Among the Civil War artifacts in the Society’s collection are a small number of interesting “war trophies” taken by Duxbury soldiers who were stationed in New Orleans in the early months of 1863. These items came to the DRHS through the Duxbury Grand Army of the Republic post. They include a fine example of a Maynard carbine rifle (manufactured in Massachusetts prior to the war for several Southern state militias) taken from a captured Confederate gunboat, a Confederate belt buckle, and, perhaps most intriguing, a Confederate headquarters flag (pictured here).
The Duxbury men who claimed (perhaps “scavenged” might be a more appropriate term) these trophies were part of the 38th Massachusetts Infantry. The 38th Massachusetts was formed in August 1862. The Duxbury men who belonged to that unit represented a large part of this town’s second wave of enlistment (the first being the 55 or so who joined the 18th Massachusetts during the summer of 1861). In all 35 Duxbury men signed up with the 38th Massachusetts. We will be writing more about these men and their experiences as we approach the 150th anniversary of their enlistment this summer.
The 38th Massachusetts reached New Orleans on December 31, 1862 and remained stationed there until March 1863. The Confederates had surrendered that city seven months prior. It is interesting to imagine bucolic Duxbury boys in the Crescent City—a city then under martial law—searching here and there for souvenirs to bring home. We do not know exactly who claimed the Confederate headquarters flag. Indeed, there are many questions surrounding this object.
Some speculation…the flag probably hung by the door of some New Orleans building, marking the headquarters of one of the Confederate brigades or divisions that had earlier garrisoned the city. Large units (brigades, divisions and Corps) usually had their own insignia and those emblems, emblazoned on a pennant or guidon, would follow the commanding officer in the field and were posted outside his tent or whatever dwelling he chose for his headquarters while garrisoned. This flag was probably associated with a Confederate general. But which one? And which unit did he command? Some preliminary research has failed to uncover any similar flags in other collections. It remains, for the time being, a mystery. If anyone has any information on the subject, please let us know.
Of the numerous trophies brought home by Duxbury men, this one was probably one of the most prized. We can only imagine the proud Duxbury soldier who claimed it displaying the flag to his comrades, and later, to his family at here at home.