Battle Flag for York African American Civil War Soldiers
This case at the Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library, in Philadelphia, contains what remains of the original battle flag of the 127th Regiment, United States Colored Troops. Four African American Civil War veterans, with York, Pennsylvania connections, fought in the 127th; they are: Thomas Grigsby, James Jamison, Samuel Johnson and Daniel McGee. If you are reading this on the Ydr.com site, click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post on the original YorkBlog site; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.
My lecture on African American Civil War Veterans organizing in York as the David E. Small Post, No. 369, Grand Army of the Republic displayed several examples of these battle flags; issued to all 11 regiments of U. S. Colored Troops from Pennsylvania. In my presentation of this lecture at the York Civil War Roundtable, in February, I answered a question; do any of these battle flags survive? At the time I answered that none of the original flags survive and photos or paintings of only 7 of the 11 remain. I remembered reading this at several places on the Internet. Quoting from the David Bustill Bowser Historical Marker site of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
During the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of soldiers, and thousands more civilians who witnessed their parades, were familiar with the magnificent battle flags that David Bustill Bowser designed for eleven African American regiments. Today, we only know what seven of Bowser’s flags looked like from photographs. Kept in storage after the war, the originals were sent to the military museum at West Point in 1906, and then thrown out in the 1940s. The seven whose images remain are extraordinarily powerful. The 127th and 3rd regiments marched carrying banners reading; “We will prove ourselves men” and “Rather Die Freemen, Than Live To Be Slaves.” Beneath these, black soldiers protect white women representing Columbia, the symbol of the republic.
Yesterday, I presented the same lecture in Philadelphia at the Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library, during their First Sunday Open House. They had the remains of the original battle flag of 127th Regiment, United States Colored Troops, plus photos of color paintings of both sides of this regimental banner. This is likely the only battle flag remaining from the 11 Black Regiments that trained at Camp William Penn; Pennsylvania’s only training camp for African American soldiers and the largest of 18 such camps in the nation during the Civil War.
Photos of color paintings of both sides of the battle flag for the 127th Regiment, United States Colored Troops, sat on top of the case housing the original regimental banner. My photos of these follow:
Related posts include:
- African American Civil War Veterans organize in York
- Civil War Veterans organize throughout York County
- York Hosts son of John Brown from Harper’s Ferry fame
- Civil War veteran Rev. John H. Hector
- DC Cherry Blossoms and Civil War Graves
- Top 10 YorksPast Civil War Posts