George Taliaferro Ward was a prominent planter and politician in antebellum Florida. Born in Kentucky in 1810 or perhaps earlier, he moved with his family to Tallahassee in 1825. Ward married into the wealthy Chaires family in 1844, and he eventually became a successful planter in his own right. He also served in the Legislative Council from Leon County, attended the 1838-1839 Constitutional Convention, and ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor on the Whig ticket in 1852. Ward was elected to the 1861 Florida Secession Convention. He opposed immediate secession, urging instead that Florida wait for cooperative action with other southern states. He ultimately signed the Ordnance of Secession, but stated reluctantly: "When I die, I want it inscribed upon my tombstone that I was the last man to give up the ship."
Despite his lukewarm support for secession, Ward ran for and was elected to the Confederate Provisional Congress in April 1861. Later that year he was elected colonel of the Second Florida Infantry Regiment and early the following year he resigned his congressional seat. Sent with his unit to Virginia, Ward was shot dead on may 5, 1862 at the battle of Williamsburg. One of his men described Ward's death: "[O]ur gallant and brave colonel ordered a charge and we followed him, but not long was he allowed to lead us (and we would have followed him through thick and thin) for at an evil hour (and when we needed him most) a ball struck him under the left shoulder and come out on the right breast--killing him instantly, he never spoke."
A month after Ward's death, Florida Governor John Milton presented the colonel's children with a battleflag carried by the Second Florida. The letter reproduced here accompanied the flag.
State of Florida
Tallahassee, June 23d, 1862
Miss Anna H. Ward, Sisters & Brother
General Early who witnessed "The Peach Orchard Battle," presented the accompanying "Battle Flag," to Col. George T. Ward (your Patriotic and Gallant Father) who was in command and whose noble daring, and admirable skill, inspired the gallant forces under his command, and especially the 2d Florida Regiment, with the fearless resolve to vindicate Constitutional Liberty and the Rights of Freemen, in despite of all odds and in contempt of all dangers
At the battle fought near Williamsburg-- [part written in margin] where Col Ward was in command and more recently in the battle near Richmond, the 2d Florida Regiment under the command of col. E.A. Perry has been distinguished among the "bravest of the brave," sustaining the noble character of their late beloved and revered commander, and in the most deadly part of the conflict bore victoriously "the Battleflag" left in their keeping.
The accompanying letters from Col Perry, and, Capt Brevard, will make known to you, that I have been requested, as the Governor of the State of Florida, to deliver the Flag to you, to be preserved as a memento of the patriotism & courage of your Father. In the future Histories of the State of Florida and