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Vermont's Civil War Flags

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"There's a strange love for the old flag burning in our hearts. It is inconceivable, indescribable, absolutely unknown to one never in battle or active service -- a "strange something, born of war"; perhaps born on the long, weary march, when hunger stares in the face and thirsty lips cry for water. It is strengthened on the lonely picket line, as the soldier walks his beat at midnight, or crouches in the gloom as he hears the cry of pain from his next comrade, who perhaps falls with the bright flash and the rebel bullet from a concealed foe. It is welded as a band of hot iron in the first and wild tumult of battle, and sealed by the blood of hero martyrs, as they pour out their lives amid horrible carnage, that liberty may live. (Carpenter's History of the Eighth Regiment Vermont Volunteers, 1861-1865, pp 228-229)

The flags used to border this page and many more, courtesy of the Vermont State Curator's Office, are identified on the individual units' pages.

1870s photograph

State House vestibule with its 1871 flag cases, photo taken mid-1870s
(Courtesy of the Vermont State Curator's Office)

West Cabinet East Cabinet

Photographs taken late 1990s by Tom Ledoux

For several years these flags were displayed from the pillars of the Senate and House of Representatives under the authority of Number 52 of the Acts of 1863. In 1870 a joint resolution was adopted, Number 108 of the Acts of 1870, authorizing the Governor, the Quartermaster General, the Secretary of State and the State Librarian "to cause said flags to be placed in one or more glass cases and in some conspicuous position in the State House. That when said flags shall have been so placed by said officers of the State, they shall not be moved from their position without the permission of the Legislature. (Based on a 1931 pamphlet detailing the history of the Vermont State House, courtesy of Dave Niles)

In the cabinet at the westerly end of the vestibule (pictured left, above) were the flags of the "Old Brigade," together with the Brigade Guidon itself, the Headquarters Sixth Corps Guidon and those of the First Regiment of Cavalry. The cabinet on the easterly end of the vestibule (pictured right, above) contained the flags of the other Vermont Infantry Regiments not included in the "Old Brigade," together with those of the Sharpshooters and Light Artillery Batteries.

By 2003, all of the flags had been removed for conservency, and are now stored in a climate-controlled facility in the Vermont Historical Society Library.

In 2016, the entire Vermont Civil War Flag Collection was published online at DigitalVermont.org.

Returned Colors

"From time to time during the war, as the colors of regiments in the field have become unserviceable, they have been returned to the State and new colors obtained. On the fourteenth of June, 1865, it was ordered by the War Department, that the colors of all returned regiments be delivered to the Governor of the State. There are now in the possession of the State seventy stands of returned colors, under which the troops from this State have been led to battle and to victory. Many of them have been pierced by shot and shell, until they are mere tattered remnants of the original. Among them is the flag of the "Old Brigade," borne in the battles at the Wilderness, Spotyslvania, North Anna, Pamunkey, Hanover court House, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Washington, Strasburg, Charles Town, Opequan, Winchester, Fisher's Hill, Mount Jackson, New Market and Cedar Creek, and under which, in a period of little more than five months, three thousand one hundred and sixteen Vermonters were killed or wounded; the original flag of the Fourth Regiment, now but a remnant of tattered shreds, borne at Lee's Mills, Williamsburg, Golding's Farm, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Crampton's Pass, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Marye's Heights, Banks' Ford, Gettysburg and Funkstown; the remnant of the flag of the Sixth Regiment, borne from January, 1864, until June, 1865, under which three hundred and sixty-eight men were killed or wounded; the shreds which remain of the guidon of the Second Battery, attesting the severity of their service at Port Hudson; and many others, all bearing the evidence of the service which Vermont troops were expected to perform, some with their staffs scarred by rebel bullets, and many of them baptized by the blood of their bearers. These flags have been displayed in the Capitol of the State, to remain, silent but unerring witnesses of the loyalty of Vermont, of the gallant bearing of her sons, which has won for them a national reputation, and an incentive to continued patriotic action and sacrifice whenever required,--for surely no man can ever dare to utter a disloyal word under their folds.
(Vermont Adjutant and Inspector General's 1865 Report)

Additional Notes

The Vermont Brigade Guidon was a gift from Mrs. Cornelia R. Conant Halsey, wife of Major Thomas H. Halsey, United States Paymaster to the "Old Brigade."

Most of the others appear to have been commercially manufactured by Charles Eaton (26), Abner Pollard (1) and Thomas Savory (3) of Boston, Evans & Hassell (2) and Hortsmann Brothers (11) of Philadelphia, and the New York Depot (4), Paton & Co. (1) and Tiffany & Co. (3) of New York City; the manufacturers of 15 of the flags are unknown. (This is subect to change as I extract information from DigitalVermont.org)

Sadly we gazed upon the flag torn from our brothers hands
And shed a tear for those once loved now joined to traitors hands.
They've put our flag beneath their feet they've trailed it in the dust.
And to the breeze their flag unfurled and placed in it their trust.
Mark what a trecherous day it was from the good old flag to turn,
whith us they dwelt beneath it's folds but now it's stars they spurn.
They've left the flag of Washington, the flag our fathers gave,
a richer boon was never given a prouder flag to wave,
but when the traitors raised their flag and marshalled for the fight,
six hundred thousand freemen rose to battle for the right.
Then to our God the prayer went up-protect our noble band.
God bless our cause, our Flag now waves within the traitors hand.
Then down with the Rebel Flag tread them beneath your feet,
and gaily to the breeze unfurl the flag we love to greet.
Wave on ye glorious Stars and Stripes & still our song shall be,
Long live long live our good old flag three cheers three cheers for thee.

-- Ira B. Austin, Co. C, 9th Vermont Infantry, undated. (Courtesy of Charles A. Norman)


Also, see a couple of articles on Confederate Flags in Vermont

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