Emory P. Andrews — “Jennie Brandt”

The following was written by Emory P. Andrews, Lieutenant of Co. C, 31st Massachusetts.  It seems to have been written as a stand-alone story and, since his memory was failing, as he himself recognized, its truth may be somewhat dubious, as none of the facts have been verified. If some aspects of this story can be confirmed, we would like to know about it. In some places, paragraph breaks and punctuation were added for readability.

“Let me kiss him for his mother!” said Mrs. Jennie Brandt, standing at the bedside of a death-struck soldier in the Army Hospital at New Orleans.

An early version of the sheet music has a publisher's note: " "During the prevalence of the Yellow Fever in New Orleans, a young man from one of the Eastern States was stricken down with the fatal malady. In his delirium he called imploringly for his Mother. An aged and kind Matron, on being informed of the youth's wishes, glided softly to his bedside, laid her hand gently on his brow, and exclaimed, 'Let me kiss him for his Mother.' Alas, the vital spark had fled. He died and was buried among strangers, in a strange land."

An early version of the sheet music, published in 1859, has a publisher’s note: “During the prevalence of the Yellow Fever in New Orleans, a young man from one of the Eastern States was stricken down with the fatal malady. In his delirium he called imploringly for his Mother. An aged and kind Matron, on being informed of the youth’s wishes, glided softly to his bedside, laid her hand gently on his brow, and exclaimed, ‘Let me kiss him for his Mother.’ Alas, the vital spark had fled. He died and was buried among strangers, in a strange land.”

Kneeling, she clasped his hands in one of hers, placed her other hand tenderly on his head, thrice kissed his lips in a motherly manner, and made a pleading prayer to God for salvation of his soul. An attending surgeon standing near, a young and tender-hearted man, witnessing this scene with tearful eyes, transcribed the acts and words of Mrs. Brandt into his pocket memorandum book. Being poetically inclined, this young Doctor, subsequently, wrote four tender-worded verses, picturesquely delineating the tender, sacred acts and words of Christ-like Mrs. Brandt and sent them to an editor friend at home, who published them in his paper.

At that time, Professor John P. Ordway was a writer and publisher of music in the City of Boston, who being greatly delighted with the purely poetical ideas expressed in the verses when he read them, prepared and published an exquisitely elegant melody, varying with each verse and closing in minor, accompanied by a piano score. This song soon became very popular in New England and many Yankee boys well knew the name of Mrs. Brandt before they entered the Army. It happened to be my good fortune to meet Mrs. Brandt soon after being appointed Military sheriff.

A court was established in New Orleans for hearing military and civil evidence, the Judge for which, named Stewart, was sent from Washington by President Lincoln. Federal officers witnesses before Judge Stewart soon began to suspect his loyalty and determined to test his integrity. Capt. Sheridan of the 9th Connecticut, an Irish regiment, was arrested for knocking down a Rebel who hurrah-ed for Jeff Davis in one of the City Depots crowded with ladies and gentlemen. Arrested and brought before Judge Stewart, Captain Sheridan pleaded “not guilty” and was placed in my charge. That night he was my guest and spent the evening in conversation with officers of his regiment regarding the copperheadism of Judge Stewart. Next morning a citizen presented me an order from Judge Stewart to deliver Captain Sheridan into the hands of policeman McGuffin on charge of “assault and battery.” Delivering to, and taking from, the policeman his receipt for Captain Sheridan, I rode rapidly to the courtroom of Judge Stewart, obtained his signature on the same receipt and returned to my office, finding the policeman wandering about, the picture of despair. Men from Captain Sheridan’s company had crowded the poor policeman through the back door and kicked him into the street. Other circumstances of like character occurred so frequently in the courtroom of Judge Stewart that an intensity of feeling against him grew rapidly and sharp-eyed detectives were stationed near every door of his residence day and night. Mrs. Brandt was frequently noticed to leave his house after midnight.

Opportunity soon came to completely entrap the Judge. Six young determined Yankee officers held a council of war in my office, the result of which was to prepare one hundred questions for Judge Stewart to answer immediately concerning his loyalty to the “stars and stripes,” demanding reply tomorrow morning, or, in default of such reply, the one hundred questions would be published in the five, next-day evening papers. The Judge did not reply, but took the four o’clock a.m. steamer for New York City. By this easy, but very unexpected circumstance, New Orleans was forever ridded of the grandest judicial nuisance ever known.

