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Frank Stringfellow | MyHenryCounty.com/MyMartinsville.com
Frank Stringfellow
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."

Woodberry Forest School MarkerIn 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 the War.

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>

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