Civil War author Len Thomas adopts the flag of soldier whose letters he chronicled

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Retired Moderator
Oct 17, 2012
Middle Tennessee
Civil War author Len Thomas adopts the flag of soldier whose letters he chronicled

By Scott Atkinson | [email protected]
on December 25, 2012 at 8:30 AM

The book entitled 'The Civil War Letters of Harrison Harmon Carson' by Len Thomas, of Swartz Creek, sits amongst a photo and actual letters from the soldier. Thomas bought a collection of civil war letters from the great granddaughter of the Owosso veteran and published the collection himself in a book, writing introductions to each chapter with supplemental historical information. Ryan Garza |
SWARTZ CREEK, MI -- When Civil War author Len Thomas published "The Civil War Letters of Harrison Harmon Carson,"he was thankful enough just to be entrusted with immortalizing the correspondence between the Owosso farmer-turned soldier and his family.
But recently he came across an artifact he never expected to see -- the American flag carried by Carson's regiment.
"My heart went right up my throat when I saw that flag," he said.
Earlier this year, Thomas self-published a collection of letters Carson wrote his family while he was at war.
The letters detail not only the trials of the Civil War, but also how Carson continued to run the family farm through letters he wrote between battles.
Having already taken the task of preserving Carson's story, he's now taken the responsibility of preserving his flag.
Thomas and his wife, Sharon, recently "adopted" the flag, housed at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing.
Both being interested in preserving history with a special affinity for the Civil War era, the Thomases headed to Lansing planning on only taking a tour—part of that tour, they knew, involved being able to look at the flags carried during the civil war, stored, as Len Thomas put it, "in the bowels" of the museum where they could be better preserved.
But they said they never expected to see Carson's flag.
"We didn't know about it," Sharon Thomas said.
"Didn't even think about," Len Thomas said.
Even if they hadn't seen Carson's flag, they said the trip would have been worth it. Some of the flags told stories as vivid as Carson's letters.
"There are bullet holes in them. There's blood on them. It's just incredible," Sharon Thomas said.
Member from the tour group, the said, would shout out names to the tour guide, and he would check to see if they had the corresponding flags.
Len Thomas, not surprisingly, shouted Carson's name. And then he saw the flag that had been carried with the man whose letters he'd spent so long transcribing—long enough that Sharon Thomas jokingly said she had to urge him out of the office and into daylight now and then.
"And I thought, my God, there it is," Thomas said, sitting in Churchill's in downtown Flint and recalling the moment he first saw the flag.
The couple donates money to the museum as part of the adoption program. It goes into a general fund, as some flags are in more need of repair than others. Carson's, by comparison, is in surprisingly good condition.
Since the release of the letters book, Thomas has discovered Carson's story is interesting to far more people than local Civil War buffs. Thomas originally had 250 copies of his book printed but recently ordered 100 more.
"I knew I was going to have 200 in my closet for the rest of my life," he said, laughing.
He's received phone calls and emails from all across the country -- ranging from Florida to Maine to Montana.
Sharon Thomas remembers one particular caller from Hawaii.
"She says, 'They don't anything about the Civil War here, so we're going to help them,'" she said.
Len Thomas said he's still reeling from the response.
"I would never, never have imagined," he said.
Scott Atkinson is an entertainment reporter for the Flint Journal and can be reached at (810) 262-0216 or at [email protected]. You can also follow Scott on Facebook or Twitter.
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