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Sketches of My Life:

Charlotte Emily Bryan Grimes

Our generous donor: John Bryan Grimes


  At the request of my daughters, I have jotted down a few memories of my
life and more mature years.

  I have had much happiness in my life and much heartrending sorrow. In the death of by brothers, sisters and parents, I suffered much distress. But the crowning and most enduring sorrow of my life was the loss of my dear husband and the manner of his death. After having thousands of bullets showered around him for four years and leading such a noble life, to think that a wretch so base as to assassinate him could be found to deprive a wife and nine little children of their husband and father, and this wretch to go unpunished by law. The oldest child was fourteen and a half years old, the youngest little girl only two months and a half of age. I could never forget it if I lived to be a hundred years old. He was the best, the dearest husband to me.

  This is for the use of my children that they may have an accurate idea of what my life has been.

  With much love,

  Your devoted Mother,

 Charlotte E. Grimes

  I was born in Raleigh, January 27th, 1840. My parents, Hon. John H. Bryan and Mary W. Sheperd, his wife having moved from New Bern, N.C. in the winter of 1837 and '38.

  My father bought from Hon. George E. Badger a house surrounded by a large grove of Oak, Hickory and Walnut trees, facing on Blount Street, Person Street at the back, Lane Street on the South and North Street on the North.

  To this house, he made a large addition, making a very roomy and commodious dwelling, the large grove being an ideal play-ground for the children. Lovejoy's Academy and grave, now the Governor's Mansion and grounds being just south of this place. We seldom went from home, our old Mammy, Harriet, with her assistant nurse, used to take us for long walks to the Big Branch and Mordecai's Woods, where she gathered black-berries and wild flowers for us, and we were very happy in doing so. This Branch was at the foot of what is now Oakwood Avenue, next to the Confederate and Oakdale Cemetery, which are a part of the Mordecai Woods.

  I have been told that I was a very small baby, so delicate looking, that on the occasion of a dinner party at my father's when the baby was brought in, Mr. Badger exclaimed, "Why Bryan, this looks like a giving-out." I have been told though that I was quite a pretty baby. When seven years of age, I went in the country to spend a week with Hattie Hubbard, whose father, the Rev. F. M. Hubbard had charge of Trinity Episcopal School for boys. I then began to fatten up and continued to do so until my flesh was a source of great annoyance to me, my brothers and sisters teasing me about my size. Hattie was very stout and they said I got it from sleeping with her. When I was about eight years of age, my brother Frank returned from Mexico, where he had greatly distinguished himself by his gallantry and bravery at the battle of Buena Vista. The City of Raleigh had presented him with a gold sword. I don't remember much except seeing him in his uniform in the House of Commons with the sword in his hand and people standing around. On the 4th day of July, they sent up fire-works with his name, General Taylor's, General Scott's, and others, who had distinguished themselves in the War.

  I was thought too small to go out at night, but the other children told me about them. I also remember when the house was illuminated. I think it was when General Taylor was elected President, nearly all the windows in the house had a candle in each pane. I used to be, and we all were intensely proud of brother Frank, thinking him the hero of the War.

  About this time, my brother George, (who was just younger than myself,) was sent with me to Mrs. Taylor's School. She was an excellent teacher, but such a strict and severe disciplinarian that after going about eighteen months, we begged our parents to send us elsewhere. George went to Mr. Lovejoy, and I was sent to St. Marys, where I remained, except at intervals, until I was sixteen years of age. George was a very bright boy and was prepared to enter College at Chapel Hill very early, graduating with high honors at eighteen years of age. He was appointed Tutor of Latin, and remained there until the beginning of the War in the Spring of 1861, when he resigned to enter the Service. He was appointed by Governor Ellis, a Lieutenant in the Second N.C. Calvary under Col. Spruill. At the battle of New Bern, he was acting as Aide de Camp to Col. Campbell of the Seventh Regiment, State Troops, who complimented him very highly for his coolness and courage, saying he acted like a veteran. This was his first experience under fire. His horse was killed at this battle.

