Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles The Herald is publishing about Botetourt’s involvement in the War Between The States as part of the sesquicentennial of that American Civil War. One of the most important pieces of equipment that units had was the flag they carried. Botetourt’s units followed several different regimental flags, and most had their own company flag. Today, two flags with local connections are drawing attention at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Others in the series can be found in previous editions of The Herald.
By EDWIN McCOY
“We marched off gaily… following the flag presented to us by the Botetourt ladies and carried by (William) McCue…. We were cheered on our way by the waving of kerchiefs and throwing of bouquets as we passed on….”
Rufus H. Peck, a private in what would become Company C of the 2nd Va. Calvary, was writing about leaving Fincastle on May 17, 1861 en route to Lynchburg and their start in the Civil War.
He and his fellow unit of Botetourt soldiers called themselves the Botetourt Dragoons, and like so many others, the unit went on to distinguish itself in minor and major engagements throughout the war.
The flag they marched under would serve the unit for two years, according to Peck’s account of the war that he wrote some years later from his Fincastle home, and he would be the one to present the flag to the Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) in 1907.
The flag has been in the museum’s possession ever since, and today it is one of the MOC’s “Top 12 Flags in Need of Conservation” (http://www.moc.org/site/PageServer?pagename=md_flag_main).
According to Cathy Wright, curator at the MOC, the Botetourt Dragoons’ company flag is a silk Virginia state flag with a blue field and gold fringe. On one side, it has an oil-painted Virginia state seal and motto with a presentation history inscription in gold paint. On the reverse is a wreath with the unit name and the inscription, “Organized Jan. 9, 1860,” in gold paint. The seal is signed “Alfred T. Jones” and the motto in gold paint reads “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.”
The flag is 39″x49-1/2”.
Wright said the flag has a somewhat contradictory history.
It was presented to the unit by the Ladies of Botetourt County, Virginia, Peck wrote in his “Reminiscences of a Confederate Soldier” that was printed in 1913. “This flag was used during the first two years of the war, and after our victory at the first battle of Manassas Junction we were presented with another flag and our first flag was sent to Richmond.”
Wright said after the war the flag remained in Fincastle until it was presented to the MOC on May 7, 1907 by Peck through Mrs. Norman Randolph. This was the same day as the Jefferson Davis and JEB Stuart monument unveilings on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Wright notes.
She said the Botetourt Dragoons’ flag was possibly presented on behalf of the unit, as Peck mentions it was sent to the museum and he had the honor of presenting it.
The other flag that needs conservation is the regimental battle flag from the 11th Va. Infantry.
Two of the 10 units in the 11th Va. Infantry were from Botetourt and fought under that flag– the Fincastle Rifles and the Valley Regulators. The latter was originally a militia unit that included Botetourt and Rockbridge men who became Company K in the 11th Va. Infantry. The Fincastle Rifles became Company D.
The MOC Flag Conservation Program essentially seeks to pair a sponsor (individual or group) with a particular flag in need of conservation, with the goal of raising the necessary funds for treatment, Wright wrote in an email about the program.
“The main responsibility of the sponsor is strictly to fundraise– the MOC takes care of everything else,” she said.
Before an individual or group gains sponsorship, there is an initial cost of $250 that covers the expenses associated with transporting the flag to the MOC’s textile conservator in West Virginia for evaluation and to get a written cost estimate for the conservation treatment. The painstaking treatments can run into the thousands of dollars, depending on the flag’s condition.
After receipt of the “treatment proposal,” the potential sponsor may decide to continue with the project by sending the MOC a letter of intent outlining the financial support pledged and a proposed time frame for payment, Wright said.
She noted the MOC has an entire packet devoted to outlining the Flag Conservation Program for potential sponsors.
The Botetourt Dragoons’ flag is among those needing a sponsor, so there’s no estimate on the cost of conserving the flag.
The 11th Virginia Volunteer Infantry, Company G, Lynchburg Home Guard, a reenacting unit in Lynchburg, has become the sponsor for raising funds to conserve the 11th Va. Infantry Battle Flag, according to member Bob Hopkins of Lynchburg. He’s also a member of the Lynchburg Civil War Roundtable.
Hopkins has helped revive that fundraising effort since the endeavor can seem expensive.
“We got an estimate from MOC for the conservation– $11,900.” Hopkins wrote in an email.
The reenactment group has sent $1,000 to the MOC since last fall as well as gotten pledges for another $2,000 over the next four years. “… we are close to one-quarter of the way there already, not counting what else is going in to MOC without us knowing about it,” Hopkins wrote.
The reenactment unit has a display about the flag project they’ve begun setting up at reenactments, and they have a design with the flag for shirts to sell that also promote the project.
“Our goal is to have the money raised no later than the end of 2014, so the conservation can be completed and the flag back to MOC before April 2015,” Hopkins said.
The 11th Va. Regiment served with distinction in a number of battles from First Manassas in July 1861 to Sailor’s Creek in April 1865. The flag was captured by Lt. William W. Winegar of the 1st N.Y. Dragoons at the Battle of Five Forks southwest of Petersburg on April 1, 1865– eight days before Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
Those wanting to donate to conserving the 11th Va. Infantry Battle Flag can do so by sending donations to Cathy Wright, Curator, Museum of the Confederacy, 1201 East Clay St., Richmond, 23219. Contributions are tax deductible and should include information that the donation is for the 11th Va. Battle Flag.
Donations also can be made online at the MOC website at http://www.moc.org. Go to Membership & Donations and click on the Flag Conservation Program.
Individuals or groups interested in becoming a sponsor for the Botetourt Dragoons’ conservation effort can contact Wright at the same website or by emailing [email protected].