VIDEO: J.E.B. Stuart and the “Curse” of the Silver Spurs by Jim Surkamp

“Jeb” Stuart and The “Curse” of the Silver Spurs by Jim Surkamp (captioned). Click Here. TRT:11:03.

This is a little-known account of the friendship between two military couples – the Stuarts and the Lees from Shepherdstown, then-VA. and how their close and ultimately tragic relationship was threaded by the travels of a vexing pair of silver spurs. – JS

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From the prophetic graduation address at Virginia Military Institute by William Fitzhugh Lee in the mid-1850s:

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“When I look around the happy faces of the motley throng assembled here tonight, and reflect that those bright eyes now

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beaming with merriment and love may on tomorrow’s dawn, grow dim with tears, when I meet the smiles of youthful manhood,

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the thoughtful glance of matured intellect, or the searching gaze of venerated old age, and I consider that disappointment, sorrow or misfortune may weave around them each and all, I am painfully reminded that change is written upon us all. (applause)

The words of age of age flowing from youthful lips . . . He saw and told. Moving back to Shepherdstown, where he grew up in the care of his uncle, Edmund Jennings Lee and his wife, Henrietta Lee, the new graduate and U.S. Army officer met and married his great love, Lily Parran Lee, one of the famously gifted and attractive daughters of the late Dr. Richard Parran.

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Lily’s mother, Laura Parran, struggled to keep house and hearth together at their home on the corner of Mill and German Street.

The first, soft breeze of change carried the young military couple off to Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis, where they

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became fast friends with the fellow Virginian, First Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart, who loved reading Shakespeare at West Point, and his wife, Flora Stuart.

Young_jeb_stuartFlora.Cooke.StuartSilver.Spur.Draw
Stuart’s admirers presented him with a pair of silver spurs, which he enigmatically gave
to Lee in recognition of his promise. They were the best and brightest of their generation.

Change became a fierce wind as the Civil War forced the young officers to choose sides.

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A sharp jibe at his proud family name by an officer, triggered Lee’s temper and tongue, landing him under brief house arrest. Hurrying back to Shepherdstown, where he wrote his resignation from the U.S. Army, the day before his birthday. Offered Offered a promotion to four ranks upward, to acting Lieutenant Colonel, he joined the 33rd Virginia Infantry led

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by the eccentric, untested Col. Thomas Jackson, and marched off into the unknown July 20th, 1861 to a farmer’s field near Bull Run in Virginia.

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By late morning on the next day, the Virginians and Lee were ordered to march at the double-quick toward the sound of artillery. One eye-witness said the new recruits were “panting like dogs with flopping tongues, with their mouths and throats full of red dust that of red clay country.”

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By mid-afternoon, Col. Jackson saw two federal batteries unlimber to the north, telling Colonel Cummings to let the Federals advance to within thirty yards, then have the men fire and charge with bayonets. Cummings and Lee both watched for long minutes the apprehensive faces of their raw recruits as the Federals kept closing in, firing at them.

Lt. Col. Lee urged Cummings to charge immediately before the men panicked. “I realized the most trying position that raw men, even the best disciplined and bravest is to be placed in a position to require them to do nothing while receiving the enemy’s fire.”

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Lee and Cummings and the Virginia 33rd charged ahead of schedule against orders and turned the tide of battle. Sixty years

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later, Dr. Alexander Tinsley, wrote in a letter, to Lee’s grandson, Parran: “I have always thought from what I’ve heard from old Confederates, and from reading, that your grandfather saved the day for the Confederates, as he undoubtedly prevailed upon Col. Cummings to make a charge without orders thereby capturing two batteries of regular artillery.”

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But returned fire wounded 84 and killed 52 of the 33rd’s men, including the bright young Lt. Col. William Lee, who lay

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dying on the battlefield, shot from his horse. Lily rushed there to be at his side as he lingered for eight days, dying mercifully on July 29th.

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Lily Parran Lee retuned home, among the very first widows of Shepherdstown, which would see in the coming four years fifty enlisted townsmen in just three units that fought on the Southern side, die from wounds and disease. Among his personal effects were her wonderful husband’s silver spurs to soothe and hurt all at once over and over . . and their fatherless child, Laura.

