On May 12, 1864 during the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse in Virginia, a Union soldier in hand-to-hand combat with a North Carolina standard-bearer tore the battle flag right off its staff. The flag ripped along its left border, the color-bearer was captured and imprisoned, and the Union soldier who seized the flag was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his deed. Today, the historic flag is on display at the North Carolina Museum of History.
It’s there in large part because the 26th North Carolina Regiment – the state’s largest Civil War re-enactment group – partnered with the museum to help fund its conservation, which requires an expensive specialized textile treatment. During a presentation at the Museum of History on January 19, the 26th Regiment unveiled the newly conserved flag, which was carried by the 1st Regiment North Carolina State Troops during the Civil War. It is 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.
The seizure of the flag occurred during a two-week battle that contained some of the most ferociously sustained periods of combat in the Civil War, including one fight that raged unabated for nearly 20 hours. Of the 152,000 soldiers that fought, 30,000 died.
"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," Marshall added.
Skip Smith, Colonel of the 26th Regiment, noted, "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."
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.
Watch a video of the 26th Regiment in action, below: