Published: June 13, 2019
DENVER, PENN. — An 1864 hand-painted flag that was carried into battle by the 127th Regiment, one of 11 African American regiments from Pennsylvania that fought for the Union during the Civil War, sold at Morphy Auctions on June 13 for $196,800, including premium.
Bidding by phone, the Atlanta History Center acquired this rare artifact that was key to the story of the Civil War, the flag being one of fewer than 25 known examples carried by African American regiments during the war.
Given the History Center’s ongoing mission of increasing inclusivity, the organization’s leadership viewed the chance to acquire the flag of an African American regiment as an important opportunity to expand its narrative about the often-forgotten service of the 127th United States Colored Troops (USCT) during the Civil War. In a release issued appropriately enough on Flag Day, June 14, the center said it rarely makes major purchases for its collections, which have grown organically over nine decades mainly through donations of artifacts. This acquisition, it added, is the most money it has ever paid for a single artifact.
“We want to tell the entire story of the Civil War and how it impacts our country,” Atlanta History Center president and chief executive Sheffield Hale said. “This flag is worth it in exhibit value alone. It’s one of those things that doesn’t need words to tell you what it is and what it represents.”
Believed to be the only survivor from the original 11 flags hand-painted by David Bustill Bowser, son of a fugitive slave, its distinctive artwork features the image of a Black troop bidding farewell to Columbia, the Goddess of Liberty. Above the artwork a motto reads: “We Will Prove Ourselves Men.”
“It was such an honor to have been chosen to bring this precious Civil War artifact to the auction marketplace,” Morphy said. “Its historical importance cannot be overstated.”
A full review of this sale will follow.
[Ed. note: this article was updated 6/14/19 with the buyer’s information.]
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