Signature of famous CSA scout goes for nearly $2,500 at auction

Frank Stringfellow, CSA Scout signature

Frank Stringfellow, CSA Scout signature

Source: Cowan’s Auction

From Cowwan’s auction description:

Manuscript parole, 2.25 x 4.75 in. slip of paper with 19th Novr. /62 / This is to certify that / Frank S. Eastman / has been parolled by me / F. Stringfellow ‘ 4th Va. Cav.

Benjamin_Franklin_StringfellowBenjamin Franklin Stringfellow was born in 1840  and raised in Culpepper County. He had gone to Mississippi to teach Latin and Greek when the war broke out. He returned to Virginia to volunteer, but was refused by the first three companies in which he tried to enlist because he was 5 ft. 8 in., but weighed barely 100 pounds. He finally decided to make a point by capturing three Confederate pickets and marching them to their commanding officer at gunpoint, telling him he could do the same with Yankees. He was sworn into Confederate service in May 1861.

Shortly after he came to the attention of J.E.B Stuart, who recruited him as a spy and aide. Stringfellow became notorious among northern commanders for his ability to slip in and out of towns and camps, often dressed as a woman, given his relatively small size and he even captured at least one Yankee who became “interested” in him while he was so dressed. He escaped numerous times from close situations, and by 1863, Federal troops had orders to kill him on sight.

Stringfellow survived the war, and went to Canada for a short time until the situation settled a bit in the south. While there, he underwent a conversion, and returned to Virginia and entered the Episcopal Seminary, and was ordained in 1876.

He tried to enlist in the Spanish-American War as a chaplain, but was declined because of age. During the war he had sneaked into a Union camp and was close enough to Grant to shoot him in the back. He decided not to do so, but after the war related the incident to Grant once he was President. Grant sent him a letter saying that in appreciation, he or any future president would gladly give Stringfellow whatever aid they could. He now submitted this letter to  President McKinley, and with the commander-in-chief’s intervention, he was enlisted as an Army chaplain. He returned from this war, also. Stringfellow died in 1913 and is buried in Alexandria, VA.

Frank S. Eastman enlisted in Aug. 1862 in the 11th New Hampshire Infantry. When he applied for his pension in 1882, he apparently discovered that he had not been honorably discharged. His lawyer wrote to Charles E. Frost asking for his version of events at that time.

Frost replied that he had become ill, and so this unit left him behind with Eastman and Caleb Hoyt to care for him. The group was captured on the 19th of November by a detachment of the 4th VA. Cav. and paroled. Frost goes on to explain that he was reported absent sick and the other two absent with leave, but someone maliciously altered the records to make the two privates appear to be deserters and he himself was AWOL. When he became aware of this, he had his lawyer get the files corrected, but  Hoyt and Eastman’s files were not corrected at the time because Frost was never officially their commanding officer.

Amazingly, this letter, describing the capture and parole was reunited with the parole slip and the two have been together ever since. The ALS is 3pp, 8 x 12.5 in., Brooklyn, NY: Jan. 21st, 1882.

An exceptionally rare signature and even more rare document pairing.

For additional information, there are books written about Stringfellow’s “career” (See Brown, R. Shepard, Stringfellow of the Fourth: The Amazing Career of the most successful Confederate Spy, for one) and a short summary of his life can be found at http://www.stringfellowamp.org (SCV Frank Stringfellow Camp #822).

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