On Flag Day, June 14, at Sotheby’s, in a packed fifth floor salesroom, four rare battle flags captured from American troops during the Revolutionary War sold for $17,392,000, far exceeding the presale estimate of $4/10 million. Taken as trophies of war by one of the most notorious British commanders, Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, during conflicts in Bedford, N.Y., in 1779, and at Waxhaws in the Carolinas in 1780, all four flags were purchased by a telephone bidder who wishes to remain anonymous.
The first flag offered had belonged to the 2nd Regiment, Continental Light Dragoons raised in Connecticut by Colonel Elisha Sheldon. It is the earliest surviving American flag to display 13 red and white strips and was captured by Tarleton in an engagement at Bedford/Pound Ridge, N.Y., on July 2, 1779. David Redden, vice chairman of Sotheby’s and the auctioneer for the sale, opened the bidding at $800,000. While three bidders, one in the room and two on the phone, competed for the flag, it quickly became the subject of an intense battle between the two telephone bidders. After more than five minutes, one bidder conceded and the flag finally sold for $12,336,000.
The three flags from the Third Virginia Detachment under Colonel Abraham Buford were captured by Tarleton at the battle of Waxhaws, near the border of North Carolina and South Carolina on May 29, 1780. They are the only intact set of American battle flags surviving from the Revolutionary War. Three bidders, two in the room and the purchaser of the Connecticut flag on the phone, competed for the three flags. The phone bidder was successful again, purchasing the three flags for $5,056,000.
Prices reported include buyer’s premium, which is 20 percent of the hammer price on the first $200,000, and 12 percent thereafter. For information, 212-606-7000 or www.sothebys.com.