Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Day the War Stood Still

By Martha Rogers

The Armistice in April of 1865 called a truce and ended the War Between the States, but the damage had been done and healing would take years for this wounded and bleeding nation. At that time thousands of young men were released or “exchanged” from prison camps all over the north and south. We read of the atrocities of Andersonville and Pt. Lookout and know that so many of the nation’s young men died in those places in addition to those who died on the battlefield.

My great-grandfather was one of those released from Pt. Lookout, Maryland in April of 1865. He and his brother Edwin survived to go home to Louisiana and Sallie, the girl he loved and married in June of that year. I found a copy of their marriage license at the courthouse in St. Francisville. Manfred's days are recorded in letters to Sallie and in things he wrote about those months of his life.

While researching family history, I came across some other fascinating facts about them and about the times in which they lived. All through the south homes were destroyed and families torn apart. Many people in the South referred to that time as the War of Northern Aggression. No matter what we call it, it happened and is a part of the history of this nation and can’t be denied.

One of the most interesting events of the war happened in my great-grandfather’s hometown of Bayou Sara and St. Francisville just up the hill from the river. A battle raged at Port Hudson twelve miles south of Bayou
Sara and St. Francisville. Port Hudson was a major Confederate fort to protect the Mississippi River.  I'm standing by one of the cannons Port Hudson used to fire at the ship on the river.

In March of 1863, a Federal warship, the U.S.S Albatross sat in the Mississippi River at the port of Bayou Sara. Its captain, Lt. Commander John E. Hart ordered guns to assail St. Francisville with a church as a target. The church sat high on a hill, quite visible to the ship which rained down shells on Grace Episcopal Church, a beautiful Gothic structure that was the church of my ancestors. The rector there is said to have run down the hill to the river waving a white flag and yelling for them to stop shelling his church.

On June 12, 1863 the guns fell silent, and the church elders breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe the siege was over. However, something even more dramatic was taking place. Lt. Commander Hart lay gravely ill with a high fever and before his crew could stop him, took his own life. Hart was a Mason, as were several others aboard the ship. A boat with a group of men was launched with a white flag of truce.

The messenger aboard the boat asked permission to bury the captain in the cemetery of Grace Church, the same one they had used as a target. Although the ship’s crew didn’t know it, St. Francisville was the home to the oldest Masonic Lodge in Louisiana. The Senior Warden of the Lodge No. 31, Captain W.W. Leake was also captain of Company C, 1st Louisiana Cavalry, one of the units harassing the Federal army.

The rector at Grace summoned Captain Leake who met with the Union Officers. Upon learning that Hart was a fellow Mason, Leake arranged to have the funeral services and burial at Grace Church.
His body, accompanied by an honor guard of U.S. Marines and a delegation of Navy officers and sailors, was carried up the steep hill to the church. With Leake and other local Masons participating, they buried Hart with full Masonic honors. A brief moment of peace and fellowship happened during the bloodiest war in America’s history and become known as “The Day the War Stopped.” It is still remembered each year in St. Francisville.

As my great-grandmother Sallie asked her mother, “If they stopped the fighting for
one day, why couldn’t they just quit then? Why do men have to fight about everything?”

My cousins and I visited Grace Church in St. Francisville in June of 2005 in remembrance of our great-grandparents 150th wedding anniversary. We walked through the cemetery to find our ancestors’ graves. Here I'm standing beside my great-great-grandmother's grave. She is the mother of my hero in LOVE STAYS TRUE. We also saw the memorial erected for Lt. Commander Hart. The church hasn’t changed much, but it took years to repair the damage to the building that had been completed in 1860. Those repairs are still visible today on the side of the church.

Have you done any research into your family history? I found it to be most interesting and a lot of fun. If you're not careful, it can be addictive.

I'm giving away a copy of Love Stays True to one lucky person today, so leave your comment and be in the drawing for the book released this month.


In April, 1865, the day following the surrender at Appomattox, Manfred McDaniel Whiteman and his brother Edward are released from in an exchange of prisoners. They are given a few provisions before they begin a long journey by foot to their home in Bayou Sara, Louisiana.
At home, Sallie Dyer is waiting word of her beloved Manfred. Though just a young girl when Manfred left, Sallie has grown into a caring you woman who is determined to wait for her love—despite her father’s worries that she is wasting her life on someone who may never come home.

On their journey, Manfred and his brother encounter storms, thieves, and destruction, and are even thrown in jail in one town. Sallie carries a heavy burden of guilt and fears Manfred will reject her when he learns what she has done. Will these two young lovers be able to reunite despite all obstacles?

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and the author of the Winds Across the Prairie series as well as the novella, Key to Her Heart in River Walk Christmas. Her second series, Seasons of the Heart, is now available as is her Christmas novel, Christmas at Holly Hill. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009 and is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and attending football, baseball, and rugby games when one of the grandchildren is playing or performing.


