SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
THE STORY OF A BATTLE FLAG.
HOW THE COLORS OF THE TWENTY-SIXTH [SOUTH CAROLINA] WERE LOST AND FOUND.
Capt. Buck’s Capture with the Flag on the Front at Petersburg—The Colors not Heard of again for Twenty Years—Found in a Missouri Armory—Generous Resolutions of the Missouri Legislature Restoring the Flag to its Original Owners.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NEWS AND COURIER:
Official information having been received by me of the passage of the joint resolution of the General Assembly of Missouri, restoring to the survivors of the 26th regiment of S[outh]. C[arolina]. V[olunters]., of the army of the late Confederate States, their battle flag, lost at the storming of Fort Steadman [sic, Stedman], March 25, 1865, and steps having been taken to receive the same, it is due to all the survivors to know, at as early a day as possible, the history of its capture, subsequent discovery and final restoration. We know of no channel through which we can so readily impart the information as that of your widely circulated paper.
Early in 1884, Mr. S. W. Ravenel of Missouri, once a citizen of South Carolina, published in his paper, the Booneville ADVERTISER, the fact that he had observed in the State Armory at Jefferson City this battle flag among the trophies of war. This notice was copied in the Berkeley GAZETTE, published at Mount Pleasant in our State, with remarks of the editor. This article was copied into the Darlington NEWS, and a copy sent to one of us. We forthwith corresponded with Mr. Ravenel, who evinced a marked interest in the matter, and from him learned that the Executive of Missouri could not restore the flag without the authority of the General Assembly. Thereupon the surviving field and staff officers of our regiment prepared the following petition, and forwarded it to Mr. Ravenel, with the request that he would place the same in charge of some member of the General Assembly, to present the same to that body, which he kindly and cheerfully did:
A PETITION TO THE MISSOURI LEGISLATURE.
To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Missouri: The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth: That they are the surviving officers of the field and staff of the 26th regiment of the South Carolina Volunteers of the late Confederate States army.
As such, the duty is devolved on us to collect for preservation, the rolls, records and relics of the regiment.
A few months ago we were informed by Mr. Samuel W. Ravenel, a citizen of Missouri and resident of Boonville, that among the trophies of the late war between the States, stored in the armory at the capital of your State, is the battle flag of the 26th regiment, S. C. V., C. S. A.
Through Mr. Ravenel we at once communicated with the adjutant-general of your State, to ascertain if this flag could be restored to the survivors of the regiment for preservation. That officer informed him that this could only be effected by an Act of the Legislature.
This battle flag was lost to us at the storming and capture of Fort Steadman, on the morning of March 25, 1865, a strong earthwork on the lines around Petersburg, Va. The fort and lines to the right and left, to a considerable distance, were surprised and captured by a body of the forces of Gen. Lee, under command of [Second Corps commander] Lieut.-Gen. J[ohn]. B. Gordon, and were held for several hours.
During this time our regiment occupied portions of the fort and of the lines contiguous, and having to conform to the angles and irregularities of the trenches, became, at certain points, somewhat separated into detachments, so that orders were not readily passed along the entire line of the regiment.
Under the fierce and destructive fire of the Federal army, direct and enfilade, it became necessary to withdraw the assaulting column, and this was accordingly done by Gen. Gordon.
At the time the order to withdraw was extended this battle flag was in the hands of Capt. H[enry]. L. Buck, the commander of one of our companies. Being in an angle of the fort, and maintaining his ground in the face of a heavy onset of Gen. Grant’s troops, he, with the flag, was captured. The entire regiment narrowly escaped the same fate. From that day until a few months ago we heard no more of our battle flag, when, as above stated, we learned that it was in the armory of Missouri at Jefferson City as a trophy of war.
It is a source of satisfaction to us to state that this was our only battle flag throughout that war; that it was with becoming courage guarded and defended by the soldiers of the regiment, and is unstained by a single act of cowardice.
In behalf of the surviving officers and soldiers of the regiment, we submit to your honorable body, this, our humble prayer, that this flag may be restored to us for safekeeping and preservation among our records and archives.
To a member of a Missouri Legislature it is needless to enlarge upon the ties that bind a soldier to his battle flag, and the depth of his sorrow at its loss. Equally vain would be the attempt to express, in words, the fulness of his joy at its restoration. All this you fully understand and appreciate. Nor do we believe that considerations of the merits and character of the strife in which we were engaged will be permitted to influence your honorable body to refuse this most earnest petition.