Attention now was turned to Mrs. Brandt, whose actions had become particularly suspicious. Detectives were stationed near her house who obtained evidence sufficient to warrant a careful searching of her residence. General Butler placed this matter entirely in my charge, which gave me liberty to employ what soldiery I chose. Old residents of New Orleans well acquainted with Mrs. Brandt from her childhood, had often informed me that she hated colored men — “male niggers,” she called them — worse than she hated the “Evil one”; consequently I considered it properly appropriate to consign the searching into charge of Captain John W. Fuller, commanding Company A, 1st Regiment Louisiana Colored Volunteer Infantry.

What she called “missionary duties” took her to the various City Hospitals every Thursday afternoon, detaining her until eight o’clock p.m., when she returned for supper. Captain Fuller was directed to detail twelve of his blackest men to assist him and station them in a circular manner around her house equi-distant from each other, and stand himself in a high walled driveway across the street where he could easily observe the lady when she was about to unlock the door; when he was to skip quickly across the street, whistling sharply to call his men, take the key from Mrs. Brandt, unlock the door himself, escort the prisoner courteously into her own reception room, leave two black soldiers to guard her safely, and, with his other men, search every room and possible place where articles could be concealed from cellar to garret.

More than two hours had passed when Capt. Fuller entered my office with Mrs. Brandt just behind him weeping bitterly, followed by several men heavily loaded with various articles obtained. One of her colored servant girls was permitted to come with Mrs. Brandt while the other one remained at the house. Very few words were spoken before Mrs. Brandt was shown to her sleeping room, an elegantly furnished one that seemed to give her much delight. Her tears were gone and a pleasant smile overspread her countenance.

“What!” she exclaimed, “is this beautiful room to be my prison?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Heartless as you suppose the Yankees are they appreciate courtesy toward a lady.”

She grasped my hand and shook it cordially, saying, “Good night! Please allow me to converse with you early tomorrow morning.” A single bed had been prepared for the colored girl, both beds being perfectly protected from mosquitos.

Early next morning Mrs. Brandt was conducted into my office by Sergeant Prank Peters, and, smiling sweetly, said “Good morning” to me. She seemed to be a little nervous, yet soon controlled herself, and we held a pleasant conversation for half an hour when breakfast from the restaurant near, that I had ordered, was brought in. The good lady was much surprised to have so sumptuous a meal furnished for her entirely unexpected, yet she ate slowly with good appetite and drank, good wine and coffee. That day General Butler instructed me to take kind care of Mrs. Brandt until further orders. Frequent conversations between Mrs. Brandt and others took place in my office. She had all the daily papers to read and could leisurely visit with her many calling friends. Her desire was to have her own cook prepare her meals, which was granted and she went home to eat.

Two weeks after Mrs. Brandt had been placed in my charge, a well-dressed gentleman desired permission to have a private interview with her in the room she occupied. He assured me upon his honor that his visit was intended for her best good, that he was a warm, personal friend of her father’s, that he had been intimately acquainted with “Jennie” — as he called her — from her childhood; that she was married at eighteen years of age and left a wealthy childless widow two years later, and other plausible statements that induced me to grant his desire. The gentleman came soon after nine o’clock a.m. and was with Mrs. Brandt about two hours when the colored girl came into my office and said they wanted me to come into Mrs. Brandt’s room. Answering the call at once I found Mrs. Brandt standing with a Bible in her hand which she kissed and raised her right hand. Before one word was uttered, I pronounced the oath of allegiance to U.S.A., when Mrs. Brandt responded with a hearty “Amen! Glory be to God!” throwing her arms around me and bestowing sweetest kisses. From that instant she was free and the happiest woman I ever saw.

Her determination was soon made to employ a superintendent for her property and visit New England’s prominent anti-slavery men. Who was to be superintendent of her property was soon settled and Captain Fuller was appointed. Before she left for the New England visit, the home residence was prepared for two families, as both colored gjrls were about to be married; and for Captain Fuller’s family a large finely furnished house was purchased and given him. These circumstances took place before Andy Johnson [sic] had issued the proclamation of emancipation, but Mrs. Brandt presented free papers to each one of her twenty slaves before leaving New Orleans.

Two years soon passed in the happy pleasures of Northern cities among the best of good people — all thorough-bred, full-blooded abolitionists — when Mrs. Brandt returned to New Orleans, amply well-satisfied and perfectly contented. Her property had been well cared for, everything had prospered, and Captain Fuller had proved himself to be a faithful, honest, industrious superintendent.

[As] old age came to Mrs. Brandt, she breathed her last, was welcomed by angels into everlasting joy of Heavenly bliss, and willed her entire property — except the house which the colored servants had — to Captain Fuller, now one of the wealthiest citizens of New Orleans.

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