Posts from the ‘Flag’ Category

1st Minnesota Light Artillery in the Atlanta Campaign May-Sept. 1864

Much has been written about the First Minnesota Infantry and its well-deserved place in Civil War history, but the experience of that famous unit was not typical. The great majority of Minnesota soldiers served in the Western theatre of the war taking part in battles from Mill Springs, Kentucky, to Sherman’s March through Georgia and the Carolinas.

Surviving members of the 1st Minnesota Light Artillery years after the war. (Photo courtesy of MN Historical Society -

One of the best examples of Minnesota units serving in the West was the 1st Minnesota Light Artillery. Formed in the fall of 1861, the battery saw its first action at the bloody battle of Shiloh, where they played an important part in the defense of the “Hornets’ Nest”. They saw more hard fighting at Corinth, Mississippi, and as part of the Army of the Tennessee they endured the long campaign to capture Vicksburg. Later the battery joined General Sherman’s forces in the Atlanta Campaign and his famous “March to the Sea.” The Minnesotans continued with Sherman’s forces through the Carolinas to the final battle of the war at Bentonville, North Carolina. They also participated in the Grand Review of the major Union armies in Washington, D.C., following the war’s end. [Text courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society]

Report of First Lieutenant Henry S. Hurter, First Minnesota Battery


IN THE FIELD, GEORGIA, Nov. 11, 1864


Adjutant General of the State of Minnesota

GENERAL:  In accordance with your request of September 24, 1864, I herewith send to you a morning report of this battery from the 1st day of November 1864, also a report of the casualties, etc., during the year, and within a short history of the company.

On the 1st of November, 1863, the battery laid in camp one mile south of Vicksburg; Captain Clayton, then commanding, received orders to go to Minnesota on recruiting service, and started on the 9th, the command then coming in my hands. The months of November and December were, whenever the weather allowed, improved in drilling the battery, also January and part of February, in which latter month, on the 11th, Captain Calayton returned with 73 recruits; on the 24th of February 5 veterans of the battery, in charge of Lieutenant Hurter, left for Minnesota. On the 5th of March captain Clayton exchanged the old guns, two 12-pound howitzers, and two 6-pound rifled guns, caliber 3.67, for four new rifled 3-inch Rodman’s guns. On the 25th the battery went out to black river, twelve miles from Vicksburg, with the First Division of the Seventeenth Army Corps, under Brig. Gen. E.S. Dennis. On the 4th of April we were transferred to the Third Division, under brigadier General Legett, and marched back to Vicksburg, were put on board the transport Z.C. Swan, left at dusk and proceeded up river and landed at Cairo, Ill. On the 17th disembarked and came into camp; there the veterans joined the battery again on the 21st. On the 27th embarked on transport Colossus, and moved up the Tennessee river, landed at Clifton, Tenn. On the 1st of May landed there, and after camping four days marched with the so-called Tennessee River Expedition, under Brigadier General Gresham, via Pulaski, Tenn., to Athens, Ala., camped there eight days and left on the 19th for Huntsville, Ala., arriving there on the 20th. On the 22d Captain Clayton left on leave of absence for Minnesota.

