Discussion Kate Lee Ferguson; Married in the Saddle, and Followed her Husband`s Command Throughout the Civil War

Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Sarah Catherine "Kate" Lee (1841-1928), a daughter of William Henry Lee, a cousin of General Robert E. Lee, and the war time bride of Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson, led a very exciting life during the Civil War. She was married to Sam Ferguson at "Ditchley Plantation" on 25 Aug 1862 by the Reverend John Beckwith, Rector of the Episcopal Parish of Washington County, Mississippi. Just after the nuptials were taken, Kate Lee Ferguson was said to have changed her wedding gown for a riding habit, and rode out of her father's yard beside her new husband on horseback, and thus rode by his side through the next three-years, comprising the war. There were a few times when Sam Ferguson would be ordered out on a very dangerous expedition, which required him to send her to a safer location for a few days, but he would then send for her as soon as he could. She had many wartime experiences herself and was with the command quite a few times when they were fighting just a few hundred yards from her, with some of the men of Ferguson`s brigade commenting on it in letters home and in their daily journals, to include letters sent home by my own 3rd Great Grandfather, who served in the 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment (1862-1865), specifically in Ferguson`s brigade from 27 Aug 1863 to 5 May 1865.

Kate Lee Ferguson was often out campaigning with her husband and his command from 1862-1865, during much of the hard fighting in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and then later regarding the march through the Carolinas. Many who served under General Sam Ferguson`s command looked at her sort of like a second mother during the war, even though she was the same age or younger than they were in most cases. In the daily journals and letters home of some of the soldiers in Ferguson`s brigade, they wrote of how fond they were of her and how she brought sunshine to them as well as her inspiring them to fight when she was near.

Below is an account given from Pontotoc, Ms. circa October-November 1863, from Mrs. Kate Lee Ferguson. Taken from pages 254-255 of the book; "Camp Fires of the Confederacy, A Volume of Confederate Poems and Selected Songs," circa 1898:

"I was married during the war, and was one of the women brave enough, or foolish enough, to follow their husbands, learning to love the sound of cannon better than the cackle of hens in a farm yard. I hardly know where to begin my story, and must fain rake over the ashes of the brightest fires I have ever known. The brigade, commanded by my husband, was my only home for three years, and I grew to care for the army and our own men more than I can tell. My first experience was when the command was ordered into North Mississippi, I lead a rough-and-tumble life; on horseback or rolled up in a blanket.

The staff were very kind to me, often sharing their food and covering with me. When General Johnston reviewed the troops at Pontotoc we were all together, and Gen. S. D. Lee was there, too. The people in that part of the country were very inhospitable to us, and I had to take refuge in the old hotel that the generals had made headquarters. There were only three rooms in the building. In one they stowed the saddles; the staff slept in the other, and the third was used as a mess hall. In this last was a long dismal-looking table, a few chairs and the biggest of fire places; three or four dirty windows lit the whole most imperfectly. It was here the generals looked over dispatches and planned the coming campaign while I curled myself up behind an old trunk, and played checkers with a "cousin Billy" till I fell asleep with my head upon my arm and dreamed of a far better campaign than they ever planned or executed.

Pontotoc is a beautiful place. There is a high bluff from which the road descends, winding far below and then up again for a long distance. I remember well the morning I left the command, they were to go into Tennessee on a short raid, while I returned to Okolona. As I drew rein upon this eminence and waited for my ambulance to overtake me, my eye was turned to view the scenery before me as slowly the brigade moved into line, and through the valley at my feet like a great serpent it wound, while the soft rays of the November sun shone brightly against its countless guns and gleaming sabres. A slight frost lingered o'er hillside and field, which enhanced the beauty of it all. As thus the whole passed before me like a gorgeous panorama, a feeling of love and pride rushed o'er my heart, and I breathed a blessing for them as I turned and galloped away."


Note: "Billy" was William Barker, a cousin of Sam Ferguson. The 'short raid into Tennessee', to which she was making reference, was Maj. General Stephen D. Lee`s Tennessee River Expedition, intended to oppose Sherman`s march from Memphis to Chattanooga. Which was mostly conducted in northern Alabama on both sides of the Tennessee river. They were gone from 6 Oct - 18 Nov 1863 on this expedition. At which time Kate Lee Ferguson was sent to Okolona, MS., where she awaited the return of her husband and his command.

In the 27 Sep 1889 issue of "The Pascagoula Democrat-Star," published at Pascagoula, MS, the following was written of Kate Lee Ferguson:

"...She was married in the saddle and rode all through the late war at the head of Sam. W. Ferguson`s Brigade. She once commanded a masked battery, which opened with grape from a canebrake, scattering the enemy at dawn."

On 30 Aug 1863, from Tupelo, MS., Capt. William Lewis Nugent (AAG), Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade, stated in a letter home to his wife Nellie, that they were at Tupelo and mentioned that Mrs. Kate Lee Ferguson would soon join them again. He wrote:

"Mrs. Ferguson will come up soon, and will give us a little sunshine."

In a letter to Samuel Wragg Ferguson, by Mr. J. H. Steele, of Union City, TN, written on December 20, 1911, an old soldier of Ferguson`s brigade wrote of Mrs. Ferguson, as well as other events regarding his experiences during the war. He wrote:

"I never will forget Mrs. Ferguson and her dark roan pony. How her presence used to stimulate us. I remember very distinctly on several occasions, in going into a fight, Mrs. Ferguson was near, how it stimulated us."

