ARCHIVE FROM THE VIRGINIA WARTIME GOV. JOHN LETCHER FAMILY TO INCLUDE LOCKS OF HAIR FROM ROBERT E. LEE, STONEWALL JACKSON AND A BUTTON FROM LEE’S UNIFORM – The contents of this important grouping that includes a staff button from Robert E. Lee’s uniform and hair samples from Generals Lee and Jackson have unquestioned provenance. The button is comparable to other examples Gen. Lee gifted; we have had one of his buttons that he gifted, immediately after the war, to the young daughter of Judge William W. Crump, assistant secretary of the Confederate treasury. The button in this Letcher archive is a staff button that was contained in an envelope, with an old annotation that states the following:

Uniform button from Gen R.E. Lee’s

uniform given to his goddaughter

Virginia Lee Letcher LeConte Stevens

made into hat pin by same

Virginia Lee Letcher, one of Governor Letcher’s daughters was born in 1862; Gen. Lee, as her Godfather, attended her christening.

The two hair samples are both contained in diminutive (about 1” square) folded pieces of period paper; each folded square exhibits, in period ink, the following inscriptions:


Genl R.E. Lee’s hair

M.C. Holt



Genl Stonewall

Jackson’s hair

M.C. Holt

Accompanying the Jackson hair is a small note which reads:

General TJ Jackson’s Hair / Kept by Aunty – She cut it off when his body was at Father’s in the / Governor’s house, before his body was brought to Lexington – V. L. L. S.”

This note was penned by Virginia Lee Letcher Stevens. The exterior of the wrappers of the hair samples are both initialed “M. L. S.” – Margaret Letcher Showell was Virginia Lee’s older sister. Below the description of the hair is inked “M. C. Holt” – Margaret Catherine Holt was Virginia Lee and Margaret Letcher’s aunt; she was the “Aunty” referenced in the note associated with Stonewall Jackson’s hair.

In addition to the above listed items, the archive also contains numerous documents and newspaper clippings, as well as a fascinating archive of letters written by Margaret Kinney Letcher, primarily from Washington D.C., in the 1880s. The majority of these letters were written to her “Aunty” (M. C. Holt) and her parents. The letters represent the musings of a young, well educated and socially connected woman, living alone and working in Washington during an era when young women simply did not do this. The letters encompass the following: reports to her parents and siblings about the works of philosophy she is reading; she discusses radical new thinkers like Susan B. Anthony; she relates meeting James Garfield’s assassin and a woman who was in the presence of John Wilkes Booth when he was captured; she discusses various, significant Congressional matters of the day; she discusses venturing to the Supreme Court to hear arguments concerning the return of Arlington to the Lee family; she mentions sharing a theater box, at a play, with General William T. Sherman and one of the President’s cabinet members; she tells of not earning enough money to take cabs, yet loving to walk around the city – she relates: “You should’ve seen the surprised look on the policeman’s face when I asked him to walk me home when it was late and I did not like the part of town I was in”. Her letters are signed with just three initials “M. K. L.” (Margaret Kinney Letcher). After her marriage, she continued to sign her letters with three initials, now indicative of her married status – “M. L. S.” (Margaret Letcher Showell).

A notarized letter of provenance, signed by John Letcher Anderson, in 2007, enumerates his genealogical connection to his Great Grandmother, Margaret Letcher Showell – this will accompany the grouping. Additionally, other aspects of this archive include 15 page excerpts from the Letcher family Bible; these excerpts include mention of the burning of the Letcher home in Lexington, Virginia, by General David Hunter, during the war. Also listed in these excerpts are discussions about all the Letcher children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, culminating with the February 7, 1942 death of Virginia Lee Letcher Stevens, Robert E. Lee’s goddaughter – “Buried, R. E. Lee Memorial Church, Lexington VA, Feb 7 1942 at 4PM”; included is a listing of the minister, a poem and the hymns sung at the funeral service.

Additionally, included in the archive are the following: a period steel engraving of Gov. Letcher, a pair of gold and horn rimmed glasses (post-Civil War era), silver retractable lead pencil, a mother of pearl pen with a gold nib, c. 1880s button hook and a Civil War period, mother of pearl, card case containing two of Gov. Letcher’s cards and a period piece of paper with the governor’s signature – all of the latter belonged to Governor Letcher, and each is accompanied by an older, labeled envelope stating the name of each item and the governor’s ownership; a letter written by Governor Letcher, from Richmond, in 1860; legal documents concerning Virginia Lee’s death and correspondence, in 1952; a letter from the Governor of Texas, concerning the donation of a Sam Houston letter to Governor Letcher (Governor Letcher was Sam Houston’s cousin, and one of John Letcher’s brother’s was named Samuel Houston Letcher; a handwritten transcript of the Sam Houston letter to Gov. Letcher; one of Governor Letcher’s sons, a Confederate officer, was also named Sam Houston Letcher); several late 19th century newspapers, some containing Governor Letcher’s obituaries; a framed photocopy of a letter written by Gen. Lee to Gov. Letcher, from the field, in July of 1864, expressing his dismay at the devastation that befell VMI and Letcher’s Lexington home, at the hands of Union Gen. David Hunter.

Additionally, in the grouping is an autographed CDV of Confederate Brigadier General William W. Pendleton. The general’s autograph was signed on a separate piece of paper that was attached at the bottom of the image. Hand inked on the back of the CDV is the following:

Brig Gen Pendleton

Chief of Artillery

Army N. Va


July 15th 1862

In Richmond


Other elements of the archive include: membership documents for Margaret Kinney Letcher Showell in the UDC and, for her husband, in the Sons of the American Revolution; 10 photographs, 9 of which are professional postwar portraits of various family members; a printed copy of the Letcher Family Tree which was compiled in 1934 from information supplied by Mrs. Walter LeConte Stevens (Virginia Lee Letcher) to Sam Houston Showell; 30 long letters written by Margaret Kinney Letcher as earlier described (her initials appear on both hair samples from Generals Lee and Jackson) – the newly married Margaret sends a hair sample, attached in one of her letters (1885), of her first born child, John Letcher Showell; she indicates that she will call him “Letcher”. This important archive involved considerable scrutiny as family names are repeated through generations; provenance, authenticity and originality are guaranteed.

CONDITION: The hair samples of the two Confederate generals are in very good condition; they are still curled and encompass approximately 20 strands per bundle; period, small pinholes appear in the paper wrappers. The button, correctly back marked “Extra Quality”, is in excellent condition, with its added hatpin, per the fashion of the latter quarter of the 19th century.

PROVENANCE: All elements in this archive descended through the following, Letcher family members: Margaret Catherine Holt (referred to as “Aunty”) 1830-1900; Margaret Kinney Letcher Showell (1857-1936); Virginia Lee Letcher Stevens (1862-1942); John Letcher Showell (1885-1952); Margaret Letcher Showell Anderson (1929-2006); John Letcher Anderson.

General Jackson’s hair strands, Margaret Kinney Letcher Showell’s UDC certificate and Governor Letcher’s spectacles, included in this archive, were on display at the American Civil War Center in Richmond.