Queen of the Confederacy: The Innocent Deceits of Lucy Holcombe Pickens

Queen of the Confederacy: The Innocent Deceits of Lucy Holcombe Pickens

Queen of the Confederacy: The Innocent Deceits of Lucy Holcombe Pickens

Queen of the Confederacy: The Innocent Deceits of Lucy Holcombe Pickens

Synopsis

"Submissiveness is not my role, but certain platitudes on certain occasions are among the innocent deceits of the sex." A strong character with a fervent belief in woman's changing place, Lucy Holcombe Pickens (1832-1899) was not content to live the life of a typical nineteenth-century Southern belle. Wife of Francis Wilkinson Pickens, the secessionist governor of South Carolina on the eve of the Civil War, Lucy was determined to make her mark in the world. She married "the right man," feeling that "a woman with wealth or prestige garnered from her husband's position could attain great power." Lucy urged Pickens to accept a diplomatic mission to the court of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, and in St. Petersburg Lucy captivated the Tsar and his retinue with her beauty and charm. Upon returning to the states, she became First Lady of South Carolina just in time to encourage a Confederate unit named in her honor (The Holcombe Legion) off to war.

The only woman to have her image engraved on Confederacy paper currency. Heralded as the uncrowned "Queen of the Confederacy".

Excerpt

Paul Rigali, a Civil war buff in Houston, Texas, told me that the only woman to have her image engraved on Confederate paper currency was a Texan. I dismissed the statement as another Texas brag. To prove his point, Mr. Rigali produced Confederate one dollar and one hundred-dollar bills engraved with the image of Lucy Holcombe Pickens of Marshall, Texas. Curiosity led me to Marshall’s Harrison County Historical Museum. Their files contain numerous news clippings that reveal the adulation once given to this Texas girl who became the wife of the Confederate governor of South Carolina. Headlines heralded Lucy as the “Uncrowned Queen of the Confederacy.” Other articles claimed a “Fleur de Luce” following that compared Lucy to Scarlett of Gone With the Wind. With such accolades, why had this nineteenth century woman slipped into obscurity?

A fortunate meeting with a reporter for the Marshall newspaper led me to Jefferson, Texas, to hear the fascinating monologue, “Miss Lucy,” written and performed by Marcia Thomas. Captivated by “Miss Lucy,” I sought out descendants in Texas and other Southern states, for Lucy was born in Tennessee and (when not in Texas or Russia) lived most of her adult life in South Carolina. These descendants shared letters, journals, and photographs that show Lucy Holcombe Pickens to be a woman of strong character with a fervent belief in woman’s changing place in the hidebound patriarchal nineteenth century South.

A journal kept by Lucy’s mother, Eugenia Dorothea Vaughan Hunt Holcombe, revealed family events and problems. This prompted further research. University library archives, museums, and historical societies gave access to a wealth of Holcombe and Pickens letters, Lucy’s poetry, her collected writing, and her published historical novel written at age nineteen.

Lucy’s character is shown in the letters of her mother, Eugenia . . .

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