“My darling One–My battlefield flag, the beautiful one you made fell from the tent-front the other day into the fire,” said Jeb Stuart, Confederate Civil War General, in a note to his wife Flora. “It has proudly waved over many battlefields and if ever I need a motive for braving danger and trials I found it by looking upon that symbol placed in my hands by my cherished wife,” Stuart added.
The same red-wool bunting flag, showing the Confederate “Southern Cross” with its 13 stars and burn marks was retuned to Stuart’s wife in 1862. Most likely, it was the same flag at Stuart’s side during his battles. Little could Flora know, in two years, her husband, one of the most famous and colorful cavaliers in the Army of Northern Virginia, would also be snuffed out.
The flags soldiers carried in battle were fragile. Some were silk, others wool. Subjected to sun, rain, snow, bullets and bayonets, they were lovingly birthed from wedding dresses and Sunday best garments. Soldiers died for them. Prized trophies, flags were the most sought after objects on the battlefield. Waving proudly in front of regiments, at wars end all that remained of some flags were shreds of cloth nailed to a staff. Faced with ultimate surrender, hundreds were buried, burned and otherwise destroyed by Johnny Rebs themselves. Still others were cut up into dozens of tiny pieces. Each surviving warrior would carry one home as a souvenir.
After Gen. Jeb Stuart’s death, a number of items were found in his pockets: a letter to his wife, a poem about the death of a child, a copy of the New Testament, a handkerchief, a lock of his daughter’s hair, a commendation congratulating the infantry he commanded, and a thin round pin cushion embroidered with a Confederate flag. When Gen. Robert E. Lee learned Stuart was dying at the age of 31, he said in a shaken voice, “I can scarcely think about him without weeping.”
Because of the fighting, a disruption in railroad service and a rainstorm, Stuart’s wife was late in reaching her husband’s bedside. After a 10 hour journey, she entered the house where he lay. A certain quiet all around her revealed the inevitable. Words were unnecessary. Flora went and sat alone in a candlelit room beside her dead husband. Stuart’s funeral was held at St. James Church in Richmond, Va. Battles were raging nearby so his troops were absent. Because of the fighting, there was no military escort. As the choir sang, Flora sat in the front of the church weeping. Afterwards, a hearse drawn by four white horses escorted Stuart to Hollywood Cemetery. For the rest of her life, Flora wore black to mourn Stuart’s death and displayed the bullet-riddled, burnt battle flag on her wall. She died on May 10, 1923.
On Dec. 1 and 2, Heritage Galleries & Auctioneers, Dallas, Texas, featured a selection of items belonging to Gen. Jeb Stuart in its Civil War History auction. Among them was the flag discussed. Here are some current values for Stuart’s personal belongings.
Gen Jeb Stuart Portrait and Autograph; matted and framed; 10 inches by 15 inches; $3,884.
Gold Mechanical Pencil and Cuff Links; $19,120.
Field Compass and Lock of Hair; hair removed by wife on night of his death; $44,813.
West Point Class Ring; gold with green stone; given to Stuart by his parents when he graduated in 1854; $113,525.
Gold Pocket Watch; key-wind; 52mm pocket watch; inscribed with his initials; case by E. Maurice and Co., movement by John Cragg of London; $131,450.
Personal Battle Flag; most recognized banner of the Confederacy; 13-star design; $956,000.
It is while I read articles like this I wish I were rich enough to buy some of these items.