72nd Ohio Infantry Flag Captured at the Battle of Shiloh

72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Flag at Shiloh

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit the Sandusky County Historical Museum in Fremont, Ohio. Among the artifacts scattered throughout the museum is the original regimental battle flag of the 72nd O.V.I. This flag was captured during the battle of Shiloh and there is a fascinating story of the flag being lost, then returned to the survivors of the regiment in October 1896.

This flag was presented to the regiment by the mayor of Fremont in January 1862 as the regiment was leaving Camp Croghan to head south to war. It was entrusted to Sergeant Gustavus H. Gessner of Co. H. During the skirmish at Crump's Landing on April 4, 1862, Gessner received a neck wound and went into the hospital; the flag was left furled in his tent. At the outset of the Battle of Shiloh two days later, Co. H was on picket duty and the company commander Captain Samuel A.J. Snyder (who under arrest for shooting a squirrel in camp and consequently left in camp while Co. H was on picket) noticed that the flag was in Gessner's tent. Snyder took the flag and placed it in a regimental wagon behind the lines, then offered his services to Col. Buckland, thinking that he had placed the flag in a safe place. After a hard fight of two hours, the 72nd Ohio retreated from their position west of Shiloh Church and in the course of the retreat, the wagon and flag were captured. The flag was quickly discovered and presented to Confederate General Pierre G.T, Beauregard who kept the flag for many years. It was eventually given to his adjutant general Thomas Jordan.

Following Jordan's death in November 1895, Jordan's daughter donated the flag to a charity auction in New York City that was being held in support of Cuban insurgents. Veterans of the 72nd Ohio learned that their original flag was up for auction but were unable to secure it; Capt. Charles McCleary, president of the regimental association, contacted Ohio Governor Asa Bushnell and asked him to intervene. Bushnell told McCleary not to worry; he then contacted friends in New York who won the flag at auction, paying $200 for it. The primary competition for the flag was a G.A.R. post in New York state.

Governor Bushnell received the flag in June 1896, and sent it to Clyde, Ohio where it was kept until the formal presentation at the regimental reunion on October 3, 1896 (see photo below). The flag remained in the possession of the regimental association for many years before eventually making its way (along with the 72nd Ohio's national and regimental flags [the regimental flag was given to the regiment in June 1862 to replace the one lost at Shiloh]) to the Sandusky County Historical Society. All three flags were discovered rolled up in the attic a number of years ago; the national and replacement regimental colors were in very fragile condition ("in tatters") but the original flag was still in excellent condition. It was selected for preservation and this work was completed in 2011.

It now is the centerpiece display in the museum, and a wonderful relic of the Civil War.


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