Margaret ‘Peggy’ Barton Crozier is born in Knoxville TN 18 September 1802 to John and Hannah Crozier. She marries J.G.M. [James Gettys McGready] Ramsey on 1 March 1821.
Bird’s Eye View of the City of Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee.
Where Margaret Ramsey lives until her home is burned.
This description of the Ramsey’s early married life from Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey: Autobiography and Letters is somewhat different from other sources. The house referred to is Mecklenburg:
On the first of March 1821, I was married to the present Mrs. Ramsey, Peggy Barton Crozier, eldest daughter of Captain John and Hannah Crozier then living at Fruit Hill near Knoxville. After a bridal tour of several weeks we returned and prepared for house-keeping. We lived in Knoxville till January 7, 1823, when we removed to a [building] house I had erected on one of my father’s farms around Gilliam’s Station immediately in the fork of Holston and French Broad Rivers.
Dr. J.G.M. RAMSEY
Margaret’s husband, Dr. J.G.M. [James Gettys McGready] Ramsey, is a prominent physician in Knoxville; he is also active in politics, banking, and railroads. As a very vocal states’ rights Democrat, he supports secession and serves as a treasury agent and field surgeon for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War.
Dr. J.G.M. RAMSEY
Portrait of American historian J.G.M. Ramsey (1797–1884) by artist Lloyd Branson. Samuel G. Heiskell, Andrew Jackson and Early Tennessee History (Nashville, Tenn.: Ambrose Printing Company, 1921).
Description of Mecklenburg
I could find no image of Mecklenburg, Margaret’s home until it was burned to the ground by the Union military on 1 September 1863. So I have brought you a physical description of Mecklenburg by a correspondent of the Mobile Advertiser, which was republished in the Knoxville Register of 6 April 1862.:
1862: A Visit to Mecklenburg by S. G. Heiskell
I enjoyed a most delightful visit, a few evenings ago, in company with the talented and witty editor of the Knoxville Register, Col. J. A. Sperry, at the house of the celebrated historian of Tenn., Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey, who resides at the junction of the Holston and French Broad Rivers, about four miles northeast of Knoxville. The road to the Doctor’s house is a most delightful one, presenting some charming views of mountain and valley scenery.
At the junction of the rivers, the Holston winds around a beautiful, undulating country, forming a picturesque, indented shore running from the north to the south; while some hundred yards above, it falls over a rocky bed making a pleasant murmuring sound and reminds one of the dark-rolling waters of the Danube. On the right is presented the mouth of the French Broad, running from east to west, with its high, rocky cliffs on the north side, jutting over some sixty-five feet. About three hundred yards from the mouth, under the cliff, gushes a clear, cool spring, which is approached by a small boat, the scene by moonlight is very exquisite.
Crossing the Holston, you ascend a graded bank, and near a high Indian mound stands an ancient looking building, once called Gilliam’s Station built in 1790, and now the residence of the venerable historian, surrounded by primitive forest trees. Near the main building is a small cottage, over which is still to be seen the Doctor’s original “shingle,” on a plain board about four feet long and one wide, which was once painted white, but now faded, with black letters still plainly visible, ‘Doctor Ramsey.’ This was once the doctor’s office and laboratory, and is still in its primitive state, while in an adjoining room is his library and museum. …
S. G. Heiskell,” A Visit to Mecklenburg, “Andrew Jackson and Early Tennessee History, vol. 2, pp. 117-118, accessed 30 August 2021, knoxcotn.org/old_site/history/mecklenburg.html
Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey: Autobiography and Letters
The Ramsey children:
Elizabeth Alexander Ramsey Breck
John Crozier Ramsey
William Wilberforce Alexander Ramsey
Margaret Jane Crozier Ramsey Dickson
Francis Alexander Ramsey
Robert McGready Ramsey
Henrietta Rutledge Ramsey Lenoir
J.G. [James Gettys] McKnitt Ramsey
Charlotte Barton Ramsey
Susan Ann Amelia Ramsey Alexander
Arthur Crozier Ramsey
In 1860 nine of their eleven children still lived at home or nearby.
When the American Civil War begins in 1861, Margaret’s eldest son, John Crozier Ramsey [his family calls him ‘Crozier’] is an attorney in Knoxville. He is appointed Confederate States District Attorney for East Tennessee; he aggressively files charges against the city’s pro-Unionists.
J.G.M. Ramsey flees to Abingdon, Virginia, when a Union force moves toward Knoxville in June 1863—that would be Sanders’ Raid. He returns two months later, just in time to flee again after a larger invasion—Burnside’s invasion of East Tennessee.
LATE AUGUST 1863
When Union troops advance on East Tennessee again in August 1863, J.G.M. Ramsey flees, this time under an armed guard, just ahead of the Federal occupation. USA Gen. Ambrose Burnside and his Army of the Ohio take possession of Knoxville without a fight and decide to stay awhile.
From Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey’s Autobiography and Letters
My wife and daughters occupied Mecklenburg the old mansion for a few days only after I left them. Threats were made that the house would be burned as belonging to a confirmed rebel and a high officer in the rebel government. … My family therefore thought it prudent to leave the old place and did remove to Knoxville, taking with them little more than their wearing apparel.
Everything else—including my museum, … my private papers, my correspondent’s letters, my three libraries (historical, medical, and miscellaneous), the second volume of the History of Tennessee (from 1800 to the close of the American war) [which he wrote] all ready for the press – not to mention the crops on several farms, my large stock of every kind, furniture etc.
After a few days spent in a rented house in town my ladies received the expected information that the whole [estate] was stolen, confiscated or burnt. I and my sons were with the army in Georgia and Virginia. I, as a [Confederate] financial agent by day and a surgeon after business hours in the field, camps, or hospitals, doing all I could for the wounded Rebels falling back before the victorious enemy.
