The listing of the Hall of Flags in Concord’s Statehouse by the Preservation Alliance should have come as a wakeup call to us all this Memorial Day. A precious testament to the courage of New Hampshire veterans is in real danger.
More than 33,000 New Hampshire men served in the Civil War, almost 10% of the state’s population at the time. More than 30 won the Congressional Medal of Honor for their courage. Nearly 5,000 never came home, and thousands more were wounded. They fought at Cold Harbor, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Fort Wagner. They fought to preserve the Union, and to end slavery. Their flags were more than symbols; they were the front line of battle that led men amid the chaos and smoke of war.
As a result, casualties among flag barer were very high. The bullets and the blood of battle still mark the flags. For more than two decades the people entrusted with these flags have studied and debated how to care for them. Studies have been completed, as have plans – but there has been no action. Recently, conservation of the flags was postponed another four years. While the monetary cost to save these flags is not high, the moral cost of doing nothing is considerable. Every day school children and veterans walk through the Hall and see the 170-year-old silk flags moldering away in their cases. For the men who scarified and died for our nation, and of the follow generations of men and women who fought for our liberty one thing is clear- we can do better.