On May 5, 1862, during the fierce fighting that erupted around Williamsburg, Virginia, the first regimental commander of the 2nd Florida was shot and killed. Colonel George Taliaferro Ward, who as a representative to Florida’s secession convention, and who was a reluctant supporter of seceding, was 52-years old when he fell.
On June 23, 1862, Florida’s governor, John Milton, penned a note to the late colonel’s children, both as a eulogy to the fallen officer and to notify the family that “the accompanying “Battle Flag,”” of the 2nd Florida would arrive at their central Florida plantation.[i]
The letter, in part, reads.
Miss Anna H. Ward, Sisters & Brother,
General Early who witnessed “The Peach Orchard Battle,” presented the accompanying “Battle Flag,” to Col. George T. Ward (your Patriotic and Gallant Father) who was in command and whose noble daring, and admirable skill, inspired the gallant forces under his command, and especially the 2d Florida Regiment, with the fearless resolve to vindicate Constitutional Liberty and the Rights of Freemen, in despite of all odds and in contempt of all dangers.[ii]
The letter, which is in the collection of the state archives of Florida, continues by stating that the 2nd Florida was “distinguished among the “bravest of the brave,” sustaining the noble character of their late beloved and revered commander…”
At the request of Milton, “as Governor of the State of Florida” the flag was delivered to the surviving Ward kin to “be preserved as a memento of the patriotism & courage of your Father.”
Ward, who fell while leading the advance of the 2nd Florida during the fighting on May 5, was so revered by his men that a group risked death by venturing out between the lines after the fighting to retrieve his body. Although the Confederates retreated toward Richmond, Ward’s body was left at “the house of an Episcopal minister, who had been a classmate and warm personal friend of Col. Ward…”[iii]
After the “last sad rites of Christian burial” the “reluctant Rebel” was laid to rest at Bruton Parish Episcopal Church in Williamsburg, Virginia.[iv]
[i] Although the record of the 1860s stated the location was “central Florida” the plantations owned by Ward at the time of the American Civil War was in Leon County, which is around Tallahassee, which would be characterized as the western panhandle of Florida today.
[iii] Waters, Zach C. & James C. Edmonds, “A Small but Spartan Band, the Florida Brigade in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia” (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2010), page 16
[iv] IBID, pg. 16 & “Find a Grave” George T. Ward, Google search