The Ewell Farm House on Depot Street in Spring Hill is a Civil War home “so steeped in history that it’s hard to separate fact from legend,” city historian Tom Meadows said.

The Ewell Farm House on Depot Street in Spring Hill is a Civil War home “so steeped in history that it’s hard to separate fact from legend,” city historian Tom Meadows said.

“It’s a story worthy of Hollywood. But if I can I’ll go back and try to get at the true story.”

In 1865, like much of the South, Postbellum Spring Hill was searching for means of economic recovery as peace settled over the country. Having witnessed the bloody battle of Spring Hill on Nov. 29, 1864, the little town looked to move on as a community. One of the industries that blossomed quickly in the late 1860’s and into the 1870’s was the field of stud horses and harness racing.

“Spring Hill quickly became the spot where the best horses in the racing world were known to come from,” Meadows said. “And the man primarily responsible for that success and reputation was Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, along with his wife, whom he called the Widow Mrs. Brown.”

Ewell (1817-1872) settled in Spring Hill after the war along with his wife Lizinka Campbell Brown (1820-1872), a wealthy Maury County heiress with vast wealth holdings in Tennessee.

Confederate General Richard Ewell

“Ewell’s impact on Spring Hill’s commerce at that time [and today] is immeasurable. Both Ewell and Lizinka had progressive ideas in farming that they applied at the Ewell Farm. And the reason that the train depot, and Depot Street, exist today is because of their innovations and success. They brought in the first Jersey cattle to this area beginning in the late ’60s.”

Theirs was a romance that, at least for Ewell, began in childhood when the two met as cousins.

“To really trace their story, you have to start with the Campbell family on Lizinka’s side. She was the daughter of U.S. Senator George Campbell from Tennessee, a man with large landholdings throughout Tennessee.”

Campbell also served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Madison, and was the U.S. ambassador to Russia later under President Monroe from 1818-1821.

“While the Campbells were in Russia they had their daughter, Lizinka. She was born in St. Petersburg and was named after a high-ranking lady in the Russian aristocracy who was a close friend of Mrs. Campbell’s.”

Lizinka grew up to be “a smart beautiful woman” who was involved in her father’s American and European business dealings to a certain extent.

“She was given as free a hand as a woman could have at that time. Their primary home was in Nashville, but because of Ambassador Campbell’s position, she traveled all over Europe while he was entertaining higher-ups.”

Sometime during her childhood, she was introduced to a distant cousin, the future Lt. Gen. Ewell.

“They corresponded in childhood and became friends as Ewell was growing up in Washington, D.C. Over the years, some say he developed a love interest in Lizinka. Whether she reciprocated is unclear.”

What is clear is that by the time of the 1861 outbreak of war when he was age 44, Ewell was highly interested in his cousin, who had since married and been widowed.

“She had married a gentleman by the name of Percy Brown in France. They were another wealthy family with property in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. But the marriage didn’t last for long because Brown wound up committing suicide. Despite that, they had three children, including eldest son, George.”

George Brown would one day play a role in bringing his mother together with his future stepfather, Ewell. When Lizinka was widowed, she moved back to Nashville to live again in her father’s home where she was rearing the children up to the time of the war.

“He always loved Lizinka as his standard for all women, the one to whom no other woman ever measured up,” Meadows said. “Nashville, of course, was under attack and later fell into Union hands in 1863. As it turned out, Ewell had Lizinka’s son, George, under his command in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in 1862.”

Ewell became attached to George and concerned about Lizinka’s family living in Nashville while it was under Union attack.

The Nashville tomb of Ewell and Lizinka

“Ewell had had several big successes in battles, but was severely wounded at the Battle of Groveton (VA.), shattering a knee and losing a leg. That’s when Lizinka fled Nashville for Richmond and ended up nursing her cousin Ewell back to health. In Maury County, she had been a known Confederate supporter, and had supplied Brown’s Guard entirely by her own means.”

While in Richmond nursing General Ewell, the long-separated correspondents fell in love and were married in the throes of war in Richmond on May 26, 1863. With Stonewall Jackson having died weeks earlier at the Battle of Chancellorsville, the newlywed Ewell soon took over Jackson’s command in the Army of Northern Virginia as a Lt. General.

“After their marriage, Ewell came under heavy criticism. It was of course a big part of the mentality at that time that an educated outspoken woman like Lizinka was not well thought of. The gossip in Ewell’s camp was that when a general gets married in the middle of a war, he loses some of his fight.”

Regardless of his military reputation to historians, Ewell had found in Lizinka an indispensable partner in matters military and financial.

“She became his war confidante, and his personal secretary, handling both his personal affairs and his military dispatches. About that time, Ewell ran into several failures in battle and as a result many of his fellow officers blamed Lizinka for what they thought was a bad change in the general’s performance.”

When George Campbell died in 1848, Lizinka inherited his properties and became one of largest landowners in Middle Tennessee.

“From that time, she had no qualms about taking care of business, and Ewell absolutely doted on her.”

Ewell was captured by Union forces during the last six months of the war, at which point his wife became an invaluable family representative.

“She ran all of his affairs while he was in prison. She, of course, petitioned to get him out. And once he was freed, she herself petitioned President U.S. Grant to secure her lands in Tennessee that had been confiscated during the Union occupation. She, of course, succeeded in that, leading to the couple’s successes in Spring Hill.”

After the war, the couple came to Spring Hill and set up their farm on what is now a portion of land along Beechcroft Road and along Depot Street. Their house is now in private hands, but sits visibly atop the knoll at Depot.

Ewell himself became the president of the Maury County Agricultural Society, and from that position influenced farming in the area for miles around and decades into the future. Ewell and Lizinka were imminently well-matched both for matrimony and business.

“After the war he had three books published covering aspects of testing farms and cattle. He was good at that. And his wife ran the business. Ewell continued to be close with her eldest son, George, and also doted on her other children as if they were his own.”

Next door to the Ewell farm was the McCoy Campbell, or Cleburne farm. The railroad track bisects the two properties.

“Ewell eventually became so successful in the cattle business, the depot was built near the property and still sits approximately where their property lay. They did very well financially raising stock. From there, they began to dabble in horses and harness racing, becoming legends in the harness racing world. Early records of harness racing in America show that the stud horses with the most wins would usually come from these two farms in Spring Hill.”

The end of the Ewell-Brown love story is a sad one. In 1872, a case of pneumonia hit the Ewell Farm, with all of the children and both spouses falling ill.

“When the general got it, once again his wife nursed him, and from that gets it herself. The children recovered, but within a few weeks of catching it, she died. They were afraid to tell the general about their mother as he was lying in bed. It was not until the day of her funeral that they kids told him.”

Historical accounts vary, but sometime within days of his wife’s death, Ewelll himself succumbed to pneumonia and heartbreak. George took over the running of the farm, the cattle business, and marshaled the booming horse business into a huge success.

Part of the land where the Ewell Farm lies is still owned by Campbell descendants in 2015.

Meadows is a lover of American history, and has a special regard for the history of his adopted hometown of Spring Hill.

“I like to look at how I got to where I’m at, and where I came from. And it’s also important for any city to do the same. Otherwise you get lost as a person. If a town loses sight of where they’re at and where they’ve come from, they become lost too. This town is just steeped in history.”

Staff writer Greg Jinkerson covers Spring Hill for Home Page Media Group. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @springhillhmpg.