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“Who do you think I am?" his old commander asked. The reply came, "My old leader, Marshal Ney." In a rough voice the Duke of Elchingen sought to mislead him, saying, “Marshal Ney was executed two weeks ago in Paris." And immediately afterward, fearing further identification, he withdrew from the man and was not seen again by the passengers during the entire voyage.
Peter Ney's first three years on American soil were spent in utmost seclusion. It is said he gave two very plausible reasons for this. The first was toat he felt confident that after that lapse of time all Europe would have ceased to discuss him and believe him dead, despite any rumors to the contrary that might arise. Besides this, it was necessary that he spend a part of his time in study and review to fit himself for his profession as schoolmaster. He had decided on his occupation soon after reaching the land in which his exile was to be spent. “Here,” (in the school room) he said, “I can earn my living and be my master still.” The idea of serving a man whom he might consider his inferior, was always most repellant and repugnant to him.
There is connected with Schoolmaster Ney's arrival in Mocksville, Davis county, N. C., an incident which many of the children and grandchildren of the teacher's old pupils still relate. During a heated political campaign in 1822 a group of men had assembled in the little village of a few houses to discuss the leading issues of the opposing parties. Pre-eminent in the assemblage was Dr. Schools, an Irishman by birth and rearing, but for several years a native by adoption of the town.
When the arguments began to clash as the debate waxed warmest, Dr. Schools became insulted by a statement made by one of the party.
He declared that his opponent meant kis remark as a personal insult to himself and demanded
apology. When this was denied him, his Irish blood sought revenge in an encounter. Like lightning he grabbed the offender and swore he would thrust him through with the dagger which he had just drawn from a concealed place on his person.
At that juncture a stranger of imposing appearance added himself to the group. Without any hesitancy whatever, he walked up to the Doctor and laid his hand on his arm as he asked of him in some surprise, “What! kill a man unarmed with no chance to defend himself!" The quiet inquiry chilled the boiling blood of the Irishman. Like magic, his dagger sought its accustomed hiding place and the hand that had held it was extended to the stranger. With a foreign brogue, but in perfectly intelligible English, the peacemaker continued: “I am Peter Stuart Ney, a French refugee, in search of a school." The people of the village were in need of a teacher and Mr. Ney encountered no dificulties in coming to terms with them.
Whatever may have been the first impressions made by the Frenchman, time only served to strengthen them in his favor. In physical appearance, he was tall and athletic. His head was very large and remarkably shaped. One historian, in describing it, said: “Flattish on top, oval, long from front to back.” His hair was red, complexion florid, forehead broad, deep and full; eyes blue or gray and deep set, overhung by great bushy eyebrows; his mouth straight and firm; lips tightly compressed in repose; chin large and prominent; neck short and massive; step quick and spirited, with marked military tread; face somewhat scarred as if by smallpox; voice deep and vibrant.
In personality and characteristics Peter Stuart Ney was even more striking than in personal appearance. His historian, the late Dr. Weston, says, by way of comparison in associating the pedagogue with Marshal Ney: “Marshal Ney had a sound, strong, clear, acute, vigorous, practical mind. He was brave, bold, daring, intrepid, calm and cool in the hour of peril o: need; active energetic, prompt, painstaking, methodical, self-denying (though heady at times), modest, kind, gentle, affectionate, tender, honest, just, generous, frank, open, blunt, rough (though not coarse), impulsive, quick-tempered, sometimes offending his best friends by the plainness and severity of his language, yet always careful to make the amplest reparation for any wrong done when the excitement had passed away; a good, though not implacable hater; a true friend, grave, dignified (yet witty and humorous at times), plain (despising the fashions and fripperies of life), proud (though not haughty), independent, yet grateful for the smallest attention or kindness, patriotic, an ardent lover, nay, a devout worshipe: of freedom, ready to die at any moment in defense of holy cause; a man of great personal magnetism and immense moral power, who exercised a controlling influence over almost all persons who were brought into association with him. Such was Marshal Ney. Such was Peter Stuart Ney."
In 1832 M:. Ney taught at Burgess school house east of Mocksville. At that time of poor mail facilities the weekly arrival of the postman was an event looked forward to for days before the due time. In October of the stated year, Mr. Ney sent one of his pupils during the noon hour from the school to the office, which was more than a mile away. When he returned the study period had been resumed. He handed to the pedagogue a package of letters and walked back to his stationed place. Mr. Ney looked hastily through the bundle until his eye was attracted by a familiar postmark. Instantly he broke the seal of the letter. It contained the news of young Napoleon's death. The other communications fell nervously through his fingers to the floor and he, so absorbed and troubled, paused not to reclaim them.
Frantically he paced back and forth the length of the room, oblivious of all else except the over-burdening weight on his heart.
