Anyone reading this will be aware of the General’s history and legacy. The purpose of this article is to examine a few of the uniform buttons taken during the night of his tragic and mortal wounding at Chancellorsville. They come to us from the collections at the Museum of the Confederacy and the V.M.I. Museum. Although most of his uniforms are associated with Virginia seal and V.M.I. buttons, these are General Staff types, either from an earlier period in Jackson’s Army career or purchased during the war for newer uniforms. Regardless as to their origin, they are unique at being present at a pivotal instance in the history of the Army of Northern Virginia and “Stonewall” Jackson during the Civil War. Let’s examine these buttons and the provenance available for them.
From the collection of The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond are two cuff sized buttons made into earrings. This was a customary practice during and after the war by North and South alike as women related to veterans, particularly famous ones, could display their patriotism by wearing it as jewelry. (1) The accession card reads:
” The buttons are said to be from the coat of General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson. Dr Hunter McGuire cut them from the coat and gave them to Mrs. James R. Branch” (2)
These buttons are of the General Staff type with back marks, “EXTRA QUALITY” and “SUPERIOR QUALITY”. Mrs James R. Branch, of Richmond, was the wife of Lt. Col. James Branch (1828-1869) of the Virginia Artillery. (3) Branch is listed as a Captain of Artillery in General Robert Ramsom’s Brigade and took part in the major campaigns of the Army. (4) Mrs. Branch is also a founding member of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society and is listed as a Vice President on the original Charter of 1890. (5) She was obviously present and responsible for some of the earliest assemblages of Confederate artifacts for the original relic rooms and probably came into contact with Dr. Hunter McGuire through social events and business concerns of the Memorial Society.
From a V.M.I. Museum display , is another button taken from the coat of General Jackson the night of his wounding. A coat sized, pre war staff button with a back mark ; “CHESHIRE MFG CO. / CHESHIRE” . This relic was donated to V.M.I. by Dr. Elizabeth Randolph Carmichael of Franktown, Va. May 15, 1981. Given in honor of her cousin, General. Lemuel Shepherd (1896-1990) V.M.I. Class 1917. (6) The accession card reads as such:
” The coat button of Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson cut from his coat by Dr. Hunter McGuire of Richmond, Va. at the time he was shot at Chancellorsville, Va. and given to me by his brother, Dr. Wm. P. McGuire of Winchester, Va.” Randolph B. Carmichael
It appears that this button ended up in the possession of Dr. Hunter McGuire’s youngest brother, William P. McGuire (1846-1926). He enlisted during the winter of 1863 and was captured in 1865. After being released at the end of the war , he completed his medical training and became a doctor and practiced in Virginia with other ex-Confederate surgeons, namely, one Spotswood W. Carmichael (1830-1904). (7) Dr. Spotswood Carmichael was one of five generations of medical doctors in the prominent Carmichael family beginning in 1792. Randolph B. Carmichael ( 1869-1924) was his eldest son and uncle to the donor of this button, Dr. Elizabeth R. Carmichael (1925-2017). The Medical Society Of Virginia lists the McGuire brothers and Carmichaels as members and officers during the post War and turn of the century periods. (8) It is highly likely that their associations as professionals, after the war, resulted in the button being passed from the McGuire family to the Carmichaels and eventually to Dr. Elizabeth Carmichael and the V.M.I. Museum.
W.M. Stafford June , 2019
(1). See Generalstaffbuttons.com Button Gallery; Heirloom Eagles , 2017.
(2). Museum of the Confederacy accession number 0985.13.016036.
(3). Encyclopedia Virginia: James Read Branch (1828-1869).
(4). Collins, Darrell L, The Army of Northern Virginia: Organization Strength Casualties 1861-65. North Carolina: McFarland & Co. 2016.
(5). Gardner, Virginia A. Editor. In Memoriam Sempiternam. Original charter officers of The Confederate Memorial Literary Society : 1890. p 22-27.
(6). V.M.I. Museum . Lexington, Virginia: Item Number 1981.002B
(7). Gazette665; Biographical Information of Dr. Hugh P. Mcguire Family.
(8). Transactions of the Medical Society of Virginia. Richmond: 1912 P 293-295.
- Shaw, Maurice F. Stonewall Jackson’s Surgeon Hunter Holmes McGuire. A Biography. Civil War Battles and Leaders Series. Virginia: 1993
- McGuire, Hunter H. The Memory of Stonewall Jackson. New York: A. H. Kellogg. 1898.
- Schildt, John W. Hunter Holmes McGuire: Doctor in Gray. Chewsville, Md: 1986
* Thanks to the American Civil War Museum for allowing the use of the earring photos. https://acwm.org
* A special thanks to the V.M.I. museum. Col. Keith, Gibson Executive Director and Barbara Blakey, Registrar. They graciously spent time and efforts to assist. https://www.vmi.edu/museums-and-archives/vmi-museum/