On 16 May 1861, Andrew Gregg Curtin, 15th Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, signed Joint Resolution #6 into law. Passed by the Pennsylvania State Legislature, the law was designed to update and standardize the flags carried into battle by Pennsylvania’s regular army regiments, as well as those of any local volunteer militia units likely to be called up for service during America’s Civil War.
Relative to the procuring of Standards for the several Regiments of Pennsylvania called or to be called into Service of the United States.
Section 1. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives pf the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in General Assembly met, That the governor of the Commonwealth be requested to ascertain how the several regiments raised in Pennsylvania during the war of the revolution, and the war of 1812, and the war with Mexico, were numbered, among what divisions of the service they were distributed, and where the said regiments distinguished themselves in action. That having ascertained the particulars aforesaid, he shall procure regimental standards, to be inscribed with the numbers of those regiments respectively, on which shall be painted the arms of this Commonwealth, and the names of the actions in which the said regiments distinguished themselves. That the standards so inscribed shall be delivered to the regiments now in the field or forming, bearing the regimental numbers corresponding to the regiments of Pennsylvania in former wars.
Section 2. That the governor do procure regimental standards formed or to be formed in Pennsylvania, beyond the numbers in former wars, upon which shall be inscribed the number of the regiment, and painted the arms of this Commonwealth; and that all these standards, after the present unhappy rebellion is ended, shall be returned to the adjutant general of the state, to be further inscribed, as the valor and good conduct of each particular regiment may have deserved; and that they then be carefully preserved by the state, to be delivered to such future regiments as the military necessities of the country may require Pennsylvania to raise.
Equipping Each Regiment with Its Own National Colors
While the First Defenders and other early responders were off protecting the nation’s capital during their Three Months’ Service (from April 1861 to July 1861), Pennsylvania’s elected officials and military leaders came to realize that the conflict would not end quickly, that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would be asked by President Abraham Lincoln to provide additional military units for a longer duration, and that the state would need to do a better job of equipping its fighting units with battle flags. Two companies were ultimately selected to produce the flags and their accompanying hardware – Horstmann Brothers & Co. and Evans & Hassall.
The latter company, Evans & Hassall, was assigned to manufacture the colors for regiments 45 through 56, and was the firm which produced the first national flag carried into battle by the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. As the national flag of an infantry unit, the Standard created for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers was required to “be in every respect as described in the U.S. Army Regulations, Paragraphs No. 1369, 1370, except that the Arms of Pennsylvania are to be painted on the National Colors in the centre of the Union, their size not to exceed one-fourth of its area and the thirty-four stars to be arranged symmetrically around them.” The manufacturer was a also responsible for ensuring that the Standard was “complete with pike, spear, ferrule, cords, tassels, fringe, ready for use and marked with no. and name of Regiment”:
Known as the “First State Color,” it was presented to the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers by Governor Curtin on 20 September 1861, and was on site with the 47th when the regiment:
- Helped to defend the nation’s capital (from mid-September 1861 to mid-January 1862, and again in the Summer of 1864 and Winter-Spring of 1865);
- Captured Saint John’s Bluff and fought in the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina (October 1862);
- Garrisoned Fort Taylor, Key West Florida (1862-1863);
- Served as the only Pennsylvania regiment in Union General Nathaniel Banks’ Red River Campaign across Louisiana from March to May 1864 (including the Battles of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield on 8 April and Pleasant Hill on 9 April);
- Fought at Snicker’s Gap and helped to drive Confederate forces from Maryland (Summer 1864); and
- Fought in Union General Philip Sheridan’s tide-turning 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, including the Battles of Opequan and Fisher’s Hill (September 1864) and Battle of Cedar Creek (19 October 1864).
On 11 May 1865, the 47th Pennsylvania’s First State Color was retired and replaced with the regiment’s Second State Color:
Manufactured by Horstmann Brothers & Co., the Second State Color was shipped to Sunbury, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania in February 1865, where it was given to Captain Daniel Oyster, commanding officer of the Sunbury Guards (Color-Bearers, Company C, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers), on 7 March 1865. Captain Oyster then presented it to the regiment upon return from his authorized furlough:
The Second State Color was on site with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers when the regiment:
- Helped to defend the nation’s capital following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (Spring 1865);
- Marched in the Grand Review of the Armies on 22-23 May 1865; and
- Made its final swing through the South, including during the 47th’s service in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June as part of the 3rd Brigade, Dwight’s Division, Department of the South, and while stationed in Charleston, South Carolina on garrison, guard and provost duty from June 1865 through early January 1866.
Sources: Pennsylvania State Legislature; Sauers’ Advance the Colors! Pennsylvania Civil War Battle Flags, vol. 1, Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.