At the reorganization of the Seventeenth Army Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. F.P. Blair, the battery was attached to the Fourth Division, Brigadier General Crocker commanding. The corps left Huntsville for Decatur, Tenn., on the 25th of May, and from there marched via Summerville, Warrenton and Hendricksville, Tenn., and Cedar Bluff to Rome, Ga., 5th of June; from there to Kingston, Cartersville, Allatoona and Acworth, Ga., where we arrived on the 8th of June, joining there Sherman’s army, and especially the Army of the Tennessee, under the gallant McPherson, consisting then of three army corps; the Fifteenth, under Major General Logan, Sixteenth, under Major General Dodge, and the Seventeenth under Blair. On the 12th of June our guns opened for the first time on the enemy, who had works north of the Kenesaw Mountains, on the top of which we could observe large crowds of people looking at the doings of the two armies. More or less firing until the 20th, when the rebels evacuated their lines, and the army advanced about two miles and took position on the foot of the Kenesaw Mountain. Heavy fighting was done there, but the enemy’s position being very strong, Sherman moved the Army of the Tennessee, then forming the left wing, on the night of the 2d of July, in rear of our lines of the other troops on the extreme right, thus forcing the enemy to give up his position on the mountain and in Marietta, in order to oppose our crossing the Chattahoochee river. On the 4th of July the right section with two regiments of infantry, Fifteenth and Sixteenth regiments of Iowa Volunteers, advanced towards Nickajack creek, but soon found the enemy in force; the whole corps was engaged before night, and on the morning of the 5th, after shelling the rebel works for about half an hour, the infantry stormed and took them, pushing the rebels slowly back in their main works on the river. The battery was in position on a high hill, in full view, about two miles from the rebel works, and although for some time fired on very lively, had nobody hurt. On the 11th the rebels evacuated during the night and fell back on the opposite shore. On the 16th the Army of the Tennessee made another flank movement to the extreme left again, passing through Marietta, Rosswell, crossing the Chattahoochee river near that place, and after passing Decatur turned westward, meeting the enemy about two miles from Atlanta on the 20th. The battery took position and opened with good effect, but so did the rebels, killing five of our horses, their shells falling thick around us, one shell striking under the trail of one of our guns and setting the piece straight on its muzzle. Fired some on the 21st. Changed position twice that day, and occupied that night and part of the 22d a fort in rear of the Third Division, Seventeenth Army Corps, near the place where Major General McPherson fell. The bloody battle of the 22d was fought under our eyes, we not being able to fire one round, as our trains were moving between us and our lines, until in the evening, when we silenced a rebel battery, who opened a flank fire on the Sixteenth Army Corps. On the 26th we made another flank move to the right again; arrived on the morning of the 28th near Ezra Church, when about noon the rebels made an assault on the Fifteenth Corps, but were badly repulsed, leaving the front literally covered with dead and wounded. The left section had taken position and fired a few rounds, but could not do much, the position being too much exposed. On the 30th July, when we had just moved into park, a 64-pound shell from the rebels struck the right caisson, exploded the powder in two limber chests and some of the shells, but did not harm a man with one exception, although we were at close intervals, and men promiscuously among the carriages. On the 2d of August the centre and left sections, and on the 6th the right section, moved into positions fixed for them in the lines; we were then about two miles from Atlanta, but fired our shells with ease into town. More or less firing was done, according to the enemy’s annoyance, we advancing our works ever few days. On the 14th Lieutenant Koethe was killed inside of our works by a stray rebel bullet passing through his heart, killing him instantly. On the 26th we moved from our position and with the army to the right, striking the Montgomery railroad on the 28th, destroying it effectually, and then moving towards the Macon railroad, meeting the enemy on the 31st near Jonesboro, and driving him steadily, following to near Lovejoy Station, when we returned to Eastpoint, going into camp there to rest, refit and recruit up. We laid there from the 10th of September to the 3rd of October, when marching order came suddenly; as our horses were not all in condition for a long, tedious march, only two sections turned out, the centre section remaining in charge of Second Lieut. John D. Ross at Atlanta, Ga. The other two sections were under command of First Lieut. H. hurter, Captain Clayton being chief of artillery, Fourth Division, Seventeenth Army Corps. We left camp at 6 o’clock on the 4th of October, marching over very bad roads till night, and next morning to a place three miles southwest from Marietta. From there we went through Acworth and Allatoona, where a few days before the rebels were nobly repulsed by a small garrison, of which the Fourth Minnesota Regiment of Infantry formed a part – Cartersville, Kingston, Adairsville, Calhoun, Resaca, through Snake Gap, to near Villanow, Ga., where we remained two days, and from where we sent all surplus baggage, etc., to Chattanooga, Tenn., leaving but one team with the battery. Marched on the 18th from here to Summerville, Alpine, Ga., to Gaylesville, Ala., where we camped from the 21st to the 29th. During this time the artillery of the Seventeenth Army Corps was organized into an independent brigade under Major Powell, Second Regiment Illinois Light Artillery, Captain Clayton being assistant chief of artillery. Out of ten batteries belonging to the corps, only three were selected to remain with the army, via.: the Fifteenth Ohio Battery, First Lieutenant Burdick commanding; Company C, First Michigan Light Artillery, First Lieutenant Shier commanding, and First Minnesota, Lieutenant Hurter commanding. All the others were sent back to Nashville, Tenn., into the reserve artillery pack. Left camp on the 29th at 6 o’clock A.M., marched through Cedar Bluff, and arrived on the 30th near Cave Spring, Ga., where we remained in camp on the 31st in order to have the troops mustered for pay.

