Atlanta History Center Purchases Rare Civil War Battle Flag Carried by Black Union Troops

Atlanta History Center Purchases Rare Civil War Battle Flag Carried by Black Union Troops

by June 24, 2019

DENVER, Pa. (AP) – A flag that was carried into battle by a black Union regiment during the Civil War and hand-painted by an acclaimed African American artist will join one of the country’s most comprehensive Civil War collections.

The Atlanta History Center bought the flag at auction Thursday for $196,800, making it the largest purchase the center has paid for an artifact.

Morphy Auctions was selling off the flag in Pennsylvania.

It depicts a black soldier waving goodbye to Columbia, the white female personification of America, beneath a banner reading, “We Will Prove Ourselves Men.”

It’s one of 11 painted by David Bustill Bowser, the son of a fugitive slave. It’s the only known surviving flag.

African American Regimental Flag

African American Regimental Flag

Center President and CEO Sheffield Hale said the flag “doesn’t need words to tell you what it is and what it represents.”

Among at least 11,000 Civil War objects in the Center’s collections are a dozen objects identified specifically with African American soldiers or regiments. These include a brass drum belonging to a drummer boy of the all-black 55th Massachusetts Regiment, a knapsack used at the Battle of Olustee, Florida, by a soldier in the 8th United States Colored Troops, and a recently acquired canteen bearing the stenciled mark of the 15th U.S.C.T., which guarded railroad lines in Tennessee during the 1864 Atlanta Campaign.

At least 180,000 African Americans served in the United States Colored Troops, a special branch of the U.S. Army formed after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, according to the Center. It is thought that three-fourths of the soldiers were formerly enslaved men.

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