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The Stuarts kept in touch with Lily. After receiving his famous cape, hand-made for him by D. L. Rentch in Shepherdstown, Stuart confided to Lily Lee in a letter the sorrows of war including the death of their five-year old daughter:

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“Mrs. Stuart has just sent me a beautiful cape made out of that splendid cloth of Mr. Rentch sent me, for which please thank him

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for me.” After the Battle of Sharpsburg/Antietam, Stuart’s staff of young, dashing horsemen set up the most envied camp at The Bower, the ancestral home of the Dandridge family in Jefferson County. Young women flocked there.

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Dancing, parlor games and public kissing were common. His staff officer, Heros Von Borcke, remembered later Stuart’s

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visit to widow Lee and her daughter. “A mob of young, pretty girls collected all very much excited. The General’s uniform

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was in a few minutes entirely shorn of its buttons, taken as souvenirs. And if he had given as many locks of his hair as

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asked for, the commander would soon have been totally bald. Stuart suffered all this very gracefully with a greater resignation as every one of these patriotic young ladies gave him a kiss as tribute.”

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He met Mary Dare Parran, who assisted by Dr. Alexander Tinsley as he conducted general amputations at the surgeon’s headquarters in Moulder’s Hall second floor. She was to marry Tinsley in January. Camping over in his favorite hangout

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after the raid in Chambersburg in October, 1862, Stuart welcomed his wife, Flora, to the festivities, and she gave him a

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pair of gold spurs from some women admirers in Baltimore. On December 5th, 1862, he dashed a note off to Lily: “Did you know a lady in Baltimore had sent me a pair of elegant, gold spurs that came while Flora was here, and she buckled them on.”

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After learning of the death outside of Shepherdstown of his spy and friend, Redmond Burke, Stuart wrote Lily Lee again: “If a truce should take place, I shall be sure to visit you and to get that kiss I have strived for in vain for heretofore.

Do kiss the girls for me if you please, and tell them all the sweet things you know I would write if time allowed. Tell

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Miss Foley that someone stole her picture and another one I had and circumstances make Mrs. Stuart an object of suspicion. I have demanded immediate restitution. Much love and kisses to the girls.”

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Soon after that letter in 1863, Lily Lee sent her sister on a secret mission to give the silver spurs back to Stuart which Mary Tinsley carried on the carriage all the way back to Richmond, with the silver spurs in her bustle. When she delivered them, he fastened them on. What a haunting day it must have been when a knock on her front door in 1864, presented a man, holding again the vexing silver spurs and the worst news: J.E.B. Stuart had fallen.

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Perhaps fingering the spurs in eerie amazement, the messenger told her, how Stuart wearing the silver spurs was on his horse about four in the afternoon at Yellow Tavern. Private John Hough, a Federal cavalryman, dismounted and taking almost casual aim at the great General, as he whistled and talked to others on a dusty road, toppled a legend.

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Stuart pressed his hand to his side, his head dropped. His hat fell off. Hough would be mortally wounded just a few days later. As life ebbed away from him that evening, Stuart said: “My spurs I want them to be sent to Lily Lee in Shepherdstown. My sword I want to go to my son.”

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Lily Lee moved north and lived out her life in Connecticut, excusing herself once from the living room conversation when Abraham Lincoln’s name was uttered, keeping her grief hidden away in her knitting basket.

From William Lee’s VMI address many years before: “The youth’s found dreams are full of the future’s happenings and love. How soon the clouds of disappointment cast their shadows over the lovely pictures of our youth’s hopes.”

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References:

Manassas: The March, The Mayhem, The Memory, Pt. 2
civilwarscholars.com 26 June 2011 Web. 23 January 2013.

Fonerden. Clarence A. (1911). “A Brief History of the military career of Carpenter’s battery.” New Market, VA: Henkel & Co. Printers. p. 7. Print.

Fonerden. Clarence A. (1911). “A Brief History of the military career of Carpenter’s battery.” Google.com 11 November 1998 Web. 25 January 2013.
“panting like dogs with flopping tongues, with their mouths and throats full of red dust that of red clay country.” (Fonerden, p. 7).
or
Fonerden. Clarence A. (1911). “A Brief History of the military career of Carpenter’s battery.” Internet Archives. 26 January 1997 Web. 23 January 2013.

