Reminiscences of Peter Stuart Ney, the Great Marshal of France

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Reminiscences of Peter Stuart Ney,
The Great Marshal of France

The most important epoch in my school life occurred in the years 1837 and 1838, when I was a pupil of Peter S. Ney, and as I can show beyond the shadow of a doubt, was Napoleon's great Marshal. It was when he was teaching in Iredell County on Huntin Creek, and when I was ome ten or twelve years ago. This school was patronized by the Youngs, Houstons, Allisons, Carltons, Faithers, and many of the most prominent men of the country, many of whose sons afterwards filled the highest positions in social, political, and religious life. In the year 1816, Nay first appeared in South Carolina and drifted into North Carolina, where he followed teaching. The pupils and parents without exception firmly believed that he was the celebrated Marshal Ney, Napoleon's "Bravest of the brave", who according to all history was condemned to death for High Trason, and was shot on the 7th day of December, 1815, in the Garden of Luxemburg. He died in Rowan County and waws buried at Third Creek Church, and over his grave is a marble slab bearing the following inscription:


The first day I entered school I was forcibly struck with the teacher at his desk. He turned in his seas and called me to him and in his broken French brogue asked me my name. Somewhat awed at his stern and commanding appearance, I told him my name was Henry James Foote. Placing his arm around me as I stood at his desk, he replied: "That is not right! Your name is James Henry Foote". (Reversing the order) And then without a moments hesitation with the other hand, dashed off the following acrostic: -
" Jehovah made thee what thou art
Ayouth of warm and feeling hear;
Make then thy genius and thy time
Employ Themselves in things sublime.
Sweet are the musings of the just
Heaven always holds their lives in trust.
Forward then! And with a pen of flame
On Fame's proud temple inscribe thy name;
Over land and sea thy name be heard
To win the price, O, be not afraid
Eternal blessings crown thy head".

It was under his tuition and influence I received an inspiration to obtain an education. In his discipline he was strict and required obedience to all orders as a military chieftain, but I never knew a teacher more idolized by his pupils. He had a military carriage and a form denoting greatstrength and courage. His features were strongly marked, his eye was that of aneagle and looked into the depths of your soul. He always dressed well, and was remarkable for his charity to the poor. He was nearly bald, and the

hair remaining on his head was of a reddish hue. On his forehead was a large soar which was evidently caused by a sword-cut about four inches long, on his body were other wounds, He has a musket ball in one of his legs. He was a master of fencing. While he was teaching in Nooksville, a [illegible] French Fencing Master appeared and wished to form a class. The boys told the man if he would have a bout with their teacher, and beat him, they would make him up a class. He asked Mr. Ney to his room in the hotel and opened his trunk full of swords, and told Ney to choose his weapon. As soon as his eye fell on a short broad-sword, he seized it at once, and bade him come on the playgrounds. How it is said this was the favorite kind of sword used by the famous Marshal of France. After a few passes, Ney with a wonderful skill out the mans fine beaver hat in twain, whersupon the latter threw down his sword and said "Gentelman, you have a master and done need me". General James Cook, who was a pupil at that time, related this incident to me. History states that Marchal Ney was a famous swordsman and in 1791, vanquished the fencing Master of a French Regiment, Ney being there with the Fourth [illegible], and chosen to vindicate its honor. Here is a striking coincidence of these two being one and the same man. And as to the [illegible] age, the Great Marshal was born in 1769 and would have been 77 years olf in 1846, which as I have shown was precisely P.S. Ney's age when he died in North Carolina. As to the place of birth, the Marshal was born in [Savritorise] in Loraine and P.S. Ney claimed this to be the place of his birth, and often wrote his name Peter Stuart Nichel Ney. The Marshal's wife was a favorite of the Empress Joesphine. Mr. Neyoften spoke of his wife to Mrs. Dalton of Iredell, and of her close friendship with Josephine. As to personal appearance Marshal Ney was of powerful physique. His hair was red, so red that he was called by his soldiers "Peter the Red" or the "red Lion". And P.S. Ney had red hair and a powerful frame. As to the wounds there were precisely the same. Marshal Ney at the battle of Mayence, 1795, was severely wounded in the head by a sabre cut. At the Battle of the Thien, he was wounded thrice, one bullet entering the calf of his leg. P.S. Ney, as we have shown had a bullet in his leg and a sabre cut on his head


