Civil War: “Return of the Colors” Celebration

In April, 1861 the troops that had organized in Lowell at the call of President Lincoln, assembled as the Massachusetts Sixth Regiment in front of the State House in Boston. There  Governor John Andrew – in a custom followed since revolutionary days – presented them with their regimental colors.

As MassMoments reminds us today that those colors and others were returned to the State House in a solemn and traditional ceremony known as ” “The Return of the Flags.” One of these regimental flags was carried valiantly by Color Sergeant Timothy A. Crowley of Lowell thorough a hailstorm of bricks, cobblestones, and gunfire on that fateful day – April 19, 1861 – in Baltimore where four of his Sixth Infantry comrades  including Luther Ladd and Addison Whitney died in the riot – first deaths of the Civil War. There are now over 400 flags in the State House collection of regimental flags.

On this day

      …in 1865, Governor John
Andrew officially received the battered regimental colors of Massachusetts units
of the Union Army in a solemn State House ceremony called “The Return of the
Flags.” It had been customary since revolutionary days for the governor to
present each regiment about to leave for battle with its own distinctive flag, a
symbol of the regiment’s honor. The units carried their colors into battle, and
since the 1865 ceremony, every Massachusetts regiment returning from war has
presented its flag to the governor. That historic collection of over 100 flags
adorns the Hall of Flags in the State House, a memorial to all Massachusetts
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The 6th Massachusetts on their way to Washington, April 1861.