Raleigh, NC Feb. 19, 2013 – During the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse on May 12, 1864, a Union soldier ripped the battle flag of the 1st Regiment North Carolina State Troops from its staff during hand-to-hand combat with the color-bearer. The flag’s missing left border attests to the ferocious fighting in the Virginia battle.
This historic banner is part of the Confederate flag collection, one of the nation’s largest, at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Conservation of these banners requires expensive, specialized textile treatment. To help fund this need, the museum has formed a partnership with the 26th Regiment North Carolina Troops, Reactivated, the state’s largest Civil War re-enactment group.
During a Jan. 19 presentation at the Museum of History, the 26th Regiment unveiled the newly conserved colors of the 1st Regiment North Carolina State Troops. This represents the seventh flag the organization has helped conserve for the museum.
“This flag is a silent witness of one of the most horrific days of battle in the Civil War, but it has not been seen by the public for nearly 100 years,” said Jackson Marshall, Associate Director of the Museum of History. “Once again, the museum owes a debt of gratitude to the 26th Regiment members for donating the funds needed to conserve and exhibit the flag.”
Organized in Warrenton, the 1st Regiment participated in many of the major engagements fought by the Army of Northern Virginia. The regiment suffered enormous casualties at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. During the fighting, Pvt. George W. Harris of the Pennsylvania Volunteers seized the 1st Regiment’s battle flag carried by color-bearer Sgt. John Reams of Northampton County. Harris received a Medal of Honor for his deed — Reams was captured and imprisoned in Maryland and New York until he was paroled when the war ended.
The 1st Regiment’s flag was sent to the U.S. War Department in Washington, D.C. It was returned to North Carolina in 1905 and generally kept in a storage vault awaiting conservation.
“The 26th Regiment is proud to work with the Museum of History in its conservation efforts, and we look forward to continuing this partnership far into the future,” noted Skip Smith, Colonel of the 26th Regiment. “We encourage all North Carolinians to support the museum and to share our state’s history with their children.”
The Museum of History plans to feature the 1st Regiment flag in the exhibit gallery A Call to Arms as part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial commemoration.
Adds Smith, “We hope that descendants of the 1st Regiment will come see their ancestors’ battle flag when it is in the exhibit.”
For more information about the N.C. Museum of History, call (919) 807-7900, access the museum’s website or connect with the museum on Facebook and Twitter. The N.C. Museum of History is a unit of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. For more information on North Carolina arts, history and culture, visit Cultural Resources online.