The Liz Library presents Irene Stuber's Women of Achievement


Anna Ella Carroll
materials submitted by Kay Larson, author of Great Necessities

Washington, D. C., May 12, 1862  

"Miss Anna Ella Carroll is the head of the Carroll race, and when the history of this war is written, she will stand a good bit taller than ever old Charles did."  

    -- Pres. Abraham Lincoln, as quoted by Rep. William Mitchell (R-Ind.) 13 May 1862, in a letter to A. E. Carroll  (Lincoln was referring to Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Maryland.)


Anna Ella Carroll was born on August 29, 1815, to Gov. Thomas King Carroll (1830) and the former Juliana Stevenson. She arrived at the family's venerable plantation home, Kingston Hall that still stands in Somerset County. As a child Anna's time was spent largely in the library where she delved into philosophy, history, and religion at an early age. As a young woman, Carroll assumed the role of her father's political aide and, likely, was tutored in the law by him. 

            In 1850, Thomas King Carroll was appointed Naval Officer for the District of Baltimore by Whig Pres. Zachary Taylor who died shortly thereafter. His successor, Millard Fillmore, signed Carroll's commission. This ushered the elder and younger Carrolls onto the national political stage. During the 1852 and 1856 presidential elections, Anna supported Fillmore; in 1857 and 1860 she campaigned for Thomas H. Hicks of Maryland for governor and former Congressman John Minor Botts of Virginia for president, respectively. Hicks credited his victory to her writings. Thus, by 1860 when Pres. Abraham Lincoln was elected to office, Carroll had established prominent nationwide press and political contacts within the American (Know Nothing), Republican, and Constitutional Union parties through her pamphlets and two major campaign books. 

            Lincoln's election set off the secession of Southern states out of the Union which began with South Carolina's exit on December 20, 1860. In February 1861, the Confederate government was formed in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time Carroll was advising Governor Hicks on compromise efforts in the Congress and sending intelligence on Confederate plans that may have resulted in a coup d?etat of Washington, D. C. had Maryland seceded once Virginia went out. During the summer of 1861, Carroll wrote a political pamphlet in response to a speech given on the floor of the senate by the Hon. John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky who argued that Lincoln had acted in violation of the Constitution by mustering state militias into service following the bombardment of Fort Sumter, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and imposing martial law and a naval blockade. In her Reply pamphlet that was widely circulated by the Lincoln administration, Carroll made informed legal arguments stating that Lincoln had acted in accordance with the Constitution. Under a verbal agreement made with the government, by 1862 Carroll had produced three more war powers pamphlets that presented able constitutional arguments supporting the federal government's actions. Governor Hicks wrote that her documents did more to elect a Union man as his successor than "all the rest of the campaign documents together." 

            In the fall of 1861, Carroll traveled to St. Louis to work with secret agent, Judge Lemuel Evans, who had been appointed by Secty. of State William H. Seward, to assess the feasibility of an invasion of Texas. Carroll worked on her second war powers paper at the Mercantile Library where she sleuthed out information from the head librarian who was Confederate Gen. Joe Johnston's brother. She took military matters into her own hands when she initiated an interview with a riverboat pilot Capt. Charles M. Scott about the feasibility of the planned Union Mississippi River expedition. Scott informed her that he and other pilots thought the advance ill conceived due to the fact that there were many defensible points on the Mississippi River that could be reinforced and it could take years just to open it up to navigation. Carroll then questioned Scott about the feasibility of the use of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers in a Union invasion. Scott provided Carroll technical navigation details. Based on this information Carroll wrote a memorandum that she sent to Asst. Secty. of War Thomas A. Scott and Atty. General Edward Bates advocating that the combined army-navy forces change their invasion route from the Mississippi to the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. Scott took the plan to Lincoln who deemed the plan viable.

            Evidence indicates that on the advice of Sen. Benjamin F. Wade, chairman of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, Lincoln appointed Edwin Stanton secretary of war in January 1862 to implement the Tennessee River plan. Meanwhile in St. Louis, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck was planning the same movement without Lincoln's knowledge. Upon learning that Confederates were possibly sending reinforcements west from Virginia, Halleck ordered Brig. Gen. Ulysses Grant and Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote to immediately move on Forts Henry and Donelson on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers in a telegram dated January 30. Scott was dispatched to the Midwest to mobilize reinforcements for Halleck on the night of January 29. On February 6, Fort Henry fell to Foote's gunboats and on February 13, Fort Donelson fell to Grant's and Foote's combined forces. These comprised the first two "real victories" of the Civil War for the Union as Gen. William Sherman wrote later. Thus Carroll's submission was critical to providing needed reinforcements for Grant and to gaining Stanton the appointment as secretary of war. At the time Carroll's role in the effort was kept secret, but years later Asst. Secretary of War Scott and Senator Wade testified to it before Congress. 

            During the remainder of the war, Carroll worked with Lincoln on issues pertaining to colonization and emancipation. She lobbied him to establish a colony of freedmen in British Belize. Although Carroll had freed her own slaves, she also urged Lincoln not to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, fearing that support of Southern Unionists would be lost and resistance to the Union would be stiffened. But she wrote that Lincoln did have the constitutional right to free the slaves as a temporary war measure under his power as commander-in-chief, since the proclamation would help cripple the organized forces of the rebellion. Yet the measure was not a transfer of title and would have to be suspended once the war emergency ended. To free the slaves a constitutional amendment was required. 

            In the postwar years, Carroll was active in the Republican party in Maryland and continued her political writing career. After 1870, however, her life was largely consumed trying to gain payment for $5,000 the government still owed her for her wartime publications. She went through twenty years of congressional hearings. Every military committee but one voted in her favor, but no bills passed the Congress. In this she received support from women's and suffrage organizations and a biography by Sarah Ellen Blackwell was commissioned by the suffragists in 1891.

            Anna Ella Carroll died on February 19, 1894. She is buried in the cemetery of Old Trinity Church, the oldest Episcopal Church in America, in Dorchester County, Maryland. At the end she was an invalid supported by her sister and funds raised by the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Union veterans' organization, and the Woman?s Relief Corps (WRC), its auxiliary. In succeeding years, a number of authors tried to correct the historical record as to Carroll's service. However, due to lack of support and proper research, as well as discrimination, her case received mixed attention and by the late twentieth century she had largely faded into obscurity in the public mind.  

                -- C. Kay Larson, author, Great Necessities: The Life, Times, and Writings of Anna Ella Carroll, 1815-1894, October 2007.  


Baltimore, Maryland. Maryland Historical Society, Library, Manuscripts Department, A. E. Carroll papers, 1822-1890, MS 1224; Carroll, Cradock, Jensen family papers, 1738- 1968, MS 1976. 

Blackwell, Sarah Ellen. A Military Genius: Life of Anna Ella Carroll of Maryland, ("the great unrecognized member of Lincoln's cabinet"). Vol. 1. Washington, D. C.: Judd &    Detweiler printers, 1891. 

Carroll, Anna Ella. "Hancock" [pseud.] series, written for the 1860 presidential election, New York Evening Express, 23 June 1859, 8 July 1859, 15 July 1859, 5 September 1859. 

__. Reply [to the speech of the Hon. John C. Breckinridge, delivered in the U. S. Senate, 16 July 1861]. Washington, D. C.: Henry Polkinhorn, 1861.        

__. "The Constitutional Power of the President to Make Arrests and Suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus Examined," in Blackwell, Vol. 2, The Life and Writings of Anna Ella Carroll. 

__, The Great American Battle, or, the Contest between Christianity and Political  Romanism. New York and Auburn, N. Y.: Miller, Orton & Milligan, 1856. 

__. The Relation of the National Government to the Revolted Citizens Defined. Washington, D. C.: Henry Polkinhorn, 1862. 

__. The Star of the West, or, National Men and National Measures. 3rd rev. ed. New York: Miller, Orton & Milligan, 1857. 

__. The War Powers of the General Government. Washington, D. C.: Henry Polkinhorn, 1861. 

Greenbie, Sydney, and Marjorie Barstow Greenbie, Anna Ella Carroll and Abraham Lincoln, Tampa: University of Tampa Press, 1952.

Larson, C. Kay. Great Necessities: The Life, Times, and Writings of Anna Ella Carroll, 1815-1894, Phila.: Xlibris Corp., 2004. [Author's note: In spite of the growth of the field of women's history in  the past thirty years, from 1987 on, I was unable to engage a trade or academic publisher for my Carroll biography, in spite of excellent recommendations, and thus finally self-published. I believe this was due to lack of past proper research on and support of Carroll, the length of the book, my lack of a Ph.D., and discrimination.  Still today reviewers and authors of political and military history doubt women's nontraditional roles, and often make pointed efforts to marginalize, and in some cases, belittle them.]

 Washington, D. C., National Archives, Legislative Records Section, Anna Ella Carroll file (plus Carroll's claims and memorials submitted to Congressional committees, printed privately by her).  

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