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Fredericksburg Park Renews Search For Stolen Note

Deborah Fitts

(June 2007) FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - Officials at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park are renewing their focus on a note written by a Confederate picket that was stolen from the park 17 years ago.

"I'm trying to tie up loose ends," said Park Ranger Lyne Shackelford.

Shackelford is due to retire soon, and he would like to see the note recovered. He worked at the park when it was stolen in August 1990, snatched from a wall at the Fredericksburg visitor center.

The "Cornwall Note," as it is called, was written by a Confederate picket stationed on the south side of the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg. He floated the small piece of paper across in hopes of reaching a Northern counterpart. It reads, "March the 6th. I send you some tobacco and expect some coffee in return. Send me some postage stamps and you will oblige yours. Rebel."

The note measures nearly 4 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide. It is handwritten in pencil.

Union private Fred Cornwall of Milford, Conn., a member of the 27th Connecticut Infantry, found the paper in the river and kept it as a souvenir. His descendants donated it to the park and it was placed in the park's "Friendly Enemies" exhibit. Since the theft a photograph of the note is shown.

The note reflects a constant cross-river dialogue among the pickets of both sides in the winter of 1862-63. Soldiers crafted miniature "boats" to carry messages and goods across the water. Union troops had plenty of coffee but little tobacco. Confederates were in the opposite situation, prompting a lively trade.

Shackelford said the park had received no word of the note over the years since the theft. The item is listed on the FBI's National Stolen Art File.

The park is offering a $500 reward for information leading to recovery of the note. Anyone with information is asked to contact the chief ranger's office at (540) 899-2698.

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