[Civil War] Confed. 2nd Nat. Flag captured by 1st Del. cavalry
Posted By: John Morris (22.214.171.124)
Date: Wednesday, 14 July 2010 0530 hrs. EDT
Photo and description contributed by members Sam and Wes Small of The Horse Soldier, Gettysburg, PA
Presented here is a remarkable specimen of a Confederate Second National flag captured at Petersburg, Virginia during the last days of the War Between the States. This fine Southern cloth artifact is a garrison flag that was captured at rebel-held Fort Gregg on April 2, 1865 by Lieutenant William H. Bird, 1st Delaware Cavalry. The specimen, which measures 116" on its leading edge and 180" on its fly, is constructed in the pattern of a Confederate 2nd National flag with the Army of Northern Virginia design in the canton.
William H. Bird was a twenty-two year old from Wilmington, Delaware when he enlisted as a second lieutenant in Company "B", 1st Battalion, Delaware Cavalry Volunteers on October 1, 1862. Bird, accompanied by his servant named George Washington, officially mustered into the unit on January 20, 1863. He served with his unit assigned to the defenses of Baltimore with the 8th Army Corps until he re-enlisted in May 1864. In June, Bird was appointed to the General Staff of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 6th Army Corps as 1st Lt. and ADC to Colonel William Penrose. In March of 1865, the young officer was placed on detached service with the staff of Major General Emory Upton in the field.
William Bird was Brevet Captain for 'gallant and meritorious service' before Petersburg on April 2, 1865 when he and other Union officers led the charge on the enemy's works at Fort Gregg. Bird captured this Confederate flag in the ensuing fighting and he is written up in the after-action report of later Brevet Brigadier General William Penrose. A portion of the text in the report is found in the OR's in Chapter LV111, "The Appomattox Campaign", pps 927-995, Ser 1, Vol 46, part 1. The text reads, "Lt. Bird, along with three other officers, led the charge on the enemy's works at Petersburg, VA at Fort Gregg, and by their magnificent conduct insured the success. They entered the works with their men during the assault, and pushing on drove the enemy, clearing the ground for the organization of troops. One battle flag was taken during this action as stated in the report by Bvt. Brig Gen. William H. Penrose, Hdqtrs First Brigade, First Division, Sixth Corps."
After the war, William Bird relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, where he married, set up residence, studied law and became a lawyer. He died in Salt Lake on May 18, 1906 at the age of 66. 'The Horse Soldier' purchased the flag a few years ago in Massachusetts when this specimen was consigned to an auction by a direct member of the Bird family.
This original Civil War Confederate flag of the 2nd National Garrison pattern measures 116" on the leading edge and 180" at the fly while its canton, with the A.N.V. flag design, measures 74" on the hoist and 78" on the fly. In good condition, the canton exhibits a red wool field constructed with four full loom widths 18½" long. The hoist and fly quadrants each have three horizontal seams while the top and bottom quadrants each have two seams. The fields are crossed with one layer of blue wool bunting to form a cross with the long arm of the cross running from the top fly to the bottom hoist. Inserted (sewn) in the cross are thirteen off-white cotton stars that measure 8" point to point. The stars are arranged with three on each arm of the cross and one centered at the intersection. The fly consists of eight lengths of off-white single ply bunting of which six lengths are full loom widths and two (top and bottom) less that the full width. The flag is intact save for a large missing area on the bottom fly corner where a section approximately two feet long by 3" high is missing and appears to have been cut off. Remainder of the flag exhibits scattered small and some large holes throughout that appear the work of rodents and insects. A series of light red stains in an almost a vertical pattern just beyond the fly end of the canton, appear to have occurred while the flag was folded in storage. All the fabrics, though severely creased, are quite strong and light exposure damage is not evident.
The flag is accompanied with a written analysis report from the Textile Preservation Associates, Inc that ascertains the validity of the flag. Included with this artifact are the military and pension records of William Bird from the National Archives in Washington, D.C and a brief history of the 1st Delaware Cavalry. Also included is a reproduction, black and white, outdoor photograph of Lt Bird, dressed in his cavalry uniform standing next to his horse, as well as an 8"x10" color photograph of the flag.
This museum-quality Confederate Second National flag is a remarkable specimen.
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