Cincinnati Auctioneer Solves Mystery Of Missing Civil War Flag
(Cincinnati, OH – January 31, 2007) At a January 29 ceremony in Indianapolis, a Civil War era flag that had been missing for nearly three decades and valued up to $60,000 was returned to the people of Indiana thanks to the expertise and action of Cincinnati auctioneer Wes Cowan.
Cowan, president of Cowan’s Auctions and star of the PBS TV series History Detectives, recognized the historical significance of the flag in the course of liquidating the assets of the former First National Bank of Freemont Indiana. The bank had displayed the flag in its lobby since 2000. Cowan notified the bank’s holding company as well as the Indiana War Memorial Commission in Indianapolis, home of the Indiana Battle Flag Collection. The FBI is investigating the flag’s separation from the collection.
The recovered historic artifact is the flag carried into battle by the 25th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, an Evansville IN regiment that mustered in 1861. Among many campaigns, the regiment fought at Shiloh, Vicksburg and Atlanta, and participated in Sherman’s March to the Sea.
"It’s great to get this flag back where it belongs," said Cowan, who was a key participant in the January 29 ceremony marking the formal return of the historic banner to the Indiana War Memorial in Indianapolis.
"When you think about the significance of this flag, the fact that courageous men sacrificed their lives to protect it at places like Shiloh and Vicksburg, it’s gratifying to be able to play a role in returning it to a place where it can be appreciated by the people of Indiana and all the visitors to the museum," said Cowan.
In the Civil War, a regiment’s flag became the physical symbol of a unit’s pride and courage, was protected by a color guard and served as a rallying point in combat.
"This flag could bring $50,000 or more at auction, if it could be sold legally. But it’s true value transcends dollars and cents. I feel fortunate to have come across it and to be able to work with the authorities to bring it home," said Cowan.
The 25th Indiana’s banner is blue silk with embroidered eagle and hand painted details. It measures six by six and a half feet. The flag was designed by Cincinnati contract flag maker John Schilletto.
Wes Cowan is available for newspaper, television and radio interviews.
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