The following is in the source after it:
From this you will readily see how it happened that the Thirty- third made the charge before the other regiments made the charge as a brigade. A more gallant charge is rarely made than was then made by the Thirty-third (though in not a very good order). The men moved off with the greatest alacrity, killed and drove off the gunners, shot down their artillery heroes and captured the battery of artillery, but the loss was so great, there being about 43 killed and 140 wounded altogether, we were forced to abandon the captured guns and fall back in the face of a deadly fire and overwhelm- ing numbers, and this was the first check the enemy received up to that time. Very soon thereafter the other regiments of the brigade made a charge and captured another battery. The pieces taken by the Thirty-third were situated considerably to the left (as we were facing) of the Henry House, and the pieces taken by the other regiments of the brigade were somewhat in the same line, but nearer the Henry House (the Robinson House being still further to the right). One of the men of the Thirty-third cut a bridle bit from a bridle of one of the artillery horses and gave me afterwards, which I have used ever since and have now. I am inclined to think, from what I have since learned that the battery or pieces taken by the Thirty-third was Griffin’s, and that the one or pieces taken by the other regiments of the brigade was Rickett’s or probably, if there was but one battery in front of the brigade it was placed in two sections, the one on the left taken by the Thirty-third, and the other, in the same line, but nearer the Henry House, and the one taken but abandoned by the Thirty-third was also re-taken by the brigade.

Cummings, Arthur C. “Col. Cumming’s Account – The Charge of the 33rd Was Violation of Orders”. (Written May 16, 1898). Southern Historical Society Papers volume 34. Edited by Robert A. Brock. Richmond, VA.: Southern Historical Society. pp. 367-371, esp. 369.

Southern Historical Society Papers volume 34. Edited by Robert A. Brock.
wikisource.org. 3 September 2003 Web 23 January 2013.

William F. Lee VMI address – The collections of Jim Surkamp and Ann C. Reeves.

Letter by Alexander Tinsley – College of William and Mary.

Von Boercke, Heros. (1866). “Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence.” Edinburgh and London, UK: William Blackwood & Sons. Print.

Von Borcke, Heros. (1866). “Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence. Vol. 1.” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 1 October 2012.
p. 276.

Letters by J.E.B. Stuart to Lily Parran Lee – Duke University Perkins Manuscript Division.

J.E.B. Stuart:
J.E.B.Stuart Wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 20 December, 2012.

Stuart Letters
6whitehorses.com 11 August 2003 Web 3 December 2012.

Image Credits/Flickr Set:

Washington statue at Virginia Military Institute;
VMI Campus circa 1850
thefacultylounge.org 10 February 2008 Web. 23 January 2013

William F. Lee, Lily Parran Lee, Laura Morgan Parran, Mary Dare Parran – Jim Surkamp and the Reeves Family.

Photos of the room at Pringle House near Manassas battlefield, Va., where Lee died – Courtesy Ann Reeves.

Alexander Tinsley – College of William & Mary.

Shepherdstown, VA. September, 1862 (detail) – Alexander Gardner, Library of Congress.

Tombstone of Col. William Fitzhugh Lee (Apr. 27, 1832-Jul. 29, 1861)
“stars&bars.” findagrave.com 5 December 1998 Web. 23 January 2013.

Tombstone of Lily Parran Lee (Feb. 7, 1835-Jan. 22, 1916).
“stars&bars.” findagrave.com 5 December 1998 Web. 23 January 2013.

Tombstone of Dr. Richard Parran
“stars&bars.” findagrave.com. 5 December 1998 Web. 23 January 2013.

Jefferson Barracks Military Post
wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 23 January 2013

Jefferson Barracks Military Post, Lemay, MO. – Google Maps. Google.com 11 November 1998 Web. 25 January 2013.

Stonewall Jackson – early in the Civil War
Harper’s Weekly. August 30, 1862 p. 556. sonofthesouth.net start date unavailable Web. 23 January 2013.
p. 556.

Chambersburg Raid drawing
Price, Channing. “Stuart’s Chambersburg Raid: An Eyewitness Account.” Civil War Times Illustrated. Vol. 4. Issue 9. (January, 1966). p. 9. Print.

women in doorway, man visiting outside
Strother, David H., “Virginia Illustrated.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros. Volume 10, Issue: 55, (Dec., 1854). pp. 1-25. Print.

Strother, David H. (Dec., 1854). “Virginia Illustrated.“Harpers Magazine. 7 May 2008. Web. 29 May. 2011
p. 2.

dhs.va3.p.295.woman in chair
Strother, David H., “Virginia Illustrated.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros. Volume 11, Issue: 63, August, 1855. pp. 289-311. Print.

