Laura Era's 2010 painting \

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Laura Era's 2010 painting "Maryland's Version of the 'First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation,' " inspired by an 1864 painting by Francis Bicknell Carpenter, includes Anna Ella Carroll in an effort by admirers to recognize her role in the Civil War.

Painting by Laura Era

In Francis Bicknell Carpenter's original painting, the Friends of Anna Ella Carroll say the empty chair belongs to their heroine. They say that she came up with a game-changing war strategy for the Union and that her writings laid the foundation for the Emancipation Proclamation.

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In Francis Bicknell Carpenter's original painting, the Friends of Anna Ella Carroll say the empty chair belongs to their heroine. They say that she came up with a game-changing war strategy for the Union and that her writings laid the foundation for the Emancipation Proclamation.

BPK, Berlin/U.S. Capitol Historical Society Washington, D.C./Art Resource, N.Y.

The Friends of Anna Ella Carroll at her gravesite in Church Creek, Md., from left: Claude Gootee, Andrew Todd, Mabel Potter, Earl Brannock, Sandy Saunders, Gail Todd, Irene Harper, Earl Lowry and founder Frank Bittner.

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The Friends of Anna Ella Carroll at her gravesite in Church Creek, Md., from left: Claude Gootee, Andrew Todd, Mabel Potter, Earl Brannock, Sandy Saunders, Gail Todd, Irene Harper, Earl Lowry and founder Frank Bittner.

Benjamin C. Tankersley/For The Washington Post

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"It really makes me sad that people waste so much time on Anna Ella Carroll, on something she did not do, and try to give her a status that she does not deserve," said Janet Coryell, a Western Michigan University history professor.

Adam Bird/For The Washington Post

An engraved portrait of Carroll, circa the 1850s.

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An engraved portrait of Carroll, circa the 1850s.

Kean Collection/Getty Images

Coryell wrote a 1990 Carroll biography titled \

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Coryell wrote a 1990 Carroll biography titled "Neither Heroine Nor Fool." Coryell says Carroll's role in history should not be discounted entirely: "She was one of the earlier constitutional theorists who said, 'This is why it's okay for Lincoln to do what he needs to do.' "

Adam Bird/For The Washington Post

Union troops in 1863 by the Tennessee River near Chattanooga. Carroll’s admirers say she wrote the plan calling for the Union to invade the South via this river.

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Union troops in 1863 by the Tennessee River near Chattanooga. Carroll’s admirers say she wrote the plan calling for the Union to invade the South via this river.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division