Thursday, September 20, 2007

Flags of Lane's Brigade at Gettysburg

Keith Snipes wrote recently looking for more information regarding the battle flags of Lane’s brigade. Keith wrote:

Your writing of the missing state flag for the 37th North Carolina compels me to ask about another of the regiment's apparently missing banners - the 1863 Richmond Depot issue with the blue battle honors.

Mr. Glenn Dedmondt's The Flags of Civil War North Carolina doesn't mention such a banner existing. Yet, his book does confirm that each of Lane's other four regiments had carried such a flag. The only regimental standard discussed for the 37th North Carolina is the earlier issued Branch/Lane brigade banner.

I’ve given this subject matter a lot of thought and some debate. I usually get shot down on the debate end. But hey, what would the world be without a little debate.

A lot of folks say that Lane’s brigade (7th, 18th, 28th, 33rd, and 37th NCTs) got new Richmond Depot flags right before the battle of Gettysburg. These flags have the battle honors painted in blue, with the regimental desigantion in gold above and below the center star. Dedmont writes in his The Flags of Civil War North Carolina:

The 7th Regiment North Carolina State Troops received this flag as part of the June 1863 distribution of 3rd (bunting) issue flags to A. P. Hill’s Light Division.

Dedmondt goes on to say the same thing about flags issued to the 18th, 28th, and 33rd, but not the 37th. And please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not picking on Dedmondt. Others have said this; I just happen to have Dedmondt’s book here on my desk.

So, did the 37th NCT get one of these flags? You would think, that had this been a wholesale flag issue to the regiments in the Light Division, that there would be some mention of the 37th NCT’s flag. But alas, no mention what-so-ever of the flag being issued to the 37th NCT. Furthermore, there appears to be no record of another flag ever being issued to the 37th NCT. It would seem that they carried their December 1862 for the rest of the war, until it was captured on April 2, 1865, just outside of Petersburg.

Now for the problems. I’ll start with the 37th. I’ve spent considerable time standing in front of the display case (when at Pamplin Park) looking at the 37th NCT’s flag. While I know that the flag has been restored, it is still in remarkable shape for a flag that belonged to one of the hardest fighting regiments in the ANV. That flag would have seen the whistle of balls and the shriek of cannon at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Mine Run, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor, and a host of the battle during the Petersburg Campaign. While some patching of the flag is evident, one would think that it would be shot to shreds.

So, based upon this simple observation, I would think that there would be another 37th NCT battle flag out there somewhere. Maybe it was captured and some Yank took it home as a souvenir, or maybe it was taken home by a member of the regiment, or maybe it was tied to a rock and dumped into a river on the retreat.

Now for more problem with the flag of the 7th NCST captured at Gettysburg. Why does the flag issued to the 7th NCST and supposedly captured at Gettysburg have both the "Wilderness" and "Chancellorsville" painted on it? Some folks say that this represents two different actions during the battle of Chancellorsville. But why do none of the other regiments in A. P. Hill’s Division, who were involved in the same actions at Chancellorsville, have this same arrangement of battle honors?

Why is it that the 7th NCST was carrying this flag, while the 28th NCT was carrying their flag with the white battle honors, which they also lost on July 3. Is it possible that the flag of the 7th NCST captured at Gettysburg was also their first issued battle flag, of which only a fragment survives? Is it possible that the flag always attributed to being captured on day 3 was captured at a later date and mis-identified as the flag captured at Gettysburg?

Well, there we have it. As I said earlier, what’s the world without a little debate? Maybe some day I’ll post the reasons why Lee chose Wilcox over Lane to command the Light Division. No, it has nothing to do with Jackson.

Keith - I enjoyed the article in Gettysburg Magazine (Issue 37). As a side note, the brigade arrangement on page 119 is not correct. It was the 7th North Carolina and five companies of the 37th that broke away from the rest of the brigade. Also, the email you sent me some time ago, got accidently deleted the day after you sent it. I would love to talk to you more.


Rob said...

As a descendant of two fighting men from the 37th NCT, Co. G, I have often wondered if their regimental flag was still in existence. The question of why the 37th would not have gotten the same colors to carry into the Gettysburg campaign as the other regiments in Lane's Brigade obviously remains a mystery. I'd like to thank Michael Hardy for all his work and dedication to these great fighting men. I bought his book on the 37th NCT and it has been a invaluable resource for understanding the hardships and resolve of these great men. Thanks Michael! Rob Nance SCV Camp #4, Charleston, SC

ernscave said...

Rob Nance - Who are you related to from Company G of the 37th ?

Don Ernsberger

Rob Nance said...

hi Don, my ancestors in the 37th NC co. G are John and Edwin Fortner. John was captured at Pickett's charge then died of disease at Pt. Lookout. Edwin was killed during the Seven days battles. Sorry it has taken so long to post this! I lost the link then relocated it while surfing. Best wishes, Rob