Strother, David H. (August, 1855). “Virginia Illustrated.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. 7 May 2008. Web. 29 May 2011
p. 295.

cooking and butter on table
Strother, David H., “Virginia Illustrated.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros. Volume 11, Issue: 63, August, 1855. pp. 289-311. Print.

Strother, David H. (August, 1855). “Virginia Illustrated.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. 7 May 2008. Web. 29 May 2011
p. 296.

children together and mother at home
Strother, David H., “Virginia Illustrated.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros. Volume 13, Issue: 75, (Aug., 1856). pp. 303-323. Print.

Strother, David H., “Virginia Illustrated.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. 7 May 2008. Web. 29 May. 2011.
p. 321.

Strother, David H., “Personal Recollections of the Civil War.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros. Volume 34, Issue: 200, January, 1867. pp. 172-192. Print.

Strother, David H., (Jan., 1867). “Personal Recollections of the Civil War.” Harpers Magazine. 7 May 2008. Web. 20 Oct. 2010.
The following are in this article by Strother:
dead at Kernstown
p. 188.
2 women grieve
p. 190.

house and gate
Strother, David H., “Rural Pictures.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros. Volume 20, Issue: 116, January, 1860. pp. 166-180. Print.

Strother, David H., (Jan., 1860). “Rural Pictures.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. 7 May 2008. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.
p. 166.

“Redmond Burke” (facsimile)
Strother, David H. “Rural Pictures.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros. Volume 20, Issue: 116, January, 1860. pp. 166-180. Print.

Strother, David H., (Jan., 1860). “Rural Pictures.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. 7 May 2008. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.
p. 174.

Detail of northwestern Jefferson County between The Bower and Shepherdstown
Topo Map 1916 of Berkeley and Jefferson Counties, West Virginia Geological Survey. Print.

detail showing Shepherdstown
Brown, Howell S. “Map of Jefferson County, Virginia From Actual Surveys With Farm Limits, 1852.” Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society Vol. XLV. (1979): pp. 1-7. Print.

Brown, S. Howell. (1852). “Map of Jefferson County, Virginia from actual survey with the farm limits.” United States. The Library of Congress: American Memory. “Maps Collection.” 27 Oct. 2009 Web. 10 Sept. 2010.

spurs (detail)
westcoastcwc.com 8 March 2006 Web 23 January 2012

Stuart monument (detail) Richmond, VA.
matcrazy1. (photograph) virtualtourist.com 4 January 2000 Web 23 January 2013

J.E.B. Stuart painting (detail)
Hoffbauer, Charles (painting). “Autumn.” circa. 1920-1921. From the Four Seasons of the Confederacy murals.
Virginia Historical Society 6 December 1998 Web. 23 January 2013

D. H. Strother. (drawing) “At Hancock Depot Aug 1st 1857.” West Virginia and Regional History Collection, West Virginia University.

D. H. Strother. (drawing) “Elderly Man.” West Virginia and Regional History Collection, West Virginia University.

wounded on a horse
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 1.” (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 546. Print.

Battles and Leaders Vol. 1.” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 546.

New recruits in the Civil War
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 1. Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 84. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 1.” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 84.

Confederate artillerist
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 1.” (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 548. Print.

Battles and Leaders Vol. 1.” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 548.

Union cavalry charge
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 460. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 460.

Stuart’s cavalry raid on Union baggage train
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 501. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 501.

supper after a hard march
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 504. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 504.

walking Confederate soldier
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 530. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 530.

pillaging Union depot
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 532. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 532.

Starke’s charge
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 534. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 534.

Fallen cavalryman
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 641. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 641.

Dunker Church Union charge
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 646. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 2” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 646.

Confederate Cavalry
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 3″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 1. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 3.” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 1.

Fall of the Leader
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 3″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 105. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 3.” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 105.

Relics of the Crater
“Battles and Leaders. Vol. 4″. (1887). Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel (Ed.). New York, NY: Century Co. p. 559. Print.

Battles and Leaders. Vol. 4.” Internet Archives: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music, and Wayback Machine. 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.
p. 559.

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson:
Wikipedia.org 27 July 2001 Web. 20 December, 2012.

Flora Cooke Stuart:
The Virginia Historical Society;
encyclopediavirginia.org 8 November 2006 Web 3 December 2012

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