This, general, is a short sketch of the military history of this battery. Any particulars you wish to add, you will be enabled to get from our non-veterans, who will soon be discharged and return to the state.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Senior First Lieut., Comdg. Battery

1st Minnesota Light Artillery flag


            On the 2d day of July the battery moved from its former position at the foot of Kenesaw Mountain to the right. On the 4th it was ordered, section at a time, to the front and went forward with the skirmishers. During the day it fired about 80 rounds of ammunition; during the night constructed a work and on the morning of the 6th went into it. On the 8th the enemy opened from a post in front of us, with 18 pieces of artillery. We, with other batteries of our division, returned the fire. We fired 123 rounds with good effect. On the 16th moved to the left and crossed the Chattahoochee river at Roswell; went into position on the 20th and fired 130 rounds. While in this position we had 1 private and 4 public horses killed with one shell from the enemy’s gun. On the 26th moved to the right. On the 27th the battery was engaged while the enemy was stubbornly endeavoring to turn the extreme right flank of our army, and fired 22 rounds from one section. On the 30th the battery was relieved and moved into park at 5 o’clock P.M. At 6 P.M. we had 1 caisson blown up by the explosion of a 64-pound shell thrown from the enemy’s gun.


The 3-inch Ordnance Rifle, like the one seen here, was a staple of the Battery from March 5, 1864 through the end of the war.


BEFORE ATLANTA, GA., Aug. 18, 1864


Adjutant General Minnesota,

SIR:  I have to report the death of First Lieut. William C.F. Koethe of the First Minnesota Battery, who was killed on the 15th of August, while temporarily in command of four pieces of this battery, which were in position to operate against the city of Atlanta.

The enemy had a complete enfilading fire upon the position which Lieutenant Koethe occupied, and a rebel sharpshooter shot a ball through his left arm, which passed through his heart and came out on his right side. He died without a struggle.

Lieutenant Koethe was from Germany, where his father still resides. He entered the battery, at its original organization, as a private; served as such until the 1st of September, 1863, when he was promoted to second lieutenant for his noble worth in the service of his adopted country. He was again promoted to junior first lieutenant, July 19, 1864. He rendered noble service on the 20th, 21, 22d and 28th of July, in command of his section of the battery, during the fearful struggle in front of Atlanta.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain, First Minnesota Battery



            On the 1st of August the battery laid in park near Ezra Church, Ga., in rear of our lines. Centre and left section moved into position on the 2d and the right on the 6th; they fired more or less every day until the 25th, when the whole army of the Tennessee moved to the right, striking the Montgomery & Atlanta railroad on the 28th. After destroying the same effectually we moved on towards Jonesboro, on the Macon road; we came into position on the 31st, but did not fire any that day.



NEAR ATLANTA, GA., Sept. 15, 1864.


Adjutant General Minnesota,

GENERAL:    Inclosed please find the return of this company for the month of August, 1864, it having been utterly impossible to forward the same at an earlier period.

The battery is now in camp, resting from the fatigues and troubles of the late campaign, but preparing vigorously for a fall and (who knows), if necessary, winter campaign. May only the North make one more effort, send forth the scores of young men lounging around in the great cities, wasting their money and their health, and fill up our decimated ranks once more, I am sure that the next summer would not see anything more of this rebellion.

