PIONEERING WOMEN 2020
Presidential Adviser, PR Maverick & Military Strategist

Trailblazing Woman Born on the Shore, Buried in Church Creek

Anna Ella Carroll - Photo courtesy Library Company of Philadelphia Digital CollectionsBorn and raised in 1815 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Anna Ella Carroll lived a privileged but obscure life until fate brought her to the nation’s capital. As her father’s assistant in Washington, Anna was immersed in the world of government and politics and became a savvy strategist, skilled communicator and trusted political advisor.

By the 1850s, this pioneering woman established a career unheard of for women in that time: Author, journalist and communications strategist, Anna served Presidents, cabinet officials, and military leaders.

Historians, authors and filmmakers are fascinated by Ms. Carroll’s story. In 2010, Bruce Bridegroom, an Arizona lawyer and author, produced the feature film Lost River: Lincoln’s Secret Weapon.

Old Trinity Church in Church Creek, MDWhen she died in 1894, Anna was buried in the Carroll-family plot at Old Trinity Episcopal Church, 1716 Taylors Island Road in Dorchester County, where her epitaph reads: “A woman rarely gifted; an able and accomplished writer.” (1)

While her ties to Dorchester lay in her final resting place, her influence extends deep into American history. Scholars now regard this previously unheralded but thoroughly remarkable Marylander as one of the Capitol’s most gifted politicians and “the woman who saved the union.” (2)

Today, visitors can see where Anna Ella Carroll was laid to rest, a quarter-century before women finally secured the right to vote.

Early Life & Career

Anna Ella Carroll was the oldest of eight children born to Thomas King Carroll – a wealthy landowner and farmer – and his wife Juliana Stevenson Carroll. Her paternal grandfather was Charles Carroll, one of 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, and her maternal grandfather was a prominent surgeon and Revolutionary War General from Baltimore. (3)

Anna was raised at Kingston Hall, her family’s 2,000-acre tobacco, wheat and grain plantation in Somerset County. Tutored by her father in law and government, she was highly educated and organized a school for area children. Anna moved to Baltimore with her sister Leah where she worked as a journalist for seven years.

When Thomas Carroll was appointed Naval Officer to the Port of Baltimore, Anna moved to D.C. to serve as his executive assistant. While in Washington, she became active in politics and worked with Presidents Taylor and Fillmore to develop the Whig Party. (4)

Uniting a Divided Nation

As Anna continued to write position papers, articles and letters, her role as an influential policy maker grew, as she could “scheme, connive, and maneuver as well as any man.” (5)

After Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860 on an anti-slavery platform, Anna – a dedicated nationalist opposed to Southern secession – turned her political activities towards keeping Maryland in the Union. Writing news articles and letters, her pro-Union crusade culminated in a position on President Lincoln’s cabinet.  (6)

During the Civil War, the President sent Anna to observe and report on the conflict’s western front. Her reports resulted in major military strategies that eventually led to the Confederacy’s defeat and ended European nation intervention. Her role was kept secret so the public couldn’t learn the Union’s plans were devised not only by a civilian – but by a woman. (The film Lost River chronicles this monumental period.)

After Lincoln’s assassination, Anna devoted her efforts to Reconstruction, but was largely ignored. She appealed to Congress for recognition and compensation but received far less than “important military service rendered by her during the late Civil War.”

Suffering with Bright’s disease in her later years, Anna continued to write political persuasion pieces until she died at 79 – a quarter century before women finally won the right to vote.

As the nation celebrates the centennial of the 19th Amendment passage, we salute Anna Ella Carroll, an Eastern Shore-born trailblazer who championed unity, opportunity and freedom.

Learn more:

Select books and articles

FOOTNOTES:

(1) Maryland State Archives, Women’s Hall of Fame
(2) New York Times
(3) Wikipedia
(4) Maryland State Archives
(5) Maryland State Archives
(6) IMDB
(7) My Eastern Shore Maryland
(8) Anna Ella Carroll, Wikipedia

Lost River Website

Lost River, Lincoln's Secret Weapon

"Lost River, Lincoln’s Secret Weapon" is a 100-minute feature film based on the life of Anna Ella Carroll. The movies traces how Carroll devised the Tennessee River Plan that helped end the Civil War. Filmed in Arizona and Mississippi, the movie stars Tami Sutton as Anna Ella Carroll and Felix Klein as Abraham Lincoln. The premiere was hosted in Cambridge Maryland at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in November 2010. Order the DVD with extended footage rereleased in 2017 from the official movie website (link above). The Friends of Anna Ella Carroll, a volunteer group dedicated to preserving and publicizing the extraordinary accomplishments of this unique 19th century woman.

 

Lost River Website