Flag of the Wallkill Guards

The flag of the Wallkill Guards that was presented to the company in 1861, and eventually stood as the regimental flag carried in battle, was returned to the community upon their return in 1863. Twenty years after its first appearance, a resident of Middletown took notice of the flag in 1881 when it was spotted in a downtown store window, owned by a former Civil War veteran. The former soldier was not a Wallkill Guard, but served as an officer from Middletown’s other notable regiment – the 124th New York Infantry – and his store served as a trophy case to share the cherished emblem with the community. Eventually, the passerby was moved to write to the local paper and asked if there was a better way or place to care and showcase the flag, and the store owner was more than willing to relinquish the flag to anyone who wanted the flag.

The article left readers believing the flag was neglected and orphaned, and was immediately responded to by the men that carried and bled for the banner. Roswell M. Sayer, the last captain of Company D of the 18th, wrote to the Middletown paper from his home in Bradford, Pennsylvania and cleared the air that there should be no reason to even “think that the old Guards did not think much of their old flag,” and he pressed the issue as to why it was not given a place of honor somewhere in the town. Sayer offered himself up to take the responsibility of the flag and find a proper place for display.

The flag itself was not neglected, but the current talk prompted the owner to relinquish the flag over to community supervisors who expressed that the flag should have a proper and fitting home, and should not leave the town of Middletown. Sayer was in full agreement. The town quickly established a fund for the flag’s preservation which was raised by the community in less than a month. The flag and staff were placed inside a simple wooden encasement with a large glass window, sealed tight, and donated to the local library where it stood for decades, “to inspire future generations with patriotic zeal, and tell in language, plainer than the lines of history, how the men of ’61 demonstrated their loyalty and honored their birthplace.”

The flag encasement was put on display at the town library until 1941, when it switched hands and was given to the Historical Society of Middletown, where it can be visited to this day in downtown Middletown, sealed within its original wooden encasement, atop the second floor landing of a house that currently serves as the town’s historical society.

Sources

Middletown Daily Press (Middletown, New York), April 14, 1881, April 22, 1881, May 3, 1881, May 11, 1881.

The 18th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment History Website

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© 2020 by Ryan A. Conklin