Museum Acquires NC Battle Flag

Museum Acquires Flag Associated with Gen. Stonewall Jackson's Death

The N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh announces the acquisition of a Confederate battle flag associated with a major turning point of the Civil War - the death of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. The flag was carried by the 18th Regiment North Carolina Troops, which was responsible for the accidental shooting of the Confederate general at Chancellorsville, Va., on May 2, 1863. Severely injured by gunfire, Jackson died a week later of pneumonia.

That fateful May 2 evening, the 18th North Carolina was in a line of battle ready to attack retreating Union troops. Jackson and his staff rode out in front of the Confederate line on reconnaissance. When they returned unannounced, firing broke out along the Southern battle line. In the confusion, soldiers from the 18th North Carolina fired into the dark woods at what they believed was Federal cavalry, mortally wounding Jackson.

The following day, the 18th North Carolina's battle flag was captured by Federal soldiers when the regiment's color-bearer, Cpl. Owen J. Eakins of New Hanover County, was killed during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

The existence of the flag was unknown to the N.C. Museum of History until 1992, when the museum received a letter from its owner. The postwar history of the flag is unclear, but it likely had several owners before it was acquired by Dr. Tom Walsh in the early 1970s. In 1993 the New Jersey college professor loaned the historic banner to the N.C. Museum of History, where it was conserved and appeared in a previous exhibit. Recently, Walsh offered to donate a partial value of the flag to the museum, and the museum purchased the remaining value this May. It is currently on view in A Call to Arms: North Carolina Military History Gallery.

"We are deeply grateful to Dr. Walsh for his generous contribution and for making the purchase of the flag much more affordable to the museum," emphasized Ken Howard, director of the Division of State History Museums. "The flag is now a permanent part of our collection, which ensures that future generations will see it."

In addition to its battle significance, the 18th North Carolina flag has two unusual features. In late 1862, the five regiments in the North Carolina Branch-Lane Brigade received new battle flags. Unlike other flags issued to North Carolina regiments, these flags not only had white battle honors, instead of the usual blue or black, but the honors were painted on both sides of the flag.

"The acquisition of this important Civil War artifact is one of the greatest highlights of my 30-year career with the museum," states Tom Belton, curator of military history.

The flag acquisition is in anticipation of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Celebration, which will take place from 2011 to 2015. The celebration, sponsored by the Office of Archives and History, N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, will commemorate the war's 150th anniversary and feature events and activities.

Visit the N.C. Museum of History to see this newly acquired artifact linked to a brilliant military strategist, whose death some scholars say turned the tide of the Civil War. Thanks to the generosity of the flag's previous owner, this important historic banner will remain in good hands. Said Walsh, "I'm glad the flag is back in North Carolina, where it belongs."

For more information about the museum, call 919-807-7900 or visit ncmuseumofhistory.org.

Unknown by many the above flag was not the national flag of the Southern States during the War of Seccession. It was the regulation regimental flag of the Army of Northern Virgina. Each regiment carried a similar flag inscribed with the Regimental Number, and battle honours.

The flag was not carried and has not been carried by racist groups after the War. The flag most associated with modern day racist groups was the naval jack, which was also carried by the Confederate Army of Tennesee.

More about Confederate flags another day.

Dieu le Roy!
de Brantigny

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