My July 11th post told how Michigan Civil War veterans donated their National colors and battle flags to the state in 1866. This time I will describe the recreation of the historic event, 150 years after the fact.
It occurred to people that re-enacting the flag return ceremony would be a fitting “bookend” to Civil War Sesquicentennial events in Michigan. A committee, made up of “Save the Flags” staff and other interested parties, undertook planning the event. The Michigan State Capitol Commission, re-enacting units, the Michigan National Guard, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Michigan State Police were involved in making the celebration a success.
Everything came together on a day that featured blessedly-comfortable temperatures for July. At least 80 re-enactors representing several Civil War regiments were in attendance, as well as some 150 spectators. Dignitaries were seated above the steps of the Capitol Building in Lansing. The Fifth Michigan Regimental Band and 126th Michigan National Guard Marching Band serenaded the assembly with period tunes.
Following speeches and the bestowal of several awards for historic preservation, a column of re-enactors processed to the Capitol steps. A total of nine reproduction flags were accepted on the state’s behalf by Brigadier General John Slocum (Michigan Air National Guard): I was proud to present the Seventh Michigan’s National colors. The flags donated that day had been unfurled in countless re-enactments, some of them having been in use for as long as 20 years. Thus, they were torn and stained like their predecessors in 1866.
The event culminated in a Civil War artillery barrage and musket volleys by the infantrymen.
All participants received a cockade that sported a reproduction Civil War-era state of Michigan button that was cast from the original die by the Waterbury Button Company (Cheshire, Connecticut).
All in all, this was a tremendous way to commemorate the memory of the Peninsula State men (yes, there were some women, too) that fought to preserve the Union from 1861-1865. It was gratifying to take part in this event.