From John Hennessy (for a possible image of Mary Scott, found since this post was done, click here)
Today the place, which still stands, is largely forgotten and invisible, enshrined only by the name of the subdivision that surrounds it: Clearview Heights. “Miss Mary Scott’s” Clearview was in 1862 one of the most visible and prominent homes in the region, though hardly palatial. It appears in dozens of Union accounts of the war.
The label that appears on many maps, “Miss Mary Scotts” or “Miss Scott’s” conjures an image of an independent, together, self-contained woman. In fact, Miss Mary Scott was none of those things. When the Union army arrived in the spring of 1862, she was 39 years old, unmarried, and apparently unstable. She lived at Clearview with an invalid aunt and a sister, Fannie, separated in age by 20 years. Mary owned twelve slaves. For practical purposes, Fannie, just 19, ran the place, largely keeping out of view and turmoil, living “in great retirement.” A neighbor said of the sisters, “Fanny was the younger of the two but she generally took the lead in everything, and what she did or said Miss Mary generally acquiesced in and she does yet. ….Miss Fanny generally did all the talking. Miss Mary could not get a chance to say anything…”
Other neighbors testified to exactly why this was: “Miss Mary was changeable; her mind was flighty at times. She was very nervous and excitable and would scold either party or anybody that meddled with her things or disturbed their property,” though, she added, “when rational [Mary] was kind and obliging to all parties.” Even sister Fanny conceded Mary’s foibles, “It is true that my sister was very easily irritated and sometimes made unfortunate remarks…., for which she could not be held strictly accountable…”
The Scotts’ isolation was exacerbated by disputes with at least a few of their neighbors. Most notably, they clashed with the family of New Jersey born Johson and Susan Carter, who lived about two miles north. The dispute, apparently, was rooted in Mary Scott’s outright dismissal of the Carter’s low-class ways. “The Carters were very unneighborly… not fit associates for me, and resolved never again to visit there, which resolution I religiously kept….” At some point, the Scotts found one of their cows with its back broken. They fingered the Carters for the deed (bear this in mind as you read ahead).
The Civil War brought the Scott sisters’ independence–some said impudence–into full relief. Mary and Fanny were kin both to Union General-in-Chief Winfield Scott and Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon (a cousin). At the beginning of the war, Mary Scott declared her intent to change her last name. If that spasm implied discontent with the Union cause or army, that unease disappeared by next April, when Union General Christopher Columbus Auger led Union troops into Falmouth and Fredericksburg. Clearview quickly became a favored hang-out for Union generals–Augur, Gibbon, King, and probably others. The Scott women greeted them enthusiastically. Fanny Scott explained, “I had rather talk to army officers than citizens for they would do me no harm—they carried but one face while the citizens around here carried two faces.”
The combination of overbearing and unpredictable personalities, antipathy toward neighbors, and apparent sympathy with Unionists set the Scotts up for a wartime ordeal. Once the Scott sisters’ affinity for Yankee officers became apparent, and once the Union army had departed, Susan Carter exacted her revenge on her neighbors. She reported them to the Confederate authorities, who put the women on a list of locals to be watched.
The Confederate Provost Marshall in Fredericksburg, Hugh Doggett, remembered, “I regarded them as giving aid and comfort to the enemy and as sympathizing with them…If these ladies had been men…I should have sent them to Richmond…I was so well convinced of their sympathy with the other side that when they came to Fredericksburg I had men detailed to see that they carried no letters or held conversation with persons suspected of sympathizing with the enemy.”
Three times Miss Mary was detained in Fredericksburg. Once she was summoned to the office of her cousin, Secretary of War James Seddon. Seddon, Mary related, “told me I had disgraced the Seddon name by such conduct and that if the Yankees took I had had he would never help me to a cent, which he has religiously remembered.” (Mary Scott is today buried in the same family cemetery is James Seddon’s brother John.)
After the war, the Scotts applied to the Federal government for damages done to their property by the Union army. One of the requirements for those claims for reimbursement was evidence of unbroken loyalty to the Union. The Scotts’s case came up in the 1870s, and who emerged to oppose their claim–to refute their claims of loyalty? Caroline Carter Primmer—one of the Carter girls.
(Virtually all of the material quoted above comes from testimony related to the hearing of the Scotts’ claim; the claims are in the National Archives.)
As for the Scotts’s house, Clearview, it still stands above Falmouth, privately owned. It was at this house in the spring of 1862 that that then-Captain John Gibbon received his commission as Major General. Mary remembered, “His commission was handed to him by my sister in our dining room in a letter just received from Washington. Gen Gibbon was a real gentleman and Gen Auger appeared to be jealous of his popularity and disposed to prick at him which annoyed me very much and in my excitement I one day told him Gen Gibbon was more of a gentleman than he was.” The Union army placed guns atop the hill in December 1862–building huge earthworks to protect them. A postwar photograph of the works survives, though the works themselves do not.