He told Mrs. Dalton in confidence that he was The Marshal. He said the soldiers detailed to shoot him were his old comrades in the arms, and that while on his way to the Garden of Luxemburg, the place of his execution, they whispered and told him to fall quickly at the command "Fire", and leave the rest to them. He did as they said and the ten balls passed over his head and lodged in the wall behind him. The offices on their horses galloped off as soon as Ney Fell, and the attendant physicians, who (illeglible) pronounced him dead were his old friends. He wasplaced in a coffin but his friends and shipped from Bordeaux to America, while the empty casket was buried in Piere La Chase. This you see was in 1815 in December, and early 1816 we have shown that our Ney was seen in Charleston, the great shipping point at that time. Marshal Money refused to sit in the council to try Ney for treason, for which he suffered three months in prison. He said, "Should I [illegible] to death the man to whom so man Frenchmen are indebted for life?" There were but few present to witness the execution, it being early in the morning, and all of these present were his old guard whom he had so often led to victory.

The late Rev. R. V. Barber, knew Ney Personally and was confident that he was the Great Marshal of France, and his brother, Col. Wm. Barber who was slain in battle in the late war, was a pupil of Ney and always affirmed positively his belief in the two being one and the same. So did the Rev. Dr. Rockwell,

and many others prominent in church and state, and I have never known a case more plainly proven. An expert Frenchman in New York examined the handwriting of Ney, and compared it with that of the Marshal, and said they were the same. One reason, it is said, why he avoided all public resorts and lived in seclusion, was the fear of assassination for himself and friends in France, who aided in his escape. He had a large sum of money to his credit in the old National United states Bank, but never carried large sums about his person, and charged only $200.00 a year for his teaching, which he spend on charitable objects, giving freely ot a poor man of woman, boy or girl whom he might meet. He often wrote words of advice and lines of poetryin the school books of his pupils. He wrote this remarkable poem in the autograph album of one of his pupils, a school girl, dated May 26th 1836.

"Though I of the chosen, the [choicest]
To fame gave her lofitiest tone:
Though I 'mong the brave, the bravest,
My pleasure and my baton are gone:
My eagle that mounted to conquest
Has stooped from his altitude high
A prey to the vulture, the foulest,
No more to visit the sky.
One sigh for the hopes that have perished
One tear for the wreck of the past,
One look upon all I have cherished,
One lingering look, 'tis the last.
And now from remembrance, I banish,
The gloriee that shower in my brain
O, Vanish, fond memories, vanish!
Return not to sting me again."

The Late LuciussButler of Iredell County, was a favorite pupil of Ney, and he told him that when he heard of his death to come at once and take charge of his old trunk, for in it he would find information that would astonish he world. But a stranger came and got the trunk soon after his death and before Mr. Butler could get it and was never heard of again. While Mr. Ney was teaching and boarding with Capt. Houston on Hunting Creek in Iredell County, a young man and stranger came, and was seen in company with Mr. Ney in private and secret conversation, and took his meals at the table without an introduction, and one night they were seen together at a straw stack all night, and so reported by the negroes next morning, and after the stranger was gone, upon inquiry by Capt. Houston, Mr. Ney said the young man was his son, and he gave him money to go to Philadelphia to study medicine. And now to clap the climax to this story, I was a notice in a newspaper a short time ago of a Birth Day celebration in the state of Indiana and wrote and received reply as follows :-

"Saltillo, Ind.
March 18, 1908.
My dear Mr. Foote:-

Your letter of March 14th [illegible], was received with great pleasure. On the 29th of February last, I passed my one hundred mile post, and the people for more than fifty miles gave me quite a reception, more than 1,000 being present, and had I known that you were still alive, I surely would have given you an extended invitation. Your statement in Mr. Weston's book is correct. Peter Stuart Ney was my father and the identical same Ney who fought under Napoleon. It was Me who met my father in North Carolina and your statement was correct. We were at a straw stack all night, as you say, in fact I was in touch with him for a day

or two. He gave me money and I attended medical college in Philadelphia, and for a number of years I have practiced medicine in Southern Indiana, 'till I was [illegible] years of age. AS you know, my father had reason why he concealed his identity, and I likewise. I am very glad indeed to hear from you and to know there is one of his pupils still alive, who can couch for a part of this great mystery. I have a manuscript that will be published after my death which will yet reveal many things yet untold. I would afford me much pleasure. It would afford me much pleasure to meet and converse with you, and if I should live to see another Birthday, nothing would afford me more pleasure than to have you with us.

Thanking you for writing and you must write again. I beg to be your esteemed friend and son of your old school teacher, who was the great Marshal of France,

(signed) E. M. C. Neyman.