  1. Sounds very interesting! Would love to win and read this book! I find the civil war era fascinating.

  2. I am near Chattanooga and got to see the Chickamauga battlefield and was so amazed at the info. The volunteer there was so informative and she had a captive audience of me. I knew some of the names and she could see I was really interested. It was so amazing to see and the vast area. I am actually seeing more of the areas this coming week on a tour from Washington DC.
    haven't really researched my family tree but my cousin did a little. We know mums grand father was born in Scotland to Irish parents who fled the potato famine

  3. What a fascinating family history! I don't know a lot about my family's history, and certainly not in the detail that you know of yours. As far as I know, there are no old letters saved from different family members. But I do know that my southern roots go back to Jefferson Davis, a great-uncle many times over, on my mother's side. Her mother was a Davis. It would be very interesting to dig into that history and find out some stories!

  4. how interesting that you could go and find the grave of one in family so far back, I have done some ancestry work and it is not easy. I enjoyed reading your comments about wartime here. thanks for sharing. I would love to read this book, thanks for sharing.
    Paula O(

  5. I agree with you looking into your family history can be very addicting. I have fun doing ours. I just recently found the name of my great great grandparents on my dad's dad's side. It has been a mystery to our family for years. Now on to the next step and find their parents. I really enjoyed reading this post today. I did not know this happened in history, there is so much we do not know that has happened but is very interesting. Thank you for the chance to win your book. griperang at embarqmail dot com

  6. Martha, I love hearing about your ancestors. What a rich history you have! No need to enter me in the drawing, but I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your posts.

  7. Martha, I love that you have those letters and that history to tell. That is one thing about our lack of handwritten letters that I mourn....a lack of beautiful heartfelt love letters and history to hand down to the next generation.

  8. What a fabulous feature, Martha! I love Civil War based fiction, and I'd love to win a copy of your book. It sounds wonderful, and well researched! I have visited numerous Civil War sites over the years, and nothing takes my breath away more than standing on one of those battlefields and sensing the unspoken horrors that our country's families experienced. Thank you for sharing your story!

  9. Thanks so much for teaching me a little more Civil War history! There are so many things I don't know about that time. I have not had the privilege of visiting very many of the Civil War sites, but hope to be able to do so someday.


  10. I never was really interested much in war stories until I discovered Christian inspiration historical love...brings it to life for me!

  11. I've never looked into my family history. One day...maybe. Your book does sound interesting and I would love the opportunity to read it! God bless.


  12. Wow! interesting thoughts. Your book sounds intriguing and I would love to read it. I have learned some of my past family history and it is so exciting to know where Grandma and Grandpa came from and why they chose to live where they did. There is more to explore though!! jelliottAThotmail(dot)com

  13. What a great post Martha and how exciting that you found the grave of your great-great grandmother.

    I would love to be included in your giveaway. Thank you for the opportunity.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  14. Thanks for the great post...and that was so cool that you found the grave! Wow. i'd love to read that book.

  15. Great post, Martha. Thank you for sharing. I think it is amazing all that you've learned about you ancestors. No, I haven't done any research myself. I'm sure it can be additive!
    may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com

  16. Wonderful, wonderful post!! I live in Louisiana, but it's in the north part. I have been to this cemetery and church quite a long time ago. At the time, I had a friend whose sister lived there. Since my Mother has retired, we love to go and visit these places. Brought up old memories and will have to make some new. I'm sure your book is fantastic! Thank you for entering me in the giveaway!

  17. We have a very detailed family tree hanging on our wall, but I've never thoroughly researched our family history. I would probably find it very fascinating. I would love to win this book. Thanks for having the giveaway.


  18. Love stories about the Civil War! I have researched my family history - found quite a bit of info on my mother's relatives (going back hundreds of years with some really interesting characters), but - only much more recent history on my father's relatives. Yes -the research has become addictive, especially after searching cemetery tombstones & excavation sites of historic cities in other states.

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

  19. Oh wow! Never heard that part before. Very interesting and kind of sad they targeted a church. I haven't researched my family history much, but a few other relatives have.
    Susan P
    farmygirl at hotmail dot com

  20. I've never done any family research. An aunt on my Mom's side of the family has done quite a bit of research but I have never sat down with her and gone over it.


  21. "While researching family history, I came across some other fascinating facts about them and about the times in which they lived."

    How interesting, Martha! What will generations after us say about our times and us?

    Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

    My epitaph, "And... she loved to laugh!"

  22. I have sure learned a lot of interesting history through these kind of blogs and sites. Wish it had ben more interesting in school. I know a little about my ancestors. I do know my great-grandfather fought in the civil war and is buried in a small TX, town, Kosse where I grew up. Wish it was easier and less costly. I would love to win your book, Martha. MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com