Elizabeth Vincent After Gettysburg

On July 3, 1863, as he lay dying from his wounds inflicted upon Little Round Top, Col. Strong Vincent asked for his wife. Elizabeth Vincent was home in Erie, Pennsylvania, seven months pregnant and in no condition to travel, thus unable to make the trip. Her father-in-law headed for Gettysburg in her place but did not arrive before his son died on July 7th. On September 29, 1863 Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, Blanche Strong Vincent. Tragedy struck Elizabeth again, as Blanche died on September 20, 1864.

Elizabeth Vincent image found at findagrave.com

Though the 25 year old Elizabeth never remarried, she remained a part of the Vincent family, living with her brother-in-law, Boyd, and his family. Boyd, an Episcopal priest, helped Elizabeth find new ways to occupy her life. She became an inspiration to a large group of young people in Erie and was actively engaged in the life of the church, for as long as the family lived there. After relocating to Pittsburgh, she continued with her church and charitable work. Eventually, the family ended up in Cincinnati, where she continued with her church work, and also wrote a pair of books, Mary, the Mother of Jesus and The Madonna in Legend and Art.  She also translated a pair of books, Behold the Man and A Day in the Capernaum, from German to English. She also cared for her younger brother-in-law Ward Vincent, who could not care for himself, for the rest of her life.

Oliver Willcox Norton, color barer of the 83rd Pennsylvania, who wrote extensively about Vincent and his Brigade on Little Round Top formed a friendship with Elizabeth that lasted the remainder of their lives. Norton had a son, whom he named after his beloved commander, and at some point Elizbeth gave Vincent’s ceremonial sword and scabbard to the young Strong Vincent Norton.

In December 1912, the elder Norton wrote to the now Bishop Vincent for advice. He was estranged from his son, and he no longer felt that his son was no a worthy recipient of the sword and wanted it to be given to the nation that Vincent had given his life for. The Bishop agreed with Norton’s suggestion and spoke to Elizabeth about it. She agreed, and in 1913 the sword and scabbard were donated to the Smithsonian Museum’s National Museum of American History. There is a second sword; Strong Vincent’s field sword is on display at the Watson-Curtze Mansion of the Erie Historical Society (read more about that here).

When she died in 1914, at age 76. In her will, she left Oliver Norton $250, “to be expended on the best cigars he can buy.”[1]She is buried, next to her husband and infant daughter, in the Erie Cemetery in Erie Pennsylvania.

Elizabeth survived her husband by more than 50 years and never remarried. She remained a beloved member of the Vincent family as well a leader in the work of her brother-in-law’s churches in Erie, Pittsburgh, and finally Cincinnati. She organized charitable work, served as the superintendent of a Sunday school, and conducted art classes, as well as her accomplishments as an author. She remained an inspiration to those around her until the end of her life.

Source:

[1] Norton, Oliver Willcox, Army Letters 1861-1865, Dayton, OH: Morningside Press, 363.

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6 Responses to Elizabeth Vincent After Gettysburg

  1. Mike Maxwell says:

    The Civil War had far-reaching, long lasting impacts on Families, North and South. Some effects are still felt to this day. “Experience that does not kill us, makes us stronger…”

  2. John Pryor says:

    Or bitter. The experience of familial loss, physical devastation, wartime relocation, and the often sudden loss is status could have an understandably traumatic effect especially on Southern women, and informed how they remembered and wrote about the war.

  3. Savas Beatie says:

    “She also cared for her younger brother-in-law Ward Vincent, who could not care for himself, for the rest of her life.” Interest story. The context of this statement is not included. Why could he not care for himself?

  4. Phyllis Miller says:

    Thanks for the interesting facts. I graduated from Strong Vincent HS in 62.

  5. Lyle Smith says:

    Fascinating and moving.

  6. When I was first getting interested in the Civil War in New York in the early 1970s, I chanced to visit the community cemetery in Greene, NY in Chenango County (named for General Nathanael Greene. I was amazed at the number of women who either never married or were widowed young and never remarried. It must have been something like England after WWI. The flower of the young men in that community may have gone together to war and never come home, or come home so injured they needed to be cared for the remainder of their lives. That left many young women the challenging task of making a life for themselves outside their traditional expectation of marriage and children. Credit to Elizabeth Vincent. She seems to have made a real life for herself with her husband’s family. Thank you for a touching remembrance of a woman whose courageous husband I had always admired.

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