BAILLET FAMILY HISTORY
Eugene Baillet: The Letter
"He Sleeps In An Unknown Grave"
One of the paintings in the Tullahoma Fine Arts Center's permanent collection is entitled The Letter, its creation attributed to one of the Baillet sisters.
The Baillets were a New York family who settled in Tullahoma, Tennessee following the American Civil War. They built a home at 401 South Jackson Street in 1868, which now serves as the arts center.
When people ask about the paintings origin, the story often quoted for years is that one of the Baillet sisters painted the piece because a brother had been killed in the Civil War. The scene depicts two of the sisters being informed by post that the brother was dead. Another story has the painting entitled The Farewell or Saying Goodbye, with the scene depicting a brother or boyfriend leaving for the war. Because both stories are vague and contradictory, many people question their authenticity and assume the stories are just folklore, unsubstantiated by facts.
Military and census records reveal that the sisters did have a brother who served during the war.
Eugene Baillet was one of three sons born to Felix and Affa Baillet. He was born in Farmersville, New York in 1842. And at the age of 20, he enlisted as a private in New York's 154th Infantry Regiment, Company A on September 24, 1862.
Prior to the Battle of Chancellorsville, Baillet was promoted to the rank of Full Sergeant on April 10, 1863. He was described as having black hair, a dark complexion and blue eyes.
On July 1, 1863, during the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Baillet was taken prisoner when his regiment was overwhelmed by the Confederate forces of General Robert E. Lee during heavy fighting. More than one hundred of the regiment's soldiers were listed as missing or captured following a retreat.
The Baillets never saw Eugene again. He possibly died as a prisoner in Richmond, Virginia and was buried in a mass grave. Or he died at Andersonville Prison.
Military records do not give a date of death.
Frances was one of the Baillet sisters who traveled to Tullahoma with their parents and a brother, following the war. Frances married Jacob Lupher. Their son, Harry Lupher, born in January 1888, is listed in the obituaries of Jennie and Affa Baillet as a surviving nephew. Eugene (possibly named after Eugene Baillet) and Mary Cora were daughters of the Luphers, who did not survive infancy. Although the name inscribed on the grave marker in Oakland Cemetery is Eugene, a newspaper clipping records the name as Eugenia. She died on Tuesday, September 18, 1885, at the age of four months and 18 days.
A memorial to Eugene Baillet was erected in the Limestone Cemetery in Cattaraugus County, New York. The inscription reads "He sleeps in an unknown grave . . . a victim of the Rebellion."