Smitten by Miss Sallie

By James M. Prichard

Sixteen-year-old Sallie Rowan of McMinnville, Tennessee was no doubt considered one of the most captivating belles in her community during the Civil War. Her surviving papers, which are housed in the Filson's Special Collections Department, include several letters and calling cards from young Confederate officers who fell under her spell. She apparently caught the eye of older gentlemen as well including Isham G. Harris, the Confederate Governor of Tennessee. In a letter from the state executive department dated 17 Feb. 1863, Gov. Harris wrote:

     I was delighted to hear …how exquisitely you enjoyed your self at the Ball! It was very gratifying to me to learn that you were universally admired, as I knew you must be, and that you contributed much to the brilliancy of the occasion.

Civil War Sheet Music Cover [781.599 M632v]

Civil War Sheet Music Cover [781.599 M632v]

One nineteen year old Kentuckian appeared to be greatly smitten by "Miss Sallie" while his regiment was stationed in middle Tennessee. Lt. Thomas H. Morgan, the brother of the celebrated raider, Gen. John H. Morgan, wrote her on 26 Feb. 1863:

     Very unexpectedly, and very much against my will, I have been ordered to report to my regiment at Bradyville. Tomorrow morning is the time fixed for my departure, and very reluctantly do I obey the order. Have felt very much depressed in spirits all day, knowing that I will not have an opportunity of seeing you before leaving. But - be assured - as soon as I reach my place of destination (I) will dispatch a courier to you immediately with a letter, which I sincerely trust you will at least deign to answer.

In a post script he begs:

Answer or at least write something that I can preserve.


In a subsequent letter, dated 14 April 1863, Morgan encloses a lock of his hair and writes:

Do not attribute it to forgetfulness upon my part in not sooner writing. As I have been so very busily engaged for the past two weeks in Scouting, Marching & Fighting as not to have a single spare moment left.

Thomas H. Morgan letter 14 April 1863

This Thomas H. Morgan letter to Sallie Rowan, dated 14 April 1863, contained a lock of hair.

He laments:

You cannot imagine how very, very much I love & miss you. If you condescend to answer this letter, please direct to Genl. Morgan's cav.

In an undated letter, Lt. Morgan playfully wrote:

Your note was not handed me until a very late hour last night. I was around visiting brother John at the time it was brought to my room. The Genl. has extended my leave of absence until tomorrow morning. How kind! How considerate! If agreeable to you I will call around tonight and bring my "Guitar" with me?

Tragically the relationship between the young Kentuckian and Tennessee belle was fated to be cut-short. On July 5, 1863, while leading a charge through the streets of Lebanon, Kentucky, Tom Morgan fell, shot through the heart. He gasped to his brother, Calvin Morgan, "Brother Cally, they have killed me" and died in his arms. An officer present remarked that Tom's death devastated Gen. Morgan whose "affection for his brother exceeded the love of Jonathan to David."

Black and white print of John Hunt Morgan by W. G. Jackman

Black and white print of John Hunt Morgan by W. G. Jackman

Life went on for Sallie Rowan who married Lt. Mike C. Saufley, another of Morgan's officers, in 1867. They raised a family in Kentucky where she died in 1921. Her wartime letters, as well as the lock of a fallen soldier's hair, are typical of the sources available at the Filson which reflect the human side of the great struggle.

James Prichard

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