Civil War Top 100

Flags of the 28th Massachusetts (continued)

The 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry received nine flags during the Civil War. Five were issued by the Office of the Adjutant General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, three were given to the regiment by the City of Boston, and one was presented by Brig. Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher, who commanded the Irish Brigade during 1862 and early 1863.

Mustered into the service of the United States on December 13, 1861, the 28th received its first flags about a month later. Gov. John A. Andrew presented the regiment with national and state colors on January 10, 1862.

Smaller than regulation size, the first national flag measured roughly four and half feet on the pole and about six feet on the fly. It had painted gold stars on a dark blue canton.

The state flag was almost identical to other state regimental flags issued at the time. It has a white field without fringes and has the early issue state seal and regimental ribbon placed in the center.

Boston Mayor Joseph Wightman presented the 28th with a distinctive green regimental flag a week later. Each side carried a different elaborate painting, resplendent with patriotic and Irish symbols.

A fairly accurate drawing of the obverse side appeared in the Boston Irish Catholic newspaper The Pilot, along with an article describing the January 18, 1862, presentation ceremony. To distinguish this first green flag from the three others issued to the 28th Massachusetts during the course of the Civil War, state archivists have always referred to it as the "Pilot flag."

By the end of the war's first year, Union infantry regiments generally carried only two flags, one of which was always the national banner. Reflecting his men's desire that the 28th Massachusetts be identified as an Irish-American regiment, first commanding officer Col. William Monteith elected the Pilot flag over the standard state color.

Never taken by the regiment into the field, the state flag was presumably kept in storage for the duration of the war. The 28th carried its first national color and the Pilot through most of its first year of service, and under fire at Seccessionville (James Island), 2nd Bull Run, Chantilly, South Mountain, and Antietam.

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