Lean Keen Spying Machine
Early in 1864 Stringfellow captured a Yankee
Captain who carried with him a pass for a Southern girl
of Stringfellow's acquaintance. The Captain was
hoping that the girl would attend a dance at his invitation
and the pass would be used to get her there. Stringfellow
borrowed the girl's dress and had the girl and her mother
coach him on impersonating a female. The girl's father
then drove him in a buggy to the end of Confederate
lines where Stringfellow then went on alone.
At the dance he got much useful information about Northern
troop movements. One Yankee Major took a "romantic"
interest in him. Another Lieutenant, became suspicious,
took Stringfellow outside and accused him of
being a female spy. Stringfellow, saying that
he appreciated the Lieutenant's attentions, asked him
if he would turn around a minute while he prepared himself
to demonstrate to the Lieutenant his appreciation of
his kindness. When the Yankee turned his back Stringfellow
pulled his derringer and took him prisoner. He then
took him out in the buggy, forcing the Lieutenant to
act as if he was escorting his "date" home
from the dance. Stringfellow then took his prisoner
back to Confederate lines.
Stringfellow's last assignment came from Jefferson
Davis himself. In March, 1865 he again impersonated
a dental student in Washington.
Gathering intelligence, he moved around from hotel to
hotel. One hotel of his was full of detectives. One
of these, a woman, had suspicions of him. In an attempt
to trap him, at dinner one evening she proposed a toast
to Abraham Lincoln. When everyone but Stringfellow had
raised a glass she asked him why he wouldn't drink to
Lincoln. In response, Stringfellow proposed a toast
to "Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate
States of America." Stringfellow left that hotel
soon after for new lodgings. When he was finally trying
to get out of the city he was picked up by Federal troops
who took him to a prison for further investigation,
still not sure of his identity. Stringfellow again escaped
from the prison before his identity was determined.
It took him 21 days to get back to Virginia. By then
the war was over.
At the war's end, Stringfellow was designated
by some of his enemies as "the most dangerous man
in the Confederacy", and a reward of $10,000 was
offered for his capture. Stringfellow fled to Canada.
During the spring of 1866 he wrote to his beloved Emma
that he was undergoing a transformation,
I begin to realize that a new life is opening up
to me - that "man does not live by bread alone
- but by every word that proceedeth from the Father."
1867 Stringfellow returned to Virginia and after
many months of preparation, he entered the Episcopal
Seminary of Virginia, graduated and was ordained in
1876. Sometime during the post war period he married
Emma Green and went on to serve many churches throughout
Virginia. Reverend Frank Stringfellow was rector
of Christ Church in Martinsville, VA from 1891 to 1894
and, after leaving Christ Church, became the first Chaplain
at Woodberry Forest School near Orange, VA a private
boarding school for boys. The school was founded by
his cousin Robert Stringfellow Walker in 1889.
Walker had been a member of Mosby’s Rangers during
In 1898 Stringfellow wanted to serve as a chaplain
for the armed forces during the Spanish-American War.
He was rejected as being too old. Stringfellow responded
by writing to President William McKinley for help and
asking for him to intervene. Stringfellow quoted a letter
he had from President U.S. Grant. Shortly after the
battle of Cold Harbor, during a mission with the purpose
of capturing the Yankee Commander, Stringfellow had
been close enough to Grant to shoot him in the back
but had not been able to bring himself to do this. After
the war Stringfellow wrote to President Grant about
this incident. Grant in response wrote to Stringfellow
thanking him and promising that he or any future president
would be happy to grant any request of Stringfellow's.
Thus, Stringfellow was allowed to become a U.S. Army
chaplain at the age of 57. He returned from the war
and continued his ministry until his death.
Frank Stringfellow died on June 8, 1913 from a heart
attack. He is buried beside his wife Emma in Ivy Hill
Cemetery, Alexandria. View Burial Plot Record>