Thursday, April 9

The Silent Witness

On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his once formidable army of Northern Virginia to three Federal armies under General Ulysses S. Grant. The terms of surrender were set about noon during a one and a half hour meeting between the two generals in the parlor of the McLean Home.

(The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas, took place on July 21, 1861 at the farm of Wilmer McLean of Bull Run, Virginia. Soon after that battle the upper middle class family moved to the village of Clover Hill, Virginia - the name of which was changed to "Appomattox Court House.")

Wilmer and Virginia McLean had four daughters and a son. Sometime before Lee and Grant met that Palm Sunday afternoon, 7-year-old Lula McLean had left her favorite doll in the parlor.

The rag doll remained in the room where Lula had left it while the generals met. When the meeting ended, Union officers - anxious to obtain souvenirs of the event - plundered the McLeans' parlor appropriating items ... including Lula's rag doll.

Colonel Horace Porter of General Grant's staff, wrote: "A child's doll was found in the room, which the younger officers tossed from one to the other, and called 'The Silent Witness.'"

One of the cavorting Federal staff officers was Captain Robert Todd Lincoln, son of the President of the United States. The doll was taken from the home by Capt. Thomas W.C. Moore, of Major General Sheridan's staff. For well over a century, the Moore family kept the doll as a "war trophy" of sorts. Poor Lula never saw her beloved rag doll again.

Lula's descendants remembered the doll as "...lovingly handmade by a doting mother."

The body of the doll was made of coarse unbleached cotton and stuffed. Inked on the simple, round face were eyes and nothing more. Printed cotton fabric was stitched together to fashion a bodice, skirt and leggings.

Lula's doll was donated to Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in December 1992, and is now on permanent exhibit at the park.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it amazing the bits and pieces of history that go untold such as this? I worked as a tour guide in the early 1990's at the White House of Confederacy in Richmond where the Davis family lived and when Richmond was invaded we were told that the Union soldiers cut off the tassels off of the drapes, cut pieces off of the carpets, you name it, took clothing as souvenirs of 'war'. In order to restore the home, they had to take actual pieces and go back to the companies and have the historical patterns rewoven which was possible. ( We had to research our tours, give them to the Director and have our tours approved before we were allowed to actually give a tour to guests through the home) It was an interesting job, they had acquired about 75% of the items that were there while the Davis family was in residence.