Martin L. Stone was mustered into service with the Pennsylvania Volunteers in October of 1861. He was ultimately captured by Confederate forces at the Second Battle of Deep Bottom in mid-August 1864, and in the intervening years he undoubtedly witnessed profound human suffering. His memories, like those of so many veterans, are lost forever. But we do have a small clue, two little pieces of paper that bear witness to the kind of surreal scene that only occurs during wartime.
Dr. David Stuart was born in Scotland in 1753. He purchased Hope Park plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia in 1785, a few years after marrying the widow of George Washington’s stepson. Stuart was a physician, a Virginia legislator, and also served in Washington’s administration as a city planner for the new Capitol. George and Martha were frequent visitors at Hope Park. Moreover, the two men were father and grandfather of the same set of children. Washington’s step-grandchildren were Dr. Stuart’s biological and step-children. Extant correspondence between the two men comes down to us in the form of approximately sixty letters, written between 1784 and 1799.
After Stuart’s death, Hope Park was purchased and operated by the slave-owning Barnes family as a mill. In Civil War times, the property was pressed into temporary service by the Confederates. They pulled out in March of 1862, and shortly thereafter Captain Stone wandered into the library.
“Captain Martin Stone […] was out on picket duty. They went into Dr. Stewart’s [sic] house & when Capt. Stone went into the Library the floor was covered with papers & he picked up these two papers off the floor.” –transcribed oral family history
Imagine the scene. Stone in his Union blues, in enemy territory, casting about this formerly grand plantation recently abandoned by the Confederates, he steps into the house, enters the library, picks up a slip of paper and scans it, and he sees Martha Washington’s signature. He picks up another: George Washington. Stone pockets his booty and moves along. He mails the two receipts back to Pennsylvania, and after a stint in a Confederate prison camp, finally returns home himself. He passes his story along, and after Stone has gone on to his reward, the papers and their story are filed away in the back of a drawer for 150 years or so.
We will be pleased to offer these two valuable historical documents: Washington, George (1732- 1799) Autograph Receipt Signed, Philadelphia, 1787 (Lot 76, Estimate $4,000- $6,000) and Washington, Martha, (1731-1802) Signed Receipt, 17 April 1800 (Lot 78, Estimate $4,000-$6,000) in the upcoming fall Books and Manuscripts Auction in Boston. Look for the complete cataloging on these two Washington receipts in the upcoming November 15th auction at Skinner.