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The wedding story of Hetty Cary

January 7, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Hetty Cary, born in 1836, is probably best known for making the first three battle flags of the Confederacy. She came from two of Virginia's most influential families, the Jefferson's on her mother's side and the Randolph's on her fathers. She was also a descendant of Rebecca Rolfe (Pocahontas).

She had been described as the most beautiful woman in the Southland, classic face, pure complexion, auburn hair, perfect figure and carriage. She was a wholehearted supporter of the south, even when in the north and among Union soldiers. On one occasion she waved a smuggled Confederate flag from a second story window as Federal troops marched through Baltimore.

When she was 26, she met 32 year old John Pegram at a party. They became engaged in 1862. The wedding date was set at the end of 1864. John's division was to be sent to Confederate entrenchments around Petersburg.

The wedding occurred on January 19, 1865. It was the union of the beautiful Hetty to Brigadier and John Pegram, one of Virginia's most eligible bachelors. The best of Confederate society, including President Jefferson Davis and his wife Varina attended the wedding at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Several omens happened before and during the wedding. To start the day, the bride broke a mirror on her dressing table, an omen of bad luck by many. Jefferson Davis had sent his private carriage and horse to take the pair to the church, but the normally gentle horses balked and refused to go forward, almost causing a mishap. Somehow, on entering the church, Hetty tripped as she went up an aisle and badly tore her dress and veil. The superstitious murmurs ran rampant, but the wedding of the beautiful bride and handsome groom went on.

There was only a small reception afterward, but in the atmosphere was a sense of sincere gladness for the happy couple. John and Hetty traveled to a farm house near Petersburg that was serving as General Pegram's headquarters. Eighteen days after their wedding, John was killed by a mini ball leading a charge at the Battle of Hatchers run. Three weeks to the day of his marriage, General Pegram's coffin occupied the spot in the chancel where he had stood to be married.

On the day he was killed, General Robert E. Lee was given command of all the Armies of the confederacy. He penned a sympathy letter to Hetty, saying in part, "his purity of character, his service to the country and his devotion to God prepared him for the peace he now enjoys. We are left to grieve at his departure, cherish his memory and prepare to follow."

Two months after John's death, his brother, Colonel William Pegram was killed during the fight at Five Forks in the Confederate retreat from Petersburg.

 
 

 

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