I made in all eight remarkable … escapes but was never captured and did not lose a dollar belonging to … the Confederate treasury. [Lee’s] surrender found me at Charlotte in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina … [So also were my wife and daughters in Tennessee.
In 1864 our youngest daughter [Susan] was sent south for “disloyal acts.” The enemy would not indulge her in the wish to be sent to Atlanta where I then was but sent her under flag of truce to the mountains of Virginia. There I met her and soon after I met also Mrs. Ramsey and another of our daughters Mrs. [Elizabeth] Breck …
1 SEPTEMBER 1863
On 1 September 1863, a Michigan private asks for directions to Dr. Ramsey’s house. Soon afterward, the beautiful old family mansion is ablaze. This is not a popular action among Northern soldiers. After “indignation was publicly expressed upon the streets and in more private circles,” the soldier is identified, drummed out of service, and sent back to Michigan.
J.G.M. Ramsey learns of the event while in exile in Marietta, Georgia and writes:
Everyone who witnessed the infliction of this idle military ceremonial laugh at the inadequacy of the punishment to the enormity of the crime. … The burning of a Southern patriot’s house and making a gentleman’s family homeless and houseless is rewarded by allowing the convict quietly to retire in private life with all his laurels fresh upon his brow.
I thought little of the loss of property. But the apprehension that my library, my manuscripts, my unpublished second volume of the History of Tennessee … also taken or burned did give me a bitter pang—none could be more bitter. Property I could replace or live without. But this loss was irreparable.
Margaret ‘Peggy’ Ramsey writes in her diary:
The old mansion where we dispensed hospitality with a liberal hand is in ashes … the shade trees where our children played so happily, now stand all black and charred, not by thunder bolts, but by the ruthless hands of men. [Scenes of] … our beautiful home all come up before me – the large and stately trees, the grand rivers, the deep and quiet French Broad River … and the grand old bluff so lofty, the green fields with growing grain … All these I was once the mistress of … Now I am the poor governess.
Margaret points out that secession in Knoxville predominates among the upper class. In her diary, she remarks that her family is of considerable stature and that Northeast Tennessee’s lower classes are Unionists:
… those who visited us so often, ate at our table, flattered and fawned the most were the first to injure—together with the still lower class that had been … fed and clothed by our bounty. O for the grace to forgive them.
16 SEPTEMBER 1863
Martial punishment for burning the house of Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey
Our city last evening witnessed a scene seldom offered by war, and never afforded by the troops of the rebel oligarchy. Before the Union army entered the State, the commander issued the most stringent orders against pillaging and marauding, and prescribing the most extreme penalties for its violation. We are happy in saying that the order had its effect, and that instances of disobedience have been surprisingly few. Some, however, have transgressed, and upon them the full rigor of the law has fallen.
Yesterday evening just before dark the troops in this vicinity were paraded on Main street under Gen. Shackelford, and one Anderson, of the 11th Kentucky, who had been convicted by a court-martial of having burnt and pillaged, in connection with others, the house of Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey in this vicinity, was driven through the files of soldiers to the tune of the “Rogue’s March,” with his head shaved and a placard of disgrace upon his breast.
Thus publicly, in the presence of his comrades, was this man stripped of the insignia of honor and driven out from their ranks as unworthy to bear arms for the Union. What evidence stronger than this do our citizens want that the army of the Union is the army way of protection to life and property; that the government of the United States is determined to re-establish law and order in the land.
Dr. Ramsey has been from the commencement of the war an ardent, active rebel; but the government, although it will undoubtedly hold him to the penalty of his crime, will not under any circumstances whatever, allow him or any one else to be the victim of lawless violence or indiscriminate plundering.
The law may come in and strip all these men, not only of property, but of life itself, but the law alone is clothed with this terrible power, and the General commanding seems determined that his troops shall know and respect this principle.
The great body of them do appreciate it now, and have from the beginning not from any fear of punishment, but from an innate respect to law. Those few exceptions among them who consider the bayonet a credential to plunder, we hope profited by the lesson given them last evening, and will spare us the pain of such spectacles in the future.
Knoxville Daily Bulletin, 16 September 1863.
The Ramsey House in East Knoxville [not Mecklenburg]
To generate some income, the family are forced to sell the Ramsey House, where J.G.M. Ramsey grew up. The stone house Ramsey’s father built in the year of his birth still stands on Thorngrove Pike in East Knoxville. It is currently a museum. Images of the interior follow.
Images from the Ramsey House in East Knoxville, Northeast Tennessee
After fleeing Knoxville in late August 1863, J.G.M. Ramsey spends the rest of the war in various cities, continuously fleeing the Union Army’s advance. As the war rages on, the family fortunes collapse.
Margaret Crozier Ramsey finally goes into exile at the request of her husband, who recognizes that his positions of leadership in the Confederacy pose a danger to his family. She is reluctant to leave but understands the gravity of the situation. When she flees Knoxville, Margaret is separated from some of her family members and mourns leaving Knoxville, fearing she “should never return.”
Margaret Crozier Ramsey’s Diary
2 JULY 1864
The second day of July 1864, I left Knoxville, Tenn. where I [had] remained ten months under Federal rule or tyranny. … A letter received from Alex, before leaving Knoxville, informed us he was a prisoner, Arthur wounded. Robert was in the fight, that he never saw him after the fight commenced, of course I had cause for anxiety.
8 JULY 1864: Mrs. Ramsey arrives at Bristol
The little town of Bristol is split right down the middle, half in Tennessee, half in Virginia. In this entry she writes about her children, especially her sons in the Confederate Army.
