The New Jersey State Museum held its first Civil War Flag Unveiling this week after two years of being canceled due to COVID-19. To the right after entering, the museum hosted five different flags under soft lighting to maintain them.
Dr. David Martin, who led the event, presented a unique story revealing where each flag was stationed during the Civil War, who they believed carried it, and what battles the flags have seen. “They’re a tangible part of what history is,” Dr. Martin said. “A part of history is imagining what it was like to live then, why did people do what they did, and to imagine lining up shoulder to shoulder… We know who carried (the flags)… History tells about their bravery and their dedication.”
Dr. Martin spent the hour from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Wednesday telling stories about the battles of New Jersey regiments, the flags that they served under, and the importance of remembering what happened. Each event has hardcore civil war buffs and devotees who will come,” Dr. Martin said. “I talked to at least three people today who had ancestors serve; some in more than one of these regiments. And they come, and they bring their pictures or their discharge papers because it touches home to them to say. You know my great grandfather and his brother fought with this regiment at Fredericksburg,” Dr. Martin said.
Frank Tomasello, a civil war reenactor and a part of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War has family ties to these historic events. His great great grandfather, James Huwes, was a sergeant in Company G. Today he remembers Huwes by looking at the same flag that he looked at and fought under. “It’s pretty rare that they even exist…they are made of silk. (The flags) fall apart very easily; it’s astonishing that they lasted this long. And they’re also like a witness to the events of the Civil War,” Tomasello said.
“What are the odds, you know, I was overcome by thinking that my great great grandfather and I have shared eyes on the same piece of cloth here and it just blew my mind,” Tomasello said.
There are over 190 flags in storage that The New Jersey State Museum can use. They have shuffled 50 different civil war flags, five flags at a time, twice a year, through the exhibit since 2012, which marked the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
“We think it’s one of the most active and perhaps the best flag collection in the company in the country because it gets seen by the public,” noted Nicholas Ciotola, curator of cultural history at the New Jersey State Museum. “A lot of the flag collections are kept behind closed doors. People can see them but they have to make an appointment. They don’t have an actual exhibition space dedicated to showing those flags…New Jersey is sharing this collection with the people. It’s not behind closed doors… You don’t have to make 15 phone calls and do hours of research to find out about it.”
Ciotola said that all someone has to do is head to https://www.state.nj.us/state/museum to find out more about the flag collection and other NJ Museum exhibits