Civil War battle flag returns to Capitol Building Friday
Newly preserved U.S. national flag of the 15th Iowa Infantry

For immediate release November 13, 2008

 

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – A newly preserved battle flag borne by Iowa soldiers during the Civil War returns to the Iowa State Capitol this week for public display.

The State Historical Museum will install the 34-star U.S. national flag of the 15th Iowa Infantry in the Capitol Rotunda at 9:30 a.m., Friday, Nov. 14, 2008. The public is invited to attend the event, which will include 15th Iowa Infantry re-enactors.

“This is the next step in our efforts to publicly display battle flags that have been or are being stabilized and preserved,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Cyndi Pederson said. “I encourage all Iowans and others to recognize and honor these flags in memory of the soldiers who served under them.”

The 15th Iowa Infantry flag is one of more than 300 Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I battle flags in the State Historical Museum’s permanent collection. Little documentation accompanies the 15th Iowa Infantry flag, but it was on display in the Capitol Building from 1894 until its removal in 2004 for preservation treatment.

Museum staff believes the 15th Iowa Infantry acquired the flag between 1861 and 1863. It is 56.5 inches tall and 100 inches wide, and was probably repaired on the battle field using fabric from two soldiers’ coats – a great sacrifice since soldiers had one uniform.

The flag is missing one star from the canton and jagged edges on the fly end show damage most likely caused by exposure to weather. Sections are missing from the white stripes and part of the lower end are cut evenly, indicating pieces were taken as souvenirs – most likely when a veteran of the unit died, often years after the war, and the piece of flag would be placed in his casket prior to burial.

This is the first flag the Historical Museum has prepared for display using frames constructed by the Iowa Air National Guard.

The 15th Iowa Infantry, from Polk County, has a storied history.

It began forming in the fall of 1861 and the companies comprising the regiment were mustered into service through the winter to form part of the Iowa Brigade under the command of Colonel (later Brigadier General) Marcellus Crocker.

Through the following year, the regiment fought at the Battle of Shiloh, participated in the siege of Corinth, Miss., and then fought at the Battle of Iuka and the Battle of Corinth.

In 1863, they fought at Vicksburg and at Jackson, Miss., and in 1864 they fought at numerous battles in the Atlanta area, including Kennesaw Mountain and Nickajack Creek.

In the fall of 1864, after the capture of Atlanta, the 15th Iowa participated in the pursuit of Confederate General John B. Hood across Alabama and marched with General William Tecumseh Sherman across Georgia to Savannah on the Atlantic coast. The regiment also formed part of Sherman’s invasion force into the Carolinas in 1865.

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The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.

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