FLAG OF THE 44th NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS: THE “ELLSWORTH AVENGERS.” EIGHTY-FOUR BULLET HOLES AND TWO SHELL HOLES

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The 44th NY, also known as the “Ellsworth Avengers” and the “People’s Ellsworth Regiment” was recruited under the auspices of the Ellsworth Association of the state. It will be familiar to historians of Gettysburg from their defense of Little Round Top on July 2, 1863. The flag shown in this carte-de-visite was presented to the regiment on October 21, 1861, by Mrs. Erastus Corning and this image was used in the regimental history opposite page 122. It was carried in every engagement up to January 1863, when it was replaced with a new flag, also a gift of Mrs. Corning, and presented to the regiment on her behalf by Gen. Griffen, their division commander. This flag was returned to her and later deposited with the state. A newspaper correspondent in Washington at the time recorded:

The battle flag of the Forty-Fourth New York is at the rooms of Mrs. Erastus Corning at Willard’s, an object of veneration. It is ragged with eighty-four bullet holes. Twice was its staff cut in two by balls. Two shells have passed through it. Twelve color bearers have been shot dead, holding it in front of the regiment, and eighteen wounded. It is properly to be photographed by Brady. Mrs. Corning has given the regiment a new flag.

Up until that time the regiment had served in the 1st Division of the Army of the Potomac and, after the institution of Army Corps, briefly in the 3rd Corps, and then in the 5th Corps from May 1862 until its muster out in October 1864. It was fighting regiment, losing 6 officers and 182 enlisted men killed in action or mortally wounded alone. The flag was carried at Yorktown, Hanover Court House, Gaines Mill, Turkey Island Bend, Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run, Antietam (in reserve,) Shepardstown Ford, and Fredericksburg. The names and deeds of all the color bearers (or color guards) mentioned in the newspaper account are not recorded, but Corporal James Young, Co. F, is recorded by Phisterer as having raised the fallen color twice at the Battle of Hanover Court House, and then fallen, shot through the head, “while waving his hat and shouting defiance to the enemy.”

As the newspaper article indicates, the image was taken by Brady. In this case a contemporary photographer has used Brady’s image, without credit, likely for sale to veterans of the unit or their relatives. The two-piece staff (obviously a replacement for the two shattered in battle) has been arranged to show the banner draped. The number “44” shows prominently on the bullet-riddled flag and portions of the rest of the painted designation can be made out. The card is in very good condition, with just minor foxing marks or small stains on the mount.    [sr]

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