35 Star Antique American Flag, New York 71st Vol. Infantry Reunion, Civil War
35 STARS, DOUBLE WREATH PATTERN, WITH OVERPRINTED BATTLE HONORS OF THE NY 71ST VOLUNTEER INFANTRY:
35 star parade flag with double-wreath pattern canton. Bears important battle honors of the New York 71st Volunteer Infantry. This is one of only three known varieties of parade flags with battle honors printed on them, and thus it is an exceedingly rare example.
The flag is printed on plain weave cotton of a weight that is unique among known printed flags. The unusual, paint-like pigment is also unlike that found all other parade flags that I have handled. The atypical materials make it challenging to date, but I suggest that the flag was most likely made for reunion of members of the 71st sometime between the 1880's and the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913. A relative or friend may have produced the flags, which would explain their peculiarities. Though the maker was obviously skilled in printing, it is possible that he or she had never before made printed flags. This fact and a rushed schedule to produce them for the event would explain why the maker did not have access to the ordinary ink and coarse, glazed cotton that was typically employed in their manufacture.
The star design is also unique among parade flags, mimicking the medallion pattern found on Civil War cavalry flank markers (guidons). In printed flags, all known wreath designs (with more than 13 stars) have a center star and at least two flanking stars outside the pattern (more commonly four stars, one in each corner). That is also true of most flags with sewn construction. This flag has two consecutive wreaths of stars, but no central star and no flanking stars in the corners, which makes it a very interesting addition to any collection.
A small group of these flags was discovered many years ago by a Civil War collector, rolled up under a table at a Pennsylvania flea market. I had the opportunity to meet this collector and discuss the circumstances of his interesting discovery. While the flags were sold to various parties, they occasionally resurface. That was the case with this example.
Brief History of the 71st New York The New York 71st Volunteer Infantry was comprised of men and boys from Delaware, Cattaraugus, New York, and Ulster counties. The First Corps of this group was recruited in Colchester, New York by Captain William H. Elwood, under the command of General George B. Hall. This took place on June 27th, 1861, and men were enlisted for a three-year term of service (unless sooner discharged). They proceeded to Staten Island, where they consolidated with a company from Great Valley, NY in the brigade led by General Daniel Stickles. They participated in many important conflicts other than those listed on the flag. When their initial terms of service were up, most men dropped their guns and returned home. Lincoln pleaded with his regiments to remain for an extended term, and the NY 71st Volunteers were among the very few who heeded his call.
West Virginia was admitted into the Union as the 35th state on June 20th, 1863, and the 35 star flag was used during the closing years of the Civil War. Although 35 was the official star count until July 4th, 1865, most flag makers would have added a 36th star after the addition of Nevada on October 31st, 1864.
Mounting: The ebonized and gilded molding with chip-carved decoration dates to the period between 1860 and 1890. The flag has been stitched to 100% cotton twill, black in color, which was washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective acrylic.
Condition: There is moderate foxing and staining throughout. There is a tear along the hoist end running laterally approx. 1.25" into the 6th red stripe and there are small tears from where the flag was previously affixed to a wooden staff. There are no other significant condition issues. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.