Historic Civil War flag dedicated at the Ohio Statehouse

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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine will take part in today’s dedication of the historic 36-star flag that flew over Capital Square during the repose of President Abraham Lincoln on April 29, 1865.

The flag will be on display today the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda at 1 Capitol Square in Columbus in an event that is open to the public.

The 1864 flag originally was presented to David Nevin Murray of Portsmouth for his contributions to the war effort on behalf of the Union Army during the American Civil War. The flag was donated to the Ohio History Connection by Murray’s descendants on Feb. 25, 2016.

The historic flag will be on display in the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda for the annual ceremony that recreates the scene, when the slain body of President Abraham Lincoln lay in repose for eight hours. The 36 stars reflect the number of states in the Union at the close of the Civil War.

The 1st Ohio Light Artillery, battery A, comprising a contingent of Civil War re-enactors, will represent the honor guard.

A Civil War Encampment at the Ohio Statehouse offers an opportunity to learn about the time period, led by the re-enactors. Cannons will be fired periodically beginning at 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. on the West Plaza.

“The Capital Square Review and Advisory Board will commemorate the 154th anniversary of the repose of President Abraham Lincoln … with a dedication of a historic flag, and will include a replica casket, an exhibit, honor guards, Civil War reenactors and cannons firings,” said Mike Rupert, who is on the Ohio Statehouse board.

Columbus was one of 18 cities along the route of the Lincoln funeral train that left Washington D.C., and passed through seven states during a period of 13 days, covering 1,600 miles, culminating near his Springfield, Illinois, home on May 4 for the burial.

“It is estimated that 50,000 mourners turned out at Capitol Square for the repose of Lincoln,” said Chris Matheney, historic site manager at the Ohio Statehouse.”

“Lincoln’s body lay in the rotunda that day for eight hours, before it was returned to the train,” Matheney said.

Matheney noted that the Columbus stopover “was the most advertised funeral to date,” adding that the funeral train schedule appeared in most newspapers of the day.

The honorary Old Glory had been given to Ret. Lt. Col. Van Tilburg’s great-great-grandfather, David Nevin Murray, by the Ohio Delegates to Congress in 1865, in recognition of his contribution to the Union Army.

Murray was too old to serve in the Civil War, so the government honored his war efforts. He had converted his Portsmouth Foundry and Machine Shops into an operation to make cannonballs.

Murray, an Ohio pioneer, resided in Portsmouth from 1837 until his death in 1895. 

Ret. Lt. Col. Van Tilburg became enthralled with the history of the 1864 flag with 36 stars, which represented  the number of states in the Union at that time. She knew it had to be returned to Ohio.

According to various newspaper sources, the flag was used during a memorial service for President Lincoln, and later at funeral services for Presidents James A. Garfield, William McKinley and Warren G. Harding.

The flag found its way to Memorial Day parades and made appearances at the inauguration of Ohio Governors John W. Bricker and Frank Lausche in Columbus.

The latest mention of the flag in the press was at the memorial service for President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, when it was displayed on a wall in the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda.

The huge flag, 22 feet long by 9 feet wide, was shipped to Ret. Lt. Col. Van Tilburg’s home in a box and later unsealed and unfolded at the Ohio History Connection on Feb. 25, 2016.

The delicate flag was shielded from the elements, before being unfurled for the public in the Ohio History Center’s New Acquisitions Display. The wool bunting that was common for American flags is a fabric that holds up through the time, although the 1864 Old Glory had some frayed edges.

Ret. Lt. Col. Van Tilburg was flanked by several generations of family members on that day in 2016, including her grandnephew, Eli Krabill, now a ninth-grader, representing the fourth generation to honor David Nevin Murray.

Her family will be present at the commemorative ceremony. Restoration efforts will continue through year, before the flag will be flown again Capital Square.

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