Constance Cary Harrison

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Constance Fairfax Cary

Also Known As: "Refugitta"
Birthdate: (77)
Birthplace: Cumberland, Maryland, USA
Death: November 21, 1920 (77)
Washington D.C., DC, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Archibald Cary and Monimia Fairfax
Wife of Burton Norvell Braud Harrison
Mother of Fairfax Cary Harrison; Francis Burton Harrison; Arthur Harrison; Ethel Sophia Harrison; Archibald Cary Harrison and 1 other
Sister of Clarence Cary

Managed by: Ofir Friedman
Last Updated:

About Constance Cary Harrison

Constance Fairfax Cary was a prolific American writer, with privileged roots. She descended from Capt. Thomas Walker and Sarah a Bahamian Black Woman They were her 4th GGrandparents.

A writer and Civil War diarist best known for her "Recollections Grave and Gay." In 1861, she and her cousins, Hettie Cary and Jennie Cary, sewed the first examples of the Confederate Battle Flag. She was courted by Confederate President Jefferson Davis' private secretary, Burton Harrison. They were married after the War. She persuaded her friend Emma Lazarus to donate a poem for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Among her more than twenty-five published works were the popular "Helen Troy" and "A Russian Honeymoon."


  • "Constance Cary Harrison". Date published: 31 Mar 31 2007. Date accessed: 10 Feb 2013.
  • "Constance Cary Harrison". Date published: 4 Jan 2013. Date accessed: 10 Feb 2013.

Constance Cary Harrison (April 25, 1843 – November 21, 1920), was a prolific American writer. She was also known as Constance Cary, Constance C. Harrison, and Mrs. Burton Harrison, as well as by her nom de plume, Refugitta. She was married to Burton Harrison, a lawyer and American democratic politician. She and two of her cousins were known as the "Cary Invincibles"; the three sewed the first examples of the Confederate Battle Flag.


Constance Cary was born at Port Gibson, Mississippi, into a planter aristocrat family, to Archibald Cary and Monimia Fairfax. Archibald Cary was the son of Wilson Jefferson Cary and Virginia Randolph. Monimia Fairfax was the daughter of Thomas Fairfax, 9th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. Archibald Cary was a subscriber to the Monticello Graveyard (1837). They lived at Cumberland, Maryland, where he was editor of its leading newspaper, The Cumberland Civilian. When he died in 1854, her mother, Monimia, moved the family, in with her grandmother at Vaucluse Plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia, until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Civil War years

After the seizure of Vaucluse and its demolition (to construct Fort Worth, as a part of the defenses of Washington, D.C.) she lived in Richmond, Virginia during the American Civil War and moved in the same set as Varina Davis, Mary Boykin Chesnut, and Virginia Clay-Clopton. She was published in Southern magazines under the pen name "Refugitta."

Constance Cary lived with her Baltimore cousins, Hetty and Jennie; her mother served as the girls' chaperone. The three young ladies became known as the "Cary Invincibles." In September 1861, they sewed the first examples of the Confederate Battle Flag following a design created by William Porcher Miles and modified by General Joseph E. Johnston. According to her own account, one flag was given to General Joseph E. Johnson, one to Confederate general P. G. T. Beauregard, and hers to Confederate general Earl Van Dorn. Later during the war, she assisted her mother as a nurse at Camp Winder.

She later met Burton Harrison (1838–1904), a private secretary for Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and helped win his release from Fort Delaware after the war's end.

After the war

In 1865, she wintered in Paris, with her mother. In 1866 Harrison had settled in New York City. She and Harrison were married on November 26, 1867, St. Anne's Church, in Westchester County, New York; the wedding breakfast was at Old Morrisana, the country home of her uncle, Gouverneur Morris. He held various public offices, and she wrote and was active in the city’s social scene. They were the parents of Fairfax Harrison (March 13, 1869 - February 2, 1938), who was a President of the Southern Railway Company, and Francis Burton Harrison (December 13, 1873- November 22, 1957), who served as a Governor-General of the Philippines.

Among her other contributions to American Literature, Constance Cary Harrison persuaded her friend Emma Lazarus to donate a poem to the fundraising effort to pay for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.

In 1871, the Harrisons first visited Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island, Maine, staying at the cottage of Captain Royal George Higgins. Sometime in the 1880s, they commissioned Arthur Rotch of the architectural firm Rotch & Tilden to build a seaside cottage called Sea Urchins, with a garden designed by Beatrix Farrand. The property now is owned by the College of the Atlantic, transformed into Deering Common, student center. Sea Urchins was the center of hospitality during the "Gilded Age" in Bar Harbor and she entertained many noted visitors there, including friend and neighbor James G. Blaine, who lived at Stanwood. The Harrisons' winter home was a mansion on East 29th Street, New York.

Constance Cary Harrison died in Washington, D.C., in 1920, at the age of 77.


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Constance Cary Harrison's Timeline

April 25, 1843
Cumberland, Maryland, USA
March 13, 1869
Age 25
New York City, New York, New York, USA
December 18, 1873
Age 30
New York, USA
December 27, 1874
Age 31
October 17, 1876
Age 33
New York, New York, United States
November 21, 1920
Age 77
Washington D.C., DC, USA