Arrived at Bristol Friday the 8th, found none of our family but Crozier [son John Crozier Ramsey] who has also fled Knoxville.
On Sunday McK.[son J.G. McKnitt Ramsey]returned from a scout; Robert[McGready Ramsey]fighting in the Valley of VA; Alex [Francis Alexander Ramsey]in prison; Arthur gone to his long home [still alive]; Sue in Liberty VA with her Uncle J.H.C’s family, [John Hervey Crozier, Margaret’s brother]. Dr. [J.G.M.] Ramsey in the South.
We received the order two days before. E.A.B. [daughter Elizabeth Alexander Ramsey Breck] and myself left on Saturday morning. Many came to see us off and accompanied us to the depot. … It was sad times, I was anxious to leave, had heard that dear Arthur was wounded and wished to get to him. We were leaving our native home [not] knowing that we should ever return and where we were going or what sorrowful news we should hear after arriving in the Confederacy. Some friends thought it best for us to remain in Tennessee, but anxiety was so wearing I could bear it no longer. So long had I been separated from my family especially after Sue [daughter Susan was banished from Knoxville in 1864] and Arthur [youngest son joined the Confederate Army that year] left me. I was so restless and anxious. …
At Strawberry Plains, only 15 miles from Knoxville, our trunks were again searched and we all taken to the home of Mr. McBee. Our persons searched by two women was bad, been brought there for that purpose. Maj. Smith, the Yankee officer, in whose charge we were, called them ladies, but they were far from what we considered ladies, so we afterwards told him. … True to his promise the Maj. came the next day with an ambulance, baggage wagon and 25 armed soldiers carrying a white flag. We met with some relatives. … they wished us to stay with them. But I was so anxious to go on, could not think of it.
In the afternoon before we left Mossy Creek, a company of Confederates came, going to New Market under a flag of truce to meet the Federals on some business. Among them were some acquaintances, there I saw Mr. James White of Knoxville, who told me that my poor son Arthur’s foot was taken off, but that he was doing very well. That distressed me, but I hoped I should get to him. He also told me Robert had come through the fight safe. … This escort took us to Greeneville, TN. We were received by Mrs. [Catherine] Williams at her hospitable and elegant mansion [now called the Dickson-Williams House] after a fatiguing journey over rough roads, dust and the hot sun, the kindness of our hostess, her cool rooms, pleasant walks through the vineyard and garden were truly refreshing. …
4 SEPTEMBER 1864
Two months later, in the same vineyard Margaret Crozier Ramsey strolled through, CSA Cavalry Gen. John Hunt Morgan will be killed by a Union officer on horseback in the early morning hours of 4 September 1864. Someone has ridden hard to the Union encampment several miles away to report that Morgan is spending the night at Mrs. William’s mansion in Greeneville. This scene is part of my novel, Amanda’s Civil War.
CSA Gen. John Hunt Morgan
Dickson-Williams Mansion in Greeneville, Northeast Tennessee
Margaret Crozier Ramsey continues her journey through Northeast Tennessee
… After partaking of a good breakfast, Mrs. C. [Catherine Williams] gave us cheese, pickles, bread, etc. for lunch on the way, and kindly gave me a cheese to take to my poor Arthur, … Arrived at Jonesborough TN in the afternoon, found an ambulance waiting for us, here Mrs. J stopped at her father’s. We were urged to stay all night by several kind ladies. Mrs. Akers said she had prepared for us.
Col. Brazelton asked what I wished to do – told him I wished to go on if it would not put others to inconvenience as I wished to get to my son as soon as possible; he said nothing, for he knew I should never see him again. It was known by all in Jonesborough but no one would tell me. …
We came on ten miles, I believe, to Mr. Devaults – … we crossed the river by moonlight – it was wide but shallow – spent the night at Mr. Devaults. In the morning after we had breakfast and were ready to start, I saw Capt. Carnes coming and ran to the door to meet him – asked the news from Bristol, he then told me the sad and to me, distressing news of poor Arthur’s death. … I returned to the room, threw myself on the bed and cried out in agony. O, that is too hard, too much, more than I can bear.
When dear C. died [daughter Charlotte died of typhus fever in 1863 at the age of 24], it was a very sore trial and I did nothing but weep, for months after; and then dear Ettie* but, I did not feel like replying against God. But this was such a shock I wish for death. The ladies stood around me and my kind hostess said, “I wish I could do something for you.”
Capt. Carnes told the ladies he disliked very much to tell me [about Arthur’s death] but [her son] Crozier told him before he left Bristol to do so. I suppose Crozier did not want to tell me himself.
… We crossed the Watauga [River] by moonlight, could see as well as in daylight, everything was so serene and beautiful, could have enjoyed it so much under other circumstances. I cannot write of these things without my eyes filling with tears, and often when the thought of these three lovely ones comes across my mind, I am obliged to throw it off and force my thoughts to some other subjects.
At Bristol we met with kindness from many of the ladies. Stayed at the Lancaster House eleven days where we were kindly treated by Mr. Lancaster and family. … It was hard living at Bristol, and as they [are] liable at any time to have [a] raid from the enemy, we thought best to leave the border and go into the interior of the Confederacy, especially as Crozier and McK. expected to leave that place [Bristol].
Poor Crozier delayed too long, he was caught with many others and taken to Knoxville and put into prison, were treated very badly. [Crozier, with] Mr. Wm. Sperry and Fox put in irons and marched through the streets of Knoxville, were taken from the Rebel Prison and put in with Yankee deserters and horse thieves – robbed of everything and expected to be murdered.
A Yankee officer came into the prison at night, made a speech to these lawless fellows, said these three Rebels were very bad men, he could do nothing, his hands were tied, but they could do with them as they pleased, and no injury should be made, that if he had his way they should soon be put out of the way.