  After this, he returned to his Regiment, which was sent to Virginia. In a fight at Upperville, he was wounded in the head and left for dead on the field. Our troops left him, and on regaining consciousness, he was taken by the Yankees and carried first to Washington City and Baltimore, and then to Johnson's Island in Lake Erie, where he suffered intensely from his wound, cold and starvation.

  In the Spring of 1864, he was exchanged and almost immediately returned to the field. At a fight on Charles City Road, his men were dismounted to act as Infantry; in making a charge he was shot as he mounted the breast-works. The bullet entered about the heart, probably a sharp-shooter picked him off. He was a tall, handsome man, and no doubt the enemy recognized him as an Officer. He lived only long enough to cheer his men on, and they took the works. He was carried to a house nearby, where he breathed only a few times. They wrapped him in his blanket and buried him there. After we received the news of his death, my brother Henry, (now Judge H. R. Bryan of New Bern), took one of my fathers' negroes, went to Virginia and assisted by Rev. George Patterson, procured a coffin, and brought the remains home. Thus perished as noble and gallant a spirit as ever lived. He was a sincere Christian and expected to study for the ministry when the war was over. George's commission to Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment was received at Headquarters the very day he was killed.

  I was sent in September, 1857 to Miss Carpentier's School in Philadelphia. I remained there about ten months devoting my time principally to music and the languages. I took piano lessons from Carl Wolfsohn, and singing lessons from Parelli, the two foremost teachers of the day. Parelli always tried the voices of his pupils and would not take any girls unless their voices justified the expense and trouble of cultivating them. He was an Italian and rather a unique character.

  Parelli used to say, "Now, you go to the Opera and hear 'Gay Gazzaniza' sing and you sing like her." Gay Gazzaniza was the prima donna for the season.

  We also went frequently to hear the celebrated prima donna, La Grange. We enjoyed the privilege of attending the operas and concerts of celebrated musicians, also of visiting friends and relations in the city.

  My friend and relative, Major Charles J. Biddle and his wife were very kind to me and I had a standing invitation to dine with them every Saturday, when I felt so inclined.

  They often took me out to entertainments. Major Biddle was an officer in the Mexican War, and a son of the celebrated Nicholas Biddle, President of the Unites States Bank in President Jackson's term and a noted financier. His, (Nicholas Biddle's) Mother was a Miss Shepard of North Carolina, sister of my grandfather, William Shepard of New Bern.

  I spent the Christmas Holidays with my friend, Mary McIntosh, (afterwards Mrs. Kilgore,) at Trenton, NJ. We enjoyed ourselves extremely, and had something on hand every evening. Mary's beau, Pete Vroom and my friend, Mr. Hunt, were our constant attendants. We saw much of the Dayton's and others. Pete Vroom had just returned from Europe, where his father had been Minister at one of the European Courts; he brought Mary a very pretty garnet pin. The Easter Holidays I spent at Bordentown with my Mother's cousin, Mrs. Francis Hopkinson. It was a very quaint looking place, there being a great many old stone houses. Among other places, I saw the house where Madame Murat used to teach school. I was told that Louis Napoleon, (afterwards Emperor) while living in Bordentown, had been arrested for shooting a pig. The town was very quiet while I was there, it being too early for the usual summer residents.

  Mrs. Hopkinson had a home in Philadelphia also. They were very kind to me. In June, I returned to Raleigh and spent the summer there.

  The winter I left school was "Legislature Winter" as it was called when I made my debut, and we enjoyed the usual number of parties and entertainments.

  The following June, 1859, I attended my first Commencement at the University of North Carolina; in these days attending Commencement at Chapel Hill was an event in the lives of the girls of the State. President Buchanan and Jacob Thompson of his Cabinet attended this Commencement. On his staff was Lieutenant Stuart, afterwards the famous Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart.