The [illegible] is taken from a letter in answer to one written by me, as before stated, and adds to the proof of the [illegible] that the old Tar Heel School Teacher was the Great Marshal of France.

But last and not least is the fact of his last words on earth. While on his death bed in Rowan County, Dr. Matthew Locke, one of his old pupils, was his physician attending him in his last hours. Dr. Locke said to him: "Mr. Nay, you have but a short time to live, and it is my duty to tell you". He interrupted him saying: "I know that Matthew, I'm not afraid to die. I believe in the Christian Religion". Dr. Locke answered: "I am glad to hear you say that but it was for this I wished to tell you, You know you have lived among us a long time in great mystery, and as you are about to leave us forever, will you please tell me who you really are?" Dr Locke said to me that Ney, [illegible] raised his head and looked him quickly in the face with that eagle eye, and after a little hesitation, feebly but emphatically uttered these words: "I am Marshal Ney of France". Dr Locke told me these were about his last words.

Now take his character for truth and honor as he had always lived among us, for no man was ever more scrupulous for truths and honesty during his life. Could it be possible he would go into his grave with a falsehood on his lips?

The Rev. W. A. Weaton's book: "Historical Doubts" will relieve any one skeptical on the question discussed at length in this story

Roaring River, N. C.
August 14th, 1908
"James H. Foote"
Born Nov. 8th 1825
By request of my friend
Judge Allen

Reminiscences of Peter Stuart Ney, the Great Marshal of France
Reminiscence by James H. Foote about his years (1837-1838) as a student of Peter Stuart Ney in Iredell County, N.C. on Hunting Creek. Foote presents evidence that Peter Stuart Ney (who taught in North Carolina schools from the late 1810s through at least the late 1830s and died in Rowan County in 1846), was one of Napoleon Bonaparte's marshals who was supposedly executed for "high treason" in 1815.
August 16, 1908
Original Format
21cm x 32cm
Local Identifier
Location of Original
East Carolina Manuscript Collection
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Lethene Parks Feb 26 2017

According to stories in my family, my great-great grandfather, Dr. Samuel Fullenwider, was a friend and medical colleague of Dr. E. M. C. Neyman when both were practicing medicine in Indiana. Both were convinced that Dr. Neyman was Marshal Ney's son, and a couple of generations down the line one of the Fullenwider sons or grandsons was named Marshal Ney Fullenwider. The stories in my family tell of Pter Ney's wife and son, who had to be left behind when he escaped to America, and give details of how his execution and death was faked. If you are still interested, please contact me and I will dig out the materials that I have. In addition to family lore, I did some research on the subject 25030 years ago and found more detail than I have seen on modern accounts. I have been to the Ney grave in N.C. and all the people I talked to there believe that the person buried in that N.C. grave was indeed Marshall Ney.

Paul Ward Jan 10 2022

I would like to speak with you about your research into Peter Ney!

mic Nov 11 2016

I would like to receive more information about the Ney story. According to our family tree, Peter Ney was my great-great-great grandfather, and there is an article about him (trying to find the copy again). But Peter's grave shows he is the true Michele. If there is any more information, please send it to me. Thank you.

Kevin M. Calhoun Nov 25 2015

I am currently researching this subject for potential publication. Anyone who is interested in this, or knows anything regarding the Ney Conspiracy, please contact me at

Ralph Scott Nov 05 2013

Michel Ney, 1st Duc d’Elchingen, 1st Prince de la Moskowa, popularly known as Marshall Ney was a eighteenth and nineteenth century French military commander. After service during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, Ney fell out of favor and was arrested and condemned to death for treason in December of 1815. In January of 1816 Peter Stuart Ney arrived at Charleston, SC., where he subsequently disappeared. In 1821 he appeared in Mocksville, NC where he assumed the position of a school teacher. He also worked as a teacher in Hillsborough, Salisbury and Mecklenburg county before returning again to Mocksville. He died there on 15 November 1826 and is buried at the Third Creek Presbyterian Church. This document typed in August of 1908 at Roaring River, NC, relates the life of Peter Stuart Ney, the Great Marshall of France. In the relation Peter Stuart Ney’s grandson, E. M. C. Neyman of Saltillo, IN, states that his grandfather was in fact the Michel Ney. This document is signed by James H. Foote, born 8 November 1825 and “is taken as proof that the old Tar Heel Teacher was the Great Marshall of France.” At the bottom the relation is noted as being done “at the request of my friend, Judge Allen.” A pencil notation on the first page states “copyied and sent to the Historical Society.”

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