1933 ALS regarding the North Carolina Myth of Napoleonic Marshal, Michel Ney


Fascinating letter from Katherine Ledwich (née) Meroney Morphy (1873–?) to Philadelphia author Colonel George Nox McCain (1856–1934)¹ regarding the mystery and myth of French Marshal of the Empire Michel Ney (1769–1815).

Ney was a famed French Revolutionary and Napoleonic field officer. Reputedly, with the defeat of Napoleon’s army at Waterloo and the restoration of the Bourbons to the throne, he was executed by firing squad in 1815.

But some accounts suggested a conspiracy: Ney did not die by firing squad, but ended up in North Carolina, as a school teacher named Peter Stuart Ney, where he lived out his days until 1846. This alternate story of Ney’s life is now firmly entrenched in the legends of North Carolina and of the Southen culture:

The legend associated with Peter Stuart Ney is cherished by many people of the North Carolina Piedmont. Questioning his identity, many scholars and popular authors have written either for or against his purported relationship to Field Marshal Michel Ney of Napoleonic France. Southern Culture created the legend of Peter Stuart Ney, which is that he was the world-renowned Field Marshal of the Napoleonic wars. James Edward Smoot, in his book Field Marshal Ney Before and After Execution, theorizes the validity of P.S. Ney’s claim. His work, though an attempt at historical discourse, shows the transformation of the historical Ney figure to one of Southern legend.²

The author of this letter, Katharine Morphy, is firmly resolute in believing that Ney escaped execution, even suggesting some sort of involvement with the Freemasons to help Ney escape to America. Morphy’s belief of the myth is based on the eyewitness testimony of her father and the recent discovery of a direct descendant in Philadelphia. Morphy writes: “To me there is no mystery about Marshal Ney, because my father was as guileless as an angel and the [his] instant recognition of Ney’s official picture is, to my mind, sufficient proof of his escape.”


$75

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