But, alas! How many homes will be desolate, how many hearts of loving wives, endearing children will wait in vain for their returning husbands and fathers! Many a place will be vacant, that before the war was blooming in health, beauty and love, its occupant lying silent and cold in strange soil! We too have to lament the death of two of our men, two of our best soldiers, who have died, not on the battle-field, but victims to disease and the treatment that our soldiers receive from those so-called surgeons in the hospitals. William Vincens, sergeant, and Gustavus Andre, private, both from New Ulm, died, the latter on the 4th inst., at Vining’s Station, Ga., the former at Atlanta on the 7th inst. Their friends will be much surprised at the news, as the time of the enlistment of the two was almost expired.

Tendering you my best respects, I am, yours very respectfully,


First Lieutenant, Commanding Battery



            The battery marched on the 2d instant from the position it held on the 1st near Jonesboro, Ga., to the right, and when near Lovejoy’s Station, came in sight of the rebels, firing about thirty shots at them. On the 5th instant it left this position again, marching back to Jonesboro and Eastpoint and reaching the present camp grounds on the evening of the 9th, whence we tried to fix ourselves as comfortably as possible.

On the 4th instant Private William Winges was wounded in camp by a rebel rifle ball passing through his left cheek.



 * * * June 14, moved to the front of Kenesaw Mountain, and established two stations of observation. Lieutenants Edge, Worley, and Allen occupying one, and Lieutenants  Weirick and Fish the other, received several contraband messages of considerable importance, which were transmitted with promptness to Major Generals McPherson and Logan. June 15, occupied the same stations; received several contraband messages, all of which were transmitted to the generals. Lieutenant Weirick directed the firing of the First Minnesota Battery, Captain Clayton, by the aid of his glass, which resulted in blowing up a caisson and knocking off one wheel of a gun. * * *



 * * * My line of battle extended from the left of the First Brigade and behind a line of rifle-pits thrown up by me on the crest of the hill on the 24th instant. My regiments were posted in the following order: The Fifteenth Iowa Volunteers on the right in support of the First Minnesota Battery, and having on its left the Tenth Ohio Battery. * * *



 * * * September 9, moved at 9 A.M. and reached present position at 12 M., where the command is in line with the Fifteenth, Thirteenth, and Sixteenth Iowa on the left of the First Minnesota Battery, the Eleventh Iowa being in reserve. * * *


[Source: Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, Vol. II, pp. 517-522]

Banners of glory: NY state to display Civil War flags in new exhibit at Capitol

By Chris Carola, The Associated Press

In this June 8, 2011 photo, Sarah Stevens, a textile conservator for New York state, does restoration work on a 7th New York Regiment Armory flag in Waterford, N.Y. Eight Civil War flags will go on exhibit at the Capitol in Albany on July 12 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

WATERFORD, N.Y. — A Confederate flag with links to president Abraham Lincoln and the first Union officer killed in the Civil War will be the centrepiece of an exhibit featuring New York’s large collection of banners from the conflict, state officials said Thursday.

The flag Col. Elmer Ellsworth was carrying after removing it from the roof of the Marshall House in Alexandria, Va., on May 24, 1861, will be part of an eight-flag exhibit opening July 12 in the “War Room” on the second floor of the state capitol. It’s believed to be the first time the banner will be on public display since the war, according to Christopher Morton, assistant curator at the New York State Military Museum.

Ellsworth, the 24-year-old leader of a New York infantry regiment, was shot and killed by innkeeper James Jackson. Ellsworth had just descended from the roof of Jackson’s hotel where the staunch secessionist had been flying the flag since shortly after the war broke out in April 1861. A Union soldier fatally shot Jackson after the innkeeper fired a shotgun into Ellsworth’s chest.

With the war’s first major battles still weeks away, Ellsworth became the North’s “first martyr,” while Jackson received equal billing in the South.

Adding to the notoriety of Ellsworth’s death — and the Marshall House flag — was his status as a close friend of Lincoln and his family. The young officer had spent time playing with the president’s young sons at the White House, where Lincoln, using a spyglass, could see the large Confederate flag flying in neighbouring Virginia, which had seceded from the Union on May 23. A day later, Lincoln ordered Union troops to cross the Potomac River and occupy Alexandria.