The three lay back and heard all that he said. It was Christmas and the fellow had been drinking. After he left, Crozier got up, sat down by the fire, talked with the men and found them in good humor. They said we are not going to hurt you; we would rather kill that fellow; he had been having a jolly time while we are shut up and half starved.
Mr. Sperry came to NC and told us all about their capture and how they were treated at Knoxville. He said he was always so mad he could not talk to their enemies, and Mr. Fox was so scared [he could] say nothing, but Crozier always talked to them and amused them, so that they became his friends. …
We left Bristol in October 1864, arrived in July before. Went on to Charlotte, NC, the cars were in bad condition, very rough traveling, left Bristol 12 o’clock at night. There was very little light, no fire and it was very cold going through the mountains. When we got to B—-keville in Va. met the train from Richmond with many sick and wounded soldiers. They filled the car we were in, the gentlemen with us had to stand. It was distressing to hear the groans of the poor soldiers, all night and very dark … could be very kind to them, but had a poor chance to do anything for them, the car was so crowded. It was very unpleasant and dangerous trip; the road was not safe and the cars very shackling. That fearful high bridge in VA, was terrible and we went so slow, seemed as if we would never get to the end. But Providence took care of us and we went over that dangerous way without any accident.
6 MARCH 1865
Arrived here at Mr. Cannon’s this evening. My son J.G.M. Ramsey came with me. This is a pleasant place, kind and hospitable people. After dark, my nephew John Crozier came, we were very glad to see him. The last time was at our own home almost two years ago, then my dear son Arthur was with us, my heart yearned to this young boy whose presence brought up many sad recollections, and I wished I could do something for him. It is little I can do, now, for the soldiers. He was riding without a saddle, had no overcoat, was cheerful.
7 MARCH 1865
This morning the two young soldiers left to go to their command. McK. [name she calls her son James Gettys McKnitt Ramsey, probably to a void confusion with similar names in the family] to Wytheville, [nephew] John to Raleigh to [CSA cavalryman Gen. Joseph] Wheeler. When shall I see them again? God only knows and I pray to Him to protect them, it is always sad to part with soldiers. I commenced teaching the children, two little boys and one little girl, very pleasant children.
Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry capturing a supply train near Jasper, Tennessee
9 MARCH 1865
Four soldiers came here to stay all night, going to Raleigh, … they were wet and cold, had been raining all day. The family did everything for their comfort. They were S. Carolinians and told us of the desolations and cruelty of the enemy in that downtrodden state.
10 MARCH 1865
A bright day after the stormy weather yesterday. Went to church, this is the day of fasting and prayer, for our Confederacy.
12 MARCH 1865
Heard yesterday from my son Alexander [Francis Alexander ‘Alex’ Ramsey] who is a prisoner, had not heard from him in six months. I was greatly relieved, had been extremely anxious …
20 MARCH 1865
Dr. Ramsey returns to Charlotte.
Mecklenburg County Court House, Charlotte, North Carolina
23 MARCH 1865
Letter from my son McK. Stayed one night at Liberty [VA] with our relations … saw his two cousins I. and O. Deaderick, just returned from prison, they had heard from Alex. McK. also saw an acquaintance of Alex from Camp Morton [Union prisoner-of-war camp in Indianapolis IN], who had seen A. [Alex], said he would be sent off soon. Heard too from poor Crozier [John Crozier Ramsey in Knoxville jail], the chains had been taken off and he is now treated better; his friends are now allowed to visit him, which was at first refused.
25 MARCH 1865
This is Dr. Ramsey’s birthday, no family union, no social cluster around the fireside now, no gathering around the beautiful table, our household scattered. Our home [in] ashes, three beloved ones taken from us, to a better home we trust, dear Crozier and Alexander, prisoners. Robert and McK. at the front, the rest of us scattered in NC, seldom more than two together.
27 MARCH 1865
Pleasant. All hands farming and gardening.
29 March 1865
My poor son Crozier very sick in hospital.
6 APRIL 1865
Letter from Dr. R. [Ramsey] says R. [Robert] and McK. in danger, would like to know when any of our poor boys were not in danger. Richmond given up; the armies falling back from VA and TN.
8 APRIL 1865
Dr. R. came to-day, seems hopeful, is not ready to give up our cause yet. A. not yet come.
9 APRIL 1865
General Lee surrenders.
Robert E. Lee surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia.
This cruel war is over.
After the American Civil War ends, the Ramseys are left homeless and penniless, with a “joint fortune of forty-two dollars of available money on which to start in the world again.” Margaret and her husband, both in their sixties, and three of their children [Elizabeth, Susan, and Robert]remain in western North Carolina, moving between Charlotte, Hopewell, and Salisbury. Dr. Ramsey returns to medical practice and begins writing short newspaper articles.
Despite receiving a presidential pardon from Andrew Johnson on and taking the amnesty oath, Dr. Ramsey remains in exile, fearing retribution and uncertain of what property he might be able to reclaim. Moreover, arch enemy Parson Brownlow has been appointed the U.S. Treasury agent in charge of abandoned property in the area.
16 APRIL 1865
This day two years ago our dear Charlotte died. Never a day passes but I think of her, of that sad time of distressing days and nights spent at our lovely home; then dear Arthur was with us and all the family except dear Crozier who was at Vicksburg. Now the household scattered; no two together.
C. [Crozier] and A. [Alex] prisoners,
R. [Robert] and McK [J.G. McKnitt] in the army,
Sue in Charlotte, …
And their father, I know not where …
I realize this can be a little tedious to read, but it really is worth your time.
