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Effort Under Way to Restore Flag
By Edward Levenson
Staff Writer It will cost about $18,000 to fix the Ringgold flag, which represented Bucks County's regiment in the Civil War.
The Ringgold Flag was displayed at special events before being put into storage because of its deteriorating condition.
DOYLESTOWN - During the Civil War, a Bucks County regiment charged into battle behind its own flag.
While the 104th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry is immortalized by the prominent obelisk next to the Bucks County Courthouse, its regimental colors have been stored away for decades in the Mercer Museum, unseen by the public.
A Civil War reenactment group will hold a "living history" encampment this Saturday to launch a campaign to restore the faded, tattered banner known as the Ringgold Flag after the Ringgold Regiment, the name adopted by the 104th .
Painstaking preservation of the 61/2-by-61/2-foot silk flag, which has a field of stars on blue, and red and white stripes imprinted with the names of battles, will cost an estimated $17,000 to $18,000.
"The 104th was recognized as Bucks County's regiment" during the Civil War, said Cory Amsler, curator of the Mercer Museum. "The flag is the most significant artifact remaining from their heroism."
During a battle on May 31, 1862 in Fair Oaks, Va. - five miles from Richmond - the regiment was forced back by a Confederate advance. Despite being shot three times, Sgt. Hiram Pursell of Nockamixon saved the colors from capture.
His heroism, for which he later received the Congressional Medal of Honor, was depicted in the 1899 painting by William Trego, "The Rescue of the Colors," which is owned by the society.
McClellan Rangers Reenactment Association, devoted to the history of the regiment, will demonstrate or display Civil War infantry tactics and weapons, artillery, camp life and music.
"Rescue the Colors!" will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at War Memorial Field behind Central Bucks West High School. Fittingly, the school grounds were the site of Camp Lacey, where about 1,100 soldiers of the 104th trained in the fall of 1861 before leaving to join the Army of the Potomac (a monument at Lafayette Street and MacFarlane Lane marks the camp).
The highlight of the day will be an afternoon parade re-enacting Pennsylvania Gov. Andrew Curtin's trip to Doylestown on Oct. 31, 1861 to present flags to the regiment. The Ringgold Flag, for which Bucks County women raised the $141 cost, had been presented 10 days earlier.
William Kleintop of Ambler, president of the 48-member McClellan's Rangers - named after Union Gen. George McClellan - said regimental flags served a dual function during the Civil War.
"They not only were a symbol of community pride, they were a way of finding your regiment out in the field," said Kleintop, who acts as a private in reenactments.
He said the rangers will carry a replica of the Ringgold Flag, made of silk like the original.
The actual flag was carried for years after the war at special events and donated in 1907 to the Bucks County Historical Society, whose president, William W.H. Davis, had been the regiment's colonel. The furled flag was displayed in a case until sometime in the middle of the 20th century, when it was placed in storage because of its deteriorating condition.
Amsler said Ye Olde Almshouse Questers, a historic preservation group, donated $1,200 earlier this year for an examination of the flag. Textile Preservation Associates of Keedysville, Md., unrolled the banner and documented its condition.
"It wasn't in such terrible condition that it couldn't be saved," Amsler said. The flag is too fragile to ever fly again, but if the money can be raised, it will be pieced together and mounted in a protective display case.
"Other people can view it, see it and be inspired by it," the curator said. The Mercer Museum would like to show the flag alongside "The Rescue of the Colors," currently in storage.
Edward Levenson can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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