"A Flag in Prison"

48th OVI Battle Flag (probably the second)
"March 10th [1864], in accordance with orders issued by Gen. McClernand, the following battles were ordered to be inscribed on the colors of the 48th Ohio Vet. Vol. Inf.: "Battle of Shiloh, Siege of Corinth, Chickasaw Bluffs, Arkansas Post, Port Gibson, Champion Hills, Black River Bridge, Siege of Vicksburg and Jackson."
48 OVVI Regimental History
Courtesy of Ohio Historical Society

The Adventures of the 48th Ohio Flag at Camp Ford, Texas.

Editor National Tribune: Thinking a correct account of the Stars and Stripes serving a term in Camp Ford (Texas) Prison would be of interest to the survivors of that rebel pen, I will give the details of its capture, prison treatment and escape. It was on Banks's famous expedition up Red River when the 19th Ky., 77th and 130th Ill., 48th Ohio, and Chicago Mercantile Battery were captured on the 8th of April, 1864, at Sabine Cross-roads, La. The color-bearer, Isaac Scott, as the rebels were closing in on us, tore the regimental flag of the 48th Ohio from the staff and gave it to his mess-mate [probably Albert N. Shumard], who concealed it in his haversack, where he kept it from detection all through his march to prison. He was taken sick on the way and did not reach the prison for some time after the others, but through all his sickness and marches he kept it safely until he arrived at the prison, when he delivered it to the officers of the regiment for safe-keeping.

A hole was dug inside their shanty, in which the flag was buried; but prior to burying it, and after due precaution had been taken to guard against detection, it was secretly displayed to several of the old prisoners, some of whom had been there two years, and their eyes sparkled and tears stole down their emaciated cheeks as they gazed on that emblem of liberty, and they went away feeling they could bear their captivity with lighter hearts.

But the rebel guards found out we had a Union flag in camp, and they searched for it on several occasions, tearing up the floors and digging up the ground in the shanties. Although each time failing to find it, they were always on the lookout for that flag; and when on the 4th of July following, while the prisoners were celebrating the day by permission of the prison commander (we having agreed not to refer to the "unpleasantness"), in the midst of the exercises a file of rebel soldiers, in charge of the Officer of the Guard, marched in front of the speaker, and in a tone of authority said:

"I understand you had an American displayed; I demand its immediate surrender."

But he was assured that no flag had been displayed. Still he insisted. He was told that it must have been a sign of some enterprising baker who had prepared some choice biscuit, pies, etc., to tempt the ravenous appetites of the prisoners. They finally left with this warning:

"You will be fired on by the guards indiscriminately should a flag be seen displayed."

He was answered, "Don't shoot until you see the flag up."

But to keep that beautiful silk flag buried would have ruined it; so it was taken from its hiding-place and sewed up in Capt. Gunsaullus's long blouse*, and it was worn by him all through the remaining term of our captivity.

When the 19th Ky. and the 48th Ohio were exchanged, Oct.23, 1864, at the mouth of Red River, many Union officers, with their wives, were present to witness the exchange. As the prisoners boarded the steamer St. Marys the old flag was torn from its hiding-place and hastily tied to a staff previously prepared for the occasion, and from the upper deck, as our band -from a signal- played the "Star Spangled Banner," the flag of the 48th Ohio was unfurled to the breeze, with the waving of handkerchiefs and amid the wild shouts and deafening cheers of the released prisoners and the groans of the rebels.

No words of tongue or pen can fully describe the emotions of that hour. It was an inspiring scene, and one that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Even the rebel agent of exchange, Capt. Bischett, on his return to Camp Ford said it was one of the most exciting scenes he had ever witnessed, and the regiment deserved great credit. Another rebel Lieutenant of artillery who was present, and who no doubt had not lost all the love for the "Starry Banner," said to me after it was over:

" I could not have had the heart to take that flag from you had I discovered it on your way to exchange, for it has been a pleasure to me to see your great joy at its safe deliverance from prison."

The flag was afterward placed in the flag-room at the State Capitol in Columbus, O., where it now remains. This is the only flag I ever heard of being in Camp Ford Prison, Texas, and its history is taken from notes made at that time. -- Thomas Montgomery, Captain, 48th Ohio, Lynchburg, O.

From: The National Tribune October 13th 1887


* A family story handed down in the Sowry family is that Captain James Sowry of Company E unraveled his socks to use as thread to allow Capt. Gunsaullus to sew the flag into his coat, as he was the only officer who still had a coat.


Many thanks to Larry Stevens who researched and contributed this article. Be sure to visit Larry's excellent web site, "Ohio and the Civil War" for more information and stories about Ohio Civil War soldiers.




A Remnant of the 48th OVVI Flag
Contributed by Carolyn Srofe, Cincinnati, Ohio


"A FLAG WITH A HISTORY." by Maj. John A. Bering, 48th O.V.I. newspaper clipping contributed by Carolyn Srofe.