18 APRIL 1865
Many soldiers from Gen. Lee’s army are returning, he has certainly surrendered. All who could are escaping. The lawless band at Concord still continue to annoy the citizens, are here every day. …
This evening we arose from supper, saw some one riding down the road. Mr. C. said there comes another and seemed perplexed. I went to the door, soon as he came though the gate, I exclaimed, “It is Robert.” All fears vanished, and I was so rejoiced for I had nearly given up hope of receiving any of our dear ones again.
Got to cousin Abbey’s last night after all had retired where E. was. Robert says he heard recently from Crozier, that he is well and treated kindly by many friends and was quite a favorite with the Yankees surgeon, who permitted C. to remain in the hospital. R. had also heard from A. saw some prisoners from C. Morton, said he was well and would get off soon. Of course I felt much better than for some days past. Mr. C. looks bright now, he is much relieved by R. being here.
Alum Cave Trail ascending towards Mount LeConte, Great Smoky Mountains
19 APRIL 1865
Dear Robert left this afternoon to go towards Charlotte to hear from Gen. [John C.] Vaughn. It distressed me to see him start off again. … I don’t want him to go but don’t know what advice to give, hope to see him again before he leaves, said McK would be here today perhaps. Sue or E. [Elizabeth] would come with him.
MINI BIO: Gen. John C. Vaughn
Vaughn organized a regiment on 6 June 1861, the Third Tennessee Infantry Regiment, which was captured at the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863. However, Vaughn and his men were soon exchanged and sent to guard the Tennessee-Virginia border.
In June 1864, USA General William Tecumseh Sherman had Vaughn’s family deported to Indiana, where they were to remain for the duration of the war for “corresponding with the enemy.”
When cavalryman Gen. John Hunt Morgan was killed on 4 September 1864, Vaughn took command of Confederate troops in East Tennessee.
After participating in Gen. James Longstreet’s attempt to occupy Knoxville in December 1863, Vaughn retreated to Northeast Tennessee. Soon after, Vaughn was given permission to mount his brigade. Remembered as the last Confederate general, Vaughn finally surrendered in Georgia on 10 May 1865, after separating from Confederate president Jefferson Davis’ entourage. Davis was captured later that day.
20 APRIL 1865
Several soldiers from Gen. Lee’s army report Gen. Lee was treated with great respect. Gen. Grant refused his sword; the Yankees told our men they were brave soldiers, that if Gen. Lee had as many men as they had we never could be conquered. Have an Armistice for 60 days for to make terms of peace.
22 APRIL 1865
McK. came. News of the death of Lincoln and Seward confirmed.
23 APRIL 1865
The Army being disbanded, the country is filled with soldiers stealing horses, mules and every one has to keep watch.
27 APRIL 1865
Beautiful weather; sad times, all confusion now.
1 MAY 1865
Wheeler’s Cavalry encamped 2 miles from here, many of the Tennesseans called to see me, all nice, genteel young men. [The soldiers from other states are annoying the citizens, wanting everything and stealing horses, mules, etc.] Soldiers left this morning.
7 MAY 1865
Dr. Ramsey came this morning, went to Augusta, had a fatiguing trip, was too feeble to attend church. Everything in confusion. Don’t know what we are to do.
14 MAY 1865
Went to church; met dear McK there, came home with us to dinner, it is so pleasant for us. McK. returned to meet now … we are all separated so much.
22 MAY 1865
Sue left this evening for Mecklenburg Co. [County]. Dr. Ramsey also. I am again left alone, but we must do something for our living. Now at 62 years of age I am teaching for my board. I often feel weary, sad, and lonely.
29 MAY 1865
A sad and lonely feeling came over me to-day, took a walk to a place which reminds me of home. Sat down on a stump and gave vent to my feelings. Our beautiful home all came up before me, the large and stately trees, the grand rivers, the deep and quiet French Broad, the more rapid Holston, the roaring of the shoals and the grand old bluff, so lofty, the green fields with growing grain etc. All these I was once mistress of. Now all occupied by the vandals who desolated our beautiful country.
Now the old mansion where we dispensed hospitality with a liberal hand is in ashes. The shade trees, where our children played so happily, now stand all black and charred, not by thunder bolts, but by the ruthless hand of man.
Often when at our old home, Dr. Ramsey in playfulness, called me the duchess of Mecklenburg and dear C. the princess Charlotte. Now I am the poor governess.
2 JUNE 1865
Dr. Ramsey came this evening. He and our children had been in great distress, had heard dear Crozier had died in a northern prison. After three days of distressing suspense, heard it was another man. I find that it was during this time that I felt so lonely and depressed. We are powerless …
15 JUNE 1865
Another sad anniversary – dear Arthur my youngest son, the pet of the household, died this day one year ago, near Stanton Va. I hope to meet my lovely children in a better world, where there is no sin nor sorrow. Where the wicked cease from trembling and the weary are at rest. Arthur was a pleasant youth, every person loved him, his teachers always said he was the best boy in school. His captain and others of the Co. told me the same. Capt G. said he was so brave and stood fire like a man.
26 JUNE 1865
A letter from Sue, she heard Alex was to be at Rock Hill, the day before – the first news we have had of him for months, feared we should never see him more.
8 JULY 1865
R. brought two letters from Mr. Deaderick, one from Gen. Vaughn, containing much news from Tenn. O! Tennessee how art thou fallen; the best citizens driven off; when they return the soldiers shot [them] down at their homes.
14 JULY 1865
Alex and his Pa came this evening, almost two years since we three were together. Alex suffered greatly, prisoners at Camp Morton treated very badly – many died of ill treatment. [Camp Morton is a Union prisoner-of-war camp in Indianapolis, Indiana.]