  My sister Isabel and cousin Annie Washington and I were introduced to them. Lt. J.E.B. Stuart, though a married man, made himself most charming and did everything he could to make our time pass pleasantly.

  After going home to Raleigh, the President and his party called at my father's house. I met my husband for the first time at Chapel Hill.

  My mother sent with us as maid, a settled woman named Kitty, as she thought one of the younger ones would lose her head in the excitement. We had very poor lights in our room, only short pieces of tallow candles. We used to send Kitty out in the day and she would tell the hotel people we must have more candles. Our evening dresses were made with pointed waists, laced in the back and between the poor lights and Kitty's eyes, it was a hard matter to get into them as she had to feel for every little eyelet hole.

  I remember the night of the big ball, my feet pained so from dancing and standing, I had to discard my new slippers and use an old pair. I was the first one dressed and by the time Kitty was through lacing my dress I was almost exhausted. Then Isabel and Annie Washington became so out of patience with her, they begged me to lace their dresses, which I did.

  I enjoyed the ball after I reached there, and Lt. Stuart was very kind procuring seats for us, whenever there was a cessation of dancing. After driving 12 miles over a dreadful road in a carriage and going all during the day and dancing for three nights, I was pretty well worn out. My Tuesday night dress was a white Tarlatan with red ribbons; Wednesday night I wore yellow silk with gold colored Tarlatan over it and a wreath of holly berries and green leaves. My dress for the big ball was a white silk with tulle overdress and white feathers in my hair.

  I spent the remainder of the summer at home.

  My brother Frank, of St. Louis, and his family were at the Virginia Springs and after the season there was over, they made a visit to my father and mother. They asked them to allow me to go back with them and make a visit in St. Louis, to which they consented.

  On our way to St. Louis, we stopped for a visit in Baltimore to see my brother. Afterwards, Judge William Shepard Bryan of the Maryland Court of Appeals. From there we went to New York where my brother's wife, Sister Edwina and I enjoyed ourselves shopping, and seeing all the beautiful goods in the stores, attending the opera and etc. We saw the famous Adelina Patti at the opera; she had then not made her debut.

  My sister, Mrs. John C. Winder was then living in New York, and we had the pleasure of seeing her, her husband and her little daughter, Mary.

  From there, we went to Buffalo, Cincinnati, and other cities to St. Louis, where I made a long visit. Mrs. Taylor, my brother's mother-in-law would not let me come home; she and every one else were as kind as possible. The city was very gay and something always going on. There were a great many young men in society. I had beautiful clothes and jewelry, among them a set of pearls and etc. I met many people, Col. Churchill his wife and daughter being my very good friends.

  At one time I thought I would adopt St. Louis as my future residence, but could not make up my mind to go so far from home unless I had been more in love than I was. Among others, I met a Mr. Dent, a brother-in-law of Gen. Grant. The latter at that time was rather obscure with no thought, I suppose, of being restored to a command in the United States Army and of attaining such distinction.

  I returned home, June 1860, coming as far as Baltimore with Col. Churchill who was delegate to the Democratic convention in Baltimore that nominated Breckenridge and Lane. There were four tickets in the field that year. Bell and Everett by Whigs, Douglas and _________, Lincoln and Hanslien, Republicans. From Baltimore, I returned home with Mr. George Mordecai, Mr., now Gen. Cox, and quite a number of pleasant Gentlemen whose names I have forgotten. The Legislature met the following winter and the times were quite exciting with much talk of secession and many parties. Most of our friends among the Gentlemen were secessionists, though some were for the Union.

  The secession convention met in Raleigh, May 1861, and passed the ordinance of secession on the 20th. There was a large crowd of ladies and gentlemen in the House of Commons (now called the House of Representatives) and great enthusiasm. Ramseur's Battery was on the West side of the Capitol and they fired a salute; everybody who could get a place repaired to the West porch of the Capitol. Gen. Grimes was a member of the Convention from Pitt County. He was a secessionist and kept and treasured the pen with which he signed the ordinance. My father was a Union man as long as we remained there in honor, but after Lincoln's proclamation calling for troops to subdue the South, he became one of the strongest and most earnest supporters of the Confederacy, paying his tithes and taxes cheerfully, and giving every aid possible to the Confederate Government.

