Presentation National Color

21st Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

By unknown maker, 1861

Silk, pigment, 67 x 74 in.

Presented to the regiment by ladies of Worcester August 23, 1861.
Returned by the regiment to the Commonwealth January 28, 1863.

The position of color bearer during the Civil War was undoubtedly one of the proudest as well as one of the most dangerous a soldier could hold. The flags, always posted at the front, served as a beacon for one's fellow soldiers and the enemy alike. To "preserve the Union"—to never let it fall to the ground—was the gravest of responsibilities; one for which many color bearers gave their lives.

During the Battle of Fredericksburg, VA, at least five men in turn bore this national color before being wounded. One, Sgt. Thomas Plunkett, upon receiving the flag, moved to the front rank where it is recorded: "A shell was thrown with fatal accuracy at the colors, which brought them to the ground wet with the lifeblood of the brave Plunkett, both of whose arms were carried away." Amazingly, Plunkett grasped the flag with his upper arms to keep it from falling, pressing on before being relieved. The flag also bears the blood of Sgt. Peter Bryan, who, positioned beside one of the color-bearers, fell, mortally wounded in the head, on to the center of the flag.

flag of Presentation National Color