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Repaired Flag Staff of the 149th New York

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by Gettysburg Greg, Mar 18, 2017 at 10:07 AM.

  1. Gettysburg Greg

    Gettysburg Greg Corporal

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    The 149th NY was positioned near the end of the Union line on Culp's Hill on July 2nd & 3rd. This area suffered intense Confederate attacks through the evening of the 2nd and during the morning of the 3rd. Color Sergeant of the 149th, William Lilly planted the flag on the Confederate side of the earthworks which attracted intense fire from the enemy. During one of the Confederate attacks, the flag staff was shattered resulting in the flag falling on the Confederate side of the works. Aware of the importance to the men to see their flag flying during the conflict, Lilly crossed the barrier while under fire and retrieved the damaged staff and flag. The flag had been struck over 80 times and the staff was broken in half. The resourceful color bearer broke apart a discarded wooden ammo box and used the slats to splint the broken staff using a strap from his knapsack. His courageous act was remembered by many men of the 149th who insisted his act of heroism be acknowledged on their monument dedicated on Culp's Hill in 1892. Therefore, a brass relief was placed on the monument depicting Sgt. Lilly repairing the flag in front of the breastworks. Unfortunately, Sgt. Lilly was not there to participate in the dedication, for he was mortally wounded on October 28, 1863 at Wauhatchie, Tennessee.
    Fortunately, the repaired flagstaff was preserved and can be seen today at the Onandoga County clerk’s office in New York. The photos show the depiction of Lilly repairing the flag on the brass relief seen today on the regimental monument on Culp's Hill. Below that is an actual picture of the artifact still bound together with ammo box slats and Lilly's knapsack strap.
    sgt lilly combo.jpg
     

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  3. bdtex

    bdtex Brigadier General Moderator

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    Great post. Good stuff GG.
     
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  4. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    IIRC, there was a sketch depicting this incident which is what the relief on the monument is based on. I want to say it was an Alfred Waud but I'm not certain.

    Ryan
     
  5. Gettysburg Greg

    Gettysburg Greg Corporal

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    I believe that was Forbes.
     
  6. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    I can see the picture in my mind but couldn't remember the artist. Thanks.

    Ryan
     
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  7. Wallyfish

    Wallyfish Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    Captain George Collins wrote the words below in 1901 the lasting significance of the regimental flag which Lilly had rescued in the fire of battle thirty-eight years before. Thanks to the efforts of Lilly, and of others, the flag was preserved and on display in Onandoga County clerk’s office in New York, where all could see it as a testament to the tenacity of those who fought to preserve the Union during its darkest and most trying of hours.

    “To the present generation, this flag means little, but to me it is almost as dear as my life. Often I go to County Clerk’s office and look at it lovingly, and as I do so the tears invariably creep into my eyes as I think what that old flag means to me and to all the members of the old One Hundred and Forty-ninth regiment. They worship that flag and prize it as one of the most precious of their earthly possessions.”





    IMG_5049.JPG
     
  8. Gettysburg Greg

    Gettysburg Greg Corporal

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    Thanks, this really is a great addition to the post.
     
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