Ellsworth and a small detachment headed to the Marshall House, where he was shot on a stairway inside the inn while holding the bundled-up flag.

“It has an appeal to both the North and the South,” Morton said of the banner, which has large swaths missing thanks to souvenir hunters who cut out pieces in the aftermath of Ellsworth’s death. “I can’t say it’s the most important flag for the whole war, but it’s certainly up there.”

The Capitol exhibit, “1861: Banners for Glory,” features seven other flags unfurled that year. It runs through June 2012, the first of five such exhibits commemorating the 150th anniversary of the war.

State textile conservators have been working on the banners in the exhibit as part of New York’s decade-long effort to conserve its collection of 2,000 battle flags dating back to the War of 1812. About 900 are from the Civil War. Most are from New York units, although a handful of Confederate flags are among the collection.

Many of the flags are ripped and holed from bullets and shrapnel. A few still show blood stains, a vivid reminder of the terrible toll colour bearers suffered on the 19th-century’s smoke-obscured battlefields, where flags were used to mark a regiment’s position and serve as a rallying point.

Sarah Stevens, one of the state experts who works on the flag collection, said she tries to push aside thoughts of the men who held the historic flags she’s conserving, but the condition of many of the 150-year-old relics doesn’t make it easy.

The Marshall House flag is “stained with blood” believed to be Ellsworth’s, Stevens said. The banner is an example of an early Confederate flag known as the “Stars and Bars,” a forerunner to the better-known rebel battle flag typically used by Southern armies later in the war.

Stevens, associate conservator at the state’s Peebles Island Resource Center in Waterford, works in the climate-controlled warren of spacious rooms in a converted textile mill on an island where the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers meet north of Albany. Owing to the fragile conditions of the Civil War banners, the painstaking preservation process and last year’s state budget cuts, they’ve conserved only about 500 flags.

The cost of the Capitol exhibit was covered by a $30,000 grant from the Coby Foundation, a New York City organization that funds projects in the textile and needle arts field. Another $13,000 in private donations from historic groups and individuals paid for the banners’ preservation, according to the state parks department, which operates the Peebles Island facility, the headquarters of the state Bureau of Historic Sites.

New York’s collection of Civil War battle flags is the largest in the United States, Morton said.

“It not just the quantity … it’s the quality, the historic significance, the relevance that makes the New York state collection the most grand in the nation,” he said.

New York began collecting flags from its state regiments while the war still raged. The first ones arrived in Albany in 1863, and an official flag presentation ceremony was held two years later on July 4, nearly three months after the conflict ended.

By then, the Marshall House flag was already in the hands of New York state, Morton said. Like hundreds of others, it remained furled around a staff and displayed in tall wood-and-glass cases in the Capitol, where more than a century’s exposure to humidity and light caused further deterioration of the banners.

Some of the flags remain in the Capitol displays, awaiting their turn at the conservators. Others are stored at Peebles Island or the military museum in Saratoga Springs, 50 kilometres north of Albany. Morton said the state hopes to someday have the entire collection under the same roof.

Tattered Confederate flag gets new life

Restored Civil War flag resurrects some rebel ‘Greys’

By Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post

Cathy L. Heffner works on a Civil War-era flag restoration project at Textile Preservation Associates in Ranson, W.Va. Katherine Frey / THE WASHINGTON POST

In the summer of 1862 the men of the Caroline Greys, having suffered the rigors of the first year of the Civil War, realized that their elegant silk flag was much too fine for the campfire and battlefield.

A remarkable banner, it bore a painting of the Confederate unit in fancy dress uniforms, exquisitely rendered on the dark blue fabric. It was grand, and refined, and captured the innocence of prewar pageantry.

So that July it was left for safekeeping at Richmond’s new Spotswood Hotel. If the Greys, organized in Caroline County, Va., didn’t survive the war, perhaps their flag might.

Over the next three years, the outfit was devoured in battle at places like Antietam, Drewry’s Bluff and Dindwiddie Court House. Only 11 men of the original 70 were left to surrender at Appomattox.

Their flag fared better, as they had hoped. But it, too, was eventually defeated, by the relentless assaults of time.