  We lived through the trying days of the war and did not suffer any great privations, thanks to our father's care and forethought. Of course, our wardrobes were rather slim, but that was a small matter, compared with the trouble and anxiety which we all suffered on account of the daily dangers to which those we loved were exposed to in the army.

  At home the ladies had sewing societies, where they made sheets and all garments necessary for the soldiers. My mother and eleven of us knit many socks and gloves for the soldiers. I remember knitting a nice pair of gloves for Col. Grimes, afterwards my husband; he was calling one evening and saw me knitting gloves for the soldiers and asked me to knit him a pair; I told him I did not know whether I could or not, as they would be troublesome to knit with all the fingers, those we knit for the soldiers had only thumb and fore-finger so they could load their guns, the other fingers were all in one. I decided however, that it was my duty as well as a pleasure to knit the gloves and sent them to him. He said they were a great comfort and kept them until after the War and packed them in camphor to prevent the moths eating them. This was in the winter of '62 and '63.

  Col. Grimes was in Raleigh again in April, called home by the death of his little boy Bryan, who died of scarlet fever at the home of his great aunt, Mrs. Alston in Warren County.(believe this to be Martha Davis and her husband Edward Alston. Martha was the sister of Eliz. Hilliard Davisís father). He always said that I was engaged to him from that time tho' I did not so consider it. After that came the dreadful battle of Chancellorsville, when he was wounded in the foot; he kept on until the works were captured, then fainted from pain, and it was reported that he was killed. My grand-mother was sick and I went up to stay up all night with her; when I returned the next afternoon, I went into the sitting room to speak with my mother and father; Mr. Winder was in there and was telling the news from the battle; he said, among others, Col. Grimes was killed, he said I turned as white as a sheet. I was standing in the door, so went out into the dining-room. My mother came in saying there was a letter for me. It was from a gentleman who had courted me from my first season, saying he would come to Raleigh soon and visit me. I remember thinking, why was it he was alive and Col. Grimes killed. I threw the letter in the fire, realizing then that I cared more for Col. Grimes than any one else. Next day we heard that the news of his death was a mistake. He did not come home again until September 1863 (though I heard from him between times and he sent me music and other things), when he urged me so strongly to marry him at once, I did not have the heart to refuse.

  His daughter, Bettie, now Mrs. S. F. Mordecai was living with his brother, Mr. William Grimes in Raleigh, and I have always found her a very noble and unselfish woman, she has eight children, all doing well.

  My trousseau was very limited. I had laid by a few things from time to time, thinking I might need them, and all the family added something. My sister, Mrs. Speight was in Alabama (she had married a widower, whose only son was killed in the war), but my sister, Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Winder, Isabel and Annie, all contributed something, so I did quite well after all.

  We were married at Christ Church, Raleigh, Sept. 15th, 1863 at nine o'clock in the morning and took the train for Warrenton immediately.

  The night before we were married, my husband gave me the loveliest watch and chain I ever saw. I was overcome with surprise, as I had not expected a wedding gift during such hard times. It was a blue enameled heart set with diamonds. The chain was long and of beautiful workmanship. He had seen it in Paris and bought it, thinking he might sometime have a use for it. Col. Grimes took me to Warren County to visit his friends there, the Alstons. We were there about a week, when we returned to Raleigh. We had a reception at my father's, then we went to Mr. William Grimes' for a while. My husband soon returned to the Army as his furlough had expired. Things being quiet along the line, he procured another furlough as he had business in connection with his nomination for Congress to attend to. He withdrew his name and returned to the Army, preferring to remain there until peace was restored. He wrote that as soon as he was settled for the winter he would send for me.

