A Unionist woman, who was also wife to a Ranger riding with Mosby

Posted on March 2, 2013 by


Yes, you read that right.

I happened upon this when I “strayed” beyond my normal boundaries, and took a look at claims submitted by those “deep” in Northern Virginia.


Letitia Follin Strother (of Vienna, Fairfax County) submitted the claim to which I refer, and was approved. I’ll add to that… we not only know that her husband was a Ranger under Mosby, but also that her son was a Union cavalryman.

It most certainly merits a raised eyebrow… at least one.

When someone was asked to testify on her behalf, the following was revealed…

Q: Do you know anything about her loyalty during the war?

A: The most I had a chance to know anything about that was, they lived right back of me; their land joined me, and her little boy would run away and come over to camp while the cavalry was on my place, & some of the people had a good deal to say about boys being in the Yankee camp, & she said she had rather he would be there, & was glad he went there; and he afterwards enlisted in the Federal army. At times, though, she was very much deranged & was not capable of saying anything.

Q: Have you heard her spoken of as a Union woman, or Confederate, or anything of the kind?

A: Yes sir, She was always jawing her husband because he went off as a substitute, with Mosby. He sold himself to a young man for $500 as a substitute in Mosby’s command, and she was always very much annoyed about it, for he had the best protection papers of any man in our vicinity. They didn’t live together for many years; he went off to Ohio and she staid on her place. The place is her own; her father gave it to her; and she had other property. When she was capable of saying anything she would say what a fool Jim was, when he could stay right at home & was protected; that he had the best protection papers of any man in our section from the U.S. army; and then to run off as he did was, she said, very foolish.

In fact, Letitia’s husband, James W. Strother (a school teacher in 1860), in addition to a rather tempting $500, may have also been inspired by his family’s Confederate leanings (he was from Fauquier County, and had brothers in the 7th Virginia Cavalry). He is shown as having enlisted in Co. F, 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry (aka: Mosby’s Rangers), on September 18, 1864, and his parole is dated April 22, 1865, Winchester, Virginia.

James W. Strother's parole.

James W. Strother’s parole.

As for the son, Lewis A. Strother (born in Loudoun County)… he did indeed join the Union army. On August 9. 1864, at about 15 years of age, he enlisted as private in Co. I, 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and continued to serve with that unit until mustered-out in the summer of ’65.

Now, this is pretty big, because what this also means is… he was often operating in activities against his father’s unit. Who knows… they may have been within yards of each other in the “Harmony Skirmish” (March, 1865).

O.K., I’m going to sidebar a bit on Lewis, because his postwar life is militarily interesting… and, frankly, he qualifies as a Southern Unionist also…

Following the war, Lewis appeared to make a try at farming, but, on June 14, 1878, he enlisted (listing himself as five years younger than he actually was) with the U.S. Army at Baltimore, with Battery K, 3rd U.S. Artillery. He remained with the 3rd until discharged (under good “character”), June 13, 1883, at Fort Barrancas, Florida. Two weeks later, Lewis reenlisted at Plattsburgh, New York (ironically, his occupation was not listed as “soldier”, but as “teamster”), with Co. H, 12th U.S. Infantry. I found him in records, as part of a detachment from the 12th U.S. to Fort Ontario, New York…

Excerpt from the details of the service of the detachment in which Strother was serving.

Excerpt from the details of the service of the detachment in which Strother was serving.

The final military record on Lewis was for his discharge, on June 24, 1888, at Ft. Yates, in the Dakota Territory. After over ten years of service, he left the army as a sergeant, and his character was listed as “excellent”. He applied for a pension in 1898, while residing in D.C. and may have become a widower around the turn of the century (there’s some confusion on this, whether he was a widower or a divorcee… contrary information being found in census and Soldiers’ Home records). His army years had been apparently been tough on him, and by 1920 he was listed in the Soldiers’ Home, in Washington, D.C. He died while still a resident there, on April 20, 1927, and was buried in what is now known as the US Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

Lewis Strother's pension index card.

Lewis Strother’s pension index card.

Alright, back to the focus on the primary Southern Unionist here…

As for Letitia… she appears to have suffered with something that effected her mentally (which may have also influenced her husband’s decision to sign-on as a substitute with Mosby… maybe). One who testified stated…

We have been personally acquainted with Mrs. Letitia Strother for many years. Previous to the war, she was regarded as being insane, and has not since been regarded as being of sound mind. She is in needy circumstances, and we hope she may recover for her timber but by the U.S. Government as she is in very needy circumstances.

Another, her doctor, noted…

I have known Mrs. Strother from her childhood to the present time, and since her intermarriage with Jas. W. Strother have frequently been called as a physician to heal her ailments. She has a feeble mind at best, and at times her aberration of mind… eccentricity would naturally excite our pity.

At the time of her application, however, she was regarded by at least one person as “more sane” than previously.

Regretfully, it’s not clear what happened to Letitia after he claim was paid, but James may have divorced her prior to 1880… or she died before that year. James was, after all, listed in the 1880 census with a wife by the name of “Elizabeth”. James engaged in agricultural pursuits in Marshall and Scott, in Fauquier County, until his death in 1918. He was buried among family members in Ivy Hill Cemetery, Upperville, Virginia.