Battle of Rio Hill
On February 29, 1864 Union General George A. Custer, with 2500 cavalry and a section of artillery, attacked the winter quarters of the Stuart Horse Artillery near Charlottesville, Virginia. The Union cavalry, more intent on destroying the camp and killing horses than capturing the Confederate cannon, allowed Major Roger Preston Chew, of Jefferson County, to get his guns into position and open fire. Chew and William Breathed (Breathed’s Battery) formed a mounted squadron of the sick and other unengaged cannoneers. Having few weapons, most of the men brandished sticks to represent sabers and carbines. Chew brought his pseudo cavalry up to the Confederate flank and shouted, “Tell Colonel Dulaney to bring up the 7th Regiment.” Custer did not know that Dulaney and the 7th Virginia Cavalry were miles away. Not wishing to risk an attack against cavalry and artillery, Custer retreated. Charlottesville was saved. In addition to the many accolades from the citizens, the ladies of Charlottesville presented this flag to their “…Brave Defenders.”
It was carried in battle until Chew and a number of the Horse Artillery surrendered at Durham’s Station, NC on April 26, 1865. The flag bearer, Nimrod Ware of Jefferson County, saved the flag from capture. Ware, now a medical doctor, died in 1872 at age 26 in Nagasaki, Japan. In 1881, the flag and his personal effects were returned to the United States appropriately onboard the USS Richmond. John Ware and Colonel Chew picked up his possessions. At this time, Mister Ware gave the flag to Colonel Chew. He took it to Confederate reunions and later had it framed.
This magnificent Second National Confederate flag, with its battle damage, is a lasting reminder of Jefferson County’s Southern heritage