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Forgotten In Virginia

April 2024
1min read

I enjoyed your Civil War issue (March), especially Peter Andrews’s article on George H. Thomas. Mr. Andrews is correct in observing that Pap Thomas has not been given his due by historians—even in his native state of Virginia. When he cast his lot with the Union in 1861, even his family disavowed him. According to legend his two sisters turned his portrait to the wall. “As far as we are concerned,” one later said, “our brother died in 1861.” Even after the war they refused to reply to his correspondence, and no members of his Virginia family attended his funeral in New York in 1870.

A vivid reminder of the bitter rift within the family is a beautiful sword with a silver scabbard and solid-gold pommel given Thomas for his services in the Mexican War. He wore it only once, to his wedding; then he left it with his sisters for safekeeping. He never saw it again. When he wrote his sisters after the war to request the sword, they refused to return it. In 1900 the family presented it to the Virginia Historical Society where today it is prized as one of the most valuable items in our museum collection.

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