The last post on Irish in the American Civil War brought you part of the story of Bridget Bolen. The Co. Cork native had to petition the U.S. Government for amnesty in 1865 due to her falling within the 13th exception to the general amnesty, namely being a voluntary participant in the rebellion who held taxable property worth at least $20,000. Further research has now brought to light some information which outlines just how this Irishwoman participated in the Civil War.
There are three documents in the Confederate Citizen Files which relate to Bridget Bolen. All are receipts from Confederate military authorities which provide details of monies due to her in return for goods and services received. It is clear from the documentation that Bridget Bolen was running a large holding in the vicinity of Staunton, Virginia, and was called upon regularly by the Confederate military. The first of the documents dates to 10th August 1863 with the last the following summer on 14th July 1864. It may well be the case that there were further documents which date to earlier in the war that have not survived or are yet to be identified. What is certain from the available evidence is that the provision of supplies to the Confederacy was an extremely lucrative activity for Bridget Bolen.
The first receipt is dated to 10th August 1863 and pertains to the rental for one month and 18 days of the Irishwoman’s storehouse, in order for it to be utilised as a magazine. For this she received the sum of $40. It was authorised by Major Beverley Randolph, most probably when that officer was serving in Fitzhugh Lee’s Cavalry Division (the nephew of Robert E. Lee). It is interesting to note that as with her amnesty petition, Bridget Bolen provides ‘her mark’ on the document; despite her wealth, it would appear she was illiterate.
Later that month she was again called upon, this time renting out a four horse team and a two horse team in order for them to be used to haul lumber for the construction of a building, on this occasion receiving $33 in payment.
The final note for payment is dated to 14th July 1864, and details the provision of milk by the Cork native for the month of June. She provided a total of 997 1/2 gallons for the use of the sick and wounded in the General Hospital at Staunton. Her payment for this transaction far exceeded the earlier ones, amounting to a total of $2992.50. It was signed by the surgeon in charge of the hospital, with the Irishwoman once again adding her mark to the document. This high figure was undoubtedly partially the result of inflation, as the Confederate dollar lost value as the war dragged on.*
The last payment in particular would indicate that Bridget Bolen was a woman who possessed considerable resources in the later war years, and most probably was the owner of a not insignificant amount of land. It also seems likely that she may have been a slaveholder, given the commitment in her amnesty appeal to ‘never again use slave labor’. As the search continues to find out more about this woman and her life, it is interesting to note an entry on the ‘Find A Grave’ site for a headstone in Thornrose Cemetery, Staunton, Virginia. It records the name ‘Bridget Bolen’ with the inscription ‘Mother. Died September 14, 1895, 70 years.’ Although the age of this woman suggests she was born around 1825 (as opposed to the c.1830 date which is indicated by her given age at the time of the amnesty petition), it seems unlikely that there were many women with the same name in Staunton, and this may well be the final resting place of the lady in question. To see the headstone click here.
*With thanks to Jim Swan for information regarding the inflation of the Confederate dollar.
Footnote Confederate Citizen Files (subscription required)