These are valuable documents, their rarity first being called to the attention of Chieftains by Past Times staff in 2001 while compiling an issue about this region’s museums and historical sites.
It is a shame both Romans and guests can’t view them yet but these are hardly the sort of things one puts on a table and says “Y’all come take a look.” Even back in 2001 their value was estimated to be in the six-figure range.
One is a copy of Lee’s official surrender order — General Order No. 9 — handwritten, probably by a clerk, and signed by Lee. Only nine copies are known to exist.
The other has only slightly less historical significance and is believed the only one of three copies to have survived. It is a letter from Lee to Confederate President Jefferson Davis informing him that Gen. Stonewall Jackson had been wounded, which soon proved mortal. That’s the document image accompanying this article that first appeared, along with the surrender order, in the 2001 Past Times.
Dalton got to show them off for a day because of a large grant for their restoration and preservation made by the Bill and Linda Blackman Charitable Fund of Dalton, a part of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. Dalton, by the way, has been far more active — new marked heritage trails, shows/sales of relics, banquets, roundtables — than Greater Rome in trying to mark the 150th anniversary and actually has historical sites from that time left standing (unlike Rome, the Yankees didn’t burn everything there when heading off toward Savannah).
CHIEFTAINS HAS major plans for expansion, pending only a great deal more public/grant generosity, and at that time the idea is to put the Lee documents on permanent display there. Even granting the need for 24-hour security, climate and fire protection for such rare historical artifacts it is still sad that they couldn’t be available for viewing until their future home is ready, perhaps at the Rome Area History Museum on Broad Street with its free admission. It is easy to suspect such would be the crown jewel of any Civil War tourism effort for the community.
As David Aft, president of the Community Foundation, put it after viewing the documents in Dalton: “I never expected to be moved by the letters, but seeing them — just being in their presence — had a surprising impact on me.”
Their presence here also provides another example of how, across the sweep of this nation’s history, both this region and its residents were very much involved in more things that most residents know or could imagine. Quite a few places have made themselves tourist attractions by variations on “George Washington slept here.” None can say: The Yankees burned our businesses, federal troops moved the original owners of all this land to Oklahoma at gunpoint, Hernando De Soto slept here and so forth. Both this place and its former residents have been very actively involved in the making of American history.
Most know that Chieftains Museum is also the Major Ridge Home where the main chief advocating “Let’s move to Oklahoma” lived while the principal chief, John Ross, who headed the majority “Let’s stay right here” faction, lived only a couple of miles away (roughly about where the new Publix is expected to go). Also later living in the same house for many years was the Jones family, including Joe Jones who served as a dispatch rider for Lee during the Civil War.
THE FAMILY memorabilia donated to Chieftains include Joe’s Bible in which were found both documents. Multiple copies were made of such communications in that era — no e-mail with cc: capabilities — and given to several messengers for the same destination as the front lines were typically fluid and the whereabouts of enemy forces unknown (no drones either). With these documents Jones was apparently not the first rider to reach the desired location so he just tucked the spare, unneeded copy into his Bible where they were later found. (Read all about it starting on Page 23 of the 2001 Past Times.)
There’s so much history, both large and small, that occurred on this turf or involved those who came from these parts that in totality they make for an incredible story told only sporadically if at all.
The Tomb of the Known Soldier from World War I is in Rome; there were “forts” to hold evicted Cherokees throughout the region … they’d probably be called concentration camps today. A major battle between the pre-nationhood Cherokees and settlers was fought at the foot of Myrtle Hill. The best-known machinery of the Vietnam War was called the “Rome Plow.” Without Adm. John Towers of Rome, descendant of a prominent Civil War officer, the U.S. might not have had enough aircraft carriers to win World War II in the Pacific. President Woodrow Wilson once practiced law in Rome and met and wooed his wife here.
Football might have been banned as a sport long before the NFL was created were it not for Rosalind Burns Gammon of Rome. Doctors might still not be permitted to treat female reproductive organs were it not for Rome’s Dr. George Battey. The “Mark Twain of the South” (Charles Smith, aka Bill Arp) was a former mayor of Rome. The original fire-and-brimstone evangelist Sam Jones first made his reputation fighting the devil in Rome.
AND THAT’S just sort of skimming some of the cream of a participation of American history that few, if any, communities can match and particularly so when considering the continuing comparative lack of population density.
George Washington may never have slept here because he would have been kept up all night trying to read the 24 issues (so far) of Past Times to learn all about Rome and Northwest Georgia’s contributions and involvements in U.S. history.
Sure would be nice for tourists, as well as Romans, to have a guided tour bus or similar operating daily to take them around and tell them about all such things and stopping by the various existing attractions as well as all those needed but not yet built.
Text of the letter above Milford Station May 3d (1863)
To President Davis,
Today Gen. Jackson penetrated to rear of enemy and drove him from all his positions to within one mile of Chancellorsville. He was engaged at same time in front by 2 of Longstreet’s divisions this morning. Battle will be renewed. He was driven from all his positions near Chancellorsville and driven back towards the Rappahannock over which he is now retreating. Many prisoners were taken. Large loss killed and wounded. We have again to thank Almighty God for another great victory and regret to note that Gen. Paxton was killed, Gen. Jackson severely wounded, Gens. Heth and D.H. Hill slightly.
Signed R E Lee