As а maddened animal he rushed through the door to the open, where he strode once more back and forth seeking to compose his confused brain. Later, he reentered the room and dismissed school for the day. To some of his pupils who lingered behind he revealed the nature of the awful stroke he was endeavoring to endure. “Young Napoleon is dead," said he, “and with him dies my every hope of ever going back to France, of again seeing wife and children and home and friends." So fiercely did the fire of despair burn into his brain that he became ill. In delirium, he gave orders to his under officers as he fought again the old battles. Repeatedly he raved of Fezenac, the man he loved above all others, save Napoleon.
When the fevered .brain of the unfortunate Frenchman once more became calm, he resumed his former occupation. But realizing that his exile would only end with death, he never again spoke of returning to his own country. For in France there still lived those who had aided in his escape, and had the never-forgiving Bourbons, been informed of their miscarried plot, they would have as cruelly and unmercifully slain Ney's rescuers as they had imposed his death sentence. It is supposed that Wellington (though it is said that Peter Ney never implicated any one by revealing their names) contrived the plot for his escape. It is an unquestionable truth that Wellington greatly admired Marshal Ney and there are French records which prove his intercession with the Bourbon monarch in behalf of “the bravest of the brave.” Louis, who owed his unsteady throne to the intercession of the English, dared to insult Wellington when he appeared as the suppliant and many believe that this made resolute the Iron Duke's determination of protection. Peter Ney said he was spared through the "ancient order," referring, most probably, to Masonry. He and Wellington bore the same high rank in that fraternity.
After leaving Davie county, Peter Stuart Ney taught for a Mr. Houston in Iredell county. Mrs. Mary C. Dalton, a daughter of Mr. Houston, contributed to Dr. Weston's book that was published fourteen years ago, a testimonial that relates a remarkable incident that occurred while Mr. Ney was a boarder in their home. "One day about dark a stranger rode up to our gate and asked father if he could stop with him that night. We had a good deal of company at the time, and every room was occupied. My father told him that he was sorry he could not accommodate him; but the young man insisted, and said he was willing to sleep on the floor and that his horse being tired and completely worn out he could go no farther. My father then
told him if he could suit himself to circumstances he would be glad to have him remain. The stranger, a fine looking man, thanked him and went ini. When he was conducted in to supper he took a seat at the table opposite Mr. Ney, who was occupying his usual seat on the left hand of my father. They glanced at each other, and though not a word was spoken, it was evident to all present that it was a glance of recognition. My mother said a sign passed between them. Immediately after tea, Mr. Ney and the stranger, taking their hats, left the house together and were not seen by the family any more that night. An old negro man (Frederick) reported that he saw them near midnight sitting behind a strawstack in the field in close conversation, and although unobserved by them, could hear them distinctly, but could not understand a word they said. The stranger ordered his horse very early the next morning and left. He gave no information about himself except in a general way. After the man had gone, Mr. Ney went to his room and remained in it all that day, reading and writing. He never made any allusion to the matter and we had too much respect to question him about it. The stranger had black hair, black eyes and a dark complexion. This incident happened, I think, in 1834 or 1835."
Singularly enough, there was never but one flaw picked in the character of Peter Ney during his thirty-one years as an American. He at times drank to an excess and this habit he only became addicted to after Napoleon's death. He repeatedly urged young men with whom he was associated to let spirituous drinks alone, always explaining that he used the beverage to forget for a time his troubles.
The old Frenchman's influence was almost unbounded wherever he was known. His moral code was almost that of a god's. In the school room, he insisted on integrity to oath at whatever cost, truthfulness, purity, nobleness, just dealing, frankness, generosity, mercy and every other virtue that goes toward moral greatness. Wood, one of his old pupils, wrote of him: "He paid as much attention perhaps to the moral as to the mental development of his pupils. In this way he accomplished a vast deal of good. Few teachers, I venture to say, have left so deep, so lasting an impress upon the minds and hearts of their pupils as Peter Stuart Ney. He had but one vice-that of occasionally drinking to excess; but his general conduct was so pure, so honorable, so upright, so noble that every one, from the highest to the lowest, had the sincerest respect for him, the fullest confidence in him. His oath would have been received in any court of justice as quickly and as readily as that of Judge Pearson or Governor Morehead. His influence for good in the community where he lived can hardly be over-estimated. It is felt to this day, and
In Third Creek Church burying ground Marshal Ney sleeps, far from his kindred, but surrounded by friends. A marble slab marks his resting place. The stone bears this simple inscription:
In Memory of
PETER STUART NEY,
Aged 77 Years.
will continue to be felt, by succeeding generations." (Page 197 from “Was Marshal Ney Executed?”)
