Share This Article

Flora Stuart’s Battle Flag Finds a New Home

The battle flag that Flora Stuart, J.E.B. Stuart’s wife, sewed for her husband is headed for permanent  display at the Texas Civil War Museum in Forth Worth after being held in the Stuart family for generations.

General Stuart displayed the banner proudly in his camps. An unfortunate accident, however, forced its early retirement in 1862. The flag was nearly destroyed when it slipped off its pole and drifted into a campfire. “I will send the fragment to you,” wrote Stuart to his wife. “It has proudly waved over many battlefields and if I ever needed a motive for braving danger and trials I found it by looking upon that symbol placed in my hands by my cherished wife.”

After Stuart was mortally wounded in May 1864, Flora Stuart wore black mourning attire every day for the rest of her life. She displayed her husband’s battle flag in her office at the Virginia Female Institute in Staunton, where she served as headmistress from 1880 to 1899. During that time, she expanded the school’s curriculum and established financial aid for girls from poor families. In 1907 the school was renamed Stuart Hall in Flora’s honor.

—Donald L. Barnhart Jr.

Lincoln Foundation Launches Celebrations

District of Columbia visitors may have been surprised to happen upon Sam Waterston delivering Lincoln’s inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on March 5. The public reading was scheduled as the first of the Sesquicentennial celebrations sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation, an extension of the commission founded in 2009 to celebrate Lincoln’s 200th birthday, and related nonprofit organizations.

The foundation awarded one of its first grants to keep the historic and nicely restored Gettysburg Railroad Station operating for a year.

‘Nation’s Attic’ Civil War Treasures From the Smithsonian Institution

On May 12, 1864, a large leafy oak stood in a rolling meadow just outside the courthouse at Spotsylvania Court House, Va. Within 24 hours all that remained of the tree was a bullet-riddled stump, marking 20 hours of combat at a point notoriously remembered as “the Bloody Angle.”The furious gunfire that tore through 22 inches of tree trunk killed about 2,000 soldiers. Several conical Minié bullets remain deeply embedded in the scarred wood. Brevet Major General Nelson A. Miles, a division commander in the battle, presented the stump to the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Museum, and in 1988 it was moved to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum.

Tod Carter’s Killer Goes on Display

In December 2010, a poignant vestige of the bitter Battle of Franklin was unveiled for display in the Carter House museum in Franklin, Tenn. A hail of bullets struck 24-yearold Confederate Theodrick “Tod” Carter on November 30, 1864, not far from the house he had grown up in—but hadn’t returned to in three long years. He died two days later in his family home, attended by his father and two sisters.

On the anniversary of Carter’s death, his great-great-nephew gave the bullet that had lodged in Carter’s skull, along with his spurs, to the Battle of Franklin Trust, which in turn lent them to the Carter House. The family also donated Carter’s letters and diaries.

From Civil War Soldier to Saint?

A soldier turned priest has a loyal following that is working to have him named a saint. During the war Nelson H. Baker fought in a unit that helped end the New York Draft Riots. When he came home to Buffalo, N.Y., he worked as a grain merchant. But in 1876 he became a Catholic priest in Lackawanna, thereafter devoting his life to running soup kitchens for immigrants of all kinds, homes for abandoned children and unwed mothers, and outreach to African Americans.

Long celebrated in the Buffalo area, Nelson—who died in 1936 at the age of 94—was recently recognized by Pope Benedict XVI for his “heroic virtues.” That is one of the steps to sainthood. If a miracle is attributed to Baker, he will be eligible for beatification. If a second miracle is identified, he will be eligible for canonization.

Texas Passes on Secession Anniversary

While other states are gearing up for years of Sesquicentennial celebrations, Texas isn’t joining the party. Some Texans regret the opportunity for tourism dollars; others think commemoration would reopen wounds that have not yet healed. Nonetheless, Texas has an distinctive story to tell. Unlike other Confederate states, the Lone Star State didn’t experience extensive wartime destruction, and it offered a haven for former Confederates fleeing ruined communities.

Relive Bull Run—and ‘Batter Up’ Too

Visitors to Manassas can experience a four-day reenactment of the First Battle of Bull Run July 21-24. In addition to battles, events will include a tour of Underground Railroad sites, period music performances, a Civil War parade and a baseball tournament. For more information, go to manassascivil

Forrest Defeated

The Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans applied for their first specialty license plate in 2002. This year they proposed five new designs to commemorate the Sesquicentennial [one plate for each year]. Among them was a portrait of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate commander noted not only for his military skill but also his role in the formation of the Ku Klux Klan. At first Governor Haley Barbour declined to comment on the Forrest plate. On February 21, however, he told a reporter that “the tag is not going to happen.”

Research Room Preserving Wartime Memory

As the Sesquicentennial begins, it’s only fitting to recall how we came to know so much about the events of 1861-65. Major General Frederick Crayton Ainsworth (1852- 1934) and his powerful Record and Pension Office, which once occupied 75 rooms of the old State, War and Navy Building in Washington, D.C., stands out among the custodians of the nation’s memory.

Joining the Army in 1874, the Vermonter swiftly rose in rank to adjututant general of the Army, largely due to an innovative procedure he adopted in 1887 for transcribing and indexing the fragile personnel records of the Union and Confederate armies. Ainsworth’s system made the information more accessible, and the archives he created are the best source of volunteer soldiers’ service records. The Army later adapted his system for other documents.

Little-known and rarely used, the General Correspondence of Ainsworth’s Record and Pension Office, 1889-1904 (now in the National Archives) is a treasure trove of information on an array of Civil War subjects. The General Correspondence index, reproduced as National Archives microfilm publication M686, is huge. References to specific Union officers and enlisted men are the most common entries.

Ainsworth’s clerks declined to tackle a few subjects. One was the realm of superlatives. Who was the first to volunteer his services to crush the Rebellion? Who was the oldest soldier? Who was the youngest soldier? The War Department preferred not to explore these and other such questions.

—Mike Musick

Lincoln Prize Winner

Columbia University professor Eric Foner won the 2011 Lincoln Prize for his book The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. The judges honored Foner for describing how Lincoln shifted his stance from tolerating slavery as a legal institution to recognizing that abolition was imperative.

Call for Civil War Memorabilia

Richmond, Va.—The Civil War 150 Legacy Project is looking for family documents connected to the war. Anyone with manuscripts, documents or images relating to the era (defined as 1859-1867) can bring in items for scanning, which allows families to contribute material without donating actual documents. Visit legacy for more information.


Originally published in the June 2011 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here