Before Covid when I was looking at some antiques on the west coast, a first national Confederate flag was brought in for me to look at. According to the person who brought it in, it was brought back from the Civil War and had been passed down through the family since 1865. Four years later they contacted me while they were visiting New England and brought it to my office.
The original owner of the flag was Russell B. Caples who was born on December 23, 1841, near Weston, Missouri, the son of a minister of the gospel. When the Civil War broke out, he joined the Confederate army as a private in Searcy’s Sharpshooters, a company in the 16th Missouri infantry. He fought in the western theater early on under General Earl Van Dorn then General Sterling Price and fought in many battles until he was wounded at the Battle of Vicksburg and evacuated to Louisiana. After he recovered from his wounds, he returned to the regiment and was given the rank of Brevet Lieutenant. In April 1865, what was left of his regiment surrendered at Shreveport, Louisiana and he returned home to Glasgow, Missouri. He wrote “Returning to Glasgow, I kept my sash and the flag under which I had fought so many battles.”
He returned home to find out his father had been mortally wounded during the Battle of Glasgow and had died. He had no job, no money, and had two half-sisters to take care of. Caples gave up farming to become a lawyer and in the early 1870s he was admitted to the bar. He married Miss Agnes Belden Watts in 1877 and had six children. Although having been a democrat, he switched to the Republican party as he said, “the Republican party was the party that did things-from the abolishing of slavery to the building of the Panama Canal.” Later in life he was a well-respected judge as well as an advocate of the soldiers who had fought during the war as well as those younger folks now serving in the military. He died on October 26, 1915.
The flag he brought home is of the first national pattern made of red and white silk with a blue silk canton which contains 14 stars. It is entirely hand sewn and has a piece of black crepe attached as well as two succession cockades. It is slightly faded and has some wear from age and use but is in overall good condition. Along with the flag came his crimson silk sash he had worn as a lieutenant as mentioned above. Two important reminders of when he was a young soldier fighting in the Civil War that survive to this day.
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