Group restoring flag from Civil War

Group restoring flag from Civil War

By Tom Emery

CARLINVILLE — For the second time, members of a central Illinois Civil War group have successfully spearheaded an effort to restore a Civil War flag.

Work is in the final stages on the regimental colors of the 122nd Illinois Infantry, a unit comprised almost entirely of men from Macoupin and surrounding counties. Completion of the flag, which measures 6 feet by 7 feet, is expected in the fall.

A previous project restored the national colors of the 122nd, which have been on display in the Macoupin County Courthouse in Carlinville since December 2012. The regimental colors will also hang in the courthouse. Both projects were through the efforts of the members of the Macoupin County Civil War Round Table.

Restoration on the regimental colors is being performed by the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield, which houses the state's collection of hundreds of Civil War flags from various Illinois units. This is the first in-house restoration of a Civil War flag by the museum, which had previously shipped flags to a conservatory in New York.

The new process greatly reduces cost. Refurbishing costs for the national colors of the 122nd reached $34,000, while the regimental colors were done for $13,500. The amount was raised through private donations and sales of a fundraising raffle for a limited-edition, collectible rifle.

Past flag restorations centered on black knitting that stitched the flags together, the work of female seamstresses a century ago in primitive restoration efforts.

"Trying to preserve the knitting really inflates the cost," said Carlinville businessman Norman Crays, a member of the county round table and an active proponent of the local restoration efforts. "But the museum has been able to restore the flags without the knitting, which made the process much easier."

The flags were originally displayed in the rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol until their transfer to the Hall of Flags on the first floor of the adjacent Howlett Building after its construction in 1923. In 2003, the flags, many in deteriorating condition, were moved to controlled storage, out of public view, at the Illinois State Military Museum on Springfield's northwest side.

The museum has encouraged private groups to raise funds for the professional restoration of individual flags. Fewer than 10 flags have been refurbished. The Macoupin County Civil War Round Table has been one of the most aggressive in flag restoration and is now one of the few groups statewide that has attempted two flags.

Other restored flags statewide have included that of the 95th Illinois, restored through the efforts of the Boone County Historical Society and the McHenry County Civil War Round Table. That flag now hangs in the Old State Capitol in Springfield. Elsewhere in Springfield, the reactivated 114th Illinois Infantry collected donations to refurbish the original regiment's flag, which was presented for display to the Illinois State Military Museum.

Efforts to restore the flags of the 53rd Illinois in LaSalle and the 100th Illinois in Joliet are also underway.

Tom Emery is a freelance writer and researcher from Carlinville. He may be reached at ilcivilwar@yahoo.com.

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