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Item Code: 1179-031

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Formerly in the collections of the Texas Civil War Museum, this historic flag was carried by Merrill’s Horse, the 2nd Missouri Cavalry, raised under the authority of Gen. John C. Fremont, commanding the Western Department out of St. Louis. Fremont charged Lewis Merrill, a Captain of the 2nd US Dragoons, with organizing the unit at St. Louis as part of the Missouri volunteer forces. The regiment saw very active service against Confederate guerrillas and partisan cavalry in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, often operating with loyal Missouri militia cavalry. The flag has a strong provenance and is accompanied by a 2008 treatment and conservation report.

Cavalry standards are rare by any calculation: there were far fewer cavalry regiments than infantry and as the regimental color there was only one per regiment. This follows the 1861 regulations, showing the arms of the U.S. embroidered on silk over a unit designation on a blue silk ground and is 70% intact. It is of a high quality, using not only the specified silk embroidery for the eagle, but beads for the eagle’s eye, and has been attributed to Shillito & Co. of Cincinnati. The flag shows use, but displays very well, measuring about 24” by 32 ½ inches, constructed of a single layer of blue silk and preserving the silk embroidered eagle with a wingspan of about 24 inches, painted unit designation ribbon and bottom edge including fringe.

The eagle faces to its right, holds an olive branch in its right claw, arrows in its left, and bears a US shield on its chest with the stripes embroidered in red and white, with the blue silk ground forming the field with 13 stars in two rows painted in silver. A large arc of thirteen 1-inch five-pointed silver stars in two rows was also painted overhead, four of which remain. An E PLURIBUS UNUM ribbon in the eagle’s beak is largely intact. There is just minor loss to the tips of the embroidered wings and on the right wing. (Losses to the embroidery are somewhat greater on the reverse, which is not shown as mounted.) The eagle’s eye made of a circle of clear beads with two red beads at center. Under the eagle the unit designation “MERRILL’S / HORSE” was painted in silver letters 1 5/8” inch high in a forked-tail, curling ribbon defined by a gold outline and flourishes. Portions of the silk are missing below the ribbon and above the 2 1/4” bottom fringe, and there is some loss on a few of the letters, but only the final “E” is missing. The embroidery and paint were finished on both sides, though with the unit designation reading in reverse on the back of the flag. The sleeve or ties used to attach it to the lance are missing. As originally constructed, and including the fringe, it was about 30 ½ inches by 42 inches, meeting the 27” specified on the lance and somewhat wider, or longer on the fly, than the regulation 29 inches (without fringe,) but which makes it equal to company guidons that were 42” long by regulation.

Merrill had graduated West Point in 1855 and served in the U.S. Dragoons, posted at Jefferson and Carlisle Barracks, but also with active frontier duty at Forts Leavenworth, Riley, Kearney, and Larned, giving him plenty of field experience in quelling disturbances in “Bloody Kansas” 1856-1858, the Utah Expedition in 1858, and scouting against the Kiowa and Comanche in 1860. He was initially tapped by Fremont to assist in mustering and organizing volunteer regiments and then given charge of raising the 2nd Missouri Cavalry in August 1861 with a commission as its Colonel. (Fremont’s commissions were later confirmed by the Provisional Governor issuing commissions with retroactive dates. The regiment fielded ten companies until 1863, when two more were added. Merrill is credited making the unit an effective combat force on western  campaigns by instilling a discipline and esprit-de-corps (as exemplified in a specific uniform that he ordered would be invariably worn and, of course, things like this fine flag.)

Dyer summarizes its overall record as follows, noting that it was ordered to march to Springfield, MO, in September 1861, even before its organization was complete: Fremont's Campaign against Springfield, Mo., September-October. At Sedalia, Mo., till January, 1862. Scout through Saline County December 3-12, 1861. Expedition to Milford December 15-19. Shawnee Mound or Milford, Blackwater River, December 18. Roan's Tan Yard, Silver Creek, January 8, 1862. Knobnoster January 22. Attached to Dept. of Missouri September, 1861, to January, 1862. District of Northeast Missouri, Dept. of Missouri, to June, 1863. District of Southeast Missouri, Dept. of Missouri, to August, 1863. 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Arkansas Expedition, to December, 1863. 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Army of Arkansas, to January, 1864. 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, 7th Army Corps, Dept. of Arkansas, to May, 1864. 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 7th Army Corps, to September, 1864. 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, 7th Army Corps, to February, 1865. 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, District of West Tennessee, to muster out.

