HISTORIC CIVIL WAR FLAG COMMEMORATING THE BATTLE OF FAIR OAKS, VA.
This graphic and beautifully made Civil War flag was made for a survivor of the battle in
Fair Oaks, Virginia, who had been wounded in the battle and upon returning home, he
employed a Brooklyn Sail Maker, George W. Gerou in 1862 & 1863, to make this large
flag. It is totally handstitched and must have cost a fair amount of money to make.
After his death, his widow donated the flag to the Valley Forge Museum. The flag was
later deaccessioned by Valley Forge Historical Society (now the Museum of the American
Revolution). The flag is exceptionally well crafted with inset cut through twilled wool
lettering and cotton stars. This flag was originally given to the Reverend W. Herbert Burk
(1867-1933), the founder and curator of the Valley Forge Historical Society. Burk’s main
interest was the American Revolution; however, he collected all American historical objects
(“Making a Museum-Confessions of a Curator”, 1926). Unfortunately, the original donation card
is lost, but a 2015 transcription reads “Rev. Mr. Burk / Yours of the 11th rec’d. / I will
send flag. As I wrote you / that my late Husband had the / flag made on his return home / wounded
from Fair Oaks Va, we / had a great time one day, the day / that flag was raised and how we
/ enjoyed seeing it blow out thus / showing the lettering”. It also goes on to state his
service as a first lieutenant in the 61st Regiment New York Volunteers, also the 22nd United
States Colored Troops, acting assistant inspector general of the colored brigade, and a first
lieutenant in the Veteran Reserve Corps. The Battle of Fair Oaks was fought May 31 – June 1, 1862,
it produced over 5,000 casualties, killed and wounded. The 61st New York alone had 100 casualties.
The officer who survived this terrible fight had means to buy this very expensive flag as a
memorial to his survival. The flag measures 77” on hoist, 157” on fly. The condition is good to
very good; excellent color, light soiling, minor reductions; other than linen hoist, which is heavily
frayed and only partially intact, but enough to read most of the maker’s mark. One large handmade
brass grommet is still intact at bottom edge of hoist.