Civil War Profiles: Restoration of 1st Delaware regimental flags now under way


In the spirit of the 150th anniversary of our nation’s most desperate and devastating struggle, the people of Delaware have responded to a call to preserve precious Civil War artifacts. The Delaware Historical Society recently announced that its goal to raise $30,000 to restore and conserve two flags that guided the 1st Delaware Regiment into battle has been reached. (See “The 1st Delaware’s ‘torn and tattered’ flags,” Coastal Point, Oct. 3, 2014.)

Given that the fund-raising program was begun on Sept. 17, 2014 — the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam in which the 1st Delaware fought bravely and suffered numerous casualties — it is a testimony to the generosity and concern of Delaware citizens that the flags went to the conservator, Philadelphia Textile & Object Conservation, on April 8, 2015.

In the spring 2015 issue of Making History, the DHS explained that the conservation firm’s owner, Nancy Love, has extensive experience in textile conservation, including such diverse artifacts as ancient Peruvian textiles to the 9/11 flag, not to mention costumes worn by the Supremes, a popular singing group of the 1960s.

The Association of the Survivors of the 1st Delaware Infantry Regiment entrusted two flags to the DHS in 1884, and they have been mostly in storage in their collection ever since. These military colors are quite large, one measuring 59 by 68 inches and the other 50 by 80 inches, and they are “torn almost to tatters with the shot and shell of the enemy.”

In storage, they have been rolled up and encased in acid-free tissue sleeves. This method is reportedly less than ideal for these fragile silk flags, which have extensive battle damage and deteriorate easily.

As the Making History article explains, “Ev- ery time the flags are un rolled, the silk crumbles a little further, so it is extremely difficult to study or display them.” Treatment will include “gentle surface cleaning and the relaxation of creases using humidification.”

The flags will be conserved as they are, by realigning torn pieces and reassembling them into the original shape. In other words, the two flags will not be restored as new, because the damage they sustained is part of their history.

The plan is to encase the conserved flags in a pressure mount, which is a special type of frame that uses slight pressure between the viewing window and back to hold the flag in place. The DHS believes the “project will not only protect the flags but will also give them a new lease on life and allow them to be displayed and enjoyed in a way that up to now has been impossible.”

The conservation firm expects to complete restoration of the flags by the end of 2015. The DHS is anxious for their return so they can display them for the public as soon as possible.

Further information about the project can be obtained by going to the website at http://dehistory. org/rally-round-the-flags. There you will see the message: “With the support of many donors, we have reached our goal. Thank you! Donations are still welcome to support the Society’s ongoing campaign to conserve additional Civil War flags in its collections.”

The point of contact for this worthwhile cause is Dr. Constance Cooper at ccooper@dehistory.org, or call (302) 655-7161.

As the conclusion of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War approaches, it is an ideal opportunity to participate in the preservation of Delaware’s historical heritage.

Bethany Beach resident Thomas J. Ryan’s latest book is “Spies, Scouts, and Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign” (June 2015). Contact him at pennmardel@ mchsi.com, or visit his website at www. tomryan-civilwar.com.