Thursday 25 January 2018


Last year, my cousin (twice-removed) David Walker passed away. As far as I can remember, I never actually met the man – maybe when I was very young – but we did trade correspondence on a couple of occasions. Both David and I were interested in the American Civil War, and specifically, our shared ancestor Maj. John Stewart Walker who fought for the Confederacy and was killed at the battle of Malvern Hill.

A few months after his death, I saw my cousin (once-removed) Lucy, and shave gave me the little painting seen here. She said she took it from the wall of David Walker’s house after everything else had been removed. Likely, no one in the family wanted the responsibility of what to do with this obviously old, but slightly…(actually, I’m not sure of the word I’m looking for here) piece of history. Lucy said she felt bad that it had been abandoned, and knowing my interested in the Civil War she took it for me.

For those who aren’t in the know about such things, the centre flag was the first official flag of the Confederacy. However, because of its similarities to the US Flag, it was soon replaced by the Confederate Battle Flag (the flag on the right) for military operations. The flag on the left is the third and final ‘official flag of the Confederacy’, and was only used for a few months before the Confederacy’s collapse.

While it’s nicely painted in most places, it has been somewhat crudely ‘cleaned’ with white paint in some spots.

When Lucy gave it to me, it was in a frame, and on the back was a little sticker that read:

Ernest Young
Art Store
3 N. Sevent St.
Phone 2656
Richmond, VA

I feel safe in assuming this is the company that framed it. I suppose, if I was really interested, I could get a sense of when it was framed by figuring out when Richmond would have used 4 digit phone numbers, but I’m not sure what this would really tell me about the piece.

Hoping to learn more, I took the painting out of its frame. Unfortunately, the frame was so old, it crumbled away during the process, and the endeavour proved mostly for naught. On the back of the painting, in pencil, are the numbers ‘9 x 11’ which is just the size of the piece, probably written by the framers, and one little line of illegible script in pencil, which may also be from the framers.

I fear it will remain a mystery. At a guess, I would say the painting was done by one of the wives or children of one of the Stewart brothers (At least 3 of whom fought for the Confederacy). I think it is old enough to date back to the war. More to the point, the further one gets in time from the war, the less likely it seems that anyone would paint such a piece.

So, now I am left with the question of what to do with it. I admit it, while I would feel no particular shame in hanging this on my wall (especially in a country where it would have little recognition or meaning) I feel no compulsion to do so. In fact, I’ve already got a photo of another of my Confederate ancestors on the wall – that’s probably enough for one war.

For now, I think I shall just put it away in my filing cabinet. Perhaps to save for another generation to ponder over.


  1. I think the work you want is "complicated." I would guess this might be from the 1960's but I'm a long way form being an expert. My guess is based on the enthusiams the 100th aniversery created. I don't think anyone would have done the three flags together durrin the war. A quick search shows 4 digigit phone numbers were used in the US until the 1960s (for what thats worth). Interseting piece.

  2. You maybe right. A paper expert could probably give a better guess. And yes - 'complicated'.

  3. Joe. Its a piece of history, I say keep it, ok its heritage and the iconic symbols are now viewed with a dim light so to speak. But it is a bit of your past, from your family.

  4. That's really interesting. Thanks for shearing it. Complicated history is the best.

  5. When you got it, it was framed. That frame has gone the way of the dodo, but there would be something, erm, contiguous, about getting it re-framed with a matching replacement - if you can find one.

    It becomes not so much about what it represents (although that could never be taken away, etc) but about the picture/frame as an object in and of itself.

    Sorry if this sounds like pretentious bollocks, but you asked.

  6. Frame it. Hang it. Its a part of history with relevance/significance to you and yours. That there are those who would seek to shame you for it, is all the reason and justification you need to do so.

    Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. George Orwell