Last week I got the opportunity to visit Moss Neck as part of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP’s History at Sunset Series. The mansion was gorgeous and the grounds magnificent, it was certainly a gem worth seeing. I knew most of the stories before I arrived: the friendship between little Jane Corbin and Stonewall Jackson, the riotous Christmas of 1862, and the love affair between Kate Corbin and Jackson’s staff officer, Sandie Pendleton. An oasis, they called it, a period of happiness among the pain and hardship of the Civil War.
As I listened to historian Eric Mink talk about Kate Corbin I found myself connecting to her through 150 years of time. Despite our differences of personality, she and I are very similar. These events occurred when she was twenty-three, my exact age now. She was falling in love and becoming engaged; I too became engaged within the last month. We even share the same nickname (although she is a Catherine and I am a Kathleen). I could understand her feelings during the winter of 1862, because I imagine they could be similar to my own at the present.
Unfortunately, the story of Moss Neck does not end on a happy note. Little Jane Corbin died of Scarlet Fever just after Jackson left, followed by her two cousins. Jackson himself would be a casualty of the war just a few months later. Kate and Sandie’s wedding was postponed several times due to the war, including once for the death of her brother, Richard (Jane’s father), who served in the 9th Virginia Cavalry. They finally married in December 1863, but their marriage would not last a year. Sandie Pendleton was mortally wounded in the Battle of Fisher’s Hill and died September 23, 1864, six days short of his 24th birthday. Kate was expecting their child at the time, a boy born in November. Named Sandie after the father who never met him, their son contracted diphtheria and died in September 1865.
Tragedy such as this seems relegated to a time long ago, a time of war and chaos. But it is not; it exists in our world today. A friend of mine from high school recently lost her husband in a motorcycle accident; they had been married less than a year.
In the end, my visit to Moss Neck was more than a learning experience or a chance to see a beautiful historic home. It reminded me of how connected we are to history and how fragile and uncertain life still is 150 years later.
Kathleen Logothetis graduated in May 2012 with an M.A. in History from West Virginia University. Her thesis, “A Question of Life or Death: Suicide and Survival in the Union Army,” examines wartime suicide among Union soldiers, its causes, and the reasons that army saw a relatively low suicide rate. After a third summer at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, she will be continuing at West Virginia University in pursuit of a Ph.D. in History. Her research interests include the Civil War and American Revolution, military history/soldier experience, and commemoration/memory/monuments. ©