Last week, after a campaign waged with tweezers, tiny erasers and a humidifying gun, Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy returned the once-tattered flag to display for the first time in 35 years.

In so doing, conservators preserved one of the most striking banners to survive the war and resurrected the Greys, who march again as they did in 1861, watched over by a smiling angel painted on silk.

The conservation also uncovered a forgotten mystery of the flag — a strangely altered numeral — and the signature of the flag maker, George Ruskell, which had been obscured by 150 years of grime.

“We had an idea that it was really a special and unique flag,” museum curator Catherine Wright said Monday. “But it wasn’t until it was at the conservator and they went through the process of flattening and straightening it” that its real beauty was revealed.

The flag is 4 feet by 5 feet and is trimmed in gold fringe. On the “front,” or obverse side, the center of the flag bears the painted state seal of Virginia, with a female warrior, the symbol of virtue, standing over a fallen tyrant whose crown has toppled off.

The reverse side shows 36 men, most dressed in dark gray uniforms with gold buttons, white belts and old-fashioned military caps topped with red pompons. Many of the faces appear somewhat distinct, and curators wonder if some might be miniature portraits.

The group is being led by two musicians in red jackets and light blue pants and a bearded man with a sword and epaulettes who is clearly their commander.

Curators noted that the bearded figure resembles a photograph of the unit’s early commander, Robert O. Peatross.

Beneath a green ribbon that reads “Presented by the Ladies” in gold letters, the angel, reclining on a cloud, gazes down at the soldiers.

Underneath the portrait is a painted red ribbon that reads “To the Caroline Greys, May, 1861.”

Over the years, curators said, the paint on the flag had deteriorated, shrinking and curling and tearing holes in the center so that both sides looked like a jumbled jigsaw puzzle.

Its condition was so bad that the flag had never been displayed in the museum’s new building, which opened in 1976, Wright said.

The bulk of the $21,000 cost of the restoration is being paid by retired Houston businessman B. Floyd Tyson Jr., 80, who said he grew up in Richmond hearing stories of the war and of elderly Confederate veterans.

“We hold these people very dear because of the sacrifices they made,” he said Thursday. “I am so happy for the museum because it’s something that they can present to future generations.”

A hamlet’s pride

The Caroline Greys, later Company E of the 30th Virginia Infantry Regiment, got its flag on April 27, 1861, two weeks after the war began, according to a story a few days later in a Richmond newspaper.

There were about 70 men in the company, according to the report, which was filed from Ruther Glen, a hamlet north of Richmond that still feels much like it probably did in 1861.

The Greys began as a militia group; it was formed Dec. 12, 1859, in response to the abolitionist John Brown’s attempt to spark a slave insurrection at Harpers Ferry two months before, the museum said.

Peatross was one of three members of his clan to join up.

The Mason brothers, Camillus, 23, a teacher, and his brother, Francis, 19, a student, also joined. Their father was a farmer who lived in a place nearby called White Chimneys, according to census records and a history of the 30th Virginia by Robert K. Krick.

Camillus was killed at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. Francis was wounded there and sent home; he died in his father’s house two weeks later.

The Turner brothers of Ruther Glen — George, 22, William, 21, and Joshua, 18 — all joined the company on the same day in 1861. Joshua died of disease a few months later. William was killed at Antietam, where George was wounded.

Antietam, one of the war’s bloodiest battles, also claimed the Greys’ Thomas W. Blunt, a carpenter who was 25 at enlistment, Albert C. Dimue, 19, Louis G. Goldsby, 21, and Edwin Jackson, 25.

“Very few of the young men who left here came home,” said Susan Sili, a Caroline County historian.

Putting pieces together

When the battered flag was delivered last year to Textile Preservation Associates in Ranson, W.Va., the company’s president, Cathy L. Heffner, rejoiced.

Despite its dreadful condition, Heffner, a veteran flag conservator, realized that almost all the pieces of the crumbled painting were there — twisted, curled and fragmented, but present on pieces of the flag silk.

All she had to do was “relax” the fragments with a humidifier, flatten them, and put the pieces back together like a puzzle.

