An exceedingly rare Confederate battle flag that flew at the bloody Battle of Franklin returned home to South Carolina Wednesday.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans and the state of South Carolina worked together to purchase a banner of the 19th South Carolina infantry regiment from a small museum in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for $50,000.
The flag is one of just six known examples of “Macon Arsenal” banners, produced in Macon, Ga.
The wool flag is approximately 48 inches by 52 inches. Macon Arsenal flags are distinctive because the white Cross of St. Andrew extends through the center, isolating the banner’s center star.
The flag’s value is at least $150,000, said Randy Burbage, an official with the South Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Burbage said that a new museum in Franklin, Tenn., wanted the flag, as well, and offered twice what South Carolina paid for it.
South Carolina officials were able to partially persuade officials at the Oak Ridge museum by producing a newspaper article from the 1950s in which a Granitville, S.C., woman, the daughter of the flag’s original owner, believed to have served with the 19th South Carolina, said she wanted the flag returned to the Palmetto State after she died.
The flag was donated to the museum by a doctor at some point after that, but it’s unclear how he came into possession of it, or when he gave it to the museum.
The flag is in need of conservation and the next step will be for the state to send out a request for bids. It will likely cost several thousand dollars to conserve the banner.
The Macon Arsenal began producing ordnance for the Confederacy in May 1862, initially manufacturing 6- and 12-pound cannon. It eventually began producing ammunition and accouterments such as flags before being captured by Federal forces just before the war’s conclusion in April 1865.
The arsenal was one of the ways in which the Confederacy tried to counteract the Union shipping blockade, which hindered European arms and supplies from reaching Southern destinations, according to a 2006 story in The Capitol of Annapolis, Md.
In 2007, a Macon Arsenal flag captured by the 17th Indiana Mounted Infantry in April 1865 was sold by Heritage Auctions for $179,250.
Unlike most South Carolina regiments, the 19th South Carolina spent the majority of the war fighting in the west, and was attached to the Army of Tennessee for a good part of the conflict.
The unit saw action at the Battle of Atlanta, Franklin and in the Carolinas Campaign near the war’s end.
It surrendered near High Point, N.C., on April 26, 1865, with the Army of Tennessee.
(Above: Example of Confederate Battle Flag produced at the Macon Arsenal.)