dana: F.W. Fox, Assistant Adjutant General
Official: Assistant Adjutant General

You had better improve this as a lesson and tend to your own business in the future, and let Rebels and other prisoners in jail, as well as rebels outside, find some one else than you to represent their interests." [4]

Mrs. M. P. H. Roach pleads on behalf of her mother Mrs. Eggleston to General Dana in the letter below:

“Vicksburg, Jany 11th 1865
Maj General Dana

My Dear Sir
… I would deem myself deficient in a daughters love and duty, did I not intercede for my Mother’s pardon, and beg you to permit her to come back to us. I have nothing to plead in extenuation of the many offenses charges against her, save that she did not carry large amounts of money to the female prisons; eighty dollars was the amount she took; openly, and with the fearlessness of innocence she gave that sum to the women, merely to procure some additional comforts. … she gave no ‘aid or comfort’ to the rebels, save to those who were powerless even to help themselves; to prisoners, and the sick; nor, in her philanthropy, did she as whether those who needed her care wore a blue, or a gray coat. She was open and above board in all her dealings; the ‘rebel mail’ which she received had been first approved by the U.S. authorities, and was never transmitted to the families of prisoners, without having gone through the proper formalities here. She never sought to give ‘information to the enemy.’ It is her nature to be busy-body for the good and comfort of others … spent in the service of her Master, doing His work where ever she found it, in hospitals, in prisons, or by the couch of the sick she had caused to be brought to her humble home…
I appeal to you General, by the tenderest feelings of your heart…

Mrs. M. P. H. Roach” [5]

Mrs. Elizabeth Eggleston was allowed to return to Vicksburg a few weeks after her daughter’s letter to General Dana.

"Head Quarters District of Vicksburg,
Vicksburg, Miss., Jany 22. 1865

Mrs. Roach
Madam
I am instructed by Major Gen C. C. Washburn to inform you that Mrs. Eggleston has person from Maj Gen Dana to return to Vicksburg, upon her taking the oath of allegiance.

I am Madam
Your Obt. Serv't
Major & A. A. G.

Gen. Dana's permission for Mother to return.
Jany 27th '65" [6]

As a rule, banishment was used as punishment for people that were disloyal to the Union. This made showing kindness or bringing aid to Confederate prisoners of war difficult. Finding these papers on ‘banishment of women’ in the Confederacy was something you do not normally hear or read about during the Civil War era when cities were under Union military rule. This is just one example with due diligence the wonderful forgotten gems of history you can discover.


[1] Harper’s Weekly. (1861, February 9). Vicksburg, Mississippi. Harper’s Weekly, Volume V (no 215), page 89. Retrieved from http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war-feb-1861/civil-war-vicksburg.htm.

[2] Roach family., & Eggleston family. (1830). Roach and Eggleston family papers, 1830-1905.

[3] Roach family., & Eggleston family. (1830). Roach and Eggleston family papers, 1830-1905.

[4] Roach family., & Eggleston family. (1830). Roach and Eggleston family papers, 1830-1905.

[5] Roach family., & Eggleston family. (1830). Roach and Eggleston family papers, 1830-1905.

[6] Roach family., & Eggleston family. (1830). Roach and Eggleston family papers, 1830-1905.

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