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Bikers Raise Funds For 20th Tenn. Flag

Gregory L. Wade

- (December 2007) FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Raising almost $30,000 for flag preservation takes some creative thinking. And that is what Ronnie Mangrum is doing in his efforts to conserve a flag of special importance to him.

Helping to raise the funds, some 300 motorcyclists and enthusiasts recently toured Middle Tennessee historical stops, ending the ride at Mangrum's home near Franklin.

The house itself was once occupied by Capt. Patrick Smithson of the 20th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry, C.S., whose battle flag is the subject of Mangrum's effort. Smithson was severely wounded at Chickamauga.

Two of Mangrum's great-great-grandfathers also served under the flag, Pvts. Wiley P. Mangrum and Alexander "Zonk" Bennett.

The banner is now housed at the Tennessee State Museum in desperate need of repair.

A silent auction and music by country artists including Hank Williams III highlighted the event at Mangrum's home. The day raised about $8,700 for the flag project, which it is hoped, will be completed by the opening of Franklin's new Carter House museum in 2009.

"This flag is unusual because it is made partially of silk and silk decays easily," said Mangrum. "Much of the material is from Gen. John Breckinridge's wife's wedding dress."

An ill-fated attempt to save the banner back in the 1960s only made its condition worse. Mangrum says the United Daughters of the Confederacy "sewed the flag to a white sheet." Because of that it will have to be un-stitched in a very tedious process.

Mangrum is hoping a way can be found for volunteers to handle that part of the process, which will lower the project's total cost.

The large 6 foot by 9 foot flag represented a regiment that saw fighting at various places, including Fishing Creek (Kentucky), Vicksburg, Murfreesboro, Franklin and Nashville. Among the 20th's officers were Col. William Shy, who was killed at Nashville on a hill now carrying his name.

Another officer was Brig. Gen. Thomas Benton Smith, who was hit on the head with a sword after he surrendered. As a result, he spent the rest of his life institutionalized with brain damage.

The Roderick, Forrest's War Horse Camp 2072, Sons of Confederate Veterans, is leading the effort to conserve the flag. Mangrum says they have raised about $12,000 so far.

Fonda G. Thomsen of Textile Preservation Associates Inc., Maryland, will do the work. "We just need to get this done to save this incredible piece of our history," said Mangrum.

Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to: Roderick #2072, 114 Galloway St., Columbia, TN 38401. For additional information contact Mangrum at

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