One of the more frequent questions received here involves the colors of the Seventeenth CVI – what did they look like, who made them, what still exists today, and more. Fortunately for any serious student of the regiments from the State of Connecticut all of these questions were answered and are contained in one of the very best works on the subject (and perhaps one of the least frequently seen).
Geraldine “Gerry” S. Caughman wrote Qui Transtulit Sustinet: Connecticut Battle Flag Collection, which contains histories of the regiments and their flags, with period photos and photos of the flags as they exist today. Gerry Caughman died in 2012 but left behind a tremendous legacy. From her obituary, here is how she began her work with these flags and what she accomplished:
“…she served as a tour guide at the Old State House in Hartford, and then joined the Capitol tour guide program in 1980. With a passion for history, she immersed herself in research of the many stories of the Capitol, its history and its artifacts, which greatly enhanced her tours. The visitors thoroughly enjoyed them, sending her numerous letters of thanks. Subsequently, Gerry was attracted to the Capitol’s 170-piece battle flag collection during the 1980s when the Capitol building was undergoing restoration and the flags needed a caretaker. A love affair was kindled. She embarked on a four-year long, arduous task of evaluating each flag, photographing, cataloging, marking and writing condition reports for each flag. With so much flag work going on, Gerry became affectionately known around the Capitol as “The Flag Lady”. She diligently studied the various conservation methods and procedures, met with many conservators including the Smithsonian, the National Park Service and private companies. She also reviewed potential conservators and visited their labs in Washington, New Orleans, Indianapolis, New York and Massachusetts. During these years, owing to heightened interest in the Civil War, many outside requests for flag information and pictures were received at the Capitol, all of which were referred to Gerry for a response. She realized that many of the flags would never be seen by others since they were in such poor condition and conservation was extremely expensive. Thus was conceived the idea of writing a book with the pictures and the history of the flags and the men who carried them. Gerry spent years in our State Library and countless other libraries researching extensively. She traveled to all battlefields that Connecticut men fought on during the Civil War. The result was a 350-page book about our 110 Civil War flags and a 175-page book about our 60 flags from the world wars and contemporary conflicts. The books were copyrighted in the name of the Capitol as her gift to Connecticut and in honor of those who have lost or risked their lives to protect our nation.
In March 2016 the State Capitol Preservation & Restoration Commission granted permission to this site to reproduce Gerry Caughman’s work on the colors of the Seventeenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. I hope that her work continues to enlighten and educate students of Connecticut’s Civil War regiments. For a short overview on Connecticut battle flags written by Gerry Caughman, you can read her article here.Qui transtulit sustinet_17thCVI