21 JULY 1865
Dr. Ramsey came to see Col. B. A. who is here very sick, brought a letter from Crozier and one from M.J. I was so thankful to hear from them and to know C. [Crozier] has been released and with his friends at Nashville, who are very kind to him, has been advised not to return to Knoxville as this is dangerous. …
A view of Nashville, Tennessee during the American Civil War
4 AUGUST 1865
Letter from J.C. Ramsey in Nashville, TN
To sister Elizabeth Ramsey Breck in Charlotte, NC
My Dear Sister
I was pleased to receive your very kind letter by to-days mail and was very glad to hear that Papa and Ma are well and that they stand our defeat and their loss of property with Christian fortitude, that is as it should be, but few persons of their age could have stood the troubles and trials they have had with such fortitude. …
I have commenced the practice of my profession [lawyer] and have had some business. … I am boarding with Uncle William [father’s brother, William B.A. Ramsey], they are all very kind to me, my health has improved though I am still weak, the walk however in the morning and evening I think will be of service to me soon. …
I am at a great [loss?] to know how to advise you all. I am like you; I have a great distaste for East TN but I don’t think that there would be any impropriety in you and Mack [husband?] returning to Knoxville on a visit and see if you can’t get your property back and then rent or sell it. I suppose you could get transportation. …
It will not be safe for Robert to come to Tennessee at present. I will let [him] know when to come if he wants to return. There are some cases pending in the State and Federal Courts at Knoxville against me; expect I will be compelled to be there in October or November to attend to them. I will however try to have them arranged without having to go there.
I have much appreciation for Pardon and my papers are in charge of Judge Patterson (President Andrew Johnson’s] son-in-law and M.S. Senator from TN). He is a particular friend of mine and visited me while [I was] imprisoned at Knoxville … he also agreed to take charge of Papa’s case; he seems to think that we will have no difficulty in getting them through. I expect to hear from him in a week or two about our applications and will let Papa know the result of his application. …
I frequently hear from Knoxville and see every day or two some one from the place; the sentiment is still bad and outrages are still committed upon Southern men. No prominent Southern men have returned and what are there are making arrangements to leave.
I get letters from M.J. [sister Margaret Jane] most every week, she is well, as to her marriage I presume she is satisfied with it and of course I am. I hope … Mr. McKnitt will make her a kind and an affectionate husband. She has had a hard time of it; few women could have gone through what she has. She was very devoted to me while I was in prison there and was of great service to me. She writes me some very good letters (one of the very best I ever received) I am saving it to show it to you all. She is a Christian and a noble woman. What a great pleasure it would be to us all if we were all living near each other.
I don’t know how Pap would like to live in East TN again but I have no doubt but what he could live in comfort and with more care on Margaret Jane’s place than any other. I have no doubt but what it would be perfectly safe for him there (after a while).No one would do him any personal harm; the class of man that are committing these outrages are worthless, and the moral men of the country are doing all they can to put a stop to it. Public sentiment will soon correct the outlaws. I doubt the propriety of a man of his age moving to a new country among strangers unless he had means. These are questions for future considerations; you are all quaintly situated, and it is best to wait patiently until the country becomes settled and peace entirely returned; and then we can better judge as to what will be the best.
What a great contrast between this peace place [Nashville] and East TN. Here there is no distinction between Union and Southern men, that is as it should be. I often think of you all with the kindest of feelings and would be pleased to be with you all once more, and I hope to may be able to do so some time. Remember me kindly and affectionately to all. Will be pleased to hear from you all often.
Letter, J. Crozier Ramsey in Nashville, Tenn., to Mrs. E.A.R. Breck in Charlotte, N.C. 1865 Aug. 4
11 AUGUST 1865
Letter from J.C. Ramsey, Nashville TN.
To his mother, M.B.C. [Margaret Barton Crozier] Ramsey, Charlotte NC.
My Dear Ma,
I received yours and Papas letters yesterday and was glad to hear that you were all well. I read all your letters with great interest and my Uncle and his family, who read them with great pleasure. My Uncle [William B.A. Ramsey] and all of them are very kind to me; he is very comfortably situated and his two married daughters live near him; they also have a Church near him and I go to church every Sunday. Mr. Trimble (their pastor) is a good preacher. I think … about your situation and troubles.
I have taken great interest about the state of feelings in East TN and there is scarcely a day but what I see either a Union or Southern man from there and I always make it my business to enquire as to the condition of things with a view as to advise you all as to the propriety of returning. I have no doubt but the reports you hear from there are exaggerated.
My own opinion based upon what I hear is that you could all return with perfect safety (except Robert) without … fears of having any personal harm done …neither would you be subject to any insults of any kind.
I met with Capt. John McNutt (of the Fork and formerly of the Federal army) a few days ago. I spent most of the day with him and took him out and spent the night with us at my Uncle’s; he has the kindest feeling for you all and from him I learned the particulars as to the feeling about you all; he says that all your old neighbors, such men as Sam Bowman and others, are very anxious for you to return and instead of having any thing against you they have great sympathy for you but would [do] any thing in their power to serve you all.
John thinks you should all return at once. … you would be better satisfied if you move near your grandchildren where you could take care of the poor motherless children, although you could live comfortably where you are, yet your anxiety for them would always make you uneasy and still you would not be satisfied where you are. Secondly by returning home the moral effect would be good in getting back your property. …
Aside from this I believe that you could live cheaper and more comfortably and contented than where you are. You could live at Margaret Jane’s place in town or at Lenoir’s in case. Another reason when you return if you should conclude not to remain there you would be in a better condition to select under the advice of your friends a future home. I would therefore make Knoxville home (at least) for future operations. I would feel much more contented, happy and less solicitous about you all if you move back at your old home than for you all still to remain exiles—that gives me more pain than my own condition …unless you have made up your minds never to return …
I would advise you that when the weather gets cool and more pleasant for traveling (say the last of Sept or early in October) I would start for East TN … by that time Papa will I hope receive his pardon. I believe all will turn out well and that you will all be glad that you have returned. … Aunt Hannah and Aunt Mary had returned. Uncle Frank Keller was also at home. … Frank Ramsey (Uncle John’s son) had also returned and was living at home undisturbed. … Remember me kindly and affectionately to all. Will be pleased to hear from you all at any time.
