U.S. 24 Star Pennsylvania Militia color 1822 - 1836 - 6 Point Silver Stars.
The Civil War History connected to this flag makes it one of the more interesting from that war. An unknown Pennsylvania militia unit took what was then a 30 to 40 year old militia color into battle against Rebel forces that captured the colors either from an unknown militia unit in the first year of the American Civil War or was a result of all the local militia units that were activated during the Gettysburg Campaign of 1863. The unit, time and place of its capture are unknown.
Later in the conflict, April 2, 1865, the 54th Pa. Volunteers broke through the siege lines around Petersburg, Va. at Fort Gregg. During their movement within Confederate lines they recaptured this flag in Petersburg from the Rebels. The fighting at Ft. Gregg was heavy, the 54th lost 20 men in the assault.
Originally given to the museum by the widow of J. A. Heckert, a member of the 54th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The accompanying provenance states,"Old Glory. This flag was captured and recaptured during the Civil War between the North and South from 1861 to 1865. The present owner prizes it highly as a relic for which thousands of lives were sacrificed to keep it unsullied. It was captured from a Pennsylvania Regiment by the Confederates during some engagement and taken to Petersburg, Virginia for safe keeping when it was recaptured by a Comrade of my company "C", 54th PA, Volunteer Regiment after the evacuation of the city by the Confederates in April, 1865. The first Union troops to enter the city was a portion of the 24th Army Corps Commanded by General O. E. C. Ord., of which I was a member. The flag was presented to me by Nelson Meyers in 1869. The Number of the Regiment was defaced when recaptured. But its condition shows that it passed through many hard fought battles as it bears many Honorable marks. J. A. Heckert. 54th PA Vol. Inf. Regt. Author of the Story. Presented to Soldiers Memorial By the Widow Mrs. J. A. Heckert".
It was there when the institution was created by the Grand Army of the Republic in the 1890s to recognize the sacrifice, valor and patriotism of the Civil War service of soldiers and sailors from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Later the institution transformed its mission into honoring all the men and women of Pennsylvania who have served any branch of the United States military, in any conflict.
As an interesting anecdote to the recent history of this flag Ben Zaricor recounts his first visit to Soldier and Sailor's Museum around 1997; "Upon arriving at the museum I was invited into one of the large rooms on the first or basement floor. I was shown a United States flag and told it was a flag from the Civil War 1861 - 65. I looked very quickly at the number of stars on the canton and knew that there were fewer stars on the flag than should have been for the period of the American Civil War which would be 33 to 36 stars. I said this to the gentlemen in the room and proposed that we count the stars together. We did and it was revealed there were only 24 stars in a circle far fewer than a Civil War flag make it a much older U.S. flag than it was thought. That was the last time I saw this flag until the auction we acquired it in October 2007.
When the Julia Auction House offered the flag for sale it was identified as a 25 star flag and not a 24 star flag. I discovered the error after I had purchased the flag and was going over in my mind the events of the auction and I decided to count the stars (my second time) in the photo in the catalog and for the second time in ten years I had discovered an error in the dating of the flag."
It should be noted that there are stories and some documentation of other accounts where older flags, some dating back to the American Revolution, were taken by Militia units for use in the early part of the American Civil War. To be able to document a surviving example is rare.
Companion piece to ZFC3195.
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, 1908 to 2007
University of California - Santa Cruz
Board of Councilors Meeting, Rare Flags Exhibit
Santa Cruz, CA
7 June 2012
Saures, Richard A., Advance The Colors: Pennsylvania Civil War Battle Flags, Harrisburg, The Capitol Preservation Committee, 1987. P.5.
• Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 1822 to 1861-1863
• Capture by unidentified Confederate soldiers 1861-1863 to 1865
• Recaptured by Sgt Nelson Meyers, 54th PA. Vol. Infantry, 2 April 1865
• Gifted to Quartermaster Sgt. Josiah. A. Heckert, 54th PA. Vol. Infantry, 1869
• By descent in the Heckert family until donated by widow of J.A. Heckert, 1890s
• Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, until deaccession, 2007
• Sold via James D. Julia Auctions of Fairfield, ME to Zaricor Flag Collection, 2007.