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Southern matriarch cared for sacred trust

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The Dromgoole Home, located at 420 North Spring St. in Murfreesboro. (Photo submitted)
In mid-19 century Murfreesboro, the name "Dromgoole" was both well known and respected among the citizens of our town.

John Easter Dromgoole had served as city alderman and treasurer in 1860 and 186l and was serving as mayor in 1862 when Murfreesboro suddenly found herself under Union occupation.

Known to be a staunch supporter of the Confederacy, it was Dromgoole's decision to "go fishing" that particular morning in May rather than meeting with Union Gen. Ormsby Mitchel as requested.

This action not only resulted in Murfreesboro being a "captured" rather than surrendered town, but the governing body, namely the mayor and alderman, were all removed from office as a consequence.

A short time later, Dromgoole was one of a dozen prominent Murfreesboro citizens arrested by the Federals for no reason other than their strong political opinions and refusal to take the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S.

He, along with the others, were released after several months in prison, but only after petitioning for their freedom and the posting of $10,000 each.

Dromgoole returned to the comfortable home, located at 420 North Spring St., that he shared with his wife, Rebecca Blanch Dromgoole, and their seven children, the youngest of which was a two-year-old daughter, Will Allen Dromgoole, born in 1860.

Following the Battle of Stones River on Dec. 31, 1862 just about every house and available building was turned into a make-shift hospital as the citizens of Murfreesboro opened their hearts and their homes to the many wounded and suffering soldiers.

The Dromgoole home was no exception, and Rebecca was known as a kind, loving and nurturing woman.

It was here that a severely wounded young soldier from South Carolina, Capt. John S. Palmer, Company K, 10th South Carolina Infantry, was brought, along with a prized possession – the coveted blue silk regimental flag, in his care for safekeeping.

With Gen. Braxton Bragg's evacuation of the town on Jan. 3, 1863, Palmer was hurriedly transported along with the other wounded, and being so disabled himself, chose to leave the flag in her care, trusting her above all others to guard and protect this sacred emblem.

Forty-four years later, Gen. Irvine Walker, former adjutant of the 10th South Carolina Regiment, made a trip to Murfreesboro and attempted to learn the fate of that blue silk flag which had flown over his command.

An article from Charleston, S.C., published May 26, 1907 titled "The Flag Of The Gallant Tenth," recounts Walker's trip to Nashville and Murfreesboro, where he visited the battlefield and located his regimental flag at the Dromgoole home. The newspaper article, along with letters of authenticity from the Dromgooles, was found in C. Irvine Walker's scrapbook in the UDC Confederate Museum's collection.

According to the article, it was "deeply interesting … to him to revisit the scenes of the splendid heroism of the gallant 10th South Carolina regiment, of which he was then adjutant, although acting as adjutant general of Manigault's Brigade," the article recounted. "But what touched him above all things was to learn the fate of the blue silk flag, presented the regiment by the ladies of Georgetown, S.C., and to obtain possession of all that remained of that sacred emblem of the regiment, which he finally commanded."

The flag was described as "ornamented with the palmetto and crescent of South Carolina and the sheaf of rice, until after the desperate fighting of the regiment at Murfreesboro, it was found to lead to confusion with the Federal flags.

The article recalled the plight of Palmer and his trust in Rebecca Dromgoole. It explained "the enemy occupied the town and for some time Mrs. Dromgoole succeeded in hiding her sacred trust; it is understood that at times she carried it on her person, under her skirts, (and) finally she found it could be no longer concealed, so she cut out all the designating marks, destroying them and preserved the unmarked pieces of the blue silk."

"You will readily understand from this how dangerous a thing a Confederate flag would be in his house," Will Allen Dromgoole explained in a letter to Walker. "Appreciating this and often suffering the fears natural to such dangers, my mother, I am sure, did the best possible with the flag …

"As times became more unsettled, dangers more tragically' near, she became alarmed for the safety of her home, and the fate of a household of little children should the flag be found in her

possession," Will Allen Dromgoole explained. "So, seeking advice from those who could vouch for her loyalty, and whose own interest in the Southern cause was above suspicion, she cut from the blue field the parts containing the words and emblems, which were destroyed."

After the war was over, Matilda Dromgoole sewed the pieces into a silk quilt, which Will Allen Dromgoole gave to Walker upon his trip to Murfreesboro.

"Of the few scraps that remained, adjudged harmless, they were finally made into a quilt in the hope of preserving them in a way promising the longest life to the sacred pieces," Will Allen Dromgoole wrote.

"The pieces are all that remains of the loved and beautiful flag, which last waved in triumph over the four guns captured by the desperate bravery of the 10th and 19th South Carolina regiments on the Wilkinson Pike," the article said.

The quilt mentioned in the article is among the museum's collection and is in remarkable condition.

Walker presented the flag quilt and many others items from his private collection to help the Museum get started after the 1899 UCV Reunion held in Charleston.

The 10th South Carolina battle flag is part of the S.C. State Museum/Relic Room collection in Columbia, S.C.

As for the Dromgooles, Will Allen described it as "a time of trouble and tribulation to my people; my fathers crops confiscated and, like others, his fortune was gone."

But they persisted, and Rebecca Blanch Dromgoole died in late summer of 1884.

For more than two decades she had faithfully carried out the sacred trust of protecting the Regimental flag of the 10th South Carolina.

Palmer was killed near Atlanta in 1864, and it would be more than two decades later before Walker came calling at the Dromgoole door in search of that blue silk flag.

Will Allen Dromgoole, who returned what remained of that prized emblem, had grown up to become a renowned author and poet, having written more than 7,500 poems, 5,000 essays, and published 13 books.

Palmer could not have made a better choice when he entrusted Rebecca Dromgoole with his most prized possession.

(Note: The author wishes to express sincere gratitude to Dennis Todd, Cayce, S.C., who so graciously provided the material for this article. Mr. Todd had numerous relatives who fought with the 10th South Carolina Infantry.)
Tagged under  Civil War, History, Murfreesboro

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