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Kansas Flags On Display Through April 2002
December '01 issue

TOPEKA, Kan. - The Kansas Museum of History is highlighting its collection of 82 military flags dating from the Civil War and Spanish-American War through April in the exhibit "Keep the Flag to the Front: Battle Flags of Kansas."
The state received the flags of the Civil War regiments, presented by veterans, in a ceremony in Topeka on July 4, 1866.
Included were flags of the First through Sixteenth Kansas Regiments, with the exception of the Third and Fourth, which never fully organized and were taken into the Tenth Regiment. No flag exists for the Seventeenth, which organized late in the war.

Also included in the presentation were flags of the First Kansas Colored Infantry, the Second Kansas Colored Infantry, and the First and Second Kansas Batteries. No flags exist for the Third Battery and the Independent Colored Kansas Battery.

The flags were originally the responsibility of the Adjutant General, and remained so until 1905 when they were transferred to the Kansas State Historical Society. For nine years they were kept in a case in the society's rooms on the fourth floor of the Capitol.

When the society moved in 1914 to the newly constructed Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Building, they were moved in a stirring ceremony where veterans of the Kansas regiments marched the flags from the south steps of the Capitol to the new building. Until the early 1960s they were encased in the building's auditorium. A remodeling program at that time forced them into storage.

Eleven Confederate flags in the collection include a small flag apparently dropped by a member of the raiders led by William Clarke Quantrill during his raid on Olathe, Kan., just after midnight on Sept. 7, 1862.

In the hours before dawn, the raiders killed several men and looted businesses and private homes. The flag was dropped in the public square and found later by Olathe resident Jonathan Millikan whose son donated it to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1930.

The first shots of the Civil War were fired about three months after Kansas entered the Union as a free state. Pre-war "Bleeding Kansas" had served as a crucible for the abolitionist cause, and many of the state's residents advocated the use of African-American troops early in the war although federal policy and many Northerners opposed.

In a controversial move, U.S. Senator James Henry Lane gave broad interpretation to a presidential order authorizing the recruitment of regiments. During August 1862 Lane began organizing a unit of African-American soldiers in Kansas. The First Kansas Colored Infantry was the first recruited in the northern states for service in the Civil War.

They would soon be the first blacks to see battle, and the first to die in action when, on Oct. 28, 1862, a detachment of 225 men faced 500 Confederates at Island Mound in Bates County, Mo. Ten members of the First were killed and 12 wounded, but the Confederates were driven off.

The battle of Wilson's Creek was originally referred to as the battle of Springfield, which explains the "Springfield" designation on the national flag of the Second Kansas Volunteer Infantry. The unit was organized in Lawrence on June 11, 1861, in response to President Abraham Lincoln's first call for troops. Later that month the regiment was mustered in at Kansas City, Mo., for three months' service.

The Second Kansas took part in several battles in Missouri, including Wilson's Creek (Springfield). The Adjutant General's history of Kansas regiments observed that "The Second regiment was the last one to leave the field [Wilson's Creek], and the only regiment which kept its line and organization unbroken from the first to the last of the fight, which lasted about six hours."

The regiment was mustered out at Leavenworth on Oct. 31, 1861. The ladies of Emporia presented the flag to the company, creating it from red and blue challis. Having no blue for the field, one woman provided enough blue cashmere from a dress pattern her mother had sent her.

No flags exist from the Indian War-era's 18th and 19th Kansas Regiments. Eight flags exist for the Spanish-American War's 20th through 22nd regiments, but none for the 23rd regiment. These flags were turned over to the state shortly after that war and the Philippine Insurrection. The collections also include a Spanish banner, taken by a member of the 20th regiment, which bears the signatures of the men of Co. E.

The museum is open 9-4:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday and 12:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday. The Kansas Museum of His-tory is located at the Kansas History Center, 6425 SW 6th Ave., Topeka, KS 66615-1099; (785) 272-8681; www.kshs.org.

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