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Appendix. Return of the captured flag.

[448] [449] The flag of the Nineteenth Massachusetts regiment, which was captured with the command in front of Petersburg in 1864, was returned to the Commonwealth in 1867 under circumstances of peculiar interest. The story is told in the following letters:

Charlotte, N. C., Nov. 29, 1866.
Chas. W. Matthews, Esq.,
Dear Sir:

I send you by express the flag of the Nineteenth Mass. Volunteers, which I told you I had rescued from rebel hands, that they might not have it to boast of.

Though mutilated in its border, its escutcheon is still intact and, like the Union, can be re-constructed but not on Rebel principles nor with Rebel material.

Please present it to its regiment or to its State and if its ‘esprit du corps’ is gratified in acquiring it, I shall feel that I am amply rewarded for the diplomacy I have exercised in seeking to transfer it to the gallant troops who rallied under it to defend the Union they loved not more than did

Yours most truly,

Dear Sir:

I herewith hand you the ‘colors’ of the Nineteenth Mass. Vols. and the letter of Mr. Edward H. Bissell of North Carolina, through whom it was procured. Mr. Bissell is one of the few true men the South affords. He originally hails from Connecticut but has resided in Charlotte for the last thirty-five years. During the war his love for the old flag and the assistance afforded by him to our brave soldiers escaping from the terrors of Andersonville and Saulsbury, earned for him the direst hatred of the traiters who heaped upon him all manner of indignities and reduced him from affluence to absolute want, as his letter will show, without alloying the true gold of his nature. [450]

The history of the flag is that it was captured somewhere in Virginia and was in possession of a rebel who used the border for a handkerchief. Mr. Bissell hearing of it and anxious that it should be restored to the brave men who assisted in putting down the rebellion, and indignant at the vile use it was put to by the Reb, partly by threat and partly by a pecuniary consideration, induced the traitor to disgorge.

Will you kindly restore the flag to the officers of the regiment should the organization still be in existence or in case it should not, to the Governor of the State.

I would suggest that an acknowledgment of its receipt be sent to Mr. Bissell at Charlotte as I know it would be very gratifying to him.

I am, captain,

Truly your friend,

New York, March 4, 1867.
To His Excellency, the Governor of Massachusetts.

I have this day sent you by express the colors of the Nineteenth Regiment, Mass. Vols., and herewith enclose express company's receipt for the same, also letters relating to their recovery—one from Edward H. Bissell, Esq., and one from Capt. Chas. W. Matthews.

It gives me great pleasure in being instrumental (though but to a slight degree) in returning the colors through you to their proper owners.

I have the honor to remain,

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Boston, March 21, 1867.
Capt. H. Ware, Private Secretary.

I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication and enclosures in reference to the return of the flag of my old command, captured during the last campaign of the Army of the Potomac.

I beg leave to express my extreme satisfaction at the intelligence your note and the accompanying document convey. The flag was lost under circumstances that reflected no discredit upon the regiment which bore it and by General Order of the Army to which they were attached, they were absolved from the responsibility of its capture, but however lost, it is a matter of congratulation that it should be returned. [451]

It is a matter, also, of legitimate pride, I think, that the Nineteenth Massachusetts regiment can claim to have captured the colors of no less than seven rebel regiments during their term of service, and which fact might offset the loss of one of their own under whatever circumstances.

As the senior officer here of the Nineteenth regiment association (composed of the surviving members) I desire very much to be afforded an opportunity to express the obligation that every member feels to the gentleman through whose instrumentality the flag has been returned. I venture to beg that His Excellency will transmit to Mr. Edward H. Bissell the sincere thanks of a regiment of brave men for having saved from disgrace the color they had borne through many a conflict. If anything is needed beyond his own consciousness of a noble action, he can rely upon the warm gratitude of every man and officer of my regiment.

Very sincerely and respectfully,

Arthur F. Devereux, Late Colonel 19th Mass. Vols. Brevet-Brigadier General.

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Edward H. Bissell (7)
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