1st Alabama Infantry Regiment Flag Coming Home After 145 Years of Missing in Action
May 24, 2007
WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Wednesday, a flag carried by the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment during the War Between the States was presented to the Alabama delegation by the Nebraska delegation. In a ceremony outside the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) joined Congressman Terry Everett (R-AL 3) in accepting the flag from the Nebraska State Historical Society.
“It was an honor to be present as a piece of Alabama’s history began its journey home,” said Congressman Aderholt. “It’s been a long road since this flag first left Montgomery in early 1861. Soon it will have a permanent home at the Alabama State Archives where its story can educate a new generation of Alabamians.”
The 1st Alabama Infantry was the first unit from Alabama to enter Confederate service. At the time of its creation, Alabama did not have a state flag so this particular regimental flag was an important identifying symbol for both the state and the regiment itself. The flag was carried by the regiment until they were surrendered at Island Number 10 near New Madrid, Missouri on April 8, 1862.
Congressman Aderholt continued, “I’d like to thank the people of Nebraska for returning this flag to the Alabama Archives. The Civil War continues to stir a great deal of controversy to this day, but I believe it’s important to recognize it for what it was. It represented a seminal moment in American history when our country became a nation - bound together despite our differences.”
The flag was handmade in Montgomery sometime after March 4, 1861. It is identical to the original Confederate national flag raised on that date except that it has an Alabama coat of arms in the center of the circle of seven stars representing the first states to secede from the United States. Following the bombardment of Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861, four other states seceded and the Confederate flag subsequently carried eleven stars.
The flag was captured by Union forces under the command of Brigadier General Eleazer Arthur Paine. The flag was then passed down to E.A. Paine’s son Phelps who eventually settled in Nebraska where the flag was displayed at the headquarters of the local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), Union veterans of the Civil War. Upon his death the flag remained with the GAR until that collection was transferred to the Nebraska Historical Society. The flag remained unidentified at the Nebraska Historical Society until May 2006. Once identified, it was proposed that the flag be deaccessioned and returned to Alabama.
Ed Bridges, director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and Bob Bradley, curator of the state archives, personally took possession of the flag at yesterday’s repatriation ceremony. Once conservation work on the flag is completed, it will be permanently housed at the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery.
NOTE: To see more photos from this event, please click here.