Michel Ney’s Great Escape
A 150-year old mystery lies buried in a graveyard … in rural Rowan County, North Carolina. Legend is that Peter Stuart Ney, the schoolmaster who was buried there in 1846, was really the great French general Marshal Michel Ney, who led the bloody winter retreat from Moscow to Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars in 1812. On his deathbed, the 77-year-old Ney was asked by his physician if he indeed was the French general referred to by his men as “the red lion” and by Napoleon as “the bravest of the brave.” He raised himself and responded “By all that is holy, I am Marshal Ney of France!”
In 1815, after Napoleon’s [dethronement], Ney had sworn allegiance to Louis XVIII [and] When Napoleon left the island of Elba with a small army he had been allowed to maintain … Ney vowed to bring him back to Paris in an “iron cage.” [However,] Ney joined forces with Napoleon and [after] they were defeated at Waterloo by Wellington, Ney was condemned to die for treason [Source].
In December 1815 he was supposedly executed by firing squad, though he refused to wear a blindfold and was given the right to give the order to fire himself. However, legend has it that Ney’s Masonic ties, crucially those he had to Wellington himself, helped him fake his death by placing blood packets over his heart and firing blanks at him. He was then smuggled to the USA and lived the rest of his life as a schoolmaster.
In January 1816, a man calling himself Peter Stuart Ney arrived in the US and disappears from record. In 1821, he resurfaces as a school master in South Carolina. Between 1822 and 1828, he held semi-permanent teaching positions in several Carolina communities. He died in 1846 and on his grave one will find the words: “A native of France and soldier of the French Revolution under Napoleon Bonaparte”. The grave was exhumed in 1887 and a plaster cast made of the skull by a local doctor, though it was then lost. In 1936, a letter sent to TIME magazine claimed that the skull had been found inan attic “show[ed] evidence of having been scarred by bullets and swords” [Source].
[Thanks to southcarolinadove for bringing this to my attention]