The following is a guest post by RIHS intern Jessica Chandler.
Happy Flag Day! In celebration, this post is dedicated to this cotton flag that dates back to 1865.
It belonged to the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, Rhode Island’s black regiment in the Civil War. The regiment formed in 1863, recruiting at least eighteen hundred black soldiers and seventy-seven white officers from Rhode Island and surrounding states such as Connecticut and New York.
Soldiers felt most loyal to their regiment, and flags represented a great deal to them. Not only would they protect the flag with their lives when face to face with enemies, but it was a rallying point for the soldiers. On the chaotic battlefield once-organized formations quickly became scattered. Guns fired, cannons blasted, and many other noises prevented the men from properly hearing one another. When their sense of direction became lost, they looked towards the flag and instantly knew where their regiment was.
This particular flag saw action in Narragansett Bay and Texas; later, as the 11th U.S. Heavy Artillery regiment, in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
“The 14th RI.” The 14th Rhode Island Re-enactor Program. Living History Inc., n.d. Web. May 2014. <http://14thri.org/the_14th_ri.htm>