Historic flag draped in the Ohio Statehouse rotunda

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)– April 29 marks the anniversary of the first recorded time a thirty-six-star American flag flew over Capitol Square during the repose of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

The flag flew at half-mast when President Lincoln’s funeral train stopped in Columbus, and the restored Civil War-era flag is once again on display inside the Ohio Statehouse.

“The Ohio Statehouse is really, truly one big artifact,” said Chris Matheney, Historic Site Manager at the Ohio Statehouse.

The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board welcomed the return of the historic 156-year-old thirty-six star American flag to honor the day President Lincoln’s body lay in repose at the center of the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda.

“On April 29, 1865, the train pulled into the station, there were soldiers, of course, the 88th Ohio Volunteer Infantry kind of guarded the body,” said Matheney.

The flag was first donated to the Ohio History Connection in 2016 by the great-great-granddaughters of David N. Murray. He turned his Portsmouth, Ohio iron foundry into a cannonball factory for the Union Army during the Civil War.

“He was eventually invited to Washington by the Ohio Delegation…beyond saying thank you, they also presented him with this thirty-six-star flag,” said Matheney.

The thirty-six-star American flag was to last two years as the official flag of the United States. Other than President Lincoln’s funeral, the hand-sewn, wool treasure currently on display previously flew during parades and at the inauguration of two Ohio governors.

“With our partnership, our agreement, we put the flag back up shortly before April 29th, every year, and it will hang until just after Veteran’s Day in November,” said Matheney about the Statehouse partnership with the Ohio History Connection.

Included in this display is an exhibit of artifacts related to the Lincoln funeral journey. These artifacts on loan from the descendants of Brig. General John C. Caldwell, a member of the Guard of Honor on Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train in 1865.

“Even a lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair that was clipped by a member of his family while his body laid in the East Wing of the White House,” said Matheney.

“He recorded his thoughts about everything and among other things he mentioned that they never left the President’s body,” Matheney added.

Even though annual reenactment events have been canceled at the Ohio Statehouse this year due to the pandemic, the thirty-six-star flag exhibit is open to the public during Statehouse hours.

“We get to talk about all of Ohio history and there really is no better stage than the Ohio Statehouse,” said Matheney.

For more information on taking a self-guided tour of the Ohio Statehouse, visit: http://www.ohiostatehouse.org/visit/public-tours

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