North Carolina to conserve Civil War flag

33rd north carolina flag

Efforts have begun to conserve a North Carolina state flag captured by Union forces during the Battle of New Bern.

The banner was carried by the 33rd North Carolina State Troops during the March 14, 1862, battle at New Bern, NC. The encounter marked one of Federal leader Ambrose Burnside’s few highlights during the war, when his troops overcame an undermanned Confederate position and captured what was a key supply point.

New Bern would remain under Yankee control for the remainder of the war.

The conservation of the 33rd North Carolina regimental flag is the latest project of the Society for the Historical Preservation of the 26th Regiment North Carolina Troops, the largest group of War Between the States re-enactors in the Tar Heel State.

The 26th Regiment is working with the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh to conserve the 150-year-old standard; the effort will cost an estimated $7,500 to $10,000.

The 33rd North Carolina State Troops was organized in Raleigh in September 1861 and saw its first action at New Bern, according to the New Bern Sun Journal.

During the battle, the 33rd North Carolina suffered the greatest number of casualties of the six Confederate regiments engaged, with 32 men killed, 28 wounded and more than 100 taken prisoner, including its commander, Col. Clarke Avery.

In all, Confederate losses were 64 killed, 101 wounded and 413 captured or missing. Northern casualties were 90 killed, 380 wounded and 1 missing.

The 33rd North Carolina and the 26th North Carolina were the last two units to withdraw from the New Bern battlefield.

Map showing New Bern battlefield.

Map showing New Bern battlefield.

“These two regiments were the best armed and fought the most gallantly of any of the enemy’s forces,” Lt. Col. William S. Clark, commander of the 21st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, wrote in the official after-action report. “They kept up an incessant fire for three hours, until their ammunition was exhausted and the remainder of the rebel forces had retreated.”

The North Carolina Museum of History describes the banner as, “a standard wool bunting state flag, although it lacks any method of attachment to a staff.”

It is likely that Union Brig. Gen.  John G. Foster captured the standard when he took Clarke and a significant portion of the 33rd North Carolina’s troops, according to the New Bern Sun Journal.

According to a 1917 article in the Raleigh News & Observer, Foster gave the flag to his friend Col. John L. Lay, who kept it in his possession until he gave it to his sister, Mary A. Ensign of Buffalo, N.Y.

Eventually, the flag came to the attention of the Rev. Charles A. Jessup, rector of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Buffalo and a friend of Ensign. Jessup urged that it be returned to North Carolina.

He contacted Mary Eugene Little of Wadesboro, N.C., of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who then notified North Carolina Gov. Thomas W. Bickett.

Ensign died in September, and Jessup subsequently returned the flag in a ceremony at the Hall of History on Oct. 14, 1917, the Sun Journal reported.

Through a partnership with the N.C. Museum of History, the 26th North Carolina has raised funds to restore battle flags belonging to seven other Confederate regiments: the 1st North Carolina State Troops, 16th North Carolina, 22nd North Carolina, 26th North Carolina, 47th North Carolina, 52nd North Carolina and 58th North Carolina.

Donations to help conserve the 33rd North Carolina State Troops flag are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of donations will go towards the project. For more information, click here.

Once the 33rd North Carolina flag project is completed, a special ceremony re-dedicating the flag will be held at the museum, according to the New Bern Sun Journal.

6 thoughts on “North Carolina to conserve Civil War flag

    • Some folks are always going to see *anything* associated with the Confederacy as something to get riled up about; it’s proven an effective means to raise money and attention for those who need a target to focus on.

      Of course, it’s harder to take umbrage with efforts to restore flags and such. Unfortunately, many of those who denigrate the Confederacy with a broad brush overlook genuine efforts to preserve history, just as some ignore efforts to preserve black history.

      The way I see it, it’s all part of our history here in the US and should all be recognized as such. It’s made us what we are today, good, bad and in between.

      • I tend to agree. Up to the 1990s there was very much a cultural indifference in Ireland to preserving the “Big Houses” of the former ruling Anglo-Irish Ascendancy. They were viewed as visible reminders of foreign oppression. That changed with the rise of the “Celtic Tiger” and the fading of the last vestiges of the old order as more and more properties and grand estates were bequeathed to the state and public ownership. They became historical artefacts in their own right rather than just monuments to colonisation. Though arguably that process may have gone too far in the other direction with the white-washing of the more uncomfortable facts of history by tour-guides and information brochures.

      • I’ve always found it curious how Southerners are held accountable, in many cases rightly so, for a wide range of sins, yet the English and their supporters in Ireland have largely managed to escape anywhere near the same degree of scrutiny for actions that at least as reprehensible. Not unlike the fact that the Soviets have never had to face the music for their actions during Stalin’s long, miserable reign.

  1. I agree, on all accounts. The four great “evil empires” of the 20th century were the USSR, the Third Reich, the Japanese Empire and the British Empire. Yet of those four the British and USSR are rarely listed at all, except by those who experienced their rule. There is no nostalgia for the Third Reich or old Japanese Empire except by extreme nationalists and such-like and certainly not in Western popular culture. Yet in the contemporary Russian Federation and in Britain those times are viewed with nostalgia. Longing even. Only the British could turn their empire of human suffering into a sort of rose-tinted Downton Abbey and have much of the Western world buy into it.

    British PM David Cameron on his official visit to India refuses to apologize for the actions of the former empire. How is he different in attitude to Vladimir Putin, the great re-writer and white-washer of Russian history?

    • In some odd way I can understand the aging Russian pensioner longing for the days of “order” that existed under Stalin. Time, I suppose, tends to blur bad memories, leaving the more pleasant.

      Less understandable is how Great Britain is held up by many today as being a leader in the emancipation movement while ignoring its role in slavery in the first place. In the New World alone, Britain helped bring millions of enslaved Africans to the New World. Once it no longer had a strong vested economic interest in the region, it was much easier for the British to opine that slavery was an evil and should be done away with. Of course, this was while Great Britain still kept much of the rest of the world under its thumb and treated many other people as de facto slaves.

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