Lee Button Back
Screen Shot 2019-10-30 at 2.03.51 PMScreen Shot 2019-10-30 at 1.59.22 PMScreen Shot 2019-10-30 at 1.59.50 PMLee Button FrontLee Button Back

Button of Gen. R.E. Lee Given to Fanny Booth Crump in May, 1865

$51,500

Button of Gen. R.E. Lee Given to Fanny Booth Crump in May, 1865: We were very fortunate to find this fine artifact a couple of years ago; it was then obtained, from Perry Adams, by a long time collector, who has now decided to move in another collecting direction. For this reason, the collector has brought back, to us, this incredibly rare and important bit of Lee memorabilia, so we are offering it again, buttressed by all of its impeccable provenance, as well as the discovery that two or three other Lee gifted buttons are extant. This button is perhaps one of the most significant Civil War artifacts that we have ever encountered. Obtained directly from the descendants of Fanny Booth Crump, this button was given, at the behest of a young, Fanny Crump, by Gen. Lee, upon his return to Richmond, shortly after the surrender at Appomattox, April 9, 1865. Fanny Crump was the daughter of Judge William Crump, Assistant Secretary of the Confederate Treasury and long time friend of Gen. Lee. The Crumps lived in the Samuel Myer’s house (no longer standing) at 229 Governor’s Street, just behind the Virginia Governor’s Mansion, prior to and during the Civil War. During the war, when Lee was in Richmond, staying at his Franklin Street townhouse, he regularly visited the Crumps. Fanny and her sister Emmaline, both teenagers at the time, idolized the General. At the end of the war, with their father aboard a train in Georgia, trying to evacuate the Confederate treasury to the South, Gen. Lee made a final visit to the Crump house, a short walk from his Richmond house. On this last visit, the two Crump girls and their cousin, beseeched Gen. Lee to give them a button from his frock coat and a lock of his hair. Lee readily acquiesced and gave each of the three young girls, a frock coat button and a lock of his hair. Some time later, upon his return, Judge Crump took the two buttons that each of his daughters received to a Richmond jeweler, who removed the backs off of each button, placed Lee’s hair within each button, then replaced the original button backs with an engraved back with a T-pin attached. This button is the exact one that Gen. R.E. Lee gifted to Fanny Booth Crump. The existence of the other button remains a mystery, to this day.

There are two extant accounts of the gifting, by Gen. Lee, of the buttons and locks of hair, to the Crump sisters and their cousin. One of these accounts is incorporated in a lengthy description of the Fall of Richmond, by Emmaline Crump, written by her, shortly after the war. A second account is included in a book written by the son of Fanny Booth Crump (Tucker), Beverly Randolph Tucker, entitled “Tales of the Tuckers”, in 1942. This book will accompany the button, as will a labeled, period, pasteboard box in which the button was found. As well as the button, a lock of yellowed hair was also in the box; this hair is believed to be a lock of Fanny Crump’s hair. Perry Adams can supply additional documentation to support the provenance of this fine artifact. 

“Toward the end of the war, General Lee called at my Grandfather Crump’s house and Aunt Emmy Crump asked him for a lock of his hair, while her younger sister, Fanny, my mother, begged him for a military button from his coat. The General, who was always fond of young girls, responded to both requests, giving each a button from his uniform and a bit of his hair. Afterward my grandfather had the buttons gold plated and pins put on them and the hair put in the buttons. When these girls died as old ladies, one eighty-nine and one eighty-seven, these pins had been their most valued possessions.” (p. 112-113 in “Tales of the Tuckers” by Beverly Randolph Tucker; The Dietz Printing Company, Richmond, Virginia, 1942)

“His (Lee’s) appearance on the streets during the short time he made his residence among us was a matter of such curious interest to many strangers in our midst, they would often follow him, that he did not go out except in the early morning or at night. Several times just at twilight, we had a visit from him accompanied by one of his daughters, usually Mildred … We were very anxious to have one of the buttons, from the uniform he had worn in the war, and he promised to bring them himself. He did so; one for my sister, my cousin and myself, putting them into my hand with a gallant little speech …” (Emmaline Allmond Crump Lightfoot’s account of the evacuation of Richmond)

This most historically important artifact remains in superior condition and exhibits, completely in tact, the original T-pin and inscription denoting Gen. Lee’s gift to F.B. Crump, May 1865, and is indicative of the jeweler’s fine work, completed in the late Spring of 1865. The style of the Va. staff button leads one to believe that this button once had a “Superior Quality” back mark. Although other Lee buttons remain, none exist that are actually engraved with the specific provenance, nor have such detailed and period supported accounts of the gifting process. This button is truly worthy of being noted as one of the finest and most important examples of period, identified, Confederate memorabilia. 

“…Toward the end of the War, General Lee called at my Grandfather Crump’s home and Aunt Emmy Crump asked him for a lock of his hair, while her younger sister, Fanny, my mother, begged him for a military button from his coat.  The General, who was always fond of young girls, responded to both requests, giving each a button from his uniform and a bit of his hair.  Afterward my grandfather had the buttons gold plated and pins put on them and the hair put in the buttons.  When these girls died as old ladies, one eighty-nine and one eighty-seven, these pins had been their most valued possessions.”

Tucker, Beverley Randolph, Tales of the Tuckers…, Dietz Printing Company, Richmond, Virginia, 1942, pp. 112-113.

“…Nothing made a deeper impression upon my mind than the visits of General Lee to our house at that time.  After his surrender at Appomattox, he came into Richmond riding on “Traveler” followed by all the men he met on the way, in perfect silence; when he reached his home on Franklin Street he turned, lifted his hat and disappeared into the house.  But, ah, how tenderly we all honoured him and he knew he was forever enshrined in the heart of every man, woman and child in the Southland.  His appearance on the streets during the short time he made his residence among us was a matter of such curious interest to the many strangers in our midst, they would often follow him, that he did not go out except in the early morning and at night.  Several times just at twilight we had a visit from him accompanied by one of his daughters, usually Mildred, and he would tell us if he had received any tidings of father, for which we were most grateful.  We were very anxious to have one of the buttons, from the uniform he had worn in the war, and he promised to bring them himself.  He did so; one for my sister, my cousin and myself, putting them into my hand with a gallant little speech, as if I were bestowing the favor instead of receiving what I considered one of the greatest of my life; also asking us to pay for them by giving him a kiss, which was willingly conceded, certainly in my case, with a thrill of reverence and emotion which his presence always inspired.”

Lightfoot, Emmeline Allmand Crump, “The Evacuation of Richmond,”  The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 41, No. 3 (July, 1933), pp. 220-221.

Other R.E. Lee Presentation Buttons:

-       “R.E. Lee to S.S.  /  May, 1865”  – in Georgia.

-       “R.E. Lee to E.A. Crump / May, 1865” – not photographed, documented in Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 30, 1936, p. 51, c. 1.

-       “R.E. Lee to K.H. Tabb / May, 1865” – not photographed, documented by Emmeline Allmand Crump Lightfoot, 1933.

-       Museum of the Confederacy Collection - #0985.13.01593; “Brass Virginia State Seal Button with Pin soldered to the reverse obscuring backmark.  This pin was made from a button from Robert E. Lee’s Uniform Coat.”