IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — The countdown is on for a group that wants to save and preserve a Civil War battle flag that hangs in the Ionia County courthouse.
The Ladies of Ionia commissioned the 21st Infantry Regiment battle flag in 1862. The Union regiment was made up of volunteers from Ionia and 17 surrounding counties. Soldiers carried the flag with them as part of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s march to the sea.
“After the war, when all of the regiments were ordered to return the flags to the state capitol, the 21st denied those orders,” Army veteran Shane Houghton explained. “They thought it deserved another fate so that on July 4th, 1865, they returned it to the Ladies of Ionia County.”
Since then, the flag has hung in the halls of the Ionia County Courthouse. Time, humidity and light pollution have played a part in the flag’s deterioration. Some of the county’s commissioners thought the restoration and preservation flag would be best handled by the state, but Houghton asked them to give him a chance to raise funds independently.
“It’s an important part of our history and we’re proud of our history and would like to keep it history for us,” he said.
Houghton estimates that to restore the flag and produce a replica, which can be used during times of future repair, he’ll have to raise $50,000.
Matt Van Acker with the state’s Save The Flags campaign has connected Houghton with a West Virginia company that specializes in restoration. While Van Acker told News 8 that the state would happily add the regiment flag to its large collection, he understands why Ionia wants to keep it for themselves.
“It’s very labor intensive,” Van Acker said. “The netting from that flag is going to have to be snipped, individual each stitch… The flag, if they are able to raise the money and get it sent out for conservation, will be gone for quite some time at that lab.”
While there isn’t a definitive timeline of when the funds would need to be raised, time is not a friend to this already-aging flag. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for the flag’s preservation.
“We’re very proud to be veterans here from Ionia,” Eric Calley, a Marine Corps veteran who is helping to raise funds, said. “And in all of Michigan, all of our veterans are very proud to serve our country. So part of that is making sure our history is never lost and kept in the forefront of Americans’ eyes.”