Time is fast healing the wounds which that sad and cruel war inflicted upon the two sections of our common country. May a kind Providence hasten the day when all traces of bitterness will be entirely effaced. In that struggle we lost all, save honor born of valor—an honor freely accorded to us by the brave soldiers of the army of the United States. Confiding, therefore, in your chivalric generosity, we humbly pray that you will kindly restore to us this precious relic. And we most respectfully subscribe ourselves
Your obedient servants.
August 30, 1884.
At the session of the General Assembly recently held the following resolutions were introduced and unanimously adopted:
THE ACT OF RESTORATION.
Joint and concurrent Resolutions authorizing and instructing the Adjutant-General to restore to the surviving field and staff officers of the 26th regiment, South Carolina. Volunteers, of the late Confederate States army, the battle flag of their regiment.
Whereas, the battle flag of the 26th regiment of the South Carolina Volunteers of the late Confederate States army is now held as a trophy in the State armory.
Whereas, Lieut.-Col. J. H. Hudson, Major C. S. Land and Adjt. B. F. Miller, the surviving field and staff officers of said regiment, have petitioned the Legislature of the State of Missouri to have said flag restored to them for preservation.
BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate, the House of Representatives concurring therein: That the adjutant-general of the State of Missouri be, and he is hereby authorized and instructed to restore to the surviving field and staff officers of the 26th regiment of the South Carolina Volunteers of the late Confederate States army, their battle flag now in his possession, taking their receipt therefor.
RESOLVED, That in order that the captors of these colors may not be deprived of their full measure of glory, in place of the position occupied by these colors a white flag, an emblem of peace be substituted, and that thereon shall be inscribed in large letters the following:
“This flag has been substituted for the battle flag of the 26th regiment of South Carolina Volunteers, Confederate States army, captured by the ___th regiment of Missouri Volunteers at the battle of Fort Steadman on the 25th day of March, 18651, the same having upon the petition and at the request of the surviving field and staff officers of said regiment been turned over to them by a concurrent resolution of the Thirty-third General Assembly of the State of Missouri.”
So soon as we were officially notified of the passage of the joint resolution we prepared and forwarded to Governor Marmaduke and the General Assembly of Missouri the following address of thanks, and at the same time forwarded to Adjutant-General J. C. Jamison an application to have the flag forwarded to us. In a very short time we hope to have it in possession, after which suitable arrangements will be made for its proper disposition and custody. For the active interest Captain F. W. Dawson has taken personally in the restoration of this banner, and the material aid he has proffered us from the beginning, we return our warmest thanks. He will be kindly remembered by the survivors of the old regiment. To Mr. Ravenel we have sent our special thanks for the active part he has taken in our behalf.
AN ADDRESS OF THANKS.
To the Governor of the State of Missouri, and the Honorable, the Senators and Representatives of the General Assembly of the said State:
Gentlemen: The pleasing intelligence has been offically conveyed to the undersigned surviving field and staff officers of the 26th Regiment of the South Carolina volunteers of the late Confederate States army, that the General Assembly of the State of Missouri has adopted a concurrent resolution, directing our captured battle flag to be restored to us in accordance with the prayer of our petition. We hasten to assure you that this generous action, promptly and unanimously taken, touches the tenderest feelings of our hearts, and calls for an immediate return of our warmest thanks, which we hereby most cheerfully tender.
An early application will be made to the adjutant-general of Missouri for its delivery, according to the direction of your resolution.
This relic of the late sad and bloody war between the States of this Union, the bitter feeling engendered by which are now happily passing away and being replaced by friendly ties of a closer union, will be received, preserved and cherished by us, not as an emblem of sectional hatred and internecine strife, but as a memento of the associations which cluster around it as our guiding star in the trying days of that fierce struggle in which so many of our brave comrades fell in its defence under honest and earnest convictions of right and duty.
It will be further endeared to us because of the generous spirit actuating you in restoring it; and, with the banner, battle-scarred and torn, will be preserved the handsome and manly resolutions of your honorable body, so suggestive of the beneficence of white-winged Peace.
With assurance of our fullest appreciation of the sentiments of the resolutions, and reiterating our deep-felt thankfulness, we have the honor to subscribe ourselves,
Most truly, your obedient servants,
J. H. HUDSON, Lieut.-Colonel.
C. S. LAND, Major.
B. F. MILLER, Adjutant.2
- SOPO Editor’s Note: There were no Union Missouri regiments at the Siege of Petersburg. If you know where I can look to find out how this flag ended up in Missouri after the war, I would be very interested in pulling on this thread for a future post. ↩
- “The Story of a Battle .” Charleston News and Courier. April 15, 1885, p. 3 col. 1-2 ↩