A Rag Doll at Appomattox: 1865

The rag doll who witnessed the end of the American Civil War.

The rag doll who witnessed the end of the American Civil War.

For Mrs Daffodil’s American readers, on this anniversary of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to General U.S. Grant at Appomattox, the story of an unusual witness to history.


The Part She Played in the War of the Rebellion

Almost every little girl in this country has at one time or another rejoice in the possession of a rag doll which was quite the dearest thing she had. Just as mother ducks show the ugly duckling the most attention, so do make- believe mothers think the most of their plain rag babies.

You would hardly believe it possible, however, that a full grown man would care for a rag doll, at least care enough for it to keep it always locked up in a safe deposit vault with his gold and most valuable papers. No, it is not a doll that once belonged to the man’s little daughter and precious on that account. There are a hundred men who would like to own it and would give several hundred dollars for it.

“Whatever makes the thing so valuable?” you ask, and here is the answer: This particular rag doll is an historic doll. With its eyes of ink it saw General U.S. Grant draft the terms for the surrender of the Confederate army, and the same black eyes saw courtly General Lee place his signature to the papers. All this happened at Appomattox, when the army of Northern Virginia surrendered on April 9, 1865. Except for the signing of the Declaration of Independence this is, perhaps, the most important event in the history of the nation.

The conference over the surrender was held at the McLane [McLean] house, one of the largest in the village. Some child in the household left the doll in the corner of a sofa in the parlor as she scampered away at the approach of the officers. During the signing of the papers Dollie sat up as well as she could, clad only in a sort of sleeveless shirtwaist of faded calico.

When the conference was over and the generals had left the room, some of the younger officers, exceedingly full of spirit now that the long war was ended, discovered the rag doll and recognized in her the “silent witness.” Though this scarecrow of rags had done nothing to warrant the familiarity, young Custer, afterward killed in an Indian massacre on the plains, caught her up and threw her at the head of “Mike” Sheridan. He in turn used her as a playful missile with another office as target. So she suffered the terrors of war, though she had been a witness of the peace conference.

When the rush for souvenirs came, Colonel T.W. C. Moore, of Sheridan’s staff, secured the doll as his portion and carried her off to an honorable captivity in his Northern home. She is now the highly prized possession of T. Channing Moore and dwells in a safe in the city of Hartford.

There is not the least doubt of the rag doll’s authenticity. She seems to have made a strong impression on the young officers who romped with her on that memorable afternoon in the quiet little Virginia village. At one time Colonel Sheridan wrote to the doll’s owner: “I well remember the rag doll obtained from the room in the McLean house at Appomattox, where the surrender of Lee’s army to General Grant took place. The relic was unique and, though much fun was made over it at the time, as years go on the ‘silent witness’ will become more and more valuable. Do not let it get out of your possession, as I foolishly did the ink-stand I obtained as a relic of the same occasion.”

New York Daily Tribune 30 November 1902: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Although it may have been said that the military does not war on children, one imagines there were many tears shed by some child over the loss of the precious baby. Shockingly, there is no word about compensation for this unprincipled looting by officers of the United States Army.  T. Channing Moore was Thomas Channing Moore, a member of the New York state assembly and son of Colonel Moore of Sheridan’s staff.  “Mike” Sheridan was Michael Vincent Sheridan, brother and aide to General Philip Henry Sheridan, who was present at the surrender. “Young Custer” was, of course, General George Armstrong Custer. A story written from the point of view of the doll herself, with her photograph, may be found here, at the Appomattox Courthouse National Park website.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.




1 thought on “A Rag Doll at Appomattox: 1865

  1. Pingback: A Little Girl’s Government Claim: 1918 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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