Blakeley flag returns to Baldwin County
 


By Donna Riley-Lein
Independent Staff Writer
May 18, 2008


ROBERTSDALE, Ala. — It’s large … imposing even, and it carried the hopes and dreams of a nation.


Capt. Eli Chandler of Elberta, representing the 2nd and 6th Missouri Infantry, receives a replica of the Blakeley flag from Capt. David Scroggins of Banks, represending the 8th Illinois, at the Baldwin County Central Annex on Saturday.


The journey of 9 by 14 foot “Blakeley Flag” that flew during the final battle of the Civil War came to a two-year rest Saturday afternoon with due military ceremony at the Baldwin County Annex. The flag will be on display at the annex, behind special Plexiglas that protects the banner from ultraviolet light and assures the fabric will not experience extremes of humidity and temperature. Blakeley was the Baldwin County seat until 1888, and Confederate General St. John Liddell used the courthouse as his headquarters.


In the battle to preserve fabric artifacts, UV light, humidity and temperature unite to make a three-pronged attack on historic items. Unless care is taken, the trio usually wins.


In this case, it would be more than a shame.


“This is not really a Confederate story, it’s really an American story,” said Nick Warren of the Baldwin County Department of Archives and History. “The war was really Americans fighting Americans. We need to celebrate that. That war defined us as Americans. Before the Civil War, it was common for people to say they were Alabamians, Marylanders, that they were from Illinois or Massachusetts and such. After the war, we were Americans.”


The flag is scheduled to go on permanent display at the Baldwin County Bicentennial Museum planned to be built in Stockton in two years. For now, it’s available for free viewing at the Annex, on Palmer Street from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.


The “Stars and Bars” patterned flag flew over Ft. Blakeley in Baldwin County, part of Mobile’s defenses. Unbeknownst to both the attackers and defenders, Gen. Robert E. Lee was meeting with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to surrender the Confederate forces at Appomattox Courthouse that day. This was the last major battle of the “War Between the States.”


Seeing the scarred and bullet-hole ridden flag returned (the flag was captured during the battle and remains under the control of the Illinois National Guard) on display in Baldwin County was “an emotional moment” for Eli Chandler of Elberta. An experienced Civil War reenactor, Chandler received a replica of the flag as the commander of the 2nd and 6th Missouri Infantry.


“I just loved history as a kid,” Chandler said. “There a lot of military history in my family. We’ve documented about 40 people in my family who served, mostly from Georgia.”


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