Note: The letter above was written by Mr. James H. Steele, formerly a Corporal of Perrin`s 11th Regiment Mississippi Cavalry, F-Troop. He was the son of Capt. S.A.D. Steele, of Kemper county, MS., who commanded F-Troop. James H. Steele was just 15 years of age when he first enlisted into his father`s company of Perrin`s Regiment Mississippi Cavalry (later the 11th Mississippi Cavalry), and 16 years of age when he joined Ferguson`s brigade at the beginning of Sherman`s Meridian Campaign. In which he served from 3 Feb 1864 - 5 May 1865, he was two days shy of his 18th birthday, as part of President Jefferson Davis` personal escort and body guard from North Carolina to Georgia, when Ferguson`s brigade was disbanded at Washington, GA. on 5 May 1865, and the men told to return to their homes.

Mrs. Kate Lee Ferguson led a very exciting life, at her husband`s side throughout the war, and had many experiences which she would share and regale to her children, family and friends for decades to come after the war.
 
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Lubliner

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That sure adds a bit of perspective when reading the Official Records, and knowing all this is taking place with her witnessing. As she describes the scene overlooking the Tennessee River as her husband's brigade moves out, I haven't read anything quite as eloquent and moving since a few lines from Bruce Catton, long ago. Thanks for the post!
Lubliner.
 
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That sure adds a bit of perspective when reading the Official Records, and knowing all this is taking place with her witnessing. As she describes the scene overlooking the Tennessee River as her husband's brigade moves out, I haven't read anything quite as eloquent and moving since a few lines from Bruce Catton, long ago. Thanks for the post!
Lubliner.
I agree, there were a few phrases in what she wrote that really stood out to me. The passage that you mentioned, for sure. Another was when she stated: "I was married during the war, and was one of the women brave enough, or foolish enough, to follow their husbands, learning to love the sound of cannon better than the cackle of hens in a farm yard." in addition to when she stated: "The brigade, commanded by my husband, was my only home for three years, and I grew to care for the army and our own men more than I can tell," and "I lead a rough-and-tumble life; on horseback or rolled up in a blanket."

Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson bought her many gifts while out Campaigning and tried to spend quality time with her, when feasible to do so. One of the gifts which he presented to her was a fine Arabian saddle horse which he acquired for $1,500, while campaigning up in northern Mississippi. She received quite a scare when she heard that his horse had been shot out from under him and that he had been shot and wounded in the shoulder, while laying an ambush for Colonel Edward F. Winslow`s cavalry at Chunky River, on 12 Feb 1864, during Sherman`s Meridian Campaign, but was quite relieved when she saw him and realized that it was merely a flesh wound which only required a good cleansing of the wound and immediately returned to his duty.
 
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Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Didn't Sam Ferguson get caught fiddling the books after the war and had to flee to a South American country did his wife go with him?.
Yes, after the war, Sam Ferguson settled in Greenville, MS., where he studied law, was admitted to the bar and began a Law practice there. In 1885, he was appointed to the Mississippi River Commission by the 21st President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur and was soon appointed as president of the board of the Mississippi River Levee Commissioners. In October 1888, he was being spoken of as becoming the next Governor of the State of Mississippi. Even though he had an overwhelming amount of support to run for that office, and was one of the leading candidates if he had run, he decided against it, and chose instead to remain in his position as president of the Mississippi River Levee Commission.

Sam and Kate Lee Ferguson remained close friends of Jefferson Davis after the war, and spent much time together until Jefferson Davis died, on 6 Dec 1889, of acute bronchitis while visiting New Orleans. Sam Ferguson was one of the pall bearers at Jefferson Davis` funeral, as was Stephen D. Lee, where his body was temporarily interred at New Orleans’s Metairie Cemetery. Less than three and one half years later, from 27-31 May 1893, Sam Ferguson, Stephen D. Lee and others, along with the Davis family, escorted the exhumed remains of Jefferson Davis, from New Orleans to Richmond, VA., to be reposed at Hollywood Cemetery, where his remains rest to this day. In July 1894, the Treasurer of the Mississippi River Levee Commission discovered the sum of $39,130 to be missing, over the span of a few years, and could not be accounted for, which resulted in Sam Ferguson resigning his position and proposing to turn over to the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners, all of his real and personal property. This included "Ditchley Plantation," which encompassed 1,400 acres of land and a large two-story plantation home in Washington county, MS., in which Greenville was located. In addition to all farming implements at the plantation (wagons, plows, tools, &c.), fifty mules and the current crop, then growing in the ground. As well as Sam Ferguson turning over another house and lots, which he owned in the city of Greenville. This proposition was intended to pay back the sum that went missing, and then some, which seemed to satisfy his debt.

Sam and Kate Lee Ferguson then relocated back to his native Charleston, S.C., for several years, where he studied civil engineering. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Sam Ferguson offered his military services to the 25th President of the United States, William McKinley, who thanked him but respectfully refused his offer on the basis of his advanced age and physical condition. He then relocated from Charleston, S.C. to Quito, Ecuador where he was hired as an Engineer and won a contract to construct one of the major railroads there, the line from Guayaquil to Quito, which he completed. By October 1900 Sam Ferguson returned from Ecuador and with-in a certain amount of time had gained employment as an Engineer for the City of Biloxi, MS. on the coast, where he worked in that capacity for some years. In 1908, General Ferguson completed the first detailed city map of Biloxi. It took 19 months to survey and cost about $2,500. The map was 15 1/2 feet long and almost 6 feet in width.

Sam Ferguson returned to Greenville, MS., in poor health circa 1914, where he spent the last few years of his life. On 3 Feb 1917, Samuel Wragg Ferguson was the last of 31 Generals produced from Mississippi during the Civil War to have died. He was the last surviving General Officer produced in Mississippi during the Civil War for 7 years before his death. Of the 31 Generals that Mississippi produced only 24 survived the War. He died at Jackson, MS., where he was laid to rest.
 
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