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Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags and Painted Furniture - 35 SINGLE-APPLIQUÉD STARS ON AN ENTIRELY HAND-SEWN, CIVIL WAR PERIOD FLAG, 1863-65, WEST VIRGINIA STATEHOOD
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  35 SINGLE-APPLIQUÉD STARS ON AN ENTIRELY HAND-SEWN, CIVIL WAR PERIOD FLAG, 1863-65, WEST VIRGINIA STATEHOOD

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 60.5" x 93"
Flag Size (H x L): 48.25" x 80.5"
Description....:
Entirely hand-sewn American national flag of the Civil War period with some interesting features, including wonderful colors, patina, and hand-darning repairs. The flag's 35 stars are arranged in 5 justified rows of 7 stars each, which is an expected configuration for this count because the total is so easily divisible. Made of cotton, these are single-appliquéd, meaning that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over, and under-hemmed, so that one star could be viewed on both sides of the flag. I always find single-appliquéd stars more interesting, not only because they are evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitching, but also because they are more visually intriguing. Both the sewing itself and stretching of the fabrics over time results in stars that have irregular shapes and interesting presentation. This is why flags with single-appliquéd stars often appeal to connoisseurs of early American textiles. The two visible rows of hand-stitching emphasize their hand-sewn construction and folk qualities. While some flag enthusiasts have pointed to this as a means of conserving fabric, (not having to cut and sew another star to the other side), others suggest that the real purpose was to make the flag lighter in weight. I believe it to have been a byproduct of both objectives.

West Virginia broke off from Virginia and was admitted into the Union as the 35th state (a Free State) on June 20th, 1863, a few days before the battle of Gettysburg. The 35th star was officially added on July 4th, and the flag was used during the closing years of the war. Production would have generally ceased the following year, however, with the addition of Nevada as the 36th state on October 31st, 1864.

The stripes and canton are made of wool bunting, which was the most typical fabric employed in the manufacture of flags for long-term, outdoor use. Because blue wool bunting was only available in a maximum width of eighteen inches, the canton has been pieced from two lengths of fabric. There is a coarse linen binding along the hoist with two brass grommets, one each at the extreme top and bottom.

The name "Healy" is inscribed along the hoist binding with a dip pen. It was common to mark flags in this manner during the 19th and early 20th centuries to indicate ownership. The name is accompanied by what appears to be the numeral "8," though it may be "3." Typically this would denote the length of the flag on the fly in feet, but while 8 feet was a common length for a wool bunting flag during this period, the length of this particular flag is approximately 80 inches and the stitching that binds the fly end appears to be original. Further, while there were no official proportions for the Stars & Stripes until 1912, and some were uncommonly long and narrow compared to modern flags, it's highly unlikely that the flag would have been reduced by 16 inches given the size of its canton, its overall presentation, and the fact that it is a commercially-made flag. Examples made by professional flag-makers and ship's chandlers of this scale, during this period, were generally much more ordinary and predictable, at least in terms of their shape and the relative scale of the basic components.

With this knowledge of flags in mind, it stands to reason that there was some alternate meaning for the numeric notation. An "8" or a "3" could be a regimental designation. Surmising that an officer was the most likely person to have his surname notated on a war-period flag, an examination of officers by the name of Healy seemed reasonable. There are 261 men recorded as having served in the Union Army with that surname, among which were 30 officers. Presuming the number relates to the 8th or 3rd regiment, only one of these men seems a potential candidate for a match.

Cornelius Healy, Jr. of Manchester, New Hampshire enlisted in the Union Army at the rank of 1st Lieutenant on October 4th, 1861, at the age of 25, and was mustered into Company "C" of the 8th NH infantry on December 20th of that same year. Promoted to the rank of Captain on October 28th, 1862, he was transferred to Company "K" of the same regiment. He was discharged for disability on November 3rd, 1864 and thus served during the vast majority of the war. When the 35th state was added to the Union on June 20th, 1863, Cornelius Healy was at the height of his military career. Six months later, in December of 1863, the 8th NH was dissolved and became the 2nd NH Cavalry, which in some places is listed as a mounted infantry unit, meaning that they probably rode horses for the purposes of transportation and dismounted for combat. Previous to his enlistment, Healy served in the United States Navy. Previous military experience, combined with his age, probably led to his Lieutenant's commission. Born in Ireland, he survived the war and when he passed on November 29th, 1890, he was residing in Avoca, Iowa.

Because the flag has no specific history, there is no way to be certain if the markings relate to Cornelius Healy, Jr. or the 8th New Hampshire, but the possibility is worth noting and further research, while tedious, may be warranted. As of yet I can find no record of any of the flags presented to, carried by, or used by this regiment. While the flag in question here is not of U.S. Army regulation size (regulation infantry battle flags were 6 x 6.5 feet), and while Civil War battle flags were seldom made of wool bunting, the flag is not so large that it could not have been carried. It may also have served the regimental command in some other purpose.

Whatever the case may be, the flag appears to have seldom been flown, as evidenced by almost no losses of any kind at the corners of the fly or hoist end, but very well cared for, having numerous, period darning repairs to areas subject to mothing or other accidental damage over time. The scale is small among pieced-and-sewn examples of the period, which makes for far more convenient display than most 35 star examples and thus more attractive to flag enthusiasts. When combined with the hand-stitched construction, single-appliquéd stars, and beautiful patina, the result is a very nice example of the Civil War era.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to inquire for more details.

Condition: There is some soiling and oxidation in the white cotton stars and linen binding and there is some bleeding of the ink in the penned inscriptions. There is wear along the outer edge of the hoist binding. There are some minor losses in the canton. There are darning repairs in the 3rd through the 11th stripes. We inserted a small piece of early wool bunting behind a very small hole in the 3rd white stripe for masking purposes. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age gracefully and this one does so in an attractive fashion.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 35
Earliest Date of Origin: 1863
Latest Date of Origin: 1865
State/Affiliation: West Virginia
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
 

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