Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Restoring Civil War Flags

With the sesquicentennial anniversary of the War Between the States close at hand, many historians, parks, and other related entities are preparing for the event. However, old battle flags that have lasted through the years are being pushed by the wayside. The problem is that state budgets don't allow for restoration of the flags due to current economic hard times. New York houses the country's largest state-owned flag collection, but has been forced to scale back its $100,000 annual flag funding this year. Indiana has incorporated its state flag-conservation fund with its general fund, and Ohio hasn't received funding for its 400 battle flags in almost ten years.

States don't realize that it is the wrong time to cut back, as preservation will ultimately result in increased tourism. Regardless, a few southern states have managed to set aside funds to restore their battle flags, one of which is North Carolina. During the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble charge at Gettysburg, the 11th N.C. carried several flags, but only one survived, avoiding capture by Union troops. The flag, although badly worn on the edges, has recently been restored by the state. It is now part of the Confederate flag collection at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, and will soon be on public display.

It goes without saying that many other flags are in desperate need of restoration. Perhaps as the 150th anniversary nears, states will reassess their funding and allot monies toward this worthy cause. There are several thousand state-owned battle flags in the U.S., but only a few have been preserved. Unfortunately, many have deteriorated to the point where they are beyond repair, mostly due to neglect.

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