VIRGINIA DIVISION FUNDS CONSERVATION OF MARKIE WILLIAMS SKETCH

On November 20, 2002, Virginia Division President Mrs. John W. Lougheed presented Colleen Cury, Curator at Arlington House, a $1,250 check from Virginia Division for the conservation of a sketch of Arlington House by Martha Custis "Markie" Williams (1827-1899).

Markie, who grew up across the river from Arlington House at Tudor Place in Georgetown Heights, was the eldest daughter of Captain William G. and America Williams and the granddaughter of Thomas and Martha Custis Peter. Initially financed in 1805 by an $8,000 legacy from Martha's step-grandfather George Washington, the neoclassically styled Tudor Place was designed by the first architect of the U.S. Capitol, Dr. William Thornton. Completed in 1816, it remained in the Peter family until 1983 and is now a National Historic Landmark.

Markie Williams sketch of Arlington House

Arlington House - by Martha Custis "Markie" Williams (1843)

As first cousins once removed of Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, Markie and her siblings spent much time at Arlington House. She made the drawing of the Lee family home in 1843 for her youngest brother, William Orton Williams, whose execution by the Union Army for spying in 1863 would become one of the least well understood and most tragic incidents of the War Between the States.

According to the great Southern historian and biographer Douglas Southall Freeman (Chapter XII, Volume 3, R.E. Lee),

Orton, as he was known to the family, had been in the United States army as a lieutenant of the Second Cavalry on the outbreak of hostilities in 1861 and had joined the South. . . . He had come to Virginia at Christmas time, 1862, and had visited Agnes at Hickory Hill. His Christmas presents, a riding whip and a pair of gauntlets, had been among her treasured gifts. They had ridden together, and he had made his addresses to her, but had been rejected. Orton was much too fond of drink, and his failure to win Agnes's hand, coupled with other disappointments and entanglements, made him reckless. He procured assignment to a secret mission, probably in Canada or in Europe, and to conceal his identity was commissioned colonel of cavalry under the name of Lawrence W. Orton. On June 8, 1863, attended by his cousin, Captain Walter G. Peter, and clad in Federal uniform, he rode into the Union lines at Franklin, Tenn. With forged papers he introduced himself as Colonel Orton and his companion as Major Dunlap. They had come, he said, with special instructions to examine all posts. Although they seemed little interested in the matters that spies would usually study, their actions aroused suspicion. They were detained for the verification of their passes, and when these were declared spurious, they were arrested, tried by drumhead court-martial, and executed early on the morning of June 9, 1863. Before they were hanged, the men confessed their identity, but maintained they were not spies -- a statement in which the commandant at Franklin joined. . . . In the few hours allowed him before he was executed, Williams wrote a brief note to his sister, Martha, known in the family as "Markie." He said: "Do not believe that I am a spy. With my dying breath I deny the charge. Do not grieve too much for me. . . . Altho I die a horrid death I will meet my death with the fortitude becoming the son of a man whose last words to his children were, "Tell them I died at the head of my column.". . ." A copy of this message was sent by "Markie" to Agnes. Little was said of the affair in the family, but there was grief at this tragic end of a friend and a kinsman. General Lee had always been interested in Orton. . . . He was outraged now at the execution of the young man. . . . Three years later he was to say ". . . my blood boils at the thought of the atrocious outrage, against every manly and Christian sentiment which the Great God alone is able to forgive."
In addition to its value as an architectural record of one of the Old Dominion's most famous homes, the historical and familial connections between the Williams and the Lee families make this drawing of even greater interest. Virginia Daughters raised money to fund the conservation by selling old Virginia seal buttons, raffling an antique UDC pin and a 100th anniversary plate, and sponsoring a Confederate bazaar at its 2002 Division convention.

Mrs. Lougheed presents the check

Mrs. John W. Lougheed presents a check for $1,250 to Colleen Curry, Curator of Arlington House, on November 20, 2002.

  Martha Custis Williams

Martha Custis "Markie" Williams


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