“I could tell by the amount of folding and creasing that these pieces were going to open up and that there was going to be a substantial amount of flag left,” she said. “I was really excited.”

Once reassembled, the flag was sent for cleaning to Art Care Associates, of Frederick, and painting conservator Nancy R. Pollak.

Using tweezers and a small eraser, she began meticulously cleaning each fragment, and then painting, with water colors, small paper patches to fill the few gaps.

In the process she discovered Ruskell’s name under the grime, which prompted a debate as to whether he was the painter or the flag maker, or both.

She also stumbled upon the mysterious altered numeral. On the front of the flag, which bears the motto, “Presented to the Caroline Greys, May, 1860,” Pollak noticed that the zero in 1860 and originally been a 1, as in 1861.

The 1 had been switched to change the front date to 1860, while the date on the reverse side remained 1861.


County historian Sili believes she knows: The Greys “wanted to make it clear that they had been ready to fight a year beforehand.”

Unaware of the suffering that was ahead, she said, “they were pretty hot to fight.”

Historians seek Stillwater Civil War unit’s flag

Company’s colors last mentioned in 1928 news story

By Mary Divine

Horace Voligny was one of 94 young men who joined Company C of the 8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry and left Stillwater on Oct. 17, 1862.

Some, including William Wilson, William H. Morgan and John A. Harris, didn’t come back.

Those who returned began meeting annually in 1905 at the Keystone House in Stillwater, a hotel that Voligny owned and operated. They bought a bottle of wine and formed the “Last Two Men’s Club,” because “when the last two men were left, they would share the bottle of wine,” said Brent Peterson, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.

In 1927, Voligny and John Blake cracked open the bottle of wine, and “while standing beneath their company’s historic flag … drank a toast for their departed comrades,” according to Blake’s obituary, published in the Stillwater Gazette on Oct. 17, 1928.

Now, 84 years later, Peterson is searching for that flag.

Peterson believes the flag ended up with Voligny, the last survivor of the group. Voligny was 93 when he died in 1931 at his house in Oak Park, now Oak Park Heights. “Under a ruling of the club, the flag was to go to the last survivor — Mr. Voligny,” Peterson said. “It was to be passed down to his children as a memento of the war.”

With the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and the publication of a new book, “In Their Own Words: Washington County in the Civil War,” published by the historical society, Peterson is hoping to bring attention to his quest. He has contacted some of Voligny’s descendants, including several great-grandchildren, but so far no one knows anything about the flag.

“I wish I did,” said Mike Voligny, Horace Voligny’s great-grandson. Voligny, a retired chiropractor who lives in Linwood Township in Anoka County, grew up in Bayport and graduated from Stillwater High School in 1959.

“I had never heard the flag story until Brent called,” he said. “I checked with a few of the relatives that I knew, and none of them had heard of it. It would be fun for it to turn up, and the historical society is the right place for it.”

Peterson said the flag would be a key addition to the society’s Civil War collection, which includes a canteen, sword and sash that belonged to Sam Bloomer, the color sergeant for the 1st Minnesota regiment; a cartridge case that belonged to Linda Culbertson, an Afton man who served in Company B, 3rd Minnesota regiment; and a dog tag of Layette Snow, a lumberman from Taylors Falls, Minn., who came to Stillwater when he enlisted in Company B, 1st Minnesota.

But no flag.

“Just think what a great donation it would be to our organization,” Peterson said. “It would be a wonderful way to honor those 94 men who fought in Company C to preserve the Union. Most of those 94 men were from Stillwater, Oak Park and Baytown.”

The 8th Minnesota traveled to Montana, Tennessee and the East Coast before ending up in Washington, D.C. It was by far the most traveled regiment in the Union Army during the Civil War, he said.

“The regiment was known as the ‘Indian Regiment’ because they helped quell the Dakota Uprising down around New Ulm, then chased the Dakota all the way into Montana,” Peterson said. “Then they were sent south, fought at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and ended up in Raleigh, North Carolina.”

According to newspaper accounts, “the ladies of Oak Park presented (the flag) to the company in 1862 when the boys went marching off to war.”

