Although flags from the 5th U.S. Colored Infantry and the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry will be saved, hundreds of others are falling to pieces at the Ohio Historical Society because of lack of funds to preserve them. Nearly 150 years later, the smell of gunpowder still clings to some.
The small “flank” flag from the 5th U.S. Colored Infantry, the first black troops to be organized in Ohio, and the regimental colors of the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, a unit from Cincinnati that participated in many major battles, were carefully packed away Monday at a Historical Society warehouse.
They will make a short trip to Textile Preservation Associates of Ransom, W.Va. There they will undergo a delicate restoration process: They will be bathed in distilled water, dried and encapsulated between layers of a see-through fabric. The edges will be carefully sewn closed, and the flags then will be ready for mounting and display.
Preserving a historical pennant is not cheap: $11,496 for these two small flags, from donations from the Gordon Chandler Memorial Fund of the Columbus Foundation and Ohio Society Children of the American Revolution. The price tag for a full-size flag can be $20,000 or more.
This effort will bring the total number of flags preserved to 19, but more than 500 remain – most from the Civil War. Some are too far gone to save.