Sesquicentennial 1862

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In 1862, on May 2nd, Madame Childs stood up to Colonel Turchin and his Union Troops to save the Athens Female College while Athens was being sacked and raided.

Jane Hamilton Childs, known as Madame Childs, the school's president, presented a letter to Col. Turchin on the steps of Founders Hall that she said was from President Lincoln. Turchin with his troops ready to burn down the college, read the letter that ordered the Federal troops to protect the institute and to post security on the grounds to guard the campus during the entire siege of Athens.

On Saturday, May 5th 2012, time lapsed back 150 years, as the exchange of words and actions between Madame Childs and Col Turchin took place in the same location in front of the college,

The lawn of Founders Hall provided a temporary home for an encampment of Union Soldiers and cannons. Firing of the cannon was on the half hour and Blacksmith demonstrations were throughout the day.

Featured were the Alabama Division of Reenactors and Sons of the Confederate Veterans Camp 768. The reenactors are George Makowski as Col. Turchin, Darrell Ball, Mark Curley, John Mumaugh, Michael Mumaugh were all Union Soldiers, Brad Wales Cannoneer, William Pepper as the Drummer and Cathy Woods as Madame Childs.

This reenactment was sponsored by the Athens State University Alumni Association and the Center for Lifelong Learning.

Teresa Todd
May 5th, 2012

Below is some information I located online from a website called

“According to Elva Bell McLin's book "ASC History 1821-1994," former primary student Allie Cook gave an explanation.

Cook, whose family moved to Illinois in 1865, wrote the Athens newspaper in 1919 that before leaving Athens, she heard a story about the school's president, Jane Hamilton Childs, known as Madame Childs.

Cook said Madame Childs wrote to President Lincoln, asking for protection, and Lincoln ordered Federal troops to protect the institute.

Editor Roy L. Smith dubbed the school "the college that Lincoln saved" in a story he wrote in 1941 for the Christian Advocate, a Methodist publication. The Methodist church had assumed sponsorship of the school in 1842.

'Vigorously denied'

McLin said two local historians "vigorously denied" the story, but the tale of Madame Childs confronting a Federal soldier and waving a letter from Lincoln enamored the media and public.

It is a story Athens State spokesman Rick Mould shares with visitors, though he has no documentation.

McLin said Madame Childs had valuable connections in Washington, D.C., who could have gotten her a letter. She made these connections when she attended private schools in Virginia, Baltimore and Philadelphia, and operated a school for girls in Georgetown, before moving to Alabama.

Athens State archivist Sara Love said Childs' best friend was married to U.S. Secretary of War Edward Stanton.

"It's more likely that if she had a letter, it was from him rather than Lincoln, I think," Love said. "But then again, Stanton could have gotten her one from Lincoln, I'm sure."

According to Mary Fielding, who kept a diary during the war, Madame Childs' sister arrived from Washington, D.C., the week Turchin marched into town. Whether her sister brought Madame Childs a letter is speculation.

Would Madame Childs' connections have been enough to garner a letter of protection from Stanton or Lincoln?

McLin said Madame Childs traveled through Union lines in 1864 to speak to Union officials in Nashville about saving the college.”

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