Walking Behind the Veil–Victorian Style

Deitrah Taylor, Old Governor's Mansion Resident Expert

Deitrah Taylor
Resident Expert
Old Governors Mansion
Courtesy: Georgia College

History cannot be constricted behind a classroom desk or a computer screen.  To really understand the essence of historical events, one must seek out the resident experts on the subject matter. Hence, I sought after the Milledgeville, Georgia gurus on my Living Historian persona, Lavinia Flagg.

As I ventured out to find more information about Lavinia Flagg, Resident Expert Deitrah Taylor was my tour guide for the Labor Behind the Veil tour at Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion. Because slaves were to labor behind the scenes and not be seen by the public, the opportunity for me to walk in their footsteps behind the veil was quite phenomenal.

Not only did I gain insight about Georgia’s free people of color such as Wilkes and Lavinia Flagg, but also I learned about slaves such as Jim, Celia, Virginia, Emma, and Cornelius.  One witnessed Lavinia from both perspectives–slave and free–because she was indeed both at different times and locations during her lifetime behind and in front of the veil.

Also, the tour clarified several aspects which can be easily misconstrued from articles on the internet.  As an example, Lavinia was known as a personal female confidant of Georgia’s First Lady Mary Ann Cobb, wife of former Governor Howell Cobb.  To understand the dynamics, step into the shoes of a public figure who could not share intimate information with anyone else in the State of Georgia.  Somehow, Lavinia earned the trust and confidence of Mary Ann Cobb.

Because more information is readily available on Wilkes Flagg, I will have to continue to draw inspiration from other sources during the Civil War period about Lavinia.  What I do know is that the Flaggs were unlikely employed at Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion during the Civil War.  History reveals the Wilkes were preparing for a future which included 1,100 acres of homeland for former slaves of Milledgeville.

Now, I better understand why former Governor Howell Cobb proclaimed Wilkes Flagg as a “miserable creature for stirring up labor unrest among freed people.”  After all, Wilkes was once the maître d’hôtel for former Governor Cobb.  Wilke’s post-Civil War master plan was personal and no longer political.  Thus, Wilkes and Lavinia serve today as role models because there comes a time when doing what is right overrules doing what’s politically correct.

Special thanks to Curator Matt Davis and Resident Expert Deitrah Taylor for taking me back in time through the Labor Behind the Veil.  The featured photograph is the only known drawing or photograph of Lavinia Flagg.

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Gaining a Deeper Understanding of Southern Symbolism during 1861 to 1865–Victorian Style

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” ~Albert Einstein

I am an autodidactic  researcher.  Over the last few years, I have specialized in the study of African-Americans who traveled with the Confederate States Army from 1861 to 1865.  The goal is to assist in the preservation of this vital information.  With every year that passes, many southern slaves and freedmen who labored and toiled in service remain unrecognized at-large for their contributions to United States Military History. They have earned the right to be acknowledged.

Thus, the research, to include this project, continues.  As an example, the featured photograph is of Scott, a body servant, with members of the 57th Georgia Regiment. [Reference: Georgia’s Virtual Vault. http://exhibits.gcsu.edu/special-collections/civil-war-photographs/photograph-members-57-georgia-regiment-76 ]  As with Wilkes and Lavinia Flagg, Scott was likewise from Milledgeville, Georgia.

Collins Dictionary
Military Service: service in an army or military force, either voluntarily or by conscription.

Presenting a living history, to include period correct symbolism, will provide a more realistic view into the people who lived during the 19th Century.  In order to understand the context of the Southern Symbolism used on this BLOG, check this page often because definitions will be added to provide clarity of usage.


GLOSSARY OF TERMS


Southern Symbols and Terms Definitions for this Living Historian BLOG
Confederate Battle FlagConfederate Battle Flag

A 19th Century soldier’s flag to differentiate sides on the battlefield. The “x” is representative of a Saint Andrew’s Cross. Andrew was a disciple of Jesus, the Son of God. At Andrew’s death, Andrew believed the cross of Jesus was sacred and asked to be crucified in the configuration of an “x” which demonstrated humility. The stars represent the states which succeeded from the Union.

This BLOG does not tolerate racial usage of the soldier’s Confederate Battle Flag in any form. In the 21st Century, the Confederate Battle Flag is placed at the graves of all persons who provided military service to the Confederate States Army/Navy. The Confederate memorials attended do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national/origin, ancestry, genetics, age, sex, religion, creed, and/or veteran status.

War Between the States (WBTS)

Many southerners state that there is nothing civil about war. Therefore, the name “War Between The States” was adopted. The first use of the term “War Between the States” was by Confederate Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens who also wrote a book by that same title in 1866. [Reference: North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial website: http://www.nccivilwar150.com/history/namegame.htm ] Also note, the term Civil War is used on this BLOG for search engine optimization.

Once a Slave and Twice Free–Victorian Style

Photograph of Wilkes Flagg, resident of Milledgeville, Georgia (ca 1870)

Wilkes Flagg,
Lavinia’s Husband
Who Purchased Her Freedom
Courtesy: Digital Library of Georgia

When portraying an African American woman during the Civil War era, one must research and then determine if the selected 19th Century Southern Heroine would logically be on the scene for the type of events you will frequent.

As an example, if you are going to a memorial of a soldier, would your Southern Heroine have plausible reason to be at the event? Did her spouse at some level provide military aid or military service that can be validated? Could she easily identify with people from all backgrounds–whether slave or free? Living Histories should draw everyone into the story.

Therefore, I have decided that my Southern Heroine will be Lavinia Flagg, wife of Wilkes Flagg. She and her husband were both slaves. However, Wilkes, an industrious man, is said to have purchased both of their freedom. Though Wilkes and Lavinia were counted in the small percentage of Free People of Color as noted in the 1850 US Federal Census, they would live to see a new era of freedom for all former slaves at the end of the 19th Century.

As you follow this BLOG, you will witness my transformation into a woman who was once a slave and twice free.

Highlighting the good in humanity,
Ann DeWitt