The 48th Ohio's Flag:
How it Was Worshipped by The Prisoners at Tylyer, Texas

Ashley News, July 5, 1917
Contributed by Carolyn Srofe, Cincinnati, Ohio



NATIONAL TRIBUNE, July 21, 1887, p. 5, c. 4
Chas. H. Wood, Co. E, 48th Ohio, Hinckley, Minn., refers to the communication of Comrade Owen, Co. H, 36th Iowa, who gave an account of the raising of the Stars and Stripes in the prison at Camp Ford, Tex., on the 4th of July, in which it was stated that the flag belonged to the 56th Ohio. The writer says the sketch is correct, except that the flag belonged to the 48th Ohio instead of the 56th. It was concealed on the person of the color-bearer and brought off the field by him, as described by Comrade Owen.


NATIONAL TRIBUNE, September 1, 1887, p. 3, c. 6
Corwin A. Bailey, Wilmington, O., encloses a fragment of the flag of the 48th Ohio that was given to him by Elias C. Hamilton, of Co. H. Hamilton was a prisoner at Cam Ford, Tex., having been captured at the battle of Sabine Cross-roads in April, 1864. He was in confinement six months and seven days. The flag was captured with the greater part of the regiment, and was run up in the prison-pen on the 4th of July.


NATIONAL TRIBUNE, September 29, 1887, p. 3, c. 1

The Flag of the 48th Ohio.

EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE: I see several published accounts in regard to the flag of the 48th Ohio being in Camp Ford (Texas) prison, none of which are correct in detail. The flag was buried shortly after our arrival at the prison in one corner of the regimental officers' huts, and was never publicly displayed on the 4th of July or at any other time, for it would have been taken from us by the rebels. It was secretly shown to a number of the old prisoners on two or three occasions inside our hut after due caution, and was sewed up in Capt. Gunsaulus's blouse about a month after our arrival, to preserve its colors, where it remained until the regiment was exchanged at the mouth of Red River Oct. 23, 1864, when it was hastily torn from its hiding-place, fastened to a staff, and unfurled to the breeze amid the wild shouts and deafening cheers of the released prisoners and groans of the rebels. That incident will never be forgotten by any who witnessed it. After exchange the flag was sent to the flag-room at Columbus, O., where it still remains. It was well preserved, and was not marred except where the colors had run together a little during the time it was buried. This I know from notes made at the time, as I assisted in putting it in the blouse and on the staff, and wrote a brief history of its capture and escape, and forwarded it with the flag to Columbus--Thomas Montgomery, Captain, 48th Ohio, Lynchbug, O.

Transcriptions are courtesy of Vicki Betts, University of Texas at Tyler




Excerpted from
History of Defiance County, Ohio.
Contributed by Denise Fox



When the Forty-eighth regiment, to which Company F belonged, was overpowered and captured at the battle of Sabine Cross Roads, La., April 8, 1864, the color-bearer, Isaac Scott, in the midst of the excitement threw down the regimental flag, but an old man sprang forward and tore the old flag from its staff and slipped it into his haversack. He was left sick on his way to prison, and did not arrive for some time after; but through all his sickness he clung to the flag, and upon arriving at Camp Ford, Tex., to which place the regiment had preceded him, delivered it to the officers of the regiment for safe keeping, and it was sewed up in Capt. Gunsaullues' blouse (he then being Captain of Company F), inside of the lining, where he wore it in safety up to the time of their being exchanged, at the mouth of Red River, on the Mississippi, October 33, 1864, after an imprisonment of six months and fifteen days. Passing down the Mississippi a short distance, they left the rebel craft and were turned over to Col. Dwight, Commissar of exchange. He ordered them on board the St. Mary's, where a band of music from New Orleans, and a number of ladies--wives of Union officers-were awaiting their arrival. Upon boarding the vessel, they proceeded immediately to the upper deck. The old flag was then torn from its place of concealment (Capt. (G's blouse), and hastily tied to a staff prepared for the occasion. At this signal, the band struck up the " Star Spangled Banner," and the old flag of the Forty-eighth, was unfurled to the breeze, with waving of handkerchiefs, and amid the wild shouts and deafening cheers of the released prisoners.

The flag was afterward placed in the flag room of the State House at Columbus, Ohio, where it now remains.

The rebel Assistant Agent of Exchange, Capt. Bilchatt (who accompanied the prisoners), on his return to Camp Ford related to the remaining prisoners how the flag of the Forty-eighth Ohio, in his presence, was torn from the coat of one of the officers, after they were exchanged at the mouth of Red River. He said it was one of the most exciting scenes he ever witnessed, and that the regiment deserved a great deal of credit for preserving their colors during their imprisonment.



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