The women of Beaufort sewed the flag. Their men fought beneath it.
And when the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery surrendered in 1865, one soldier wrapped it around himself beneath his uniform and hid it from Union forces.
Almost a century and a half later, the Unsurrendered Flag is back in Beaufort and on display at the Verdier House as part of a special exhibit about the city's volunteer Civil War militia.
"We're very lucky to have a piece of history like this," said Jody Henson, a member of the Gen. Richard H. Anderson Camp 47 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Henson, who serves on a Sons of Confederate Veterans committee in charge of conserving flags, said the group usually splits the cost of restoration with the state. But to give Beaufort first dibs on displaying this flag, the Historic Beaufort Foundation shared the $14,000 cost.
The flag will remain on display for four years before returning to its owner, the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia, said Sandy Patterson, Verdier House volunteer coordinator.
The flag was presented to the local militia on George Washington's birthday in 1858. It was damaged in the Battle of Port Royal Sound, but the militia mended it and carried it into other battles. It was severely damaged by years of war and subsequent storage. It may have been hit by a cannonball, Patterson said, although Henson said there are no signs of scorching.
Paint and parts of the fabric disintegrated over time.
"It did see some battle, no doubt about it," Henson said. "It went through the whole war without being surrendered."
Given to the Confederate Relic Room in 1896 by the unit's second Civil War captain, Dr. Henry Middleton Stuart, it remained in storage until a few years ago, when the Sons of Confederate Veterans began to consider its restoration.
"I'm very proud of this," Henson said. "This has been my passion for the last couple of years."
It's "romantic" to have such a sentimental piece of Beaufort's history return, said Maxine Lutz, executive director of the Historic Beaufort Foundation.
The flag will be displayed in the exhibit "The Beaufort Artillery: Guardians of the Lowcountry Since 1776." Part of the city's 300th anniversary celebration and the Civil War's sesquicentennial, the exhibit was developed by the foundation, and Ron Roth is its curator.
It will contain artifacts and memorabilia owned by the foundation, the former Beaufort Museum and the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. It will illustrate the history of the unit that fought in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War I and WWII. The unit was eventually absorbed into the S.C. National Guard.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.
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