  About the middle of December, my dear little brother, Freddie, died. He had been a sufferer for a long time from diabetes. He bore his suffering with so much patience and tried so hard to keep up that we hardly realized this illness. He had a most brilliant mind and one of the brightest, sweetest dispositions I ever knew. He had been to a Military Academy. Col. Tow's at Hillsboro, and although only about fifteen or sixteen years of age used to take great pleasure in drilling the soldiers in camp around us; he was certainly a bright, lovable boy, and he was an ardent Confederate.

  Just before Christmas, I had a letter from Col. Grimes saying he had procured a comfortable boarding house near camp, so I went as far as Richmond with my sister, Mrs. Winder, her husband and children. From there I went to Orange Court House; reaching there the night before Christmas, 1863. Mr. Winder went to the train with me in Richmond and introduced Cashmeyer, the celebrated detective, who went with me as far as Orange Court House.

  Gen. Ramseur and wife boarded at the same place with us and we found them very pleasant and agreeable. Shortly after reaching the Army, the band of the Fourth Regiment gave a serenade. I did not enjoy it much as it made me think of my little brother and I could hardly refrain from tears. The snow was on the ground and it was bitter cold. Col. Grimes called the band in and Mr. Davis gave them a good supper to warm them up. Gov. Vance made a visit to the Army that winter, made speeches and reviewed the NC Troops. We, Mrs. Ramseur, Mrs. Davis with whom we boarded and I, went to the Review. There was a small fight on the Rapidan River while we were there. The Yankees attempted to cross and of course, our husbands had to go and left very miserable wives. They were called off again that winter and were away several days.

  In April, I returned home under the care of Rev. Mr. Anderson, Chaplain of the Fourth Regiment and passed many long days consumed with misery and anxiety as my husband was in a battle almost every day. First were those terrible fights at Spotsylvania, and the Wilderness, then they went to the Valley.

  Col. Grimes was appointed to a Brigadier-Generalship in May, 1864. My cousin, Annie Blount Pettigrew, who, with her sister, Mary, was raised by my Mother, (their mother, Mrs. Ebeneezer Pettigrew having died at the birth of the former,) refuged at Haywood, Harnett County with her brother, William S. Pettigrew. He had taken his most valuable negro men for safety there. While there, Annie married in the Spring of 1863, Rev. Neil McKay. She died in the Spring of '64. Her twin babies being buried in the same coffin. After the war ended Dr. McKay passed through Raleigh with the remains, also taking Gen. Pettigrew's (who had been buried in the City Cemetery in Raleigh) with him to Lake Scuppernong, their birth-place, burying them in the churchyard at St. David's Chapel.** William S. Pettigrew afterwards became an Episcopal Minister, and lived in Ridgeway where he ended his days in 1900 and is buried there. In August, 1864, my brother George was killed. I remember, my brother Henry coming in with the telegram. On the 19th of September was fought the battle of Fisher's Hill, in which at first was successful. Gen. Rodes was killed. On the 19th of October, the Battle of Cedar Creek was fought and Gen. Ramseur was killed.

  ________

  ** Transcriber's Note: Lake Scuppernong is currently Lake Phelps. Gen. Pettigrew is actually buried in a plot that was once on his plantation, "Bonarva", which is very close to "Somerset Place", a large, restored plantation house, near Pettigrew State Park in Washington County, NC.

  Ridgeway, NC is near Norlina, NC in Warren County.

  ______

  My first baby was born on the 12th day of October he lived only two days. Dr. Mason, the rector of Christ Church was sent for and baptized him, Bryan. His heart never acted right. Dr. Johnson said it was caused by anxiety and trouble.

  In December, I again went to the Army. My husband was then commanding the Division, Gen. Ramseur having been killed in the fight of October 19th in the Valley. Just before going into battle he received news of the birth of his child, but was killed and never knew its sex.

  The division was in Camp about two miles from Petersburg on Swift Creek and my husband wrote for me to come.

