J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Prince’s Gift for the Late President

To close off my poking around in the record of the Braddock sash, I found more information about how and when it came (back) to Mount Vernon.

The published records of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association for 1920 include this passage:
Prince Yoshihisa Takugawa’s gift to Mount Vernon in 1919, “to be used for the purpose of purchasing some Washington relic appropriate to be placed in Washington’s home,” has enabled the Association to have returned to Mount Vernon the sash worn by General [Edward] Braddock at the time of his defeat, and upon which he was borne mortally wounded from the field of battle by his aide, Colonel George Washington, and two soldiers. General Braddock gave the sash to Colonel Washington who brought it to Mount Vernon in 1755; here it was kept until after his death, when it passed into the possession of his nephew who married “Nelly” Custis. In 1846 Colonel Butler, of Louisiana, who married their daughter, presented the sash to General Zachary Taylor after his victories on the Rio Grande, and, while General Taylor was President of the United States, the sash was in the White House. His daughter, Mrs. Bliss, brought it to Virginia after President Taylor’s death, and last summer it was purchased from one who had inherited it.

The request made by the Japanese Prince, that “his name might be associated with the relic, as this act on his part is but an expression of sentiment,” should be complied with.
Thus, by 1920 the association had “purchased” the sash “from one who had inherited it.”

The Japanese donor’s family name is usually spelled “Tokugawa” now. As I understand it, Yoshihisa Tokugawa was a son of the last shogun and a nobleman but not a member of the imperial family. For folks who can read Japanese, here’s his Wikipedia entry in that language.

Evidently the ladies of Winchester, Virginia, appear to have preferred to think of the sash being “a perpetual loan” to Mount Vernon, as Katherine Glass Greene wrote in her 1926 local history, rather than sold outright. But money and property changed hands by 1920, so that looks like a sale to me.

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