91st PA--regimental colors

Regimental colors of the 91st PA

Flags

Initial flags

Governor Curtin presented flags to the 91st, 90th, 67th, 58th, and 6th Pennsylvania on 6 December 1861, at a "large field situated between the depot at the Ridge Avenue Railroad and the Odd Fellows' Cemetery, on Islington lane" (1, 2; see also 22, 28). The ceremony, which drew a large crowd, was late starting, and included a speech by the Governor, and brief responses by each of the commanders (2). This flag was left in Harrisburg when the regiment was on veterans' furlough in 1864, and was returned during the 1866 parade (1). Bill Redheffer has kindly provided a picture of this flag (9).

Another "stand of colors" was presented to the 91st on 11 December 1861, by "some of its friends and admirers in the city" (1 [citing 3], 4, 21). Major Leonard Myers (Home Guard, First Regiment) made the presentation speech (4). The officers voted to deposit this flag in Independence Hall (15), but it seems not to have survived (1).

The regiment also received a flag in Alexandria on 2 August 1862 (39).

Second flags

Advance the Colors suggests that the regiment received a second state color when it was in Philadelphia on veterans' furlough (1). (It shows a picture, and cites a letter from Eli Sellers to Adjutant-General Russell, on 15 June 1866, in the National Archives, Record Group 19 (1).) Colonel Gregory took it home, and turned it over to Major Lane, in Philadelphia (1). It was officially returned in 1866 (1).

The regiment also then received a second flag from friends in Philadelphia. On 3 February 1864, in Concert Hall, a "suit" of flags was presented, with ex-governor James Pollock giving the presentation speech, and Professor Saunders giving another speech, followed by Colonel Gregory (1, 5, 6, 23, 24 [which see for summaries of the speeches]). The officers voted to deposit this flag in Independence Hall (15), but it seems not to have survived (1).

Color bearers

Advance the Colors lists seven color-bearers:

Robert Chism (K)
According to Gregory's speech when the regiment received flags on 3 February 1864, Chism had carried the original flag through every battle (24). He was one of the color sergeants when he died after having his legs amputated, because he was trampled by frightened horses or mules, on 7 May 1864 (13, 14).
Archibald Nimmo (B)
Nimmo carried the colors during the two charges the 91st made on 18 June 1864, and was wounded during the second charge (10, 12). Sellers recommended that he receive a brevet promotion (10), and later recommended him for a medal of honor for "conspicuous gallantry" in carrying the colors then, which he did not receive (12).
Edward Gamble (B)
Gamble carried the colors during the two charges the 91st made on 18 June 1864, and was wounded during the second charge (12). Sellers recommended that he receive a medal of honor for "conspicuous gallantry" in carrying the colors then, which he did not receive (12)
Franklin Wolfinger (H)
Wolfinger grabbed the colors on 18 June 1864, after both color bearers were wounded (during the second charge), "waved them defiantly in [the] face of the enemy", and "[c]arried them safely through under a heavy fire" (12). Sellers recommended him for a medal of honor, which he did not receive (12). (Advance the Colors wrongly lists his name as "Franklin C Wolfong".)
Samuel Sweeney (H)
Both colors fell as the regiment neared a Confederate breastwork on 18 June 1864 (8). Sweeney grabbed one, was shot "in a moment", and died (8). (Advance the Colors wrongly claims "Sweeney" is James Sweeney (D).)
Thomas Deveraux (C)
He saved the regimental colors on 6 February 1865 at Hatcher's Run, Virginia, by 'stripping them from the staff and concealing them on his person' (16).
William Geary (D)
According to Advance the Colors, the list of "soldiers contacted for the 1914 ceremony" lists him as a color-bearer (1). An undated letter written by Eli Sellers makes clear that he volunteered to carry the regimental colors on 19 June 1864, after the color bearers had been wounded on the 18th.

