McDonalds of Virginia
Chapter 20 -
Susan Leacy McDonald
Susan Leacy McDonald, third daughter and
eighth child of Angus W. McDonald and Leacy Anne Naylor (his wife), was
born in Romney, Virginia, December 10th, 1839, and named Susan for her
father's aunt, Mrs. William Naylor, and Leacy for her mother.
She attended the private schools in the town
and later was sent away to "Ringwood," a popular boarding school for
girls in Fauquier County, until the family moved to Winchester, when she
attended the school taught by Mr. Charles L. Powell.
She was very pretty, with a fair
complexion and blue eyes, and a wealth of glossy, brown hair. She was
just verging on young ladyhood when the Diocesan Convention of the
Episcopal Church in Virginia met in Winchester and among the guests that
were entertained at her father's house on that occasion, was young
Phillips Brooks, a student at the Virginia Theological Seminary, who
paid "Miss Sue" marked attention during the entire time, and was
evidently much enamored of her youthful charms.
Years later, when the writer met the
famous Bishop Brooks at a Church Congress in one of our big cities, he
asked the most minute questions about every member of that house party,
even remembering the names of all who had composed it. The Rev. Dr.
Yoakum, who had also shared the hospitalities of the McDonald home with
Phillips Brooks, and was also in attendance at this Congress, told the
writer, very significantly, that if it had not been for the unhappy war,
Phillips would surely have returned to Winchester.
Sue, too, had her "war experiences," in
common with the rest of the family, one of which was quite thrilling.
Early one Christmas morning, at "Hawthorne," a squad of the military
appeared at the door and said they were going to take the house for a
hospital and wanted possession at once. Mrs. McDonald, who by her quick
decision and prompt action, had already warded off the threat several
times before, said she would appeal to the General in command, to
protect her, and without losing a moment in useless expostulation, left
the house on her errand, charging Sue and the little boys to do all they
could to prevent their gaining admission until General Cluseret could be
heard from. Harry and Allan had gone on one of their trips outside "the
The original squad began to increase in
numbers until presently a large crowd had congregated. Sue and the
little boys, meanwhile, with the assistance of the two servants who had
remained faithful, fearing wholesale theft, began bringing their few
stores from a store-room on the porch to an inside room, thinking they
might be safer, when some of the soldiers began jeering and ridiculing,
demanding that they be given something to eat. No attention whatever was
paid to them and after every thing was brought inside, and the doors
locked the crowd surged around to the big windows at one end of the
dining room, threatening to help themselves to the breakfast which was
on the table.
Sue then, without a word to them, went to
the windows and closed the Venetian shades in their faces, effectually
shutting off all sight of the inside. There was perfect quiet for a
short moment. Then, as if by concerted action, every pane of glass was
shattered in both windows. And the rowdies outside began to make
insulting speeches. Her apparent indifference to what they said seemed
to infuriate them more and more, and presently one of the most ruffianly-looking
among them, advanced towards her and said: "Let's steal her."
This was the climax, and Suefeeling her
utter helplessnesswith sudden inspiration, turned to one who looked a
little more civilized than his companions, and said:
"Isn't there one man in this mob who will
protect a defenseless woman?"
Her appeal had its effect. In a moment
two men left the crowd at a double-quick in the direction of the camp
and presently returned with an armed guard, who promptly dispersed the
crowd of ruffians.
Later, she was arrested with her sister
Flora when they attempted to go South on a pass from Gen. Cluseret.
Milroy, having superceded the latter, upon finding nothing "contraband"
among their effects, offered them another pass, when Sue prompt-1v
declined it, telling him that the next pass that carried them up the
Valley would be signed by General Jackson.
In the fall of 1864, when Sheridan went
through the Valley of Virginia on his famous barn-burning foray, Sue was
on a visit to her brother Angus' family, who had been obliged to flee
from their home in the more exposed part of the State and seek refuge
within the Confederate lines. And when the rumour reached them that
Sheridan was really advancing, spreading destruction and ruin on every
side, their first thought was to try and get a guard. So Sue, having
been among "them," and being somewhat familiar with the modus operandi,
volunteered to "see the General" and try to get protection. Accordingly
she went with the two little children to the headquarters of Gen.
Wright, who was in command of the Eighth Army Corps, and camped about
two miles from them. He was very polite indeed, not only giving the
guard, but sending them home in his ambulance.
And it was with quite a feeling of
security that they stood on the porch the next morning and watched the
flames consume the large barn filled with wheat on the farm adjoining.
Imagine their consternation then, when two troopers rode into the yard
and coming to where they stood demanded some matches. Sue said, "You
surely are not going to burn the barn on this place? It belongs to the
gentleman whose barn you have just fired. Is that not enough?"
And without another word they rode out of
the yard, leaving the barn intact. And Dr. Coffman, the gentleman to
whom the barn belonged, always said he owed that barn of wheat to Miss
Sue McDonald's presence of mind.
The two sisters, Sue and Flora, finally
went to Richmond, where they spent most of their time with their married
sisters, until the close of the war, when both returned to the Valley
and lived at Cool Spring with their brothers for the next three or four
Susan Leacy McDonald was married to Major
John L. Stanard, of Culpeper, Virginia, at Lexington, August 6th, 1872.
He had served throughout the war in the Confederate army. Later they
moved to Berryville, where she now resides.
Major Stanard died on January 24th, 1898,
and is buried in Green Hill Cemetery at Berryville. He was a son of Col.
John Stanard of the United States Army and a nephew of Judge Robert
Stanard of the Court of Appeals of Virginia.
The following letter was written to Sue
by her father, when she was contemplating going as teacher into the
family of. Bishop Joseph Wilmer, of Louisiana.
Aug. 25th, 1863.
MY DEAR SUE:
* * * * I do not wish you, my dear daughter, to go as an employee into
the house or family of even the excellent Dr. Wilmer, for whose kindness
in offering I am most obliged, but I cannot bear that your will and mind
shall be subjected to the tastes or judgment of any other, however pure
My family is large, and as a whole are
still able to provide for themselves and I do not think that one of them
will shrink from their duty. * * * *
We must be prepared for perfect martyrdom
of comfort and even life, rather than falter in the great cause of our
country, but it is our duty to each other that not one member of the
family shall be dwarfed in their social relations, whilst the others
have a crust to divide with them. We must all stand upon the same
platform, no matter how small and circumscribed, while it remains up to
the level of the good, virtuous and patriotic standard you have been
counselled to value and cherish.
I find that my mind as well as my hand is
too feeble to protract my letter, or give it the tone which satisfies
me. I hand it to Harry to give you the news.
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