“MRS. GRESHAM’S RELICS OF CIVIL WAR EXHIBITED: Maryland Historical Society Is Showing Splendid Collection Of Souvenirs Confederate War Mementoes Privately Owned Are On View At Society’s Galleries.” The Sun (1837-1991); Baltimore, Md. January 1, 1922.


Maryland Historical Society Is Showing Splendid Collection Of Souvenirs.

Confederate War Mementoes Privately Owned Are On View At Society’s Galleries.

THE SUNDAY SUN published June 12, 1921, an account of the possession by Mrs. Thomas Baxter Gresham, of Baltimore, of a valuable collection of Confederate war relics.

These included souvenirs of battles fought, personal belongings of and autograph letters written by men whose military leadership made the war between the States one of the. most notable conflicts in history. Mrs. Gresham was before her marriage Miss Johnston, of this city. She was a little girl during the war. All the men of her: family were fighting under end for the Bonny Blue Flag and her home was a center of Confederate interest. She knew intimately the lending [leading] men interested in the Confederate cause and her collection of relics has the valne of absolute authenticity.

Immediately after the account in THE SUNDAY SUN was published the Maryland Historical Society, the Confederate Museum, at Richmond, Va., and William and Mary College, at Fredericksburg, Va., appealed to Mrs. Gresham to permit them to add her collection to other important loan exhibits now in their custody. She finally decided that Baltimore, as her own place of residence, is the most fitting city in which to keep the souvenirs. She has had an exhibition table made for them and they have been accorded place in the fireproof picture gallery of the Maryland Historical Society, Monument street and Park avenue, where they are already attracting general attention. Veterans of the war between the States are bringing their grandchildren to show them with reverence these relics that embody the spirit of the South.

Here are books published during the war, printed upon coarse wrapping paper and bound in wall paper. Here are autograph letters from Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and the sword which he carried in the Indian and Mexican campaigns and during the Civil War. Here is a belt buckle worn by Brig-Gen. Turner Ashby when he was killed June 6, 1862, at the battle of Harrisonburg. It fell from his body as comrades carried him from the field and one of them picked it up. After reading the article in THE SUNDAY SUN, the latter sent it to Mrs. Gresham. There is a Jefferson Davis electoral ballot; also an “extra” issued by the Richmond Enquirer, giving the inaugural address delivered by President Davis at Richmond February 22, 1862.

There is a fragment of the handkerchief which was tied to Gen. Louis T. Wigfall’s sword when he rowed to Fort Sumter to ask its surrender. General Wigfall was on Morris Island and had noticed that the firing from Fort Sumter had ceased and that the fort’s flag had. been shot away. With the approval of Gen. James Simmons, then in command of Morris Island, General Wigfall embarked in a skiff, accompanied by Gourdin Young, a member of the Palmetto Guard stationed on the island, and two negro oarsmen. They were, immediately fired upon, despite their signal of truce, but continued their advance, finally reached the fort and demanded its surrender, which, after some parley, Major Anderson agreed to. General Wigfall’s daughter, the late Mrs. D. Giraud Wright, herself clipped with a scissors this fragment of the flag of truce from tho sword about which it was knotted, and gave it to the present possessor.

There is also a souvenir of Edmund Ruffin, who fired the first gun at Fort Sumter, and fringe from the flag of the First Maryland Regiment (Federal) captured by the First Maryland Confederate Regiment. There is a button and bit of doth, cut from the lapel of Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson’s coat. There is a charming letter written by Gen. Robert E. Lee to Mrs. Gresham, then a girl of 16, after she had left White Sulphur Springs, inclosing a stereoscopic view of the hotel, which she desired, and a photograph of himself, whom he refers to as “an old man who will think of you whom I do not wish to forget Robert B. Lee.”

There is a Chinese fan that bears the signature of many heroes of the Confederacy, who were gay young soldiers when Mrs. Gresham was a girl and followed the pretty custom of having her admirers write their names upon the fan with which she coqueted. There is the pen with which was signed the ordinance of secession of the State of Louisiana, a piece of the Stonewall Brigade flag, also splinters from the flagstaff of Fort Sumter, and souvenirs of Col. Richard Thomas Zarvona, of St. Mary’s and Baltimore, who, disguised as a French lady and with soldier disguised mechanics, boarded and later captured a vessel plying between Baltimore and landing points on the Potomac.

​ E. E. L.