March 3, 2013

'One of the Happiest Days': New Flags for the 79th Pennsylvania

Location: Murfreesboro, TN, USA
Regimental flag of the 76th Pennsylvania by Evans and Hassall (PA Capitol Preservation Committee)
One of the 79th Pennsylvania's "Lancaster flags" would have looked very similar to this one.
 On February 23, 1863, three citizens of Lancaster arrived at the camp of the 79th Pennsylvania near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  Besides carrying a large box of articles and letters for distribution to men in the regiment, they carried another set of items eagerly anticipated by the regiment.  A set of four beautiful flags purchased by the collected donations of Lancaster's citizens had finally arrived. 

The idea for purchasing these flags seems to have had its origins in a proposal published in the November 18, 1862, Intelligencer, edited by Lancaster's Mayor George Sanderson.  Sanderson proposed taking up a subscription at $1 each to purchase a new stand of colors for $200 to "show a proper appreciation" of the regiment's actions at the Battle of Perryville a month earlier.  Within a week, the fund was over-subscribed and the colors were purchased from Evans & Hassall of Philadelphia.  Extra money was donated to the Union Dorcas Society to provide relief for soldiers' families.  [Intell 11/18/1862, DEE 1/24/1863]

The flags were completed and around the New Year arrived in Lancaster, where they were displayed in the court house.  The January 6, 1863, Intelligencer described them:
The flags are four in number, the principal being the State flag; the second the regimental, (or National) and two small guide flags.  The first is of blue silk and yellow silk fringe, with an eagle surrounded by a halo.  From the claws of the eagle depends a scroll with the inscription--"Presented by citizens of Lancaster, Pa., to the 79th Regiment, P. V., for gallant conduct at Chaplin Hills, Ky., October 8th, 1862."  On the reverse is the coat of arms of Pennsylvania, above which in a halo are the words in guilt letters--"Chaplin Hills, Ky., October 8th, 1862."  Underneath, in a scroll, is the same inscription as on the first side.  This flag is very handsome and strongly made, and free from an over quantity of paint which figures so many presentation flags."  

The Regimental or National flag is made of strong heavy silk, bordered with yellow fringe.  On the centre bar on both sides are the letters in gold--"79th Regiment P.V."  The guide flags are of blue silk with yellow silk fringe, with the number of the regiment in gold letters.
Chosen to escort the colors to Tennessee were three men from the committee in charge of procuring the colors.  Foremost among them was Lewis Haldy (bio), a fascinating man with a background in the freight and marble/tombstone business who tirelessly supported the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster and other aid operations in Lancaster during the war.  Over the past year, he had already made three other trips to the seat of war (to the Pennsylvania Reserves in summer 1862, 79th PA after Perryville, and the 122nd PA in February 1863), delivering car loads of goods on behalf of the Patriot Daughters, making connections with Lancaster's soldiers in hospitals, and arranging logistics for bringing dozens of soldiers' remains back to Lancaster.  Rounding out the committee were Andrew B. Meixell, a freight agent, and Robert A. Evans, a wealthy banker who later owned Rock Ford.

The flag presentation took place on March 1, 1863, delayed several days by rainy weather.  The whole brigade, its commander Col. John C. Starkweather, and the regiment's former brigade commander Gen. James A. Negley all witnessed the presentation.  Haldy "unwrapped and exposed to the eager gaze of every one the magnificent banner," and read an address to the regiment, which would be reprinted in Lancaster's newspapers (read it here).  Col. Hambright replied and accepted the flags, pledging "these splendid colors shall be borne by the stoutest arm to the thickest of the conflict, there to remind us of fond friends in our native county, to revive the most pleasing memories, and stimulate us to true, exalted, and patriotic duty."  Starkweather and Negley followed with addresses to the soldiers' delight.          

79th PA Monument
Featuring incident with
Lancaster flag at the
Battle of Chickamauga
(PA at Ch. & Ch.)
Following that, according to Company E soldier Elias H. Witmer, "Three hearty cheers were then given by the brigade--and thus closed one of the happiest days in the eventful history of the Seventy-Ninth."  (DEE, 3/12/1863)  Captain Morris D. Wickersham agreed writing, "Home, kindred, society--all were remembered.  The day was truly a happy one, and we returned to Camp uttering, 'Long live the good people of Lancaster.'"  (Intel, 3/17/1863)

The stand of flags replaced what I believe were more generic colors given by Gen. Negley in November 1861 and/or April 1862.  The situation is confusing given a controversy over regimental numbering between the 77th and 79th Pennsylvania in 1861 and I have found no evidence that the regiment carried what is listed as the "First State Color" was ever used.  The Lancaster flags were carried through the Battle of Chickamauga, where they were NOT captured*.  At Chickamauga, it was one of these flags that Corp. William F. Dostman was mortally wounded carrying in an incident that provided inspiration for regimental monument.  The flags were sent back to Lancaster after much use in 1864, and became a prized possession of GAR Post 84 in Lancaster to which many 79th PA veterans belonged.  Sadly, the post was destroyed by fire on February 10, 1910, and the flags were lost. 

* Reports of the capture of the 79th Pennsylvania's colors stem from an error in Confederate official reports of the Battle of Chickamauga (p. 154).   Various officers listed the 77th Indiana or Illinois and 79th Pennsylvania when they really meant 79th Illinois and 77th Pennsylvania.  Other Confederate reports correctly list the 77th Pennsylvania as having its flag captured.

March 2, 2013

Diary of Capt. E. D. Roath Published

Location: Marietta, PA, USA
Last summer I posted (link) about a series of auctions of that I missed related to Lancaster's Civil War history.  Immediately after posting that, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from John P. Mulcahy, a direct descendant of Capt. Emanuel D. Roath (bio) who had been able to purchase the items related to Capt. Roath to return to the family. 

John recently published an annotated version of the diary, which covers the year 1864 with the 107th Pennsylvania and Roath's experiences as a prisoner of war at Libby Prison.  John has done a great job, and I recommend the book, A Fine Day -- The Civil War Diary of Captain Emanual D. Roath, 107th PA Volunteers, especially to anyone interested in what was previously the Union Army First Corps or in the social network and duties of a Civil War captain from a small town.