By Alicia Rimel (From the News-Virginian)
Published: August 12, 2008
From a young age, Patsy Spilman knew the Colt .44 nestled in her father’s desk drawer was significant.
“I remember my daddy taking it out of the desk ... and handing it to me and saying that his daddy had given it to him and his daddy had given it to him,” Spilman said. The Colt Model 1860 Army revolver is the newest display at the Waynesboro Heritage Museum on West Main Street.
Carried by Confederate Gen. Jubal Early, the weapon was displayed for seven years at the Virginia Military Institute Museum in New Market. Now, Spilman has brought the Civil War artifact to Waynesboro (Virginia).
“Since our family has a connection to Waynesboro and Early has a connection to Waynesboro, it just made sense that it would be here as opposed to New Market,” said Elizabeth Massie, Spilman’s daughter. On Tuesday, Patsy’s son, Butch, attended a showing of the revolver at the museum with his mother and sister. Early gave the gun to Samuel Black after a wound suffered while leading a charge at Williamsburg in 1862 made it too painful for the general to continue toting the cumbersome weapon. From there, the Black family passed down Early’s pistol and holster from generation to generation: from Samuel Black to his son, Robert Black, to former Waynesboro Mayor Harry Black, Spilman’s father. Spilman said the gun neither was displayed nor spoken of frequently.
Spilman said her family doesn’t “make a big to-do over guns and battles. They were very country and gentle people so that wasn’t a big thing, although they treasured it because they knew it had been handed down as a treasure.”
The revolver still carries impact. Heritage Museum board President Shirley Bridgeforth said attendance has increased since the gun arrived. “We have more traffic now,” Bridgeforth said. “It’s picked up just for [Early’s pistol]. It’s just a nice artifact to have.”
The weapon, the handle of which bears the initials “J.E.,” is on display with its custom-made, left-handed holster and a history of Early and the Battle of Waynesboro. Nicknamed “Old Jube,” Early fought at Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Cedar Mountain and in the Seven Days Battles as well as both battles at Bull Run. His badly depleted Army of the Valley was routed March 2, 1865, in Waynesboro by overwhelming Union forces. It was Early’s final battle in the war, which ended less than six weeks later with Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.