Thomas Walter (A) also claims that he was "one of the regular color bearers" in September 1862 (17). However, he did not enjoy this service (17):

"At this time I was one of the regular color bearers of the regiment, though it was a distinction I was in no wise partial to. Our regiment, like many others, always had a State, as well as National colors, or at least we had as much of them as their hard service allowed to hang together. I did not object to the colors because they increased my chances of being shot, but because they kept so close to the ranks. The color-sergeants and color-guard had to be first in line when the regiments was found, and were last to get away when the command was dismissed. We had no chance to do any foraging on the march, neither could we feel as free when off duty in camp."

He also mentions that at Chancellorsville, when the regiment had to retreat because it was outflanked, "[b]oth of our colors and color-bearers came out safe, though six of the eight corporals composing the color-guard had been struck, I believe." (18)

Benjamin Redheffer (A) was in the Color Guard (19).

The consolidated morning report for 8 July 1864 reports one man in company C as "acting color corporal", and one man and one corporal in company D on duty as color bearer and guard.

Other

According to one report, Captain Parsons (C) was shot while saving the regimental colors; he died of infection resulting from those wounds (25).

After the war

In December 1872, Eli Sellers petitioned for the return of the 91st's Battle Flags, which were held at Independence Hall (26). On 26 December 1872, the Philadelphia Common Council agreed to a resolution about the flags.

The E D Baker Post, number 2, of the Grand Army of the Republic had one of the 91st's battle flags, which was destroyed in a fire in 1889 (31).

Sources

1 Advance the colors, pp.313-315.

2 'Grand military review'. Philadelphia Inquirer 7 December 1861 page 8.

3 'Flag presentation'. Philadelphia North American 12 December 1861. [Cited in Advance the colors]

4 'Flag presentation'. Philadelphia Inquirer 13 December 1861.

5 'Flag presentation'. Philadelphia Inquirer 3 February 1864.

6 'Flag presentation'. Philadelphia Public Ledger 4 February 1864, page 1.

7 'Presentation of a suit of flags'. Philadelphia Inquirer 4 February 1864. [Cited in Advance the colors; the Free Library of Philadelphia was unable to find this]

8 [untitled article describing the 91st action from 11 to 19 June 1864]. Norristown Herald 5 July 1864.

9 picture of one of the 91st's flags

10 letter, Sellers to Bartlett, 19 Nov 1864

11 letter, Lt Col commanding 91st PA to Lieut Chas H Hand, 7 November 1864 (regiment had never lost its colors)

12 letter, Sellers to Bartlett, 25 Dec 1864

13 Thomas Walter, 'Personal recollections and experiences of an obscure soldier', Grand Army Scout and Soldiers' Mail volume 3 number 46 page 2.

14 Samuel Bates. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, page 191.

15 Samuel Bates. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, page 193.

16 'Address of Chaplain Joseph Welch'. In Pennsylvania at Gettysburg. Volume 1: 1914, Pages 500-507, at page 506.

17 Thomas Walter, 'Personal recollections and experiences of an obscure soldier', Grand Army Scout and Soldiers' Mail volume 3 number 36 page 1.

18 Thomas Walter, 'Personal recollections and experiences of an obscure soldier', Grand Army Scout and Soldiers' Mail volume 3 number 39 page 2.

19 register of non-commissioned officers, co.A

20 consolidated morning report, 91st PA, 8 July 1864

21 'Presentation to Col. Gregory's regiment Philadelphia Inquirer 11 December 1861 page 5

22 'Camp Chase', Philadelphia Inquirer 30 November 1861

23 'Presentation of a suit of flags', Philadelphia Inquirer, 4 February 1864, page 4

24 'Presentation of flags' (Philadelphia Press 4 February 1864, page 2).

25 Catalogue of the United States Army Medical Museum. Prepared under the direction of the Surgeon General, U. S. Army. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1866.

26 'City property' (Philadelphia Inquirer 25 December 1872, page 2)

27 Journal of Common Council of the City of Philadelphia for the year 1872, volume 2 (Philadelphia: King & Baird, 1873). Pages 382, 400

28 [flag presentation] (Philadelphia Press Saturday 7 December 1861 page 2)

29 letter, Eli Sellers, about William H Geary

30 'Local', Alexandria Gazette 5 August 1862 page 3

31 'The Grand Army'. National Tribune, 21 March 1889, page 6


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revised 9 Feb 14
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