MEADVILLE, Pa. - June 11, 2002 - Seventy-eight Allegheny College students stood on the lawn of Bentley Hall 141 years ago today to receive the farewells of the College and the community. Miss Hattie Bain delivered a splendid flag, sewn by the women of Meadville, that featured seven red and six white stripes and an ellipse of 34 stars with "Our Country" embroidered on one side and "Semper Fidelis" on the other. The flag would serve as the banner of the students who comprised the College’s company in the Civil War: Company I, 39th Regiment, 10th Reserve. Then-Allegheny President George Loomis gave a farewell on that day, June 11, 1861: "Come back with the flag, boys, or come back wrapped in its folds."
The flag did return, though many of the students did not. Featuring the names of the 19 battles in which the company fought, the flag became a hallowed memento and was traditionally displayed on special College occasions. However, the flag had not been seen for several decades until College Historian Jonathan Helmreich found the flag hidden in a cupboard in the College’s library.
"The memory of those who gave the last full measure of devotion to their country emanates powerfully from this sacred relic," says Helmreich. "The aura of duty and sacrifice surrounding the faded colors reminds the beholder, in a way few other artifacts can match, that for generations Allegheny College has stood for citizenship and service to one’s country and neighbors."
The flag was in surprisingly good condition, though shrapnel holes and bloodstains from the Civil War remained. The flag was quickly transferred to an acid-free container and was recently assessed and preserved professionally. Now encased in special glass, the flag will be displayed in the lobby of the College’s library.
The College is also connecting this historic flag with modern technology. In celebration of Flag Day, the College is offering the opportunity for the public to download the image as wallpaper for their Windows or Macintosh desktops.
Note to Editors: Photographs of the flag and interviews are available.