Son John (1824–1868) goes by many variations of his name:
John Crozier Ramsey
John C. Ramsey
J. Crozier Ramsey
31 AUGUST 1865
Letter from J.C. Ramsey in Nashville TN
To his father J.G.M. Ramsey in Charlotte NC
I wrote Ma a letter about two weeks ago – and supposed that I would have got a letter from some of you before this time. For fear you may have heard of my arrest and be alarmed about it – I thought I would write you. When I was released at Louisville in June and returned to this place, I knew of the indictments pending against me at Knoxville both in the State and Federal Court – but I know that if I remained in the U.S. I would have to meet the case some time or another. I then made up my mind to stand my ground and meet the cases and have them disposed of at court.
I then met the Sheriff of this county and the Marshal and had an interview with them and told them that I expected I would be sent to them from Knoxville for my arrest and that I did not intend to avoid them—but that I desired before entering into business to make an arrangement with them not to arrest me until court and then I would go with them – they agreed to it – and then I commenced business.
After remaining here some six weeks a different set of circumstances arose and the Sheriff felt it his duty to arrest me and take me to Knoxville where I was bailed upon a writ of Habeas Corpus and returned to this place [Nashville] and have again resumed business. I do not reflect upon the Sheriff for making the arrest.
So you see that I am not yet through with all my troubles and trials – but do not allow them to trouble you or give you any uneasiness about them. I will come out of them all right – but it will put me to some trouble and expense. So you fully may understand the case, I send you an article taken from the Nashville Gazette which gives a correct version of the facts of the case and the legal principles that ought to control the case.
I was imprisoned at Knoxville (which was a week). I met with several of my friends and frequently with my dear Sister … her devotion to me which in all my troubles is unequaled and she was of great service to me and I can never forget her kindness and attachment tome (not only on this occasion but in all my troubles.
The sentiment is still bad there [Knoxville] – when I was released on bail I remained in prison until the [railroad] cars started and then I was accompanied with a guard to the Depot. … I have to return the third Monday in Oct. I think things will be better by that time, I at least don’t apprehend any difficulty.
I read yesterday your letter to my Uncle – Glad to hear you are all well and that you have got a place for the next year – perhaps it is best for you to stay there for another year – though I still think as I wrote to Ma that you could all return (except Robert) with safety. … All our friends and relatives at Knoxville are well and all are well here.
Love to all and will be pleased to hear from all of you often …
These arrests and charges stem from J.C. Ramsey’s position as Confederate Attorney General for Knox County during the Civil War.
15 SEPTEMBER 1865
Letter from J. Crozier Ramsey in Nashville TN
To sister Elizabeth Ramsey Breck in Charlotte NC
My Dear Sister I received your very kind letter and was sorry to hear that Ma and Sue had been sick. I hope however they will soon be restored to their usual health. I am glad that you all have gone to house keeping. I am now satisfied (from what I hear from Knoxville) that you have acted wisely in remaining where you are. The outrageous scenes that are constantly transpiring there is disgraceful to humanity and civilization and is almost beyond description. I however will be compelled to be there the third Monday in Oct. I do not anticipate the trip with pleasure. I have no fears at the result of my case, but the outside feeling is not so good; but you need give yourself no uneasiness about my safety. …
I also received Papa’s letter five days ago, enclosing me a copy of his application for pardon. … I think he need have no fears. I think President Johnson will pardon him and all others soon. … I was highly pleased with his [father’s] speech, he will come out all right as I knew he would, he will be the best friend the South has and it becomes us all cordially to sustain him. …
I will write to Judge Patterson to day and see if he can’t get the President to order the return of your farm without you visiting Knoxville – if so, we can rent it out for you. … My practice as yet is quite limited and it takes all I make to keep up my necessary expenses. Say to Papa that if he has my pocket book containing my notes – and has an opportunity of sending it – to send it to me – perhaps there may be some of them that I can collect or make something out of them. Remember me kindly to all – will be pleased to hear from you all at any time.
8 OCTOBER 1865
Letter from J. Crozier Ramsey in Nashville TN
To his father J.G.M. Ramsey in Charlotte NC
Dear Sir: I returned from Washington City a day or two ago and was pleased to get your letter on my return and was glad to hear that you were all well and so comfortably situated. I think under the circumstances you all have done very well. I visited Washington for the purpose of attending to some business for a friend – who paid me for my services – and if I should be finally successful – I will get a good fee …
The President received me very cordially, so did his son Robert and my friend Judge Patterson. The Judge assured me that I would get my pardon next week or any how by the time the Federal Court meets at Knoxville.
I then went to the Attorney Generals office to examine your case. I found that your application had passed through his office with his approval and was on the Presidents table for his signature. …
I then called the attention of the Judge to those two cases and he assured me that they would be approved of by the President.
Love to all,
12 OCTOBER 1865
Letter from J. Crozier Ramsey in Nashville TN
To his father Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey in Charlotte NC
Dear Sir: I received this morning a letter from Uncle Deadrick stating that the Attorney General had agreed to have my cases continued until the next Term of the Court waiving my appearance at this Term. … I received a letter from Margaret Jane [sister] a few days ago – she was well and things were more quiet [in Knoxville] – but a large number of citizens were leaving.
