Thursday, March 28, 2019

The French Lady: A Most Agreeable Gentleman

“Fatti Maschii Parole Femine

In July of 1861, Union troops aboard the Chesapeake Bay steamer the Mary Washington found the “privateer” Colonel Richard Thomas Zarvona hiding in one of her cabins.  Aided by some sympathetic passengers, he had removed the bottom of each drawer of a dresser and had curled himself up inside of it.  Zarvona’s arrest brought to an end a brief but brilliant career in the Southern forces.  With a two-day expedition on the lower Chesapeake in June of that same year, he had stunned a complacent North and delivered to the South one of her earliest naval victories.         

Zarvona was born Richard Thomas in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. His boyhood home, the Patuxent River plantation Mattapany, had been the site of a late 17th century battle between loyalists to Lord Baltimore and Protestant rebels who wanted “to proclaim the new king and queen.” Because it was a tradition among the wealthy families of Southern Maryland, Thomas likely attended Charlotte Hall Military Academy, the alma mater of Raphael Semmes and Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney. At sixteen Thomas entered West Point, but at the end of his first year—during which he accumulated 189 demerits—he left, and, to the relief of the Academic Board, did not return. Traveling abroad for a few years—believed to have been a soldier of fortune in the Far East and Italy—he was back home at Mattapany when Lincoln’s troops began moving into Maryland in April of 1861.   

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