Flag of the 39th Regiment New York State Veteran Volunteers

Object Number: 
1946.34
Date: 
ca. 1861
Medium: 
Silk
Dimensions: 
Flag: 57 × 73 1/2 in. (144.8 × 186.7 cm) Frame: 62 5/16 × 78 5/16 × 1 1/2 in. (158.3 × 198.9 × 3.8 cm)
Marks: 
painted: in a banner in the cartouche: "EXCELSIOR" painted: above the cartouche: "39th REG'T N. Y. S. V. V." painted: below the cartouche: "Presented/ by the City of/ New York"
Description: 
Blue silk flag of the 39th Regiment New York State Veteran Volunteers painted with the New York State seal in a gold cartouche in the center; shield in center of the cartouche has half New York State seal with a sun rising over the mountains and the Hudson river, and half U.S. shield with twelve stars in a blue canton over thirteen red and white vertical stripes; shield between personifications of Justice blindfolded with a sword and America with a liberty pole and red, white and blue liberty cap; banner below the shield inscribed, "EXCELSIOR" in roman letters; spread American bald eagle on a demi-globe above; painted red banner above the cartouche inscribed, "39th REG'T N. Y. S. V. V." in gold letters; painted white banner below the cartouche inscribed, "Presented/ by the City of/ New York" in gold letters; gold fringe around the fly; narrow hoist with tack holes. Reverse painted with seal of the City of New York.
Gallery Label: 
Soldiers on the Civil War battlefield followed their regimental flags, making color bearers the highly visible and critically important targets of an opposing force. First Lieutenant Kiliaen Van Rensselaer IV of the 39th Regiment New York State Veteran Volunteers was proud to have rescued this massive painted silk banner during the Battle of Sutherland’s Station in Virginia on April 2, 1865, when its wounded bearer could no longer carry it. Writing to his to family in Rye, New York, the next day, Van Rensselaer said, “We were away from any one, the rest retreating in disorder.… I seized the colors, told them to follow, they did, and we doubled quick across the opening, through shot and shell, I would turn around, towards the enemy, and wave the colors in defiance…. I bore the colors off safe, and I received the thanks of every one.”
Credit Line: 
Gift of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, V
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group