As I am released for some time about my cases, I will now turn my attention to the investigation of your property. … I expect to write in a few days to Judge Brown and get him to examine correctly all the principles involved in your cases. … If they think you can recover, suits should be instituted at once. I fear however that they will be long and tedious suits – but still if there is any possibility of a recovery – it is worth a trial. …
22 OCTOBER 1865
Received a letter yesterday from dear Crozier[J.C. Ramsey], our anxiety was much relieved on his account as last week was the time he was to be in Knoxville for trial, but his case was continued until the next term in April. As Crozier has been sent twice to Knoxville and put in prison and received such rough treatment, of course we were uneasy. In Sept. while quietly attending to business at Nashville, not expecting to be molested till Oct. the time of his trial, he was suddenly arrested, taken to Knoxville remanded to prison. He was kept only a week, gave bail, but had to remain in jail till night on account of mob, was then guarded to the train and returned to Nashville. …
10 NOVEMBER 1865
On 10 November 1865, Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey received a pardon from President Andrew Johnson. It was sent to Crozier in Nashville. On 2 December, Dr. Ramsey informed U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward that he had taken the amnesty oath.
13 NOVEMBER 1865
Letter from J. Crozier Ramsey in Nashville TN
To Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey in Charlotte NC
Dear Sir I received your letter a few days ago also a letter and my pocketbook by Express. … You can’t imagine how much I am pleased when I receive letters from you all. There is not a day passes but what I frequently think of you all – and how I would rejoice to see you all settled at some quiet and pleasant home in TN. I hope the day is not distant when that time will come.
You ask how my health is and how I am off for money. I have improved in flesh and strength since I was released from prison – but still I wish I had more strength and flesh. I could attend to business with more ease and pleasure. I have been getting some practice but … my expenses are considerable … the greatest thing I miss is my law library – I lost all my books at Knoxville. … I now work out of necessity without any taste for it.
As to the sale of your property, I can hardly advise you what to do – if you are really compelled to have money, my advice would be to sell even at a sacrifice – but if not, I would not. …
I understand that that property has not been sold or confiscated – and consequently when the pardon comes it will be restored to you. … It is very hard for me to get any correct information from them about any of your business there. … I know there are persons that will take the advantage of you and others that have property for sale and try and get it for less than its value – by forcing you to sell … that was the object of a great many in bringing about the condition East TN is now in – in order that they might get your property for little of nothing before I would be forced to sell under those circumstances (unless you need the money.) We will make one more effort and I hope we will be more successful. …
19 NOVEMBER 1865
Mrs. Ramsey in exile in NC
After Col. A.’s death, this property was all advertised for note, we apprehended we should have to move again. Everything has been settled and we remain under the first contract made with Col. A. … There is but little generosity here – the people have no sympathy for refugees and those who have lost all; because they have lost their Negroes, they feel that loss is greater that any and have no time to think of those who have lost houses, lands, etc.
25 DECEMBER 1865
Christmas, no presents now – how different from Christmas of former days. Shall we ever have home again? It can never be as it once was – so many beloved ones will be missing from the fireside.
Christmas Dinner: A Scene on the Outer Picket Line, Library of Congress
31 DECEMBER 1865
The last [day] of 65. How rapidly time flies! Where shall we be the last day of 66? That is a question cannot be answered, everything is so uncertain, we may be in a worse condition than at present. We are comfortable here. On many accounts it is an unpleasant place to live. Rain and gloomy weather for the past two weeks, no sociality, no friendship, no attention to strangers.
We have been sick here – McK, Sue, and I … could get no flour or any delicacy for the sick, our cook was a very poor one, we were not able to attend to it ourselves … Dr. Ramsey went to a lady who had some good wine and she gave him some.
J.G.M. Ramsey’s net worth has dropped to only $5,180; he has lost nearly everything during the war.
1871: Home again
J.G.M. and Margaret Barton Crozier Ramsey eventually make their way back to Northeast Tennessee, once again stopping at the town of Bristol in Sullivan County where Margaret stayed for awhile on her way to North Carolina in 1864. J.G.M. spends the rest of his life promoting higher education in East Tennessee and serves ten years as president of the Tennessee Historical Society.
S. G. Heiskell, “A Visit to Mecklenburg,” Andrew Jackson and Early Tennessee History, vol. 2, pp. 117-118, accessed 30 August 2021, knoxcotn.org/old_site/history/mecklenburg.html
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William B. Hesseltine, editor, “Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey: Autobiography and Letters,” The University of Tennessee Press, accessed 23 September 2021, trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=utk_appalachian-echoes
Meredith Anne Grant, “Internal Dissent: East Tennessee ‘s Civil War, 1849-1865,” East Tennessee State University, 2008, accessed 30 August 2021, dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3314&context=etd
“James Gettys McGready Ramsey,” Tennessee Encyclopedia, The Tennessee Historical Society, 8 October 2017, accessed 30 August 2021, tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/james-gettys-mcgready-ramsey/
Erin Lawrimore, “Let Us Hasten to Redeem the Time that is Lost: J.G.M. Ramsey’s Role in the Preservation and Promotion of Tennessee History,” NC DOCKS at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 31 December 2005, accessed 17 September 2021, core.ac.uk/download/pdf/345078731.pdf
William A. Strasser Jr. “Our Women Played Well Their Parts”: East Tennessee Women in the Civil War Era, 1860-1870,” 1999, University of Tennessee – Knoxville, accessed 30 August 2021, trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4111&context=utk_gradthes
Margaret Kathleen Logan, “Rebel Ladies in a Divided Land: The Impact of War on East Tennessee Confederate Women,” University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Spring 2007, accessed 30 August 2021, trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2091&context=utk_chanhonoproj