As different, by . contrast, as day is from night was the life of Peter Ney in the new country from that in the old. The forced inaction of the pedagogue's life during the first few years in his new profession and surrounded by wholly dissimilar circumstances, served to make him morbidly restless. However, as time passed he reconciled himself to the inevitable commonplaceness of a foreign environment. His constant communications with those he loved in his home country was the one only privilege that amounted to joy in his lonely existence. These letters came not direct to him, but through a friend in this country.
His last recognition by a foreigner in this country was about six years before his death. While attending court in Statesville, N. C., he met on the street an old German-born soldier who had served under his command in France. The old fellow was then a farmer in Iredell county and had not so much as heard of the mysterious Peter Ney. When he saw him, believing him to be a ghost or something worse, he threw up both hands in
the keenest agitation, screamed, “Lordy, God, Marshal Ney!” The schoolmaster gave him a sign to keep silent. Afterwards he looked him up and engaged in conversation with him.
In 1846, while living with Mr. Osborne Foard, Rowan county, Mr. Ney was taker ill. His malady was not a mortal one and there was no reason why he should not have recovered. But the broken-hearted old exile no longer considered life worth the living. He refused to take the medicine prescribed and gradually grew worse. Throughout his illness he talked of his wife and his children and declared that he could stand it no longer; that he must go back to them. The attending physician, Dr. Locke, one of his old pupils, one morning approached his bedside and said: “Mr. Ney, I have done everything for you that I can do and it grieves me to tell you that I do not think you can get well.”. Mr. Ney looked at the doctor and responded: “I know it, Matthew, I know it." In the afternoon of the same day the doctor revisited his patient. Finding him perfectly rational he asked of him: “Mr. Ney, we would like to know from your own lips before you die, who you are. On the brink of eternity, the "bravest of the brave” a last time uttered the truth of his identity. "I may as well tell you, I am Marshal Ney, of France." Gradually the old man sank into unconsciousness. A few minutes before the end, from his flighty brain came the sentence that he may have uttered when the cannon still roared and the smoke stifled on Waterloo: “Bessieres is dead and the Old Guard fallen, now let me die.” The greatest of warriors entered into everlasting peace.
(Comment of T. E, W.) I admit that Sir William Fraser's account of Ney's execution creates the impression that it was a sham performance. I also admit that there is much plausibility in the claim put forth for the North Car 2lina school-teacher. Nevertheless, my conviction remains unshaken that Marshal Ney was shot to death, in accordance with the sentence passed upon. him. The following are my reasons:
(1) His family preserve to this day an unquenchable hatred of Wellington and the Bourbons; (2) There is no
evidence that Peter Stuart Ney ever attempted to communicate with the Neys, of France;
(3) None of the companions in arms of Ney, in their Memoirs, exgress the slightest doubt that he was put to death.
(4) The Bourbons never denied the execution. The Duchess D'Angouleme, who was very close to Louis XVIII made the wellknown remark-after learning of Ney's heroic conduct in the Retreat from Moscow—"Had we known that, we would not have put him to death."
(5) Lord William Pitt, Lennox bears testimony to the execution. He was the son of the Duchess of Richmond who gave the famous ball, on the eve of Quatre Bras. He was on Wellington's staff, a member of his immediate military family, associating most intimately with the Iron Duke, by day and by nignt. It is impossible for Ney to have been saved by Wellington, without the knowledge of young Lennox. In the briefest possible manner as though the subject were disagreeable-he mentions the bare fact and hurries on to something else.
He also alludes to the rumor that the Bourbons were afraid the French soldiers would refuse to fire on Ney; and that
"BETHANY” TOLD SOME TRUTHS. Dear Sir: One of your books, "Bethany," has an article about the Federal prisoners captured at the battle of Bull Run having brands, or prisoner marks, on them. This book was in the Public Library at Ensley, Ala., until I showed the article to the Librarian, who is a northern woman, and she removed it from the shelf and I supposed destroyed it. There are a great many northern people in Ensley, and they have had full charge and have filled the Library with books and magazines containing articles slanderous to the South. I have copied most of the articles of this kind from the books (a sample of which I send you), but in the magazines they were so numerous and as I was working twelve hours each day I did not have time to copy them. The children of Ensley are reading these books as they find them in the library believe them to be true. If the people of the South could be brought to a realization of the mistake they are making, by allowing their children to read these things, it would be worth thousands of dollars to your magazine. If they could be shown that instead of helping a magazine like yours that defends
the South they are paying good money, and in some cases, keeping alive magazines that teach their children that Southern men are traitors and Southern women are prostitutes, so low that they do not even know the difference between virtue and dishonor. In no other library of the South
