Saturday, January 8, 2011

Charlotte Hope

Found at
by Shelby Harriel

The story of Charlotte Hope as reported is heart breaking. The soldiers of the 1st Virginia Cavalry first encountered her when she provided assistance with reconnaissance about the area surrounding her residence. She and one of the troopers, Lieutenant Billy Wilds, fell in love. And then when he was killed during a raid, she sought to avenge his death by assuming the alias, Charlie Hopper, and joining the regiment. Specifically, she sought to send 21 Yankees into eternity, one for each year of her beloveds life. It is reported that the captain, Charles Irving, was aware of her true identity as well as her mission, and looked after her. Despite his attempts at protection, however, Hope ultimately suffered the same fate as her fiance when she, too, was killed.

Charlotte's tale appears in George Eggleston's Southern Soldier Stories from 1898 (p. 97-103). Some of it is true while some details are not. First of all, Captain Charles Irving was indeed an officer. Specifically, he served as the captain of Company G of the 1st Virginia Cavalry, the same company as Eggleston. However, I could not find Hope's fiance, Lieutenant Billy Wilds, listed on the roster. There was a sergeant named William Wiley in Company G. But he survived the war. Charlie Hopper does not appear either, but that is more than likely because, as the story claims, Hope never formally enlisted since she claimed she did not want to be paid for the work she set out to do.

Eggleston previously mentioned Hope in A Rebel's Recollections, which appeared in 1874, prior to Southern Soldier Stories. Even though he never mentions her name in this earlier account, it is apparent that he is talking about Charlotte Hope. On page 73, he describes her as a young girl not more than 16 who acted as a guide to a scouting expedition early in the war. At one point when when Eggleston and his comrades began taking fire, they urged Hope to the rear for safety. She declined because she believed a charge was about to take place and that she "wanted to see the fun."

Charlotte Hope existed. I found her in Loudon County. She was listed as 14 years old in 1860. 
The story of her death is incorrect because I found her in Loudon County in the 1870 census, unmarried at the age of 25 and living at home along with her parents and siblings.

Charlotte Hope married on December 2, 1873 at the age of 27 to Charles Edgar Fulton. She died in 1914 and is buried in Loudon County.

Go to FindAGrave for Charlotte's memorial.

Therefore, Eggleston's first account of her being a scout must be the correct version. He then took this story and applied a few dramatic details for the second version. She may have been a soldier in disguise, alias Charlie Hopper. We'll never know for sure. But at the very least, we can say she was a scout and that she did not die during the war.

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