Beware the Chuckle-Headed Irishwoman

Published:May 15, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

The Richmond Examiner is always a good read. As our entry on Civil War newspapers explains, it was the go-to organ of dissent in the Confederate capital, with editor John M. Daniel‘s criticism of Jefferson Davis becoming more intense and more personal as the war dragged on and defeat loomed. So above is the top of the front page for this day in 1863; you can read the whole four-page issue here [pdf]. What was going on in Richmond?

  • “Baron Wardener,” a “titled Dutchman” captured by John S. Mosby and imprisoned for a time at Libby, “has returned to the North on parole, and ventilated his Teutonic spleen by the publication of some of the most barefaced and monstrous lies in regard to the management of the prison and its officers,” including the claim that he was fed “flesh of defunct mules“!
  • The new Confederate national flag “was again displayed from the capitol yesterday, and met the approving gaze of thousands.” This was the Second National Flag, described here.
  • On the very day that Stonewall Jackson was buried in Lexington, the Examiner scolded Richmonders who attended a recital dedicated to the late general. “The production was in rhyming verse, occupied about ten minutes in its delivery, and was excellent in sentiment,” the editors wrote; “but we thought the boisterous applause that greeted some of its most solemn passages, ill-times and out of place. Will theatre audiences never learn discretion?
  • Casualties (above and beyond Jackson) were still being tallied after the bloody Battle of Chancellorsville, fought a week or two earlier, with the paper noting that the Richmond Zouaves, Company E, Forty-fourth Virginia Regiment, commanded by the future playwright, Captain Edward M. Alfriend, lost about half its men.

Just about a month and a half previously, the Bread Riot had turned the city on its head, and much of the Examiner‘s front page is given over to reports from various prosecutions of the rioters. Mary Duke is a typical case. Charged with rioting, the accused appeared before the judge “a finely dressed woman of forty, with a quantity of rouge on her face.” A citizen named George Watt was the first to testify:

Saw the accused in the riot at P. K. White’s, on Main street; when the crowd went round to Sweitzer’s, on Franklin street, I followed them; saw the woman crowd round Mr. Sweitzer’s door; saw a chuckle headed irishwoman assail the door with an axe; I rushed forward and seized the axe; three or four men then seized me; the accused was in the crowd pushing back the persons who were attempting to put down the riot; saw a navy revolver and leveled it at the gentlemen who were endeavoring to quell the riot; in the confusion some one got the pistol from her; after I had extricated myself from the crowd, the accused came to me and demanded her pistol …

Long story short, he said she could pick it up at his store next week. On her behalf, a man name Lampkin picked it up, claiming that the pistol was his and he had only loaned it to Mrs. Duke, whose name some claimed to be Lucy, not Mary. Whatever the case, the jury found Mrs. Duke guilty as charged and fined her $100 and sentenced her to six months in prison.

PREVIOUSLY: For more on the Examiner, click here.