DAYTON, Va. (NNS) — A Confederate flag finished a nearly 150-year journey as it traded hands from the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society (HRHS) to Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) during a ceremony at the society’s building in Dayton, Va., July 31. Capt. Henry Hendrix, NHHC’s director, accepted the flag which will be preserved and displayed in one of the U.S. Navy’s museums.
The flag’s journey to Washington, D.C. began during the Civil War in 1865.
It was early morning as Lt. William Ladd rode his horse into a nearly deserted Richmond, Va. The siege of the Petersburg had come to an end after eight months, signifying an end to the war that had divided America. With the Confederate capital of Richmond captured, the last hopes of the rebel army vanished and the army and populace of the city had scattered. It was while investigating the city that Ladd observed a Confederate ship flying their colors.
“I was in the Capitol grounds as early as 5:30 am,” wrote Ladd, in the History of the 13th New Hampshire Regiment. “I saw no flag on the Capitol at that time. After looking about the grounds and vicinity for a few minutes, and realizing I was alone in the city, I rode back towards Rocketts, and when near there met a white Union cavalryman – the first Union soldier I had seen in Richmond that morning. We tied our horses, took a skiff and rowed out to a rebel war ship in the James, and captured two Confederate flags then flying upon her. I pulled down the larger flag, the cavalryman the smaller one, and we rolled them up and tied them to our saddles.”
Unknown to Ladd, the Confederates had previously rigged the ship, Confederate States Ship (CSS) Hampton, to explode, denying the Union Army its capture. Soon after he and the cavalryman left with their captured flags, the ship was rocked by an explosion and slowly sank into the waters of the Potomac.
After the war, Ladd kept the flag in his residence, where it remained for years.
Fast forward to 2011. On a shelf in a Dayton, Va. building belonging to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, sat an archival collection box. The vice president of the society was working with volunteers to update their collection registry. As she went through the boxes she made an astounding discovery, a Confederate flag. A handwritten (note?) sewn onto it read, “That of Confed gun boat Hampton burnt in James River at the taking of Richmond. The flag was taken from the burning ship by Liet. Ladd (13th N. Hampshire), Gen. Devens staff.” READ MORE