Sunday, April 1, 2012

Louisiana Ransburgh Briggs, The Veiled Lady of Camp Chase

Louisiana Ransburgh Briggs was an original. Her father, John Ransburgh of Franklin County, had moved to the South in the 1840s, married a southern girl and settled on a plantation on the Mississippi River at New Madrid, Missouri.

Louisiana, named after her mother's home state, was a true daughter of the South. When the Civil War came to New Madrid in 1862 and Yankees raided his plantation, John decided to send his young daughter North, out of harm's way, to live with his relatives. But, Louisiana never forgot where her loyalties lay and she never forgot the sight of those uncouth Yankees standing on her mother's piano.

At the age of forteen, she was sent to school at Ohio Wesleyan, where she brought her own stool, refusing to sit on the same benches with "dirty Black Republicans." She staged a public celebration in the streets of Delaware when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated that nearly touched off a riot.

After the war, Louisiana met young Joseph Briggs, a Union veteran and a wealthy farmer with a large estate west of Columbus near her father's old homeplace. The marriage progressed happily with the pleasures of children and the duties of a large farm.

However, Louisiana secretly nursed her sympathies for the lost Southern cause - an immensely unpopular sentiment to have in Columbus at the turn of the century. Near the Briggs farm was Camp Chase an old prisoner-of-war camp whose cemetery contained the bodies of more than 2,000 Confederate soldiers.

It became Louisiana's custom to walk by the cemetery just after dark sometimes accompanied by her children. Clad in a heavy black veil to conceal her identity, she would throw bouquets of flowers into the neglected tangle of weeds and vines that had grown up over the graves. Gradually, such homage earned her the title of "The Veiled Lady of Camp Chase," and through her efforts and those of Union veteran William Knauss, the Confederate cemetery was saved from ruin.

Leslie Blankenship
Columbus Historical Society

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