Civil War Cavalry Guidon, ca. 1861
Appraised Value: $7,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (2:54)
Arms & Militaria
J. Christopher Mitchell American Antiques & Militaria
GUEST: This flag is from my dad's side of the family, and he was from Illinois, and I've always been told that one of my past relatives carried it in the Battle of Shiloh in the Civil War.
APPRAISER: Do we know who that relative is?
GUEST: I do have a family tree that shows everybody in my family, but I don't know which relative.
APPRAISER: Okay, but you think that with some research you might be able to figure out who...
GUEST: I think I could figure it out, yeah.
APPRAISER: Well, what you have is referred to as a regulation United States cavalry guidon. It actually goes on a pole, and it's used to mark the position of the regiment. A lot of the flags that we see, they’re not really used in battle, whereas this particular flag is absolutely meant to be used in the heat of battle. It helps the men and the commanders to see the position of the regiment and know which way to move. So it's a very important part of the action that's taking place as far as keeping everyone organized. I don't know if you're aware but the material is silk, and that's part of the reason that we have some of this decomposition that we see where it's starting to crack and come apart. Some collectors would refer to this as a swallowtail, or a swallowtail guidon, and that's simply because of the shape. And as you can imagine, when you're riding, this flaps and moves almost like a bird's tail. If we look here in the canton, which is this blue section, we're going to notice that there are, in fact, 34 stars, and 34 stars places this in the time period for the Battle of Shiloh. The Battle of Shiloh was April 6 and 7 in 1862, so this flag could have been there. Shiloh is a little place in Tennessee. The actual battle took place at a place called Pittsburgh Landing. But the battle is referred to as Shiloh because there is a church there that has the name of Shiloh on it. And it's a pivotal engagement in the American Civil War. It's one of the very first major battles, and it set the Union Army on the course for victory in the western theater. It was a major part of American history. The condition, it's not the best, but it's not horrible either. It's attractive to look at. There's a couple of different things to talk about when you talk about value. If we take this flag, again a regulation flag, purchased by the government under contract-- which is important, that adds to the value-- but we take out any of the history, this is a flag that you would expect to retail for around $7,000.
APPRAISER: Now if the condition were dynamite, just blow your mind, wonderful, then it might be a $20,000 flag. Now, you do have some history. You could do that research and find out who this gentleman was, and then the flag will have a life of its own instead of just being an inanimate object. Under those circumstances, if the history pans out, the flag could potentially be worth $15,000.
APPRAISER: So it would be important to do that research, even if nothing else, just to keep that history alive in the family.
GUEST: Right, okay. Awesome. Thank you.
APPRAISER: Thank you.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.