Stonewall Jackson guards the dining room. J.E.B Stuart keeps a watchful eye on one of the halls. But it is Robert E. Lee, still stern in his high-collared general's uniform, who is looked to by the grayhaired ladies at the Confederate Home for Women here for the protection of their Southern virtue.
"Lord, we think he's an idol," one resident, 90-year-old Catherine Warren Harris, told a visitor earlier this month. "I think some people still stop and bow when they pass his picture."
For Harris and the other 38 ladies at the home whose daddies fought the Yankees, the Civil War may have ended at Appomattox, but the spirit of the Confederacy burns on.
"This is no place for a damn Yankee," winks Eloise Lipscomb, the manager of the Home which was charactered in 1898 to stand as a "permanent memorial to the women of the South." Lipscomb and her ladies, who range in age from 75 to 103, boast that here at least, the Confederate flag still flies. Even so, she is the first to admit that the winds of the late have not been friendly to this living monument.
So many people have tried to let this place and what it stands for fade away. But it will never die," says Lipscomb, herself the great-granddaughter of a Confederate soldier.
But while Lipscomb sounds like the 25-year-veteran of the home that she is, the president of its 11-member board of trustees, Janet Burhans, is not so confident.
"If you can dig up a miracle to add $5 million to $7 million dollars to our endowment, then we can go on forever," says Burhans who, like all the women on the board, is a direct descendant of a rebel soldier. "But we are going further into the red every month."
The home, incorporated as a nonprofitcharity, is currently funded by a mix of state, private and endowment money. But beginning in 1982, Virginia will cease paying its $125,000-per-year stipend to the home. The operating costs, which now exceed $300,000 a year, will then cut further into the home's endowment. That fund, which once consisted of $2 million, has been sliced by half a million in the last four years.
"When you get right down to it, I suppose charity is a 19th century concept," says Burhans who has written to almost every foundation with headquarters south of Richmond seeking contributions. "I have some of the most magnificent putdowns you've ever read."
If funds can't be found to increase the endowment, the 100-room home, built in 1932, ironically an imitation of the White House, will revert back to Virginia, along with the 2 1/2 acreson which the home stands.
The possibility is not a popular subject at the home.
"We don't talk about it. We don't even mention it," says Lipscomb. "The ladies get very upset."
Another topic that is generally tabooat the home is death. Funerals, on the other hand, take a back seat only to stories about grandchildren and the Civil War.
I wasn't born till after the Civil War, so all I know is hearsay," jokes one 95-year-old resident, fanning herself with a fan supplied by a local funeral parlor.
At 103, Daisy Butler was born 12 years after the last shot was fired in the war. But Butler remembers a childhood filled with stories of noble conflict.
"My father was a good old soldier. He was just about kiled when his horse was shot out from under him, but the Lord saved him," says Butler, who lives in a small room, surronded by pictures of her past.
Butler attributes her longevity to a "good hot start" in Hot Springs, Ark., and sensible eating habits. But she complains she doesn't get much chance to spread the gospel of good living to her fellow residents.
"They come to give me advice," laughsButler.
Next in seniority at the hme is 102-year-old Allie Faulks, who regularly stops by Butler's room to ask her to slow down a bit so Faulks can catch up.
Faulk's father was a farmer in Lunenburg County, Va., when the war began. She remembers the story of her mother standing on the stairs in their farmhouse to stop Yankees from sacking her bedroom.
"No gentleman would go into a ladies room without permission," says Faulks quoting her mother's successful defense of their home.
But Faulks apologizes for her scarce store of other war stories. "When my father talked about it, I was too young to be interested. Now when I hear stories, I'm so old I forget them quick."
There is not a woman at the home who does not have at least one good war story to tell. The problem, say some residents, is finding people with enough patience to listen.
"Conversation is sometimes difficult here because so many of the ladies are so old." say Mae Burnett Slaughter, who at 86 is one of the youngsters at the home. "Very few here can really follow a conversation long."
Slaughter's grandfather owned a Virginia plantation and 19 slaves. He was killed and the plantation burned after the war started. But Slaughter professes no bitterness toward the Yankee invaders.
"I've solved this business of fighting," she says, standing beside a picture of her father in his gray uniform. "I never started."
There is no escaping the memory of the war, however, inside the home Every wall holds an oil portrait of some Confederate hero. And lest the blood that they shed be forgotten, thereare other splashy paintings, such as the 1865 burning of Richmond, placed throughout the home.
But the bitterness that infused the hme when it was occupied by war widows, has ended with age. Now the spirit of the Confederate Home is directed more at preserving the traditions of Southern gentility, which the women fear the rest of the United States seems content to forget.
"Time isn't the same in here," says Lipscomb, after ringing a bell at dinner to summon one of the home's blackwaitresses. "When you get through here, you've been through the Deep South."