History was repeated at noon on Saturday March 15, 2014. An event of the American Civil War was
recreated exactly 150 years after it occurred in the midst of that deadly war. The premier regiment of
Philadelphia Irishmen in the Civil War – The 69th Pennsylvania Irish Volunteers – represented by their
modern “reenactment” organization will receive in front of Independence Hall a replacement battle flag and
retire their worn and tattered flag which they have carried, just as the men they represent did on March 15,
1864. At noon, before invited guests, a brass band and representatives of Irish organizations, Major John
Kopich and Captain Scott Eller will accept the new battle flag and pass it to the 69th Pa color guard.
The old flag will be retired and placed in special preservation just as the old flag was in 1864.
The 28th Pennsylvania Regimental Brass Band, led by musician and Adjutant Jeff Heagy, played Irish songs.
During the Civil War the term of service for most regiments was three years. As bonus to encourage
reenlistment, the US government provided a bounty payment and a one-month furlough to all veterans who
would sign up for service as “Veteran Reserves.” In addition, any regiment which was able to reenlist more than
50 percent of its soldiers would continue as a designated Volunteer regiment. More than 75 percent of the soldiers
of the 69th Pa reenlisted. Those who did not would remain in camp near Brandy Station, Va. until their release in
June 1864. The 71st Pa, 72nd Pa. and the 106th Pa., which made up the remainder of the Philadelphia brigade
failed to reenlist 50 percent of their soldiers and were disbanded after the summer of 1864.
The green flag was emblazoned with two red banners with gold lettering on each side proclaiming “Presented to the
69th Pennsylvania” on the top banner and “By their friends” on the bottom. In the middle of one side was a golden
harp with a bare-breasted woman as its pillar enclosed with a wreath composed of green leaves and shamrocks.
The center of the opposite side was the Commonwealth coat of arms supported by two white horses.
The original green battle flag had been produced in Philadelphia by Irish citizens and delivered to the regiment on
the battlefields of Virginia on March 18, 1862 in the small town of Berryville near Harper’s Ferry. That flag had
served them well in battles near Richmond; at Antietam; Fredericksburg and later, defending the stone wall and the
copse trees at Gettysburg.
After replacement of their flag on March 15, 1864, the regiment marched in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in
Philadelphia and then returned to the war. The Philadelphia Public Ledger would report on the 69th participation in
the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in the March 18th edition:
Honoring our flag at Independence Hall
March 14, 2014