Hoag Library unveils preserved Civil War flag for Black regiment

Staff Reports Posted 16 July 2021 at 7:02 am

Provided photos

ALBION – Hoag Library Director Betty Sue Miller, left, and Linda Weller, president of the Board of Trustees, unveiled the newly preserved American Civil War flag of the 26th US Colored Infantry Regiment on Wednesday evening.

Conservator Gwen Spicer, of Spicer Art Conservation, LLC in Delmar, NY, performed the preservation, which involved the meticulous process of glue removal, washing, and hand-sewing of each individual piece of silk fabric. The cost of the preservation was covered by an anonymous donor.

Local History Library Dee Robinson speaks to community members during the flag unveiling.

While it is unknown how the library obtained the flag, historical research shows that Charles H. Mattison, a white man from Barre, transferred to the 26th USCT on June 15 1863, and a local black man from Medina, Henry F. Hawkins, enlisted in the 26th USCT and ranked out as First Sergeant.

While the flag will be stored in the library archives, members of the community are welcome and encouraged to visit the flag during business hours.

Hoag Library has a display about the flag, the Civil War and the 26th US Colored Infantry Regiment.

Dee Robinson, the local history librarian at Hoag, compiled these facts about the flag and the local connections to the 26th US Colored Infantry Regiment.

The regiment was organized at Riker’s Island in New York Harbor on Feb. 27, 1864. There were two officers and 28 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded in the line of duty, and three officers and 112 enlisted men also died from disease.

The 26th US Colored Troops Flag is one of three Black regiments in the Civil War – the 20th, 26th and 31st.

Henry F. Hawkins, a black man from Medina, enlisted in the 26th USCT and ranked out as first sergeant. He is named on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, DC, Plaque B-42.

Charles H. Mattison, a white man from Barre, enlisted Aug. 30, 1863 in the 151st Infantry and was promoted twice. He transferred to the 26th USCT on June 15, 1863. Mattison was promoted to second lieutenant Jan. 1, 1864 and again to first lieutenant and then adjutant of the 26th on March 7, 1864. He mustered out and was discharged Sept. 11, 1865.

After the war Charles Mattison returned to Barre Center and ran a wagon and blacksmith shop. He was elected Barre Town Clerk, Barre Town Supervisor and later was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1878. He passed away on March 23, 1883 and the Grand Army of the Republic Post in Albion held a large memorial service.

The flag has 35 stars, which includes the State of West Virginia, which was admitted June 20, 1863 (just five days after Mattison was transferred to the 26th.)

Hoag Library proudly show off the flag after the preservation efforts. From left include Dee Robinson, local history librarian; Linda Weller, president of the board of trustees; and Betty Sue Miller, library director.

State Sen. Rob Ortt, second from left, attended the unveiling. He said the flag “is an amazing piece of American history for the public to observe.” Fred Miller, Betty Sue’s husband and an Orleans County legislator, also attended the event on Wednesday.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Here is how flag looked before the preservation. It was in a frame and part of the flag had been glued. The white stripes were badly deteriorated.