The unit’s service was extensive and synopsized by Dyer as follows: Moved to Northern Missouri and duty at Columbia, Glasgow, Sturgeon, Paris, Huntsville, Palmyra, and Warrenton, operating against guerrillas and elements of the secessionist Missouri State Guard (MSG) January, 1862, to June, 1863. Expedition into Schuyler and Scotland Counties, against Porter's and Poindexter's MSG cavalry, July 12-August 8, 1862. Near Memphis, Mo., July 18. Brown Springs July 27. Moore's Mills, near Fulton, July 28. Kirksville August 6 (Detachment). Pursuit of Poindexter August 8–15, with skirmishes at Grand River, Lee's Ford, Chariton River and Walnut Creek, near Stockton, August 9. Switzler's Mill August 10. Little Compton Ferry, Yellow Creek, August 11. Roanoke September 6 (Detachment). Scotland and Boone Counties September 30 (Detachment). Joined Davidson's Cavalry Division at Pilot Knob June, 1863. Expedition to Little Rock, Ark., July 1-September 10. Grand Prairie August 17. Brownsville August 25. Bayou Metoe or Reed's Bridge August 27. Reconnaissance from Brownsville August 29. Bear Skin Lake, Ashby's Mills, September 7. Bayou Fourche and capture of Little Rock September 10. Pursuit of Price September 11–13. Near Little Rock September 11. Duty at Little Rock till March, 1864. Steele's Expedition to Camden March 23-May 3. Benton Road March 23–24. Okolona April 2–3. Prairie D'Ann April 9–12. Camden April 15–18. Moro Bottom April 25–26. Jenkins' Ferry, Saline River, April 30. Scatterville July 28. Duty in Arkansas till September. Operating against Price September and October. Booneville, Mo., October 9–12. Little Blue October 21. Big Blue, State Line, October 22. Westport October 23. Battle of Charlot October 25. Mine Creek, Osage River, Marias des Cygnes, October 25. Grierson’s Expedition from Memphis against Mobile & Ohio Railroad December 21, 1864, to January 15, 1865 (Co. "E"). Near Memphis February 9 (Detachment). Moved to Chattanooga, Tenn., and duty operating against guerrillas in Georgia and Alabama and escorting trains from Chattanooga to Atlanta January to September, 1865. Mustered out September 19, 1865. During its service it lost 3 officers and 56 men in killed or mortally wounded, with many others wounded, but recovering to some degree.

The flag seems to have remained in Merrill’s possession after the war and then passed to Lt. L.R. Fortesque, a Pennsylvania officer but, like Merrill, a postwar resident of Philadelphia, member of MOLLUS and the Union League. The Fortesque family passed it to Philadelphia historian Howard Blum, who in turn donated it to an out-of-state historical society in the late 1960s or 1970s, from which it was deaccessioned in 1991 and sold at auction. It was again auctioned as part of the Ockerbloom collection in 2007. A copy of that listing with the above provenance  comes with the flag.)  At some point in its history the flag was framed on top of a reproduction flag to fill in the missing portions. This was removed during conservation by Textile Preservation Associates in 2007-2008. Their treatment report is included with the flag and can be inspected by interested parties. This is a much better presentation of flag from a very active unit with four years of arduous service. Most Civil War collectors will be familiar not only with silk battle flags as they currently exist, but also as they are shown in period photographs- often reduced to mere shreds, which were more honored and treasured for their service in the field.

This is a scarce cavalry banner and all the rarer coming from a unit serving in the western theatre. Lewis Merrill himself was a fascinating figure with both prewar and postwar frontier service, connections with Custer, etc. This is wonderful flag from a very interesting unit with eye appeal and a lot of history to it.  [sr] [ph:L]







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