|The bed in which Stonewall Jackson died (National Park Service)|
The story of the bed in which General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson died in May 1863 is a convoluted tale, full of unexpected twists and turns. This historical artifact was moved about over the years, from Caroline to Spotsylvania County, to Fredericksburg, back to Spotsylvania, then to Richmond and then back to Caroline County once again. But to begin at the beginning, we must first start at Oakley.
|Oakley, 1935 (Frances Benjamin Johnston)|
In 1816, Spotsylvania builder Samuel Alsop, Jr., bought an 849-acre tract of land on Catharpin Road located between the future sites of Todd's Tavern and Shady Grove Methodist Church. About 1826 Samuel built a brick house on this property and gave it to his daughter Clementina and her husband, Thomas Coleman Chandler (1798-1890). This was Oakley.
In 1839, Thomas Chandler sold Oakley to Enoch Gridley and moved to Fairfield, a large plantation in northwestern Caroline County near the future Guineys' Station. In the 1863 map detail shown below, "Chandler" can be seen just northeast of "Guinea Sta."
|Location of Thomas Chandler's home, 1863|
|Wayside marker depicting Fairfield (National Park Service)|
Before her death in 1844, Clementina had six children with Thomas. A few years after her death, Thomas married Mary Elizabeth Frazer, with whom he had another four children. On the eve of the Civil War, Thomas and Mary were living at Farifield with their children, plus Thomas's youngest two children from his first marriage. Also at Fairfield were 62 enslaved people (an additional six were hired out in Spotsylvania County).
|General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson|
During the winter of 1862-1863, General Jackson made his headquarters at Fairfield. While there, he and his family became close friends with the Chandlers. Just a few months later, on the evening of May 2, 1863, Jackson was accidentally wounded by a volley of musketry fired by North Carolina troops during the Battle of Chancellorsville. Jackson was taken to the field hospital set up near Wilderness Tavern, where his left arm was amputated by Dr. Hunter McGuire, chief surgeon of the 2nd Corps.
|Dr. Hunter McGuire|
Early on May 4, Jackson was placed in an ambulance and, accompanied by a military escort, was driven southeast toward Caroline County. This group traveled down what is now known as Massaponax Church Road and then Guinea Station Road to Fairfield. A bed and some other small comforts were brought out of the Chandler house and placed in the nearby plantation office building. Here it was hoped that Jackson could recover his strength while arrangements were made to send a train from Richmond to take him there to convalesce. Instead, Jackson's health rapidly declined, and he died of pneumonia on May 10, 1863. His body was placed in a rough coffin made by Confederate soldiers, and the following day a train arrived to take him to Richmond for the first of his two funerals.
|The building in which Stonewall Jackson died (Confederate Memorial Literary Society)|
In November 1853, Ann Trippe Slaughter (1828-1873) of Rappahannock County married Caroline County native Dr. Alfred Jackson "Jack" Boulware (1828-1870). Jack's father, Gray Boulware, then built a house for himself on Guinea Station Road in eastern Spotsylvania County. When the house was finished in 1855, Jack and Ann also moved to La Vista, as this place came to be known. They had three children together. Only one, McCalla, survived to adulthood. The ambulance that carried General Jackson to Fairfield passed by this house. In the photograph below, Jack and Ann Boulware and their children are seen on the porch of La Vista with several of their slaves.
|La Vista, 1858 (Encyclopedia of Virginia)|
|Ann Slaughter Boulware (Michele Schiesser)|
|Dr. Alfred Jackson Boulware (Michele Schiesser)|
On the eve of the Civil War, Jack Boulware was one of Spotsylvania's wealthier citizens. But he and his family suffered just like most of the regions inhabitants during the war, which ruined Jack financially and likely shortened his life.
In the months following the collapse of the Confederacy, a determined effort was made to locate the remains of the hundreds of dead Union soldiers which lay scattered on the battlefields of Spotsylvania County. Hundreds of volunteer arrived in Spotsylvania to do this work. The federal government established the National Cemetery in Fredericksburg to receive the Union dead. The mostly destitute citizens of Spotsylvania assumed the burden of providing a fitting burial spot for fallen Confederate soldiers--they would get no help from the national government.
|John Moore McCalla (Ted Goldsborough)|
In June 1866, Jack and Ann Boulware were visited by Jack's old friend, Dr. John Moore McCalla, Jr., of Washington, D.C. While he was a student at Columbian College in Washington in the late 1840s, Jack had a romantic relationship with with John McCalla (and later named his son in his honor). Their friendship endured until Jack's death in 1870.
