06 December 2008

75 Year Old SCV Flag Discovered in Lexington

Those familiar with the Museum of the Confederacy move may recall the MOC's consideration of the old Lexington/Rockbridge County Courthouse in Lexington as a potential site. I was in favor of that move and believe (as did many others) that it would have been a perfect fit for Lexington and provided a boon to the local economy - both in jobs and low impact tax revenues. However, the rather short-sighted, politically (correct) motivated Lexington City Council made sure that never happened. (With the current economic downturn, I'll bet they wish they could make that decision over.) Interestingly enough, several months ago, as city workers were going through the old court house, this 75 year old flag was discovered tucked away in storage. Our local camp, The Stonewall Brigade, #1296, was contacted and asked if we wanted it. Of course, we did and gladly accepted the flag. As you can see, it is in amazingly excellent shape.

The flag originally belonged to the now defunct Frank Paxton Camp which was formed in the early 1900's. The camp grew out of the Lee-Jackson Camp, United Confederate Veterans. These two organizations worked together and annually sponsored a Confederate Memorial Day each May. The Paxton Camp eventually survived the Lee-Jackson UCV as the old veterans died off. The camp's most notable activity was its annual sponsorship of a Lee-Jackson Day event which usually featured a well known speaker and a formal dinner. Speakers for the event included famous historians and politicians such as Dr. W.G. Bean and Delegate B.G. Locher, among others. The Paxton Camp held its meetings in the "old" Rockbridge County Courthouse on Main Street. The exact date the camp ceased to function has not been determined yet, but it probably was in the 1950s. The camp evidently left its ceremonial items at the courthouse and this flag was recently found in a dusty storage space. All items were being cataloged in the existing courthouse in preparation for a move to the new facility.

The Frank Paxton Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans was named after General Elisha Franklin "Bull" Paxton who was Stonewall Jackson's hand picked successor to command The Stonewall Brigade. Paxton and Jackson were both deacons of the Lexington Presbyterian Church, but the two fell out at the outset of the secession crisis. Paxton became an ardent secessionists early in the conflict, while Jackson remained a unionist. This created some friction between the two men but things changed quickly when the war finally came. Paxton became Major of the 27th Virginia Infantry under Stonewall's command. Paxton earned the nickname "Bull" because of his large size and demeanor. As a strict disciplinarian, he lost his position when new officers were voted in by their respective commands in 1862. Jackson was not content to let Paxton go and assigned him to be his chief-of-staff and adjutant general. When General Jackson was promoted to division command, he personally recommended that Frank Paxton take his place as commander of The Stonewall Brigade. General Paxton led the brigade at two major battles, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. While Jackson lay mortally wounded he learned that his old friend Frank Paxton had been killed. Paxton's death became obscured by the death of his famous friend just a few days later. Both men are buried near each other in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington.

(Special thanks to Stonewall Brigade Commander Brandon Dorsey for much of the text posted here and to John Ocheltree for the photo.)

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