Pennsylvania’s Civil War War Flags Collection

The tattered and blood-stained flags — some ripped in shreds, others riddled with bullet holes — are treasured by the state’s archivists as tangible links to the Pennsylvanians who served in the war. The museum quality replicas now on display are constructed of silk taffeta and hand painted by Steven Hill of Boston. “Flags were used to rally men and to communicate with the enemy,” says Museum Director Matthew Vallier, who oversees the state’s military battle flag collection. “Many victories would have been lost if not for brave flag-bearers encouraging their men to fight on with their precious icon.”Go

After the war, many soldiers chose to hold onto their battle flags. Some reappear at regimental reunions and eventually made their way into the state collection. Others are still in private hands. Ultimately, the collection grew to more than 2,000. The majority are from the Civil War. Of those, around 60 percent have been professionally conserved.

War Flags Collection: Commemorating Conflict through Banners

Vallier says most of the remaining flags will be sent out for conservation soon. The cost for one is about $30,000. “We’ll be able to encapsulate them and give them the protection they need to last another century or more,” Vallier says.

The rare 2nd Spartan Regiment Flag, for example, is a guidon that was first issued to the unit sometime before it participated in the Battle of Cowpens, where it helped push Union troops back from their positions at Barboursville and Rock Castle. A scroll of battle honors adorns the fluttering flag, including the names of Barboursville, Fishing Creek, Shiloh and Vicksburg.

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