Civil War Flags


Illinois Flag Conservation

So bear them on and guard them well
In yonder proud Memorial Hall.
The flag - the cause for which we fell
Swear brothers it shall never fall.

No Traitor's hand its glory mars
While yet a man is still alive
Who bore the banner of the stars
From Sixty-one to Sixty-five. 

The above is a portion of the poem written by Lt. S.F. Flint of Galesburg, Illinois who was a member of the 7th Illinois Infantry. The poem was read at the dedication of Memorial Hall (Hall of Flags) in 1878 and reflects the deep patriotic feeling of the men who fought under the flags that they placed here.

Have we been faithful to their trust?

In 1878 the flags were removed from their staffs and placed on pieces of white tarlatan, which had been cut to the original size of the flag. The flags were then stitched to the tarlatan, pressed and placed back on their staffs.

In December of 1923, the flags were removed from the tarlatan, cleaned and sewn between two pieces of black silk netting. The flags were reattached to their staffs using leather strips and returned to the cases in Memorial Hall (Hall of Flags). No further effort at conservation or storage has been made since 1923.

Civil War flags were made of weighted silk and painted with oil based paints. Silk is a "natural product and due to weather, battle and age the silk has become brittle and has in many cases "turned to dust." Many of the flags are now beyond salvage and with the passing of time eventually all of them will disintegrate if not properly conserved. The silk netting applied to the flags in the 1920's has stabilized the flags to some extent, but the netting like the flags is silk and deterioration of the netting will soon occur.

The flags are now stored on trays within a humidity-controlled environment at Camp Lincoln in Springfield, IL. They may be viewed by contacting Mark Whitlock, the curator of the museum at Camp Lincoln.

© 1998 -2001 John Schmale - Mahomet, IL 61853
All Rights Reserved