Clad in blue or gray wool coats adorned with yellow military patches and golden buttons, Civil War re-enactors marched between the aisles of Ellet Grace Brethren Church in Akron.
The group, the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Living History Association, ushered a 6-by-6 foot regimental flag as part of the Veterans Day Memorial celebration Monday.
On the regimental flag, an eagle clutching arrows and olive branches marked the standard template for each of the nearly 200 Ohio regiments that fought in the Civil War. The 29th Ohio Voluntary Infantry flag represents 1,532 Ohioans from Summit, Lake, Trumbull, Ashtabula and Geauga counties who served in the war.
Ohio soldiers would have fought behind that regimental flag at Gettysburg and other battles. It’s a replica of the same flag Akron resident Bill Ankeny’s great-grandfather would have followed into battle.
“These men gave their lives to keep this country united,” said Ankeny, a founding member of the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Living History Association. He and the group chose to memorialize the 29th Ohio Infantry because of the local attachment.
But the flag that symbolizes that attachment has become frayed and tattered over the years. So the group is raising funds to refurbish the original regimental flag, one of many stored at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus.
“Every Civil War soldier marched to his fate behind the regimental flag,” said Paul Goebbel, a Civil War re-enactor and member of the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Living History Association.
Historian John Gurnish said soldiers’ diaries often make reference to these flags, which “are the only broad evidence of the 325,000 Ohioans who fought.”
The flag’s restoration will require about $15,000.
To raise those funds, the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Living History Association is accepting contributions. Donors can visit the troop’s website, www.29thovicompanyg.org, for information on adopting a soldier. For $15, donors will receive a framed certificate with a soldier’s name, company and brief service record. The donor’s name also will be placed on the website’s official adoption roster.
Mark Holbrook, marketing manager at the Ohio Historical Society and a former Civil War re-enactor, said restoring and preserving these 150-year-old flags can be a costly endeavor.
In the mid-1960s, nearly 200 Civil War flags lined the walls of the Statehouse rotunda in Columbus. The Ohio Historical Society took the flags and tried to preserved them by gluing a nylon backing to prevent further deterioration.
That effort soon failed, however, as pieces of the flags fell off.
The flags were carefully stored until Holbrook launched the Save the Flags program, an effort to permanently seal the flags.
The $15,000 refurbishment of the 29th Ohio Voluntary Infantry’s regimental flag would consist of removing the nylon backing, placing the flag between two transparent cotton sheets and sealing the finished piece in a glass frame.
The end result would protect the flag forever from harmful sunlight and air.
In the past 11 years, 22 flags have been preserved, Holbrook said. Two more are being preserved now.
Members of the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Living History Association hope to raise enough money to refurbish their company’s regimental flag next year.
For Ankeny, the effort would preserve the last flag presented to his great-grandfather before the 29th Voluntary Infantry was disbanded in July 1865.
“For me, it’s preserving the past,” Ankeny said. “It’s keeping the memory of these men.”
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.