  I went over to see Mrs. Cox and told her I was going to the Army and asked if she would like to go at the same time. She said that she was anxious to do so and would be delighted to go with me. She took her nurse and little boy and driver to look after the baggage. We left Raleigh in the afternoon and reached Greensboro before dark. It was very doubtful whether we would be able to get through or not as the trains were filled with furloughed soldiers returning to their commands. My father had put me under the care of Gen. J.G. Martin, who was going to Richmond. About dark, Major Edmundson and several other officers said we should not be disappointed, and they would see that we got on the train. They procured a wagon that had no body and put us in it and we drove some distance beyond the depot where the train had stopped for a few minutes. They laid a plank from the embankment to the car which we walked and scrambled into the freight car. I sat all night on a bag of corn. We travelled all that night until the next afternoon. During the night, a heavy snow had fallen and it was very cold and the engine had broken down. Capt. Richard Henderson, U.S.A. and his wife from Washington City were along with us. We did not suffer for food as we carried lunches with us. We remained there all night and until the next afternoon, when an engine came along and took us to Petersburg. On this journey, I met Capt. William L. London and his brother Henry of Pittsboro, who were on their way to the Army. We travelled all that night and the next day with frequent stoppages and rumors of Yankees blocking the road, but finally reached Petersburg safe and well, but very weary. Gen. Grimes and Gen. Cox met us at the station. Mrs. Cox stopped at Petersburg to spend the night, but my husband and I drove four miles farther in an ambulance to headquarters.

  I was so exhausted that night that I slept the whole night and until three o'clock the next day without waking. Gen. Grimes had been to Camp and returned for dinner when I roused and inquired if it was time to get up, thinking it was early morning when he said it was three o'clock and dinner time. It was a cold night, but I slept very comfortably under army blankets, a bear skin and a buffalo robe. I had carried sheets from home with me. My stay near Petersburg was twice interrupted by movements of the Yankees. One night we were sitting very cozily by our fire, Gen. Grimes sorting and signing his papers; suddenly he stopped, listened and said "That's small arms and I most go." I said, "Must you go in all this sleet and rain?" He laughed and said that made no difference and made preparations to go. He had orders in case of need to go to the assistance of a force stationed on the river. He immediately called out the Division and in a short time had gone. Next morning, I thought I heard someone say Gen. Grimes was killed. I jumped out of bed and sent my servant to inquire, when Dr. Mitchell who was in the house sent me word that it was Gen. Pegram who was killed; he had only been married a week. Next day the troops returned. Many of them were barefooted and the icicles hanging on hair and beards. One Sunday afternoon, Gen. Grimes and I were on our way to church, when we were met by a courier ordering the Division off somewhere. I went back to the house where we were staying, hurriedly tossed my things in my trunk and was off in a few minutes to a house a few miles distant where Mrs. Cox was staying.

  Next day, we see the wagons passing, loaded with wounded men. After some hours, Gen. Grimes, to my great joy appeared in sight. I was soon ready, and we went back to our house, walking, he leading "Old Warren," his horse. The mess, Major Green Peyton, A.A.G., Dr. Mitchell, and others lived in a four room house with us that belonged to a Dr. Bragg. Major Peyton kept house. At night we could see the shells burst about a hundred or a hundred and fifty yards away. When the officers left, I had to go too, as I could not stay there alone and would go to a neighboring house where Mrs. Cox boarded. I had a negro maid that I took with me from Raleigh to wait on me. I remained there until February, when Gen. Lee advised to send their families away as active operations might begin at any time. Gen. Grimes sent his aide, Capt. Barnes to take me home, also his body servant, Polk, to help us, as there were no porters at the stations to move baggage. He told Capt. Barnes he could see his wife before returning, so he went to Wilson from Raleigh. There I met my father's carriage and went home. The roads were so bad that it was sometime before active operations began. Forty-five men deserted the night I left.

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