Civil War-era Confederate flag donated to Virginia museum 148 years later

Published August 02, 2013

A Confederate flag that flew in the Civil War has reportedly finished a 148-year journey — and will now be displayed in a Naval museum in Virginia.

Capt. Henry Hendrix, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, accepted the flag from the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society during a July 31 ceremony in Dayton, Va., reports.

In 1865, Lt. William Ladd, a Union soldier, took the flag off the Confederate States Ship Hampton as it sank into the Potomac River.

“I assure you it will stop people in their tracks."
– Becky Poulliot, executive director, Hampton Roads Naval Museum

“We tied our horses, took a skiff and rowed out to a rebel war ship…and captured two Confederate flags then flying upon her,” Ladd wrote in the History of the 13th New Hampshire Regiment. “I pulled down the larger flag, the cavalryman the smaller one, and we rolled them up and tied them to our saddles.”

Ladd kept the flag in his home following the war and it remained there for years. Then, in 2011, the flag was discovered in an archival collection box at the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society.

“I was surprised and amazed when I saw that we had such a rare, unique article in our collections,” said Nancy Hess, former vice president of the organization.

The discovery kicked off an 18-month hunt for clues related to the flag and Hess ultimately contacted the U.S. Army Center of Military History, whose director suggested she contact Capt. Hendrix, who notified her in March that the find was remarkable.

“We were contacted by Mrs. Hess and told the amazing story about the Confederate flag,” Hendrix said. “I couldn’t let this incredible opportunity to recognize our naval heritage slip by, especially during the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. I told her NHHC would indeed be interested in the society’s storied flag.”

The flag will soon be on display at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum once a conservation process is complete, museum officials said.

“I assure you it will stop people in their tracks,” the museum’s executive director, Becky Poulliot, said. “The acceptance of this ensign from CSS Hampton is an honor for our institution.”

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