At 14 by 24 feet, this Confederate flag — which bears the Confederacy’s original design and is currently on display at the New York State Museum in Albany — carries a historical significance as colossal as its size.
In April 1861, shortly after the Civil War began, Virginian James Jackson hoisted the flag atop a 40-foot flagpole on the roof of the Marshall House, his hotel in Alexandria; it’s said that it could be seen all the way from the White House. In May, a small party of Union soldiers from New York — led by Elmer Ellsworth, a Saratoga County native and army colonel — decided to cut it down. Upon their descent from the hotel roof, the brigade encountered Jackson, who was armed with a shotgun. A bout of gunfire left both Jackson and Ellsworth dead; Ellsworth became the first Union officer killed in the Civil War.
The flag accompanied Ellsworth’s body first to the White House, where a funeral service was held, and then to his upstate home. It is being showcased through February 23 in conjunction with the museum’s current exhibition An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War (518-474-5877; www.nysm.nysed.gov).