N.C. reenactors work to conserve and display regimental flags

8/22/2009 • Civil War 1863, Civil War Battlefields, Civil War Flags, Open Fire

A historic flag captured from the 26th North Carolina Infantry at the Battle of Gettysburg has returned home.

A reenactment unit, whose members include a number of descendants of the original unit’s soldiers, led the charge to acquire the flag, now on display at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. The unit is working to restore other standards as well.

On July 3, 1863, the 26th North Carolina advanced as part of the fabled Pickett’s Charge to the stone wall that marked the Union line at Gettys­burg. By the time the Tar Heels got there, the regiment had lost its flag to Union soldiers and suffered 120 casualties. The U.S. War Department returned that flag and others to the Museum of the Confed­eracy in 1906.

To commemorate the regiment’s sacrifice, this year, the 26th North Carolina Troops, “Reactivated”—as the reenacting unit is called—raised funds to secure a three-year loan of the flag from the MOC back to the North Carolina museum.

The reenactors participated in a flag rededication ceremony, featuring descendants of the original regiment, at the Raleigh museum in May.

“I am a descendant of 14 men from the 26th North Carolina,” says Skip Smith, who commands the reactivated unit. “Probably in the neighborhood of 30 of our members have ancestors from the 26th.” The reenactment unit has more than 200 members and has formed a long-term partnership with the museum to help fund flag conservation. The unit raises money through raffles, outreach to local businesses and other means.

So far, the group has sponsored the conservation of three flags—the 26th battle flag, which was captured at the October 1864 Battle of Burgess Mill, the battle flag of the 52nd North Carolina, which was also captured at Gettysburg, and, most recently, the battle flag of the 47th North Carolina, also seized at Burgess Mill.

“We are in the process of selecting our next project and are already raising money for it,” Smith says. “The reason we do battle flags is simple. A uniform represents just one person, whereas a battle flag represents every man who served in that regiment. We feel this is the best way to leave something for future North Carolinians, and it’s something we believe in very strongly.” Visit www.26nc.org and www.ncmuseumofhistory.org.

November/December 2008