2008-10-03 / Front Page

True heroine for the Confederacy to be honored

Story and photos by William D. Chisolm Gen. Wade Hampton Camp Sons of Confederate Veterans bchisolm@sc.rr.com

Bill Chisolm kneels next to the grave of Panchita (Frances) Miot in Elmwood Cemetery.
On October 12, 2008, at 2 pm a ceremony will be held by the Mary Chesnut Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), to honor Confederate heroine Panchita Sanchez Miot.

The ceremony will be at her grave in Elmwood Cemetery as part of the UDC state convention. A wreath will be laid on the grave and a Confederate Iron Cross of Honor dedicated to her. The public is invited to attend. Panchita Sanchez Miot Confederate Heroine

Panchita Sanchez lived in Florida near St. Augustine. Her father, Mauritia Sanchez had immigrated to Florida from Cuba. He and his wife were quite elderly by the time the War Between The States began. His family consisted of a son away serving in the Confederate Army and three daughters: Panchita, Lola, and Eugenia.

The Union Army had occupied St. Augustine during the first year of the war. Union troops landed from ships as they did at Hilton Head and Beaufort in South Carolina, and they controlled the coast of Florida. However, the Confederacy controlled the interior of Florida, and the Yankees were never able to make any successful efforts to take the interior.

Sanchez and his family were in Union- occupied territory. He was arrested as a spy for the Confederates and held prisoner in St. Augustine. He was completely innocent as it was his daughters who were giving information to the Confederates.

The girls and their mother found their home surrounded by Union soldiers many times. The Yankees knew someone was giving information to the Confederates, but they had thought it was Mr. Sanchez.

It was usual for Yankee officers to visit at the Sanchez home. The girls were cordial and gained some protection from the thieving soldiers. Though the conversations were light and airy, and the girls often played the guitar and sang, they were able to glean information and feed it to the Confederates.

On a warm spring night in 1864, three Yankee officers came to the Sanchez home. The girls received them in a friendly manner and after a short time left the officers to prepare the supper. The officers, thinking themselves safe, entered into discussion of a plan to surprise the Confederates on Sunday morning by sending gunboats up the river and attacking their camp. Also, a foraging party was to go out from St. Augustine to "liberate" supplies for the Union army. The girls overheard enough to realize this was of great importance and were determined this information must be sent to the Confederate camp immediately.

Lola slipped quietly out of the house and rode for her life to the ferry a mile distant. The ferryman took her horse and gave her a boat. She rowed across the St. Johns River where she met a Confederate picket. She borrowed his horse and rode through the woods to Camp Davis, a mile and a half away.

At the camp, she asked for Capt. J.J. Dickinson, commander of the 2nd Florida Cavalry. She told him what she had heard then rode for home, returning by the same route she came. She knew she must not be missed from home. Turning her horse loose a safe distance from home she strolled in just in time to join the supper party.

That night Capt. Dickinson crossed the river and surprised the foraging party. The Union commander, Lt. Chatfield, was killed and most of the party was captured. The Yankees lost all of their wagons, horses, and everything they had stolen.

The Confederates had set up artillery at a horseshoe bend in the river and surprised the Union gunboats. At the Battle of Horse Landing the USS Columbine was disabled and all on board the Columbine were either killed or captured, marking one of the few times in history where cavalry captured an enemy ship. Some time later the Confederates captured a Union pontoon boat and in a compliment to the girls, it was renamed The Three Sisters.

Panchita was determined to obtain her father's release at all costs. She obtained a pass to go through their lines and went to St. Augustine alone.

She offered to take her father's place in prison if they would release him. After much pleading she obtained her father's release, and they returned to their home. The girls continued their activities for the duration of the war.

After the war all three girls married former Confederate soldiers. In 1867, Panchita married Capt. John R. Miot of Columbia. Capt Miot had fought in the Mexican War with the Palmetto Regiment. In Confederate service he was with Co. G., 6th South Carolina Cavalry and fought in Virginia.

Panchita and Capt. Miot returned to South Carolina to live. They had six children. Capt. Miot died in 1877 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

Panchita outlived him by 54 years. She lived in Charleston then in Columbia. She was the oldest member of Trinity Episcopal Church at the time of her death and had been a member for 60 years. She died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. J.B. Letton, 516 Congaree Avenue, Columbia, in January of 1931.

The three Sanchez sisters were true heroines and true Daughters of the Confederacy. All three of their names appear in gold letters on a plaque with the names of 106 Confederate heroines that hangs in the UDC Memorial Building in Richmond, Va. One hundred and forty four years after their service to the South, the Sanchez sisters are still remembered.  

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