To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the American Civil War,
Jeff R. Bridgman, the nation’s premier antique flag specialist, will present a selection of rare and important period flags at several art and antique fairs across the country. With stops in Kent, Connecticut, Aspen, Colorado, Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Baltimore, Maryland, Bridgman will roll out a spectacular collection of flags that convey one of the most important periods of time in our nation’s history.
“I plan to display an exciting group of flags in terms of quality, design, and rarity,” said York, Pennsylvania-based Bridgman, who over twenty years in business have brought attention to this highly neglected field, and boasts a collection of over 2,000 antique flags and political banners from both the North and the South.
“They are extraordinary symbols of our country’s past; thrilling to both see and collect.” According to Bridgman, many of his flags have dynamic presentations that include circular star patterns, stars-shaped patterns, and advertising for 19th-century American presidential candidates. “These great textiles tell the story of the War Between the States in a visually compelling manner.”
Bridgman said that institutions all over the country are mounting special exhibitions of art and artifacts that will mirror the 5-year duration of the Civil War (1861-65).
The Smithsonian has no less than 10 new exhibits between now and 2016, to augment its 3 permanently displayed, Civil War collections.
Among the highlights that Bridgman will offer are:
• The headquarters flag of Civil War General Philip Henry Sheridan, handed down through the family of his paymaster, Captain Nathaniel Sawyer, who went on a daring mission to recapture $250,000 of Sheridan’s payroll, stolen by his Confederate adversary, General John Mosby of Mosby’s Raiders, during his Shenandoah Valley campaign in 1865. This is one of the most exceptional American military flags to reach the marketplace in the last 10 years.
• The only known Civil War period battle flag in private hands once belonging to Vermont’s Green Mountain Boys. This flag was discovered with a painting of George Washington sewn over the top of the Green Mountain Boys’ lettering. Prior to the discovery of the text underneath the portrait, it was thought by some to date to the period when we had 20 states (1818-1819) but was afterward revealed as a “Southern Exclusionary” star count, removing the Southern States from the flag. Although Lincoln highly discouraged the making of exclusionary flags, as he tried to keep the nation together, people didn’t always comply.
The Green Mountain Boys were originally established during the Revolutionary War and made famous by Ethan Allen. The name lived on during the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War, and is still employed today by Vermont National Guard units. The best-known Vermont regiment during the Civil War was the 13th Volunteers, who turned the tide during Picket’s Charge toward Cemetery Hill at the Battle of Gettysburg. (Asking price $350,000).
• An emotionally moving, Civil War period flag, found in Oswego County in Upstate New York, with all of its 34 stars arranged in the form of one giant star. Known as the “Great Star” or “Great Flower” pattern, this configuration is not only beautiful but is among the most prized by flag collectors.
The fragile state in which the flag survives, with losses from extended use, creates an image that is not unlike modern art. Remarkably few homemade Civil War flags exist in this condition. The evidence provided by surviving examples strongly suggests that once they reached this point, they were apparently discarded.
• Two rare and important political campaign flags from the 1868 and 1872 presidential elections, used by former Union Army Commander, General Ulysses S. Grant. Each exists as the only known example in its respective style; an extraordinary, assembled pair.