Transferring the War Flags From the Old to the New Capitol

The battle flags from the Civil War and Spanish-American War were marched from the old State Capitol in downtown St. Paul to the new Capitol on June 14, 1905, declared "Flag Day" in a proclamation by Governor John A. Johnson.  On June 30, 1905 Judson W. Bishop, Chairman of the Committee on the Flag Day Ceremonies, submitted a report on the day's events to the Governor.  Following are excerpts from that report.

The idea of celebrating the removal of the flags carried by the Minnesota organizations through the Civil War originated at the last Department Encampment of the G.A.R. held at St. Paul on the 9th of March, 1905.  Former members of the various Minnesota organizations there met and selected one person from each of those organizations to compose a general committee to arrange for the ceremony of removal.

…This committee met and organized, electing Gen. Bishop as chairman and Capt. Collins as secretary, and instructed the chairman to select an executive committee of seven (including the chairman and secretary in their respective offices).  [Editor's note:  This committee included members of both Civil and Spanish War regiments.]

…Upon the Governor's  suggestion the 14th day of June was selected as the day on which the ceremonies should take place, and an Executive proclamation was issued announcing that day as "Flag Day."  Meantime the legislature had appropriated a sum of Fifteen Hundred Dollars for the expenses of the occasion.

A circular was issued by the committee, addressed "To all Comrades of the Civil War, 1861-1865, and of the Spanish War, 1898," calling attention to the proposed ceremonies and inviting personal attendance and participation, and a copy was mailed to every such comrade whose address was known.  Gen. L. F. Hubbard was by the committee appointed Chief Marshal of the parade and was charged with all details of the march of the flags and escort from the Old Capitol to the New one.  An order of ceremonies was arranged for the day, and was duly executed as follows:

At Nine o'clock a general assembly of the veterans at and about the Old Capitol, where an hour was passed in informal greeting and intercourse as comrades.

At Ten o'clock each regimental or other organization held a meeting, each in one of the rooms of the building, at which a commander, officers and color bearers for the day were selected.

At Eleven o'clock and until one o'clock a bountiful luncheon was served by the Woman's Relief Corps to all comrades in the spacious old library rooms.

At One o'clock Regimental Commanders reported to the chairman at the Exchange street entrance to the Capitol and were instructed to form their several detachments in order on the lawn in positions already designated by banners – the odd numbered regiments on the west and the even numbered on the east side of the broad paved walk leading from Exchange street to the Capitol entrance.

At One-twenty the several color guards received the old flags from the Custodian of the Capitol and at one-thirty appeared with them on the broad steps of the Capitol entrance, where with a brief address by the chairman the flags were committed to the care of the several regiments for the final march to the New Capitol.

Meantime the "Living Flag" had arrived and occupying the pavement between the east and west divisions of the old soldiers, saluted the "Old Flags" as they passed down to the regiments.

The "Living Flag" was a battalion of 273 young girls from the Franklin school, costumed and arranged to represent the National Flag with its thirteen stripes of red and white, its blue field and its forty-five white stars.

The fine appearance, superb marching and singing of this battalion made it a notable feature of the parade and deserved and received the praise of all and especially of the old soldiers.

The old regiments bearing the flags, with the "Living Flag," immediately moved out to their place as the second division in the column.

Line of March

The Minnesota Civil War Organizations, followed by the Minnesota Spanish-American and Philippine War Regiments, escorted by the Marching Living Flag, moved promptly at 2 o'clock p.m. from the Exchange Street entrance of the Old Capitol building, along Exchange Street, thence around Rice Park to Sixth Street on Market Street.  The Main Column then moved down Sixth Street to Minnesota, on Minnesota to Ninth, on Ninth to Cedar, on Cedar to the New Capitol.

…Approaching the New Capitol grounds the artillery battalion withdrew from the column at Exchange street.  The two regiments of infantry halted, forming line on the east side of Cedar street and presented arms to the Old Flags and their escort as they passed.  The Living Flag halted at the entrance to the grounds and also saluted the Old Flags as they passed.  At the New Capitol a stand had been erected by the courtesy of the Capitol Commissioners facing the spacious steps on the south front of the building and the audience were arranged with the Living Flag next to and in front of the speaker's stand; then in same order as at the Old Capitol, the Old Flags with their representative regiments; then the Grand Army of the Republic not members of Minnesota regiments, and all available space remaining was occupied by the general public.

The order of ceremonies was as follows:

MUSIC – "The Star Spangled Banner," Minnesota State Band.

INVOCATION, by Rev. Levi Gleason, Pastor M.E. Church, Dundas, Minn.  Forty years ago Chaplain Second Regiment Minnesota Volunteer Infantry.

ADDRESS, by the Most Rev. John Ireland, D.D., Archbishop of St. Paul, 40 years ago Chaplain Fifth Regiment Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, committing the Old Flags again to the custody of the State.

MUSIC – Old Army Tunes, Minnesota State Band.

March of the Old Flags and escort to the rotunda and deposit by the color bearers in the several receptacles.

SONG – "America," by the "Living Flag."

BENEDICTION, by Very Rev. Father John J. Lawler, Pastor of the Cathedral, St. Paul, now Chaplain on the Governor's Staff.

 The ceremonies were very impressive and the occasion a grand patriotic demonstration.  It was estimated that of the survivors of the Civil War regiments more than a thousand were present, many of them having come from distant homes to march once more and for the last time under the same old flags they had carried more than forty years ago.

 The final resting place of the old flags is in the four receptacles constructed by the Capitol Commissioners expressly for them, of bronze and plate glass, in the walls of the rotunda on the main floor of the Capitol – in plain view of every person entering the building.  There may they ever remain in their beautiful surroundings, to speak to all who see them of the patriotism and sacrifice of those who bore them in the service of their country. …

                                                          Respectfully submitted,
                                                                            J.W. BISHOP, Chairman
     L.W. COLLINS, Secretary