Meet Maudie Hopkins - Another Confederate Widow
By Deborah Fitts
LEXA, Ark. - Alberta Martin of Alabama was thought
to be the last Confederate widow when she died in May at 97. But now
yet another has surfaced.
Maudie Hopkins of Lexa, 89, is the widow of Confederate William M.
Cantrell, who served briefly in a Kentucky unit before he was
captured in April 1863, bringing his war career to an end. A justice
of the peace married Maudie and Cantrell in 1934, when she was 19 and
he was 86.
Martha Boltz, a UDC member and Civil War historian, said Maudie found
the difference in age a source of embarrassment to her family, and
never touted her marriage to Cantrell.
In the wake of publicity over Martin's death, however, Maudie's
son-in-law, Fred Chamness, talked about his mother-in-law to
attendees of a ceremony May 23 in Manassas, Va., sponsored by the
Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the
Confederacy (UDC). The UDC promptly began researching Maudie's story.
Gertrude Janeway, the last known Union widow, died several years ago.
According to Boltz, Cantrell was born March 15, 1847, and lived in
Wise, Va. At 16 he enlisted in the nearby eastern Kentucky town of
Pikeville, joining French's Battalion under Maj. James French.
The newly formed unit, also known as the 7th Virginia Mounted
Infantry, was mauled by Federals on April 15, 1863, in Piketon, Ky.
French and Cantrell were among nearly 90 men captured. Cantrell was
sent to Camp Chase, Ohio, where he was listed as a prisoner of war
for the next six weeks. On May 13 he was ordered to be exchanged, and
was sent to City Point, Va., for that purpose. Boltz said nothing
further is recorded as to Cantrell's actions related to the war.
After the war, Cantrell married and moved to the Ozarks of Arkansas.
His wife died in 1929. Living alone in his 80s, he employed young
Maudie Acklin, who was doing house cleaning. Eventually, his need for
someone to cook and care for him led to the decision to marry, Boltz
said. Maudie, from a large family with little means, embraced the
opportunity to better herself.
As Maudie related, "My daddy couldn't make a living and I didn't have shoes."
The couple married in 1934. Cantrell died Feb. 26, 1937, at 90, after
being thrown from his mule. He had deeded her his house and 200
acres. Maudie was widowed three more times. She had three children by
her second husband who died in 1969.
Boltz said Maudie now lives alone, with family nearby. An AP story
about the newly discovered Confederate widow has brought the media to
her door, although her Confederate recollections are few. In fact,
Boltz said, she only recalls Cantrell telling her about how voracious
the lice were. Her story received national attention with coverage
from CNN and NPR to the Washington Post and newspapers across the
"She seems to be enjoying the attention," Boltz said. "As someone
said, whereas she used to sit on the porch and watch people go by,
she now sees them come to her home to talk to her." UDC President
General Patsy Limpus of Glencoe, Mo., said the UDC was "delighted" by
the discovery of another Confederate widow. Maudie is expected to
join the David O. Dodd Chapter of the UDC in Pine Bluff, Ark.
"I have a feeling that there are other widows out there, both
Confederate and Union," Limpus said, "and I hope that this experience
and discovery prompts others to let their significant status be