UK Heritage

Confederate Link with Mayfair

3 Clifford Street

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Taken from an article that originally appeared in 'Crossfire' the magazine of the ACWRT(UK) Issue 48 as 'Places in Britain of Civil War Interest: 3, Clifford Street, London W1')

 

3, Clifford Street, London W1 was the London residence of Fitzgerald Ross, whose 'Cities & Camps of the Confederate States' has been assessed as "one of the finest and most informative of the relatively few inclusive records left by outside observers of the Confederacy in its own time". From its appearance I would judge that the present No.3 to be the same building Ross inhabited.

 

 


Edward Fitzgerald Turton Ross was born in Little Bookham, Surrey, in 1825. Educated at the universities of Heidelberg and Gottingen, he joined the Austrian Hussars as a private soldier on 16 January 1850. He was promoted successively to 2nd Lieut. & Captain. Placed in temporary retirement on 13 October 1862, he returned to England and then undertook his visit to America.

 

He entered the Confederacy in the Northern Neck of Virginia in late May 1863. He was present at Gettysburg and then travelled through the South until April 1864. He became, consciously or otherwise, one of the South's staunchest propagandists; like British Colonel Fremantle, whose path through the Confederacy ran parallel with Ross' for some weeks, he allowed his predisposition for the South to be strengthened by the courtesies he received everywhere from soldiers and civilians alike.

 

Southern sympathising journalist W.W. Glenn described him as follows: -

 

"He was very anxious to ride a raid with J.E.B. Stuart. He had been the beau sabreur of Heidelberg in his day, had fought his hundred duels and was now a captain in the Austrian Hussars. He insisted on taking his uniform & sword with him. He refused to travel without it. So much luggage was quite out of the way, but as underground travel was so nearly closed, I told him to try it, as the very boldness of the thing at such a time would disarm suspicion. There had been a convention in Baltimore. Several Eastern Shore gentlemen were about returning home. He left with them, arrived safely in Princess Ann & after a few days crossed the bay and reached Richmond. His uniform was however a nuisance. He had no chance to wear it. He tried it one day and as I prophesised, nearly flung a whole division into confusion. They had never seen such a sight and their curiosity was not to be restrained. Ross stayed a long time in the South. He took with him a photograph of a particular friend to Mr. Benjamin and another to Burton Harrison, Mr Davis' private secretary. These were his letters."

 

Colonel Fremantle had also warned Ross about his clothing when he met him for the first time in Chambersburg on 28 June 1863: -

 

"When he stated his intention of wearing his uniform, I explained to him the inevitable custom of the Confederate soldier of never allowing the smallest peculiarity of dress or appearance to pass without a torrent of jokes, which however good-humoured, ended in becoming rather monotonous"

 

Ross must, in truth, have been something of a trial to Fremantle. The latter recounted how, at dawn on 2nd July at Gettysburg, the Austrian, "in spite of the early hour, had shaved his cheeks and aired his moustaches as beautifully as if he was on parade at Vienna" Ross himself admitted that been woken by the sound of cannon, had bounced out of bed and cried. "C'est le sanglant appel de Mars!"

 

Upon his return to England, Ross remained optimistic about Confederate fortunes, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. On 15th February 1865 he wrote in his diary:-

 

"People here seem to me to attach a great deal too much importance to the run of luck the Yankees have lately had. In my humble opinion having to hold such a long line of coast, whilst they of course have to supply their armies from the North by sea, will be of more harm than use to the Yankees"

 

On 24th March 1865 he insisted that "We are all convinced here that Sherman had been 'whipped'".

 

Even on 12th May he could find a silver lining to the blackest of clouds:-

 

"We are all dreadfully distressed here at the sudden collapse of the Confederacy, still I do not think the affair is over yet and shall be surprised if Texas and the West does not hold out".

 

Ross's life after the war included no episode of interest to the casual reader: he retired into "the obscurity of bachelor old age". The date and place of his death are unknown to this writer, although he was alive in December 1898.

 

ACWRT(UK) 2001

 

Picture Credit:

 

3 Clifford Street: photographed by, and reproduced with kind permission of, John Atkinson