Here’s how a writer for the Stillwater Messenger de-scribed the flag presentation in a Sept. 30, 1862, account: “The ladies of Baytown and Oak Park presented Capt. Folsom’s Company with a splendid silk flag, the cost of which was some seventy dollars. So fine a present to so fine a company and on the part of so generous and patriotic ladies as those of Baytown and Oak Park, ought not to have passed by without some acknowledgment.”

The Last Two Men’s Club met at the Keystone House until 1909, when “Mr. Voligny sold the property and moved to a residence in Oak Park,” according to “In Their Own Words: Washington County in the Civil War,” written by Robert Goodman and Peter DeCarlo. “The club continued to meet at Voligny’s residence in Oak Park until the last two men.”

Mary Divine can be reached at 651-228-5443.

Confederate flag at Dodge courthouse stirs controversy


As the nation marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a decision by Dodge County commissioners this week to fly the Confederate battle flag 365 days a year at the county courthouse has sparked more controversy and attention to a years-long debate.

GRANT BLANKENSHIP/THE TELEGRAPH A Confederate battle flag flies Wednesday next to a memorial to Confederate war dead near the Dodge County Courthouse, in the background, in Eastman.

“We’ve been battling this for some time, trying to resolve it without going outside the county,” said John Battle, president of the Dodge County branch of the NAACP, which he said has repeatedly asked the county to remove the flag.

“We don’t have any heartburn about the Confederate flag itself, but we have heartburn because it’s up there on the public property,” he said.

The Confederate battle flag, seen by some as representative of slavery, and by others as a part of our nation’s Southern heritage, has been on the courthouse grounds for years.

The flag is positioned in front of a series of war memorial statues on the side of the courthouse property.

The commission voted unanimously in 2002 to allow the Confederate flag to be flown one day annually, but Battle said it has been flown daily for years.

After years of going back and forth with the commission, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hired a lawyer, who sent a letter to the Dodge County Commission last week requesting that they remove the Confederate battle flag from public display at the courthouse.

“It’s not representative of the entire population of Dodge County, and if they were doing what they said they would do when they passed the resolution, I don’t think the NAACP would have an issue with it,” said Maurice King, the attorney representing the NAACP chapter, when reached by phone Wednesday.

Battle agreed.

“We can take it that one day,” he said. “It’s not supposed to fly at all.”

But days after King sent the letter to the board of commissioners, they officially voted Monday to allow the Confederate flag to be flown yearlong on the courthouse grounds.

Battle said the decision was like a slap in the face.

Only one commissioner, Archie Dupree, voted against the decision, which was made after a brief closed session.

“I thought it’d be inappropriate to fly it and it would offend people,” Dupree said. “That’s why I voted that way.”

Dupree declined to comment further, and efforts to reach the other commissioners for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Not everyone sees the flag as a big deal.

Lynette Reed, a hairdresser of 44 years who runs the Curl Up & Dye beauty shop in Eastman, said the flag has long flown at the courthouse, and she doesn’t see why people are making a fuss about it now.

“I don’t know,” she said. “All of a sudden, they raise a ruckus. I don’t see a problem with it. You couldn’t make (the NAACP) happy if you wanted to.”

Reed said there was some chatter about the issue in her shop Wednesday, but most people support the flag continuing to fly, although she admitted that “some blacks don’t like it.”

Teena Scarborough, one of Reed’s customers who is retired from Robins Air Force Base, said commissioners did the right thing by voting to keep the flag flying.

She said it represents history.

“There were blacks fighting in the Civil War as well as whites,” Scarborough said. “I don’t see anything wrong with it, myself.”

Battle said that the NAACP would prefer not to have to take this issue to court, but he said he plans to sit down with commissioners again next week.

“We would like it to be taken down because of the hatred that flag represented against minorities,” he said, noting that not only black residents are offended by the flag being flown.

“We should be well beyond this point in life. This is 2011,” he said. “These people are supposed to be the leaders of the county going forward, not backward.”

Staff writer Andy M. Drury contributed to this report. To contact writer Caryn Grant, call 744-4347.

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