Lot 748    

Confederate War Hero, Commodore John Randolph Tucker, CSN, Personal Silk 2nd National Flag, Sword, Log Book, & Other Belongings
4/30/2014 - Firearms and Militaria: Live Salesroom Auction
This archive descended in the family of Commodore Tucker and was acquired directly from his great-great grandson in 2013.


1. Exquisite Confederate 2nd National Flag made for Tucker by the ladies of Charleston as a token of their esteem for his bravery; the double-sided personal flag was made from a single width of plain woven silk fabric with a hand-pieced silk canton and hand embroidered silk stars worked by the ladies of the committee. 18 x 28 in. Fully conserved and mounted in a museum frame, it comes with a complete conservation report by Heritage Conservation, LLC.

2. Model 1852 Ames pre-war Naval Officer’s sword, dated and inspected, one of 500 issued directly by the Navy to officers.

3. Scrivener’s Log Book of Tucker’s letters sent from the CSS Patrick Henry. Approximately 130 letters sent from June, 1861 to March, 1862 to various Confederate authorities including Navy Secretary Stephen Mallory, General’s Huger and Magruder, Navy Captains French Forrest, Franklin Buchanan, and Ingraham. This very important archive chronicles the struggles of the fledgling Confederate Navy.

4. Hand-drawn Confederate signal chart from Norfolk, VA by order of General Huger.

5. Tucker’s personal manual, all hand-drawn, from the US Ship of the Line, Columbus. Both the Columbus and Tucker were stationed at Norfolk at the start of the war and the Columbus was sunk by retreating US forces.

6. A hand-drawn and tinted map on silk from Tucker’s Amazon expedition, showing the location of his plantation (using the Spanish spelling, Tuker) along with those of fellow Confederates, Walter Raleigh Butt and James Norris. Archivally mounted on gator board and ready to frame.

7. Three family images of Tucker: two albumen prints, one of Tucker in his Peruvian Admiral’s uniform, the other taken in Petersburg; a tintype of Tucker and a friend at Niagara Falls, circa 1876.

8. Locks of hair from Tucker and his wife, Elizabeth Webb Tucker.

9. A purse presented to Tucker in the Amazon and made by a “Peruvian Princess.”

10. A CDV of General Lee, belonging to the Tucker family, but its association to Tucker is unknown.

11. The remnant of an order to Tucker signed by Lee.

Confederate hero, Commodore John Randolph Tucker, CSN (1812—1883)

John Randolph Tucker had the unique distinction of serving in the navies of three nations, the United States, the Confederate States, and Peru. His naval career began as a midshipman in the US Navy in 1826. He was promoted to lieutenant in in 1837 and served as a Lt. Commander on the USS Stromboli during the war with Mexico in 1848.

By the time war in the South broke out, Tucker had served 35 years in the Navy and had sailed the world several times. Ever the Virginian first, Tucker resigned his US commission and entered the Virginia Navy under Governor Letcher. His first assignment was to defend the James River and he began the conversion of the merchant ship, Yorktown, to the gunboat, Patrick Henry. Virginia soon joined the Confederacy and Tucker was given a commander’s commission. Tucker commanded the James River Fleet (Patrick Henry, Jamestown, Teaser) during the fall and winter of 1861 and during the battle of Hampton Roads where they assisted the CSS Virginia in her famous dual with the Monitor. The log book in this auction is Tucker’s from this period while on the gunboat Patrick Henry.

Tucker next commanded the successful land forces at the First Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, having unloaded the Patrick Henry’s guns to a shore battery to repel a Union assault on Richmond. Later that summer Tucker was assigned to Charleston Harbor where he took command of the CSS Chicora. In January of 1863 his ship and the Palmetto State, both ironclads, assaulted the Union fleet and for a brief time, broke the blockade. Two months later he took over command of all vessels afloat at Charleston with the effective rank of Commodore. He would hold this position until Charleston was abandoned in February of 1865. At some point in his Charleston command, the local ladies made the Second National flag in this auction and presented it to Tucker as a token of their esteem for his bravery and service. As Flag Officer of the fleet, Tucker would have flown his personal flag on his “flag ship,” which was initially the CSS Chicora and later the sister ironclad, CSS Charleston.

When the South was forced to abandon Charleston, rather than surrender Tucker led his beleaguered navy and marine forces overland to Richmond and took up station again at Drewry’s Bluff in March, 1865. When Lee abandoned Petersburg and Richmond on April 2, everyone forgot to notify Tucker. His was the last Confederate force to retreat from the capitol on April 3. By forced march, his naval battalion caught up with Lee in Amelia County on April 5, just in time to fall in line for the battle of Sayler’s Creek.

This last major battle of the Army of Northern Virginia found Tucker’s sailors anchoring the center. Having never found a land battle, and often being “surrounded” at sea, he supposed things to be going well when all the Confederate line collapsed, his sailors the only holdouts. Fighting hand to hand, some using their cutlasses, Tucker refused to surrender. Only after a ruse by lone Union General Warren Keifer was Tucker coaxed out of the woods. Tucker’s men prepared to fire on Warren, but Tucker deflected the lead gun with his sword, saving the General who later convinced Tucker of their hopeless situation. Taking his sword in the surrender, Keifer vowed to one day return it, both to honor Tucker’s brave stand and reward his life-saving gesture. Keifer made good on his word in a much publicized return of the sword in 1878, when Keifer by that time was the Speaker of the House.

Unfortunately for Tucker, he and his sailors spent the next three months in prison at Fort Warren when the remainder of Lee’s troops surrendering 3 days later at Appomattox were all paroled. Unable to get a presidential pardon and rejoin the US Navy, Tucker accepted an offer by Peru to lead their Navy as an admiral in their war against Spain.

After that service, Peru contracted with Tucker and other expatriate Confederates to explore the upper Amazon. Tucker spent the next six years in the Amazon jungle, mapping all the various tributaries. One of those maps is in this auction, apparently retained by Tucker as it shows the location of his “plantation,” along with those of other CSN officer’s Norris and Butt. His “backup plan in case things went sour” as a South American planter came to naught.

Tucker returned to the United States and died in Petersburg, VA in 1883.

Confederate flag: fully conserved and mounted in a museum frame, the flag comes with a complete conservation report by Heritage Conservation, LLC. Sword: grip wrap slightly separated.
Sold: $27,025.00
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