Mrs. Fanny Lawrence Ricketts





           She was the third daughter of J Sharpe Lawrence and (unknown) Ricketts, daughter of Captain Ricketts of the British army and Sarah Livingston. Fanny was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In January of 1856, she married a distant cousin, James B. Ricketts, a captain in the 1st Artilley, USA and they went immediately to his assingment on the Rio Grande River, in Texas, where she was a favorite among the men for her tender ministrations to the sick or wounded and her kind words to all.
           In the Spring of 1861, Her husband was reassinged to Fortress Monroe in Virginia, where he was an instructor in an artillery school of practice, then she went with him to Alexandria, when he took command of a battery of light artillery. When they went into battle in July of 1861, at Bull Run, she was compelled to return to their temporary home in Washington, and wait and hope and pray.



           On the evening of the 21st, several strangers showed up to inform her of her husband's demise, but she refused to believe. Then Lt. E. D. Baker brought her James sword, and her husband's dying wishes: "Give this to my wife; tell her I have done my duty to my country, and my last words are of her and our child." This was soon confirmed by Cap'n Ricketts Jr. Lt. Kirby, who recited the tale of his long but fruitless search for the Cap'n's body. Such was the state for 48 hours, then she recieved a telegram from Gen. Wadsmorth, stating that a Rebel officer who met his flag of truce, told him Cap'n Ricketts was alive, though gravely wounded and a prisoner.



           She at once determined to go to him at all costs, and obtained from Gen. Beckwith, a light carriage with a driver, and a pass to the Union lines. There, she drove on until stopped by Rebel pickets, who held her until her note to Jeb Stuart, an acquiantance from their Texas days, arrived stating that she could come on into Fairfax. Here, he demanded her signature that she was not acting as a spy. She tore the paper to pieces saying: "I am no spy, but the wife of a wounded officer, and I will go as your prisoner, but I will never sign this." She knew the rights she was entitled to and insisted on a pass and a guide to Gen. Joe Johnston's headquarters. He directed her to a house near the battlefield in use as a field hospital.
           Arriving at the house, she was greeted by piles of corpses, bloating in the July heat, and an amputated human arm lay carelessly across the doorstep, having missed the huge stack of human limbs under a window...the hall was blocked by the diningroom table, occupied by the current patient. The walls, floor and ceiling were all covered with blood. Upstairs, in a small room with 5 others, she found James, whose life had been saved by Dr. Lewis, a Union doctor from Michigan.
           She stayed in that house with him for two weeks, and prevented several attempts to amputate her husband's leg. All they had to eat was raw bacon and hardtack, and a little coffee. What water there was was carried 1/2 mile by hand. The smell of the battlefield became so bad the Rebel camps were moved, then so intolerable the guards left. Finally, on Aug. 3, all the prisoners were ordered moved to Richmond.



           Because he was an officer, they were assigned to a hospital car, instead of the rude box cars the enlisted prisoners rode in, and they were brought ale and food by Rebel Col. Wade Hampton, whose goodness Fanny repaid months later when she got him released from Johnson's Island prison.
           Conditions in Richmond, were, if anything, worse. The prisoners were confined in the city poorhouse. The food was coarse and unpalatable, the surroundings bare and filthy. Again the surgeon's pleaded with her to let them take off his horribly swollen leg, but she continued to say no as she was afraid he would not survive the surgical trauma. On top of all this, the prison crawled, night and day, with people who mostly had come to bask in the sufferings of the enemy and jeer obscenely at them. However, the wife of Ajt. Gen Cooper and the sister of James M. Mason both repeatedly send baskets of food and came to visit in spite of local feelings. There was also a "soiled dove" who resided with a local gambler who took it upon herself to daily visit to nurse and cheer the men and bring them such food as possible. The authorities at length forbade this, she was able to continue to bring to James and Fanny a basket of food every Sunday.
           At the end of Oct., most of the prisoners were moved to the infamous Libby Prison. Shortly after arriving at this place of nameless horror, they were awakened in the night by a messenger who announced that as James was one of the 13 highest Union officers in Rebel hands that he had been selected as one of the hostages to be executed when the Union executed 13 sailor privateersmen in prison in New York.



           After four months, James began slowly to improve, but was then still scheduled to be locked in a "felon's dungeon" in his capacity as an hostage. Fanny wrote an impassioned letter to her friend at Rebel headquarters, a Mrs. Cooper, who convinced Gen. Winder to instruct that "all the wounded officers have been exempted as hostages" because treatment of that sort of wounded officers might damage the fair name of the Confederacy in Europe.
           In the last week of Dec., 1861, an exchange took place and Fanny and James returned to Fairfax. In Spring of 1862, James was made a Brigadier-General and sent to McDowell's Corps at Fredericksburg. She spent several months again with him in the field, until, at Antietam, he was wounded again, in the same leg, when his horse was shot and rolled onto it. They spent that winter in Washington where James was the president of the military commission.
           At Cedar Run, in Oct. of 1864, Gen Ricketts received a third wound. He was shot in the right breast, and was expected to die, but by April he was well enough to go Danville, where the effects of cold and exposure made all his old wounds very painful, and he was obliged to quit the field.
           The war was then soon over and they returned home for good after three years of suffering, at least able now to rejoice in restored peace.

"Women of the War", Frank Moore, pages 2-35





General James B. Ricketts

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