The battle flag of the 127th Regiment United States Colored Troops sold at auction yesterday for $160,000 hammer price, just above the low end of its pre-sale estimate. The total cost including buyer’s premium is $196,800. The winning bid was made by the Atlanta History Center, home of the newly restored Battle of Atlanta Cyclorama (which is up and running as of February, btw). This is the most the AHC has ever paid for a single object.
The Atlanta History Center is one of the largest museums in the country in terms of square footage, a 33-acre campus that features thousands of artifacts in the museum’s permanent collection, extensive gardens, the historic Swan House, Smith Family Farm and the Wood Family log cabin. Objects associated with the United States Colored Troops are extremely rare, and the museum has very few of them.
Objects specifically identified with soldiers or regiments of the United States Colored Troops are extraordinarily scarce. Atlanta History Center Military Historian and Curator Gordon Jones called this flag the definition of rare. “It’s an iconic knock-your-socks-off artifact,” Jones said. “Even an enlisted man’s USCT uniform wouldn’t be as historically significant as this flag.”
Black soldiers in the U.S. Army were issued the same uniforms and equipment as white soldiers, making collecting to interpret the USCT story a significant challenge. “So unless a soldier put his name on a piece of gear or it came down through the family, we will never know who used it,” Jones noted. […]
Among at least 11,000 Civil War objects in the Center’s collections are a dozen objects identified specifically with African American soldiers or regiments. These include a brass drum belonging to a drummer boy of the all-black 55th Massachusetts Regiment, a knapsack used at the Battle of Olustee, Florida, by a soldier in the 8th USCT, and a recently acquired canteen bearing the stenciled mark of the 15th U.S.C.T., which guarded railroad lines in Tennessee during the 1864 Atlanta Campaign.
The acquisition of the battle flag dovetails neatly into the Center’s long-term strategical goal of making the museum an inclusive representation of city’s demographics with a focus on attracting new members and visitors among non-white people under 50 years old who live inside the perimeter of metro Atlanta.