CIVIL WAR WEDDING
This story is about a wedding in Florence on January 22, 1864, during the bleak days of the Civil War. Its circumstances could well have been a part of the romantic fairy tales of the Old World. The bride, Ann America Burtwell, called Mic by her friends, was a nurse in the hospital located in what is now Pope’s Tavern and Museum. The groom, Eugene Louis Frederic de Freudenreich Falconnet, a native of Bern, Switzerland, was a Major in the Confederate 14th Alabama Cavalry.
The bride’s father, John Trumbull Burtwell, had been a riverboat captain prior to his death in 1862. Her mother, Cornelia, was a daughter of Dr. John R. Bedford, whose plantation overlooked what is now Chisholm Road and Cox Creek Parkway. Her older brother, John, was Inspector General on General Braxton Bragg’s staff. Her younger
brother, James, was in the 16th Alabama Infantry.
Dr. William H. Mitchell, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, read the vows in the Burtwell home on North Pine Street. In 1916 this two-storied residence was converted into Florence’s first high school.
The bride’s former boyfriend, Lieutenant Colonel Jesse J. Phillips of the U. S. 9th Illinois Mounted Infantry, had been among the occupying forces at Florence on two previous occasions. He had met Mic Burtwell while visiting a wounded soldier in the hospital.
Colonel Phillips received a dispatch from Brigadier General Grenville Dodge on January 9th with information about the anticipated Florence wedding. He rightly guessed that several Confederate officers would be in attendance and offered to reinforce Phillips from Pulaski if he would try to capture them.
As a precautionary measure, the bridegroom had stationed pickets at the entrances to the city. The bride’s aunt, Eliza Bedford Weakley, had likewise placed her carriage and driver at the Burtwell home as a means of escape in case it was needed.
Dr. Mitchell had completed the ceremony and the wedding party was in the receiving line when the warning was sounded that Phillips was approaching the outskirts of town. The bride and groom were rushed to the river in the waiting carriage. According to one account they were rowed across to safety within Confederate lines in a skiff which had been placed there by the groom. Family tradition has it that Falconnet “wrapped his bride in a blanket, put her in a canoe and eluded the federal troops by means of the river.”
The newly married couple spent their wedding night at Moorefield, located on what is now the Wilson Dam Reservation. This was the plantation of George Jackson, son of James Jackson of the Forks of Cypress near Florence. It is said that a piece of the wedding cake, made from hoarded sugar provided by the aged widow of General John Coffee, was sent to Colonel Phillips under a flag of truce.
The Union Colonel who failed in his efforts to stop the wedding later won the hand of a young lady in nearby Athens. Following the war the Falconnets moved to Nashville. He was credited with surveying the railroad to the Alabama line, which later was extended into East Florence. He was also a brilliant inventor, having designed an air ship some fifteen years before the German Count von Zepplin’s first air flight. Ann died in 1883 when she was only thirty-eight years old. Her husband died four years later.
The Civil War Tales of the Tennessee Valley
Copyright 2003 by
Bluewater Publications – Heart of Dixie Publishing
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