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The Caribbean Inscription

The far-flung fate of Edward Maynard

by Jack Neely

Near the Broadway entrance to Old Gray is one stone, right near the front, that catches your attention. It's in the marbly plot devoted to the family of Horace Maynard, the eccentric Reconstruction-era Congressman, the Massachusetts-born intellectual who was the first in the Second District's long unbroken line of Republican representatives in Congress, later U.S. postmaster and ambassador to Turkey.

More interesting than Congressman Maynard's marble vault, though, is this high melancholy column, broken off at the top—as was the custom in the Victorian era, to commemorate young men who didn't get to live their whole lives. It was the eldest son of Horace Maynard who died Jan. 10, 1868, a few weeks before his 25th birthday.

More interesting than Maynard's age, or his monument's gloomy Victorian style, is his place of death: Grand Turk. I have wondered about that stone ever since the first time I saw it.

A while back, I tried to look Edward Maynard up, and was surprised at how little I found. Edward Maynard is not well known in Knoxville history books. Usually, even for the obscure, it's easy to find obituaries in contemporary newspapers. In the Knoxville newspapers of January, 1868, are several articles about Edward Maynard's dad, the prominent Republican congressman in the swirl of Reconstruction politics and President Johnson's prospective impeachment. But there's no mention of young Edward himself or his fate. There was current news by cable from Havana, but nothing from Grand Turk.

I went at it again last week, and looked a little harder. I told myself I'd study every page of every paper for a full month after that death date. I did, and still no luck. I was about to give up altogether, when in mid-February issues of the Knoxville Whig, I found full accounts of Edward Maynard's unusual life and death. They were written by his close friend and war buddy, the journalist and future mayor William Rule.

In his 25 years, Edward Maynard went to college, went to sea, led troops as a colonel in the Civil War, flunked out as a Nashville bureaucrat, married, sired a child, and landed in the foreign service.

He grew up at his dad's place on the town side of Henley at Main, when Henley was a tree-shaded residential street. When he was 14, his dad went to Congress. The oldest of several kids, Maynard was a handsome, clean-shaven young man who wore a broad-brimmed felt hat, a brilliant kid with a scientific mind. At 16, Maynard got into Amherst University in Massachusetts, where his dad had once been valedictorian. He impressed his professors, but twice came down with a serious unnamed illness. Doctors thought sea air would be good for him, so at 18 Maynard dropped out of college and shipped with the S.S. Pocahontas as captain's clerk. He'd been a sailor for only a few weeks when they got a call to rescue Major Anderson, his men, and their flag, from a fortified island in Charleston harbor, called Fort Sumter. The men on shore had been firing cannons at them.

As Maynard realized the significance of what was happening, he went home to his family. Back in Knoxville he enrolled at the university on the Hill as a junior, maybe assuming this rebellion wouldn't last long. Many of his Secessionist classmates tried to talk him into enlisting. "They expected to take advantage of his naturally chivalrous disposition," Rule recalled, "to lure his heart in favor of the South." Maynard's heart didn't budge.

In July, 1861, Maynard dropped out of college again and enlisted with the Union army. He served with distinction in campaigns at the battles of Murfreesboro and Nashville, and in some of the Georgia campaigns, promoted to colonel of the "Fighting Sixth" Tennessee Infantry. Knoxville journalist William Rule served under him, and became one of his closest friends. Still sickly, Maynard suffered unnamed ailments in the army which kept him out of action for months. Still, Rule recalled that Maynard was in the thick of combat several times in his career; even under fire, he hardly flinched. "At no time," wrote Rule, "did...that manly face blanch with fear."

Mustered out in March, 1865, Maynard got a job in Nashville's Reconstruction bureaucracy. You didn't hear the phrase post-traumatic stress disorder much in 1865, but Maynard clearly had trouble adjusting to peacetime. A failure at his job, he drank too much and worried his parents. In a letter to his brother, he admitted, "I have been too extravagant in my mode of life"; he tried to give up drinking altogether.

In 1866, Col. Maynard, the 23-year-old veteran, got a call to be U.S. consul to Grand Turk, the colonial island capital near Haiti. It wasn't necessarily an island paradise. Few people lived in the Turks, but Jamaica's deadly Morant Bay Rebellion was just a few months previous; Haiti's dictator was about to be overthrown. The British authorities were also alarmed about voodoo and diseases that swept the islands like storms.

His influential father claimed he had nothing to do with the appointment, but he and his wife were relieved to have their errant son stationed on a then-remote island, where the only industry was salt; it would be good therapy for him. Along the way, Edward also married an Ohio woman named Eliza; his mother didn't think he was ready for the responsibility.

He'd served in Grand Turk as consul for a little more than a year when he learned Eliza was pregnant with their first child. When she was about six weeks away from delivery, Maynard came down with a fever, the fourth serious illness of his life. This time it didn't last nearly as long as the others. On the third day of Maynard's illness, the island's Episcopal rector came to hear Maynard's confessions of "regret for the many former follies in which he indulged." He had enough breath left to sing "Rock Of Ages" with the minister. The next day, Edward Maynard died of yellow fever.

Maynard was buried in the Episcopal churchyard there; the colonial president attended his funeral. The Royal Standard of Grand Turk hailed Maynard: "by his kindness of manner, both in his official as well as his private character, secured many friendships and the esteem generally of this public."

For the next four weeks, the Knoxville papers reported current news sent by cable from around the world. But no one in Knoxville knew about the death of Edward Maynard until someone mailed Mrs. Maynard an obituary from the Standard; she received it a month after her son's death.

Captain Rule, Maynard's old ally, added his own reveries: "How hard the fate that one so young, so talented, so generous, should thus early die in a foreign land, wherein no mother's last farewell could reach his ear...or no father, brother, or sister drop the parting tear of love upon his grave."

The Maynards tried to remedy that by exhuming Edward for reinterment at Gray Cemetery—it wasn't Old yet—but British colonial law forbade it. The monument here, near his father's, is apparently just a monument. Edward's son was born on leap year day, 1868; the grandparents helped raise the boy who never met his father.

If anyone out there has some snorkeling or money-laundering to do in Grand Turk this summer, you might visit the Episcopal churchyard there and see if you find a familiar name.

June 1, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 22
© 2000 Metro Pulse