National War College honors Dorchester’s Anna Ella Carroll

Video of portrait unveiling to be shown March 25 at Dorchester County Historical Society

WASHINGTON — A lesser-known lady in U.S. and Dorchester County history is finally getting some long overdue attention, according to the Friends of Anna Ella Carroll.

Ms. Carroll was honored March 2 with a portrait unveiling at Roosevelt Hall, of the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C. The war college offers senior-level courses in national security strategy to prepare future military and civilian leaders for high-level policy, command, and staff responsibilities. The grand, Beaux Arts-style Roosevelt Hall has many portraits displayed throughout the building, including those of former presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Presented as a gift from the war college’s Class of 2016, Ms. Carroll’s portrait is the first of a woman to grace Roosevelt Hall, which has been in use since 1907. Friends of Anna Ella Carroll — a group of historians from Dorchester County who are students of Ms. Carroll and lobby on her behalf — were guests of honor at the portrait unveiling.

Born in 1815 near Pocomoke City, Ms. Carroll was the daughter of Thomas King Carroll, who was governor of Maryland in the 1830s. Ms. Carroll is also related to Charles Carroll, who signed the Declaration of Independence, served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, and was the first U.S. senator from Maryland.

Ms. Carroll rose to prominence in the 1850s when she campaigned for Millard Fillmore, and wrote a number of articles and pamphlets in support of his presidential bid. However, she was honored at the National War College because of her critical role as supporter of, and advisor to Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. She spent some of her life in Dorchester County and is buried at Old Trinity Church in Church Creek.

When Mr. Lincoln was elected president in 1860, Ms. Carroll freed her slaves. She opposed secession and advised then-Gov. Thomas Holliday Hicks who was born in East New Market and prevented Maryland from seceding.

Ms. Carroll also wrote a number of influential articles and pamphlets that supported President Lincoln and the Union. She traveled from the Washington, D.C., area to southern Illinois, near the Mississippi River, to gather intelligence for President Lincoln. She visited military camps, spoke with high-ranking military men and riverboat captains. She then presented a plan, with maps and supporting information, to Washington officials that influenced Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s early war victories at Fort Donelson and Fort Henry.

The Friends of Anna Ella Carroll were guests of honor March 2 at Roosevelt Hall, of the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C. Ms. Carroll was a Civil War military strategist, and advisor to President Abraham Lincoln, who wrote arguments in favor of President Lincoln and the Union. Dedicated March 2, Ms. Carroll’s portrait is the first-ever of a woman to be displayed among the many portraits of men at the National War College. Ms. Carroll lived in Dorchester County and is buried at Old Trinity Church in Church Creek. Friends of Anna Ella Carroll from left are Mary Handley; Claude Gootee; C. Kay Larson, author of “Great Necessities: The Life, Times, and Writings of Anna Ella Carroll, 1815-1894” and “Lincoln’s Loyal Lady: Anna Ella Carroll, a Brief”; Frank Bittner and Ray Lowry.

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Darren E. Hartford, 29th commandant of the National War College, welcomed guests to Ms. Carroll’s portrait unveiling. He said there are many portraits of men in Roosevelt Hall who steered policy and strategy throughout U.S. history.

“But what you’ll find missing are any portraits of women who filled that role and influenced our nation in the same way,” Gen. Hartford said. “Today we are recognizing a clear example of someone who exercised great influence in the formulation of strategy and policy during a critical period in our history, and that is Ms. Anna Ella Carroll.”

The portrait was unveiled in March to mark Women’s History Month, Gen. Hartford said. He said a group of female students, faculty and staff at the war college researched and identified 60 female strategists throughout U.S. history while deciding whose portrait to hang.

“From that list, Anna Ella Carroll stood out above the rest,” Gen. Hartford said.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught prepared a speech for the portrait unveiling. Gen. Vaught is president emeritus of the Women in Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, having stepped down as president in 2016 after 29 years in the position. She retired from the Air Force in 1985 as one of the most highly decorated women in U.S. history.

Gen. Vaught now suffers from macular degeneration, so Retired Lt. Col. Marilla J. Cushman, director of Public Relations and Development for the Women in Military Service Memorial, read Gen. Vaught’s speech.

“As we think of Anna Ella Carroll and her lack of recognition for her contributions at this critical juncture in our country’s history, let’s think of Clara Barton’s words of 1911 which are etched in the glass tablets on top of the Women’s Military Service Memorial,” Lt. Col. Cushman read. “‘From the storm-lashed decks of the Mayflower … to the present hour, woman has stood like a rock for the welfare and the glory of the history of the country, and one might well add … unwritten, unrewarded and almost unrecognized.’ This was the story of Anna Ella Carroll: unwritten, unrewarded and virtually unrecognized until now. …

“Perhaps we can view today’s recognition here at the home of our nation’s most prestigious senior service schools, a step toward the national recognition of Anna Ella Carroll and the recognition she deserves.”

Frank Bittner, of Hurlock and a member of the Friends of Anna Ella Carroll, was recognized by the generals and lieutenant colonel for his work toward raising awareness about Ms. Carroll. He was asked to speak during the ceremony.

“On behalf of the Friends of Anna Ella Carroll, I’d like to thank the graduating Class of 2016 for your selection to pay tribute to the strategy that was put together by Ms. Carroll,” Mr. Bittner said. “In doing so, you’ve done what three Congressional committees recommended to honor her, that Congress has yet to do. It was our hope to have her honored in such a way by Congress, or by the government, during the sesquicentennial observance of the Civil War. That really didn’t happen this time, but there’s always the bicentennial. … We do thank you for this honor which is certainly far beyond what we could have imagined.”

At 11 a.m. March 25, a video of the dedication and portrait unveiling will be shown at the Dorchester County Historical Society Heritage Museum. C. Kay Larson, an expert who has written books about Ms. Carroll, will be available to answer questions and a limited number of programs from the portrait unveiling will also be available.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.