The Flags of the NY 12th Cavalry
At the conclusion of the Civil War the flags of many of the New York regiments were returned to the state at a ceremony at the New York State Capitol Building in Albany. The exceptions were for the most part probably those flags that had been paid for with private funds. For most of the period since then they have remained in the lobby of the Capitol, rolled around their staffs and slowly deteriorating.
Only recently has there begun an effort to conserve them. The first ten flags from among the immense collection were worked on in late 1998. Among these ten is the regimental flag of the NY 2nd Cavalry, the regiment which fired the first shot at Gettysburg. Unfortunately, the 12th Cavalry did not have a flag included in this first group of ten. The plan is eventually to carry out preservation work on the entire collection.
The curator of the collection, Tom DuClos, in the Office of the Adjutant General's Office, told me on September 30, 1998, that in the collection are nine flags from the NY 12th Cavalry, "all troop flags and no regimentals."
In Volume I of Phisterer one finds an account of the storage of all regimental colors at the New York State Capitol Building in Albany. On page 97 Phisterer includes the following inventory of the flags of the 12th New York Cavalry:
COLORS OF THE TWELFTH (THIRD IRA HARRIS GUARDS) CAVALRY.
1. National flag, silk, in very poor condition and mounted upon original staff, spearhead and tassels missing. Inscription upon flag, "12th Cavalry New York Vols. 3rd Ira Harris Guards."
2. Blue silk regimental banner, in very bad condition, mounted upon original staff, spearhead complete. Emblazoned with the arms of the state and the inscription, "12th Regiment N. Y. Vols."
3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Blue silk guidons in very poor condition, mounted upon original staffs, spearheads missing, painted upon staffs, "12th Cavalry N. Y. Vols."
8. 9. 10. Blue silk guidons, fair condition, spearheads missing, painted upon staffs, "12th Cavalry N. Y. Vols."
As of late October 2004, the flags of the 12th had undergone conservation and were presented on the web site of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center.
Neither the description given by Tom Duclos in 1998 nor the listing in Phisterer were completely accurate. Mr. Duclos had the count right, but his report that there were no regimentals seems not to have been correct. Phisterer inaccurately described the guidons as being blue silk rather than the red and white stripes with blue cantons as they actually are. Phisterer also was incorrect in saying that the regimental banner bore the arms of the State of New York. It is now known that it bore the federal eagle, the arms of the United States.
To view the flags, follow the links: