THE LAST CONFEDERATE FLAG TO FLY OVER THE C.S. CAPITOL AT RICHMOND

$1,950.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 846-345

An 1881 newspaper article called Lt. Col. Abram Burtt Lawrence (18 May 1834 to 30 March 1912,) “an inveterate collector of relics,” and the collecting bug seems to have bitten him early. Displayed in his house, his collection of western Indian and Civil War material included, “the Confederate flag which floated over the Capitol at Richmond, and was taken by our troops on the occupation.” Lawrence recounted getting the flag from General and Provost Marshal Marsena Patrick, describing it as, “the large Confederate flag, made of the best English bunting, which had been hauled down from the rebel Capitol, had been brought into the Provost Marshal’s office and thrown on the floor, where it still lay.” Lawrence happened to be in Patrick’s office when a visiting former Confederate officer protested against its treatment. Patrick promptly threw him out of the office. Lawrence, showing a keen collector’s sense, “thought the moment an auspicious one,” saying “General, give me that flag.’ Take it!’ he said, and there it is now, minus a few small pieces cut off for friends.”

At the time, Lawrence was serving as Chief Quartermaster of the 24th Army Corps, and had been tasked with dealing with captured Confederate government property both at Appomattox and Lynchburg, so handing over the flag to him was likely natural, though Patrick plainly regarded it as something bothersome to be gotten rid of. How many pieces Lawrence cut from it is unknown, but it was certainly a very large flag to fly over the CS Capitol and likely a Third National. We know of one fragment in the Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum and three others, like this, in private hands. All are formally documented by Lawrence with similarly-worded hand-written affidavits attached to the cloth by small grommet fasteners and come with a piece of Confederate currency obtained by Lawrence while dealing with CS government material at Appomattox. The affidavits, like the one with this piece, usually state the flag was “cut in pieces for distribution,” but there was plainly enough to hand out our piece in 1880, and for the flag to be still displayed to the reporter in 1881.

The affidavits are all formally worded and usually mention the relic’s value as “significant memento” of the war. This is a testimony to Lawrence’s sense of history and a collector’s concern with recording his finds, but also show the concern for documentation and record keeping that must have made Lawrence a good quartermaster. Born in Warsaw, NY, he had several years of business experience behind him when he mustered in as 1st Lieutenant and Quartermaster of the 130th NY in July 1862. The regiment served as infantry at Suffolk, VA, until mid-1863 when it converted to cavalry, taking the designations 19th NY Cavalry and 1st NY Dragoons, and served with the Army of the Potomac. Lawrence resigned March 1864 to take a commission as Captain and Assistant Quartermaster U.S. Volunteers on the 18th Army Corps staff, under W.F. Smith and then E.O.C. Ord, in the Army of the James. He was assigned as major and chief quartermaster of the 18th Army Corps 2 Aug 1864, and when the corps was re-organized was assigned as Chief Quartermaster of the 24th Army Corps and promoted to lt. colonel 21 March 1865. He received brevets of major and lieutenant colonel of volunteers for faithful and meritorious service during war to date 13 March 1865 and was mustered out 13 March 1866. He returned to Warsaw and at the time of his newspaper interview in 1881 was running a retail furniture store.

Lawrence seems to have acquired the flag from Gen. Patrick in early May 1865. At least three Lawrence letter/affidavits are on official letterhead, dated May 5, May 10, and May 15, 1865. This fits with Lawrence’s statement that immediately after Appomattox he had been sent to Lynchburg, where he spent “several weeks” and turned over a mass of CS documents he found there to the Adjutant General’s officer “a month afterward,” keeping a few for himself, of course.

The flag fragment measures 3-inches wide and 2 ¼-inches long, and is a grayish-white, certainly from the field of a Third National. The currency is an 1864 issue ten-dollar note with an artillery scene.  The affidavit reads:

Warsaw N.Y. Nov 3 of 1880

This is to Certify-

1- That the fragment piece of bunting hereto attached is a piece of the Confederate Flag that floated over the Rebel Capitol in Richmond Va cut in pieces for distribution, as a significant memento of the war.

2- That the Confederate notes are part of the Funds of the army surrendered by Gen. R.E. Lee at Appomattox Va and were receipted for by me as such on account of the officers of the disbursing departments of that army.

A.B. Lawrence

Late Chief Quartermaster

24th Army Corps USA

With Compliments etc.

To Rev. Charles J. Hill

Middletown Conn.

Condition is excellent overall. The flag fragment has no holes or fraying. There is a slight separation line along the upper fold of the letter/affidavit, but no paper is missing and it could be repaired. The currency shows minor stains and wrinkling but is very good. Lawrence refers to Confederate “notes” (in the plural,) but there is no sign of a second note and he likely is thinking of the C.S. currency he retained in his collection: the newspaper interview mentions he had “several complete sets” of Confederate notes, though at least one other piece he gave out also uses an artillery-team ten-dollar note, indicating he may have been heavy in one category. His concern to record that the currency had been “receipted for,” is a nice sign of his concern for keeping records straight, both historical and those bound with army red tape. This is a great relic of the fall of Richmond and end of the Civil War with an impeccable provenance.  [sr] [ph:L]

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