On June 16, 1866, John accompanied Jack and Ann to Spotsylvania Court House to attend a meeting to organize the Spotsylvania Ladies' Memorial Association. The goals of the Association were to raise funds to buy land for a Confederate Cemetery near the court house, to locate the remains of the Confederate soldiers at the local battlefields and to transport them to the new cemetery. Ann Boulware was elected as the first president of the Association.
|Richmond Daily Dispatch 18 June 1866|
|Fredericksburg Ledger 20 November 1866|
|Richmond Daily Dispatch 20 June 1866|
Two days after the meeting at the court house, John, Jack and Ann rode in an open wagon to Fairfield, the farm of Thomas Chandler, who had offered to donate the death bed of General Jackson to the Association in order that its sale might help raise money for the cemetery and the re-internment of the soldiers' remains. John noted in his diary that an adult daughter of Thomas (most likely Mary Chandler) gave the bed to him. When John departed for Washington the next day, he left the bed in the care of the Boulwares and began to seek a buyer for it. In one such early effort, John approached an agent of the museum of Phineas T. Barnum, but a sale was not made.
As it turned out, money from the sale of the bed was not needed by the Association. Joseph Sanford, owner of the landmark inn at Spotsylvania Court House, donated land for the cemetery to the Association. Sufficient money was raised to pay Sanford one dollar for each set of Confederate remains transported to the new Confederate Cemetery. Ultimately, 570 soldiers were buried there, according to Virginia Wright Durrette's book "From Generation to Generation."
During the 1880s, Rufus Bainbridge Merchant, owner of the Virginia Star newspaper in Fredericksburg, started a fund-raising effort to erect a monument to General Jackson at the Chancellorsville battlefield. Once again, the idea of selling the death bed was proposed to help cover the cost of the monument. McCalla Boulware loaned the bed to Merchant for that purpose, and the disassembled bed remained at the Star's office for some time. Once again, sufficient money was raised for the monument and it was not necessary to sell the bed.
|The Daily Star 1 March 1900|
Once the bed came back to La Vista, it remained in McCalla's possession until 1900, when he gave it to Dr. Hunter McGuire, the physician who had amputated General Jackson's left arm in 1863. McCalla wished for the bed to be given to the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Association, which Dr. McGuire had established. The Association, in turn, gave the bed to the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, which had been founded by the Confederate Literary Memorial Society a few years previously. The bed remained in storage at the museum until 1927, when it was turned over to the National Park Service. Today the bed is on display in the building where Jackson died, at the recently renamed Stonewall Jackson Death Site.
|Southern Planter and Farmer, Volume 61, 1900|
Once Joseph Sanford had finished his task of transporting the bodies of Confederate soldiers to the cemetery near the court house, little is heard about the Spotsylvania Ladies' Memorial Association for many years. On May 31, 1918, the entry gate and monument were dedicated to the Confederate Cemetery in a well-attended ceremony.
During all the years since the cemetery's inception in 1866, the graves of the soldiers there had been marked with simple wooden posts. In 1930, Congress passed legislation which authorized the United States to make available headstones for Confederate graves upon request. The government would furnish the inscribed stones, made of Vermont marble, and pay transportation costs to the nearest depot.
In due course, 531 headstones were ordered by the Association and shipped to Fredericksburg. The Association raised money to pay for the transportation of the stones to the cemetery and for their placement at the graves. Once that work was completed, a dedication ceremony was held at the Spotsylvania Confederate Cemetery on May 12, 1931--the 67th anniversary of the day of the heaviest fighting during the battles near Spotsylvania Court House.
Many thanks to Michele Schiesser, who generously provided images and background information on the history of La Vista, her home.
My other primary source of information was From Generation to Generation: The Confederate Cemetery at Spotsylvania Court House, written by Virginia Wright Durrette in 1992