Thursday, July 05, 2007

He Always Loved Her....

Old Bald Head is not a typical name for a romantic hero -- at least not in books or in movies. But, in real life, General Richard S. Ewell, who possessed this unflattering nickname, wooed his lifelong love -- Lizinka Campbell Brown Ewell -- through decades of undying devotion. It wasn't until they both reached middle age that he finally won her heart.

This is the story of the woman whose hand the General waited so long to claim:

Lizinka Campbell was the daughter of a Tennessee State senator, who was also Minister to Russia under President James Monroe. She was born in St. Petersburg in 1820. She was named for the Russian Czarina, who had become her mother's close friend. She grew up to be a beautiful young lady.

Somewhere along the way, her cousin, Richard, developed a great love for her. He was born in the District of Columbia and raised in Virginia. Though he sought Lizinka's hand, she married another man -- James Percy Brown.

Brown was a lawyer who owned plantations in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. When he and Lizinka became engaged, he was an attache in the American Embassy in Paris. Through his career and family connections, he moved in the highest circles of American/French society. This was during a time when the monarchy briefly regained control of France after their famous Revolution and after Napoleon. Brown was surrounded by aristocrats and foreign diplomats. His life was much like the one that Lizinka had known when her father had been a diplomat.

The Browns had two children. Their names were George Campbell Brown and Harriet Stoddard Brown.

From the time of Lizinka's wedding to Brown, Richard remained a bachelor. He idealized Lizinka and set her up as a standard. For him, no other woman could match his romanticized picture of Lizinka.

One who knew him wrote: "He loved her when she was a young girl and being unsuccessful in his devotions, remained a soldier and bachelor on the frontier for many years, since he did not hope to find her equal in all the noble qualities of person, head, and heart, which were required by his exacting ideal..."

So, off Richard went to the adventures of war. He spent much time in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, where he fought Apaches, escorted traders through dangerous territory, and served in the Mexican War. He led a hard existence when compared to the refined lives of his distinguished relatives. His life was even further from the glamor and luxury to which the Browns were accustomed.

Sadly, Lizinka's husband died while her children were still very young. She moved into her father's home in Nashville. Eventually, her father died, and she inherited much of his great wealth. She proved to be as shrewd as she was beautiful, for she managed the assets she had inherited so well that her fortune increased even more.

Richard was still away in the west, serving his country. He never gave anyone the impression that he was interested in any other woman than Lizinka.

When the Civil War broke out, Richard joined the Confederate Army. He became a member of General Lee's staff. Lizinka's son, Campbell, became Richard's aide.

With her son so near to him, Richard naturally thought of Lizinka. He was anxious for her safety, as she was still living in Nashville. Nashville had fallen to the Federal Army by that point. It was officially part of a Federal jurisdiction, though Confederate sympathies continued to boil. Andrew Johnson, who was military governor for Tennessee during the war, took over Lizinka's house as his own. Battles raged all through and around Nashville, and both sides carried on a lot of spying back and forth on each other.

Lizinka was known by all to be a Confederate sympathizer. She had outfitted a Rebel company formed in Maury County by some of her cousins. The group was known as the Brown Guards. Richard had good reason to fear that Lizinka's loyalty to the Confederacy might bring trouble upon her.

For a time, Richard refused to let Lizinka's son serve in any position where he might come under fire. He commented, that if anything happened to the boy, "I could never have looked at his mother again..."

Apparently, another aide resented Richard's preferential treatment of his beloved's son. He said, "He never thinks of my mother!"

In 1862, Richard's right knee was shattered in combat. The leg had to be amputated.
Lizinka came to nurse her cousin back to health.

Finally, after years of waiting, Richard persuaded Lizinka to marry him. By this time, he was forty-six years old, and the beating his skin and body had taken during his years as a soldier made him look even older. One cynic wondered whether Lizinka agreed to marry him because she felt pity for him. Perhaps, her Confederate sympathies moved her to see him as a hero. Or, maybe, he finally did win her heart.

When Lizinka said "yes", Richard was beside himself. One of Ewell's staff described the general as "a fond, foolish old man...worse in love than any 18-year-old you ever saw."

After their marriage in 1863, Lizinka managed the General's affairs, even down to overseeing the couriers who carried his dispatches. She also persuaded her rough old soldier husband to give up swearing.

When the war ended, the couple moved to a farm that Lizinka owned in Spring Hill, Tennessee. They shared an interest in progressive farming. They played a big part in introducing Jersey cattle to Tennessee.

Richard was elected president of the Maury County Agricultural Society and president of the Board of Trustees of the Columbia Institute. Though they attended church in Columbia, TN, Lizinka also taught Sunday school in Spring Hill for a time. (The two towns are not far apart).

In January 1872, someone in the household found the General on the floor before the fireplace. He had wrapped himself in an old army blanket, and he was suffering from a severe chill. The doctors labeled the disease typhoid-pneumonia.

As she had during the war, Lizinka set out to faithfully nurse Richard. However, within a few days, she took ill herself. She died a week later.

The family was afraid to tell Richard that Lizinka was dead, for they thought that in his ill and weakened state, his grief might kill him. No one broke the news of her death to Richard until the day of her burial! Then, the couple's preacher finally told Richard what had happened.

Richard was disturbed by the news, as the family had feared and expected. He asked for her picture to be brought to him. He held it against his heart.

A little while later, he asked to see her. He gazed at her features for a long time. Within twenty-four hours, he died, as well.

Richard and Lizinka were both buried in the old City Cemetery in Nashville. An inscription in the window of the church they attended read, "R.S.E., 1818-1872, L.E.C., 1820-1872 -- In their deaths they were not divided."

Note: Many of the facts for this article came from a book by Jill Garrett which chronicles the history of Maury County, Tennessee. My mother's family have lived in that county since the very early 1800's. Mrs. Garrett's book is called, "Hither, Thither, and Yon." Mrs. Garrett was a local historian, genealogist, and writer, and she did a wonderful job of preserving so much of the county's amazing history. There are other books and web sites that tell about Lizinka Ewell and General S. R. Ewell. Diaries and papers that Mrs. Ewell's first husband wrote while he was attache to the American Embassy in Paris are on file at Georgetown University.



Sherry said...

Ooo, Elizabeth, this story could have been an historical romance novel!

Elizabeth said...

Hi Sherry,

It does sound like a historical romance novel, doesn't it! That is, all except for the part about him being called, "Old Bald Head"!

Mrs. U said...

This is such a sweet (but sad) story!! I've never heard of these individuals before, but I fell in love with them while reading this. Thank you SO much for sharing this!!

Mrs. U

Elizabeth said...

Hi Mrs. U.

Yes, it is a bittersweet story.

Emma said...

Thank you for telling us about this couple, Elizabeth! I thought that it was a beautiful love story!

Virginia said...

Very, very well told. Thank you for posting something so redeeming about Richard Ewell. Theirs was a genuine love (in spite of what some critics may allege) and it's stories such as this that bring the Civil War alive.

Virginia said...
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