Confederate Officer’s Frock Coat of Capt. Richard Frayser – Stuart’s Staff
Confederate Officer’s Frock Coat of Capt. Richard Frayser – JEB Stuart’s Staff: This coat came directly from the Frayser family, still in an old department store box that had a label on the top that stated: “Capt. Richard Frayser” and “Uncle Dick’s Army Uniform”. Richard Edgar Frayser enlisted in the New Kent Light Dragoons (Va.) on June 28, 1861. The Dragoons later became Company “F” of the 3rd Va. Cavalry. Born in 1830, in New Kent County, Va., The son of Rev. Richard Frayser, a Methodist minister, Richard E. Frayser was orphaned at an early age and worked in a local store to earn his keep. After several years, Frayser journeyed to Richmond, where he took a post office position. Resigning from this position in 1854, Frayser returned to New Kent to start his own mercantile business. In 1861, with the onset of the Civil War, Frayser joined a local regiment.
Although prior to the war, as well as during the first few months of his enlistment, Frayser did not seem to distinguish himself above and beyond his fellow citizens and soldiers, he came to the fore in June of 1862. With Union Gen. McClellan’s successful push up the Peninsula, the Union Army threatened nearby Richmond. Gen. R.E. Lee issued orders to famed Va. cavalry commander, JEB Stuart, to execute a reconnaissance maneuver around the Federal Army’s right flank. This reconnoitering maneuver would, of course, turn into the famous, three day “Ride Around McClellan.” With his intimate knowledge of New Kent County, Frayser became a guide, for Stuart, until the Confederate cavalry safely crossed back over the Chickahominy River. Frayser, shortly after the cessation of the reconnaissance, was instructed by Gen. Stuart to take the news of the mission’s success to Va. Governor Letcher, in Richmond. Frayser would be rewarded, by Gov. Letcher, with a gubernatorial requisition order for a sword of his choosing. For his efforts, Frayser would be chosen, by Stuart, to be his signal officer, and elevated to the rank of Captain, on Stuart’s staff.
As a signal officer, Frayser’s service occasionally took him to different theatres of the war, away from Stuart’s cavalry unit. On May 12, 1864, the day after Gen. Stuart had been mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern, Frayser was captured by Federal troops during the Battle of Spotsylvania. After three months in the Union prison camp at Ft. Delaware, Frayser, along with many fellow, imprisoned, Confederate officers, was taken on board the steamer “Crescent City”, on Auguest 20, 1864, and sent to Morris Island, in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. On Morris Island, six hundred Confederate officers, the “Immortal 600”, endured six weeks of a most unusual of punishments, at the hands of their captors. Their placement on the island was to attempt to prevent the Confederate batteries, in and around Charleston, from firing on Union artillery positions. In essence, this was the first military use of “human shields”. Frayser and his fellow prisoners, endured poor medical treatment, meager rations and the ever present fear of being shelled by their own compatriots. Incredibly, all of the “Immortal 600” survived.
Captain Frayser was so debilitated when the rest of his fellow prisoners were sent back to Ft. Delaware, that he was exchanged, in February of 1865. He would recover sufficiently to return to duty with the Army of Northern Virginia and was paroled at Appomattox. After the war, Frayser pursued a successful newspaper career, in Richmond, as well as obtaining a law degree and establishing a small practice. He died in 1899 and is interred in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.
Captain Frayer’s frock coat was in tentative condition when we obtained it. We have had the coat carefully cleaned, by a specialty cleaner in Maryland, who has done work for the Smithsonian. We have also had the coat undergo extensive restoration and conservation by noted textile conservator and former textile expert and curator for Richmond’s Valentine Museum, Colleen Callahan. The frock coat is now completely stable, strong and highly displayable. Unfortunately, the Frayser family had removed the original buttons prior to when we obtained the coat, so we have placed Federal staff officer buttons (all “Extra Quality” back marks) on the coat.
This coat represents a very important piece of Virginia history. Captain Frayser is pictured and mentioned often in Robert J. Trout’s well-known book about Jeb Stuart entitled “They Followed the Plume”. A copy of that book, as well as a rare first edition of “The Immortal Six Hundred” by John Murray Ogden will accompany Captain Frayser’s frock coat. Please contact us for pricing.