I just posted the story of Rebecca Wright over at Southern Unionists Chronicles (please take some time to “stroll” over there and read it, as it’s pretty interesting… and that includes time spent looking critically at Col. Bean’s efforts to… it seemed at points… add unnecessary drama in his postwar version of the story), but in the wake of that… or rather… in the wake of sifting through that particular section of Phil Sheridan’s Personal Memoirs, I ran into yet another encounter with Winchester Unionists… and again… young women who were Southern Unionists.
Just after entering town [Gen. George] Crook and I met, in the main street, three young girls, who gave us the most hearty reception. One of these young women was a Miss Griffith, the other two Miss Jennie and Miss Susie Meredith. During the day they had been watching the battle from the roof of the Meredith residence, with tears and lamentations, they said, in the morning when misfortune appeared to have overtaken the Union troops, but with unbounded exultation when, later, the tide set in against the Confederates. Our presence was, to them, an assurance of victory, and their delight being irrepressible, they indulged in the most unguarded manifestations and expressions. When cautioned by Crook, who knew them well [as you may note from the story about Rebecca Wright, Gen. Crook seemed to be quite familiar with Winchester’s Unionists], and reminded them that the valley had hitherto been a race-course – one day in the possession of friends, and the next of enemies – and warned of the dangers they were incurring by such demonstrations, they assured him that they had no further fears of that kind now, adding that Early’s army was so demoralized by the defeat it had just sustained that it would never be in condition to enter Winchester again. As soon as we had succeeded in calming the excited girls a little I expressed a desire to find some place where I could write a telegram to General Grant informing him of the result of the battle, and General Crook conducted me to the home of Miss Wright, where I met for the first time the woman who had contributed so much to our success, and on a desk in her school-room wrote the dispatch announcing that we had sent Early’s army whirling up the valley.
Alright, so, this actually cleared-up my doubt of Col. Bean’s account of Sheridan visiting Wright’s home after victory in the Battle of Opequon (the 1867 Sheridan letter just made it sound like he never got to thank her, and she wasn’t aware of her contribution to the battle). But really, that’s not my point in writing this short post. Rather, I’m curious as to who these three young ladies were.
First up, I looked into the surname “Meredith” in the 1860 census for Frederick County… and viola… I found… one family by that name. Yet, there was no Susie. There was, however, a young lady, Lucy D. Meredith, who would have been about 20 years old at the time. She also had two younger sisters, Virginia F.*, and Fannie B.
Ah-ha! “Virginia”! Could this be the “Miss Jennie” to whom Sheridan had referred? While older sister Lucy would have been 20, “Jennie” would have been 18 at the time.
As you can see, the “Meredith girls” were the daughters of James Meredith**, a local silversmith/jeweler (I’ve seen a spoon of his on the auction block, online), and Elizabeth*. But… ahhh, I see the names of two male siblings (well, at least one may be a sibling) who were of the right age to have been plucked for Confederate service. Is it any coincidence that neither Franklin E. or Charles B. appear on any muster rolls for Confederate units from Virginia?
As for the “Miss Griffith”… well, there were no families by that name in Winchester as of 1860, but there were a couple families out in the county by that name. Only two families had what might be considered “young girls” at the time… the families of Aaron H. and Mary P. Griffith, and James H. and Jane R. Griffith. In fact, one of James’ daughter was named “Virginia”… which may well have been the “Miss Jennie” mentioned by Sheridan.
Granted, these details are probably considered rather small and insignificant to some, but they do raise my curiosity, and set me down a path looking to see if I can find any other details that may tell me more about these families, and if they really were Unionists. Do they, for example, appear anywhere in the Unionist claims… either as applicants, or simply just as families mentioned by other claimants… as those known to be local Unionists.
And so, the hunt begins…
*James Meredith, a Marylander from, it seems, Queen Anne’s County, was born 1/26/1792, and died 2/3/1861. His wife, Elizabeth, was an Eaty, from, it appears, Middleway, Jefferson County, Virginia (WV).
**Virginia “Jennie” F. Meredith married Daniel Hedrick Bragonnier in 1876, in Frederick County. Daniel was a veteran of… wait for it… Co. C, 10th Virginia Infantry, CSA (as well as the 11th Virginia Cavalry), AND brother of Robert C. Bragonier, also of the 10th Va. Inf., and 11th Va. Cav.