will you find so many books of this kind, but McClure's Magazine is in almost all of them, and in a great many of them you will find the books. These bound volumes of Little's Living Age (from which I send you some articles), were loaned the library by a Yankee woman from Buffalo, N. Y. Selected from one of the largest private libraries in Birmingham. They are very valuable on account of their age, and I should think the owner would want to keep them at home where they would be safe. They are sure to be damaged in the library and perhaps lost. But no, they are filled with articles like those I send you, and so must be placed in the library for the children to read. Children who will never be told that they are not true. If you would publish in your magazine an article each month, calling the attention of the people of the South to the crime they are committing by allowing their children to read these books, and keep at it as persistently as you do after the Socialists, the foreign missions and the Catholic church, and by appealing to the patriotism of the Southern people could persuade them to support Southern publications, in a few years you would have more subscribers than any other magazine. The people of the South do not know. Only yesterday I was talking to a Southern man; he is working on the editorial staff of one of the Birmingham papers, about the failure of the TaylorTrotwood and the difficulty of keeping a
Southern magazine alive, and he said they ought to fail. They publish nothing but sectional matters, and I would not read one of them (and I don't believe he ever did). He did not know; if he knew the truth he would be an ardent supporter of Southern publications. I send you some of the articles I have copied from the books in the Ensley library, a most interesting story could be written from them if properly arranged, these articles in one column, and the truth in the next, side by side. Take for instance this article from McClure's about the people in the Tennessee River Valley between Memphis and Chattanooga. I know these people; have lived among them, and I know that nowhere else in the United States will you find fewer white women who are prostitutes, or a people who love truth, honor and virtue more than they. Sam Davis was a type of their manhood, and the men who made Forrest and Wheeler famous came only from the purest womanhood. There are a great many foreigners here, French and Italians, many of them coming here after living for a time in the north. An interesting story could be written by representing yourself to them as a northern man and getting their opinion of the Southern people. For instance. there is a Frenchman here in business, making more money in one year than he could make in France in a life time, and being treated in a friendly, sociable manner by the Southern people in Ensley and having a better business than an American would have under the same circumstances. One would think he would speak well of the people here, but having lived for a few vears in Ohio before coming to Ensley, he has about the same feeling for the people of Alabama as a French man has for the Germans, and some of this animosity they bring with them when they come to America, getting it by reading translations of such books as Uncle Tom's vabin and from men who have lived for a time in the north and returned to Europe. Sometimes I think they are more persistent, and find more pleasure in talking about the Southern people than the yankees themselves.
If the disposition of these books was left to me I would (and some day it will be done) put these books in a vault so that future historians in writing the history of New England could refer to them, for these scandalous books, instead of being, as they are supposed to be, a history of the South, are really a history of new England, and I would write across the door these words: “The brave are quick to forgive, but the hatred of cowards, like death, hell and the sea, is never full.”
This is the article from McClure's, speaking of the people in the Tennessee River Valley between Memphis and Chattanooga:
"On one of my rides I found a lonely
log cabin in the door of which I saw a woman, surrounded by a flock of children, some six or seven of them, of various ages. Being thirsty, I rode up to ask for a drink of water, which she brought me in gourd from the well, presenting it with a kindly smile and a few words in the local dialect that I did not understand. Although poorly clad and barefooted, she looked rather neat and clean; so did the children, who had evidently been washed that day. She appeared to be about thirty-five years old and the expression on her face was pleasant, frank and modest. I asked her whether these were her children. She answered yes, looking around at them with an expression of obvious pride and pleasure. How many children had she? Thirteen. Some were in the fields, the older ones. Where was her husband; in the army? Husband? She had no husband. Was he dead, leaving her alone with so many children? Without the slightest embarrassment she answered that she had never had any husband, and in response to my further question, whether she had never really been married, she simply shook her head with an expression, not of vexation, but rather of surprise, as if she did not quite understand what I might mean. I left her greatly puzzled. I do not mean to say that these cases portrayed the general state of civilization in a large tract of country. In some of the valleys or cones I found people quite illiterate, indeed, but intellectually far more advanced and more conversant with the moralities of civilized society, but even among them instances such as I have described appeared sporadically, while in some more secluded districts they represented the rule."
Writing of the Confederate soldier:
“One source of amusement of the Federal soldiers consisted in the talks with the deserters from the Rebel Army, who came over to us in great numbers. There were so many of them that sometimes when I rose in the early morning I found the space between my headquarters tent filled with a dense crowd. They were a sorry lot, ragged, dirty and emaciated.
Among those with whom I talked I found some who were not without a certain kind of rustic wit, but the ignorance of the most of them was beyond belief."
Here are a few of the articles, taken from hundreds of the same kind found in Little's Living Age:
Speaking of the Federal prisoners at Andersonville:
“What other deduction can be drawn than that all this was a predetermined plan, originated somewhere in the rebel counsels for destroying the soldiers of the enemy who had honorably surrendered in the field.”
“At the time Kilpatrick made his nearly successful raid on Richmond, the city was thrown into a panic by his approach, and