Item #6296 [Two letters of a Quaker Woman in Maryland Caught Up in Confederate General Jubal Early’s Attack on Washington]. Margaret S. Hallowell.
[Two letters of a Quaker Woman in Maryland Caught Up in Confederate General Jubal Early’s Attack on Washington].
[Two letters of a Quaker Woman in Maryland Caught Up in Confederate General Jubal Early’s Attack on Washington].

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[Two letters of a Quaker Woman in Maryland Caught Up in Confederate General Jubal Early’s Attack on Washington].

Fulford, Maryland: 13 and 17 July, 1864. 8vo (7.75” x 9.5”). 3 pp. in ink, with original envelopes. CONDITION: Very good, fragile at creases; light wear to envelopes.

Two letters of a Quaker woman, from an important family of educators, living in Maryland and holding down the fort in her husband’s absence, recounting to him the aftermath of the 1864 Confederate attack on Washington.

“Good news, good news,” begins the first of these two letters from Margaret Hallowell (née Stabler) to her husband James in Washington: General Early’s attack on Washington (the Battle of Fort Stevens) had failed. Writing on July 13th—a day after the actual raid—Hallowell recounts that “We heard the firing of muskets last night between 10 & 12 but did not know what it was.” It is likely that Hallowell and her family heard the “brief but violent fight” that occurred when, in the midst of Early’s retreat, “a Union brigade surged toward Confederate lines” (Vogel). In the aftermath, she reports that “The excitement…has been very great”—but not very pleasant:

Rebs going in every direction taking horses & sometimes people. Bradly Jonston [Bradley Johnson, prominent Maryland Confederate] men, two of them dressed in our uniform stopped Uncle B. on his way to fair hill yesterday morning. Asked many questions & then told him who they were & demanded his horse. He told them they could not have it. In a few moments Bradly came up with 10 or 12 hundred men.

“Uncle B.” refers to Benjamin Hallowell (1799–1877), the noted educator who founded the Hallowell School in Alexandria, where he taught the young Robert E. Lee. Benjamin recorded the incident at length in his autobiography: though he left this encounter unscathed, he was forced to part with his loyal horse. He wasn’t alone: Margaret relates that “Every house on the road has been visited, more or less,” and that “5 of Gilmores men”—also known as Gilmor’s raiders, led by Confederate and later head of the Baltimore City Police Department, Harry Gilmor—were occupying a house “waiting for Gilmore to come on.” All of this information, Margaret reports, is from “Hal Farquhar,” likely Benjamin Hallowell Farquhar (1840–1906), son of William Henry Farquhar, who served as Principal at the Fair Hill Boarding School, “one of the earliest schools in the county to include a program for girls (“Fair Hill”).

The second letter, also addressed to James, dated July 27th, is somewhat more calm. Hallowell’s attention is directed not to the events unfolding around her, but to the media’s reports of them. “We did & will read the papers,” she tells James, “but I think if the editors are not secessionists they are very near being so…and I for one do not like it.” Doubt adds to irritation since “The reports about the rebels are contradicted again,” and Hallowell concludes “it is hard to know what to believe and what not too [sic].” Without more fact to go on, this letter moves on to news of farm and family. She makes references to "Eddie," probably Edward Stabler Hallowell, her teenage son who would die two years later, and "Arthur," likely Hal's brother Arthur Briggs Farquhar (1838–1925), who is known for his negotiation with General Fitzhugh Lee (his former schoolmate at the Hallowell school) concerning the surrender of York, Pennsylvania.

Margaret (Stabler) Hallowell was born on November 19, 1824 Edward Hallowell and Ann Robinson Gilpin (Stabler) Hallowell, a prominent Quaker agricultural family of Sandy Spring. In 1846 she married James Shoemaker Hallowell, also a Quaker and an important educator, and the couple took up residence in Alexandria. During the Civil War she returned to Sandy Spring with their children while James remained in Washington, D.C. to serve as Clerk of the Post Office Department and Superintendent of the Post Office Building for the duration of the war.

James, born on February 7, 1821, was raised by his widowed mother, Amelia Bird Hallowell, and his stepfather, Richard Martin Shoemaker. Together with his older brother Caleb Shreve Hallowell, James ran the Hallowell School in Alexandria from 1842–1846. James also founded and served and the principal of the Alexandria Female Seminary from 1846 until the Civil War. After the war he served as principal of the Fulford Female Seminary in Sandy Spring.

Two letters from an intelligent Maryland woman in the days following Jubal Early’s raid on Washington, reporting local events and critiquing dubious newspaper coverage.

We are grateful to Martha Claire Catlin, Historian, Alexandria Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, for further information on the family members mentioned in these letters.

REFERENCES: “Fair Hill Boarding School Letters - Montgomery County Historical Society,” Digital Maryland; Vogel, Steve “For Gen. Jubal Early, a raid north nearly led to the capture of Washington,” Washington Post, April 26, 2014. On Benjamin Hallowell: Hallowell, Benjamin. Autobiography of Benjamin Hallowell (Philadelphia: Friends’ Book Association, 1884); Templeman, Eleanor Lee. “Benjamin Hallowell, Dedicated Educator,” Arlington Historical Society Magazine vol. 